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Industry Research

The 2018 Word of the Year (and Why It Matters for Business)

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The 2018 Word of the Year (and Why It Matters for Business)

Each year, the Oxford English Dictionary selects a Word of the Year based on its ability to reflect the ethos of that year and its potential as a term of lasting cultural significance. Though previous words, such as “selfie” and “post-truth,” have revolved around politics or pop culture, the Word of the Year for 2018 could not be more relevant to business. After narrowing all of 2018 down to a few phrases and going through rounds of debate, Oxford has chosen a word that speaks to what we’ve gone through this last year and, more importantly, where we need to go. The Word of the Year 2018 is toxic.

With one word, Oxford called out the elephant in the room: toxic behavior has infiltrated the business world. Though initially used to describe the substances and waste generated by mass industry, more and more people in the world today use ‘toxic’ to describe workplace afflictions. As people in 2018 demanded safe and welcoming workplaces, denounced company leaders for enabling harassment, and took to protest in the Google walkouts, the world became awake to toxic work environments, toxic masculinity, and toxic culture. Regardless of fault, corporations have become a focal point of harmful behavior, and people are tired of it.

According to the Gallup 2018 Global Emotions Report, fewer and fewer people today are well-rested, respected, or finding enjoyment in daily life. Instead, they’re reporting record-high levels of worry, sadness, stress, and anger. As headline after headline hits businesses for the decisions they’ve made or the cultures they’ve enabled to fester, it’s important to recognize the financial and reputational costs of bad business. But to avoid future financial and reputational fallout, business leaders need to recognize the sheer anger emerging from consumers and workers, and the ways they communicate this through turnover, legal actions, and protest

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