From Sus To Rizz: A Guide To Gen Z Slang For Business Leaders

Born between the late 1990s and early 2000s, Gen Z will soon surpass millennials as the most populous generation on Earth, with more than one-third of the world’s population counting themselves among the cohort.

What’s more, Gen Z is now entering the job market en masse and will make up more than 25% of the total workforce by 2025.

So it behooves employers to know as much as they can about these neophytes, including their expectations of work-life balance, concerns about job security and salary, attitudes towards diversity and inclusion—and, of course, slang.

Every generation has its own lexicon, and Gen Z is no different. According to a recent survey of over 1,000 employees by language learning platform Preply, “Gen Z used business buzzwords the most frequently at work (eight times a day), and Boomers used them the least (five times a day).”

UCLA linguistics professor Jessica Rett agrees. “Gen Z’s slang use seems quantitatively different. There seems to be much more of it, and the life cycles of Gen Z slang terms seem much more abbreviated than their Gen X or Boomer counterparts,” she writes in the LA Times.

At the same time, “Gen Z slang is qualitatively similar to that of previous generations in being disproportionately sourced from Black and LGBTQ communities.”

Whether derived from drag communities (“gagged”) or hip-hop (“glo up,” possibly from Chief Keef’s 2013 banger “Gotta Glo Up One Day“), Gen Z slang is apt to have older generations doing a vibe check. We hope this glossary of some terms that may help you crack the code of your younger co-workers—or leave you even more confused.

Gen Z office workers vibing and plotting your downfall.

The Helm’s Gen Z Lexicon

Based

Normally, “based” means well-founded or correct, but ironic usage of “based”—to mean the exact opposite—is also common. It’s often used as a stand-alone reply.

Example: These Monday morning Zoom calls are for the birds.

Based.

Bet

“Bet” means to accept a challenge or respond to an assigned task. A term for agreement or approval.

Example: Could you update the calendar?

Bet.

Gagged

To be gagged means to be shocked, gobsmacked, dumbfounded. It can be used with positive or negative connotations.

Example: Her promotion to the C-suite had me totally gagged.

Glo Up

A positive personal transformation, possibly a variation on “grow up.” It can also signify a growth in confidence or maturity in personal or professional life.

Example: Over the past year, our marketing team has undergone a remarkable glo up, transforming our branding strategy from outdated to innovative and impactful.

G.O.A.T.

This acronym for Greatest of All Time gained traction in debates about which athletes, like Tom Brady or Tiger Woods, were best at their sport. In the Preply survey, “G.O.A.T.” was found to be the term most over-used by Gen Z at work, followed by “slay.”

Example: Elon Musk is the G.O.A.T., I’m just not sure of what. 

IJBOL

Pronounced “eej-bowl,” this acronym for “I just burst out laughing” follows the Millennial favorite LMAO (“laughing my ass off”), ROFL (“rolling on the floor laughing”) and of course LOL. “I don’t LMAO. It’s just not what I do,” 27-year-old Michael Messineo, a Melbourne-based content creator, told the New York Times. “I associate LMAO with Millennial humor. But then I associate IJBOL with Gen Z humor, which is funnier.” IJBOL first appeared in Urban Dictionary more than a decade ago, according to the Times, but resurfaced in the K-pop community in recent years.

Example: When my boss asked me how to use TikTok IJBOL.

Menty b

Leave it to Gen Z, for whom mental health isn’t a dirty word, to come up with a whimsical term for having a mental breakdown. Related: “grippy sock vacation” for an in-patient psychiatric stay.

Example: Google Docs didn’t save my draft of the proposal and I almost had a menty b when I saw all my work disappeared. I may be ready for a grippy sock vacay. 

OK Boomer

Gen Z needs to keep the old guard in their place, and this pejorative delivers. Directed towards Baby Boomers, it’s used to dismiss or mock attitudes, technology, and references that are out of date.

Example: I’ll fax you the lyrics to “Hotel California.”  

OK Boomer.

Rizz

Short for charisma, the possessor of “rizz” has game. It’s usually used in relation to flirtation, so if this one is coming up at work too often it may be time to call HR.

Example: Mike can’t write a whitepaper to save his life but he’s got so much rizz at meetings it doesn’t matter.

Slay

Again, not exactly new, but Gen-Z has brought the compliment—similar to the positive use of the word “kill”—back in a big way. It denotes overcoming a challenge.

Example: Bernard slayed the presentation in front of the senior execs.

Sus

The seventh most used term according to the Preply survey—the intergenerational “touch base” was #1—”sus” is short for suspicious or suspect. According to Wiki, it owes its popularity to its use in an online video game, Among Us, although its origins go back to at least the 1950s in Australia and New Zealand.

Example: My boss accused me of making up those expense account figures, like I was totally sus. 

Vibing/vibe check

If you’re vibing with someone, then you’re hitting it off—getting along. If someone tells you to do a vibe check, it might mean it’s time to change your attitude.

Example: I totally vibed with the top executive at the job interview. 

And there you have it. Note that this is by no means meant to be a comprehensive guide. There are many more Gen Z slang terms than we could fit in here, and undoubtedly more to come. Just try not to let that prospect send you on a grippy sock vacation.

 

 

 



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