One of Britain’s proudest assets is our wide range of regional accents, as well as those of international residents and visitors.
Despite this diversity of diction, it seems that many British people are mindful of their accents in the workplace.
Surveying the nation, business telecoms provider 4Com reveals that almost half of the British public are conscious of how their accents make them appear at work, with over a quarter admitting to altering their accents in the workplace.
Interestingly, the research also revealed that not everyone who changes the way they speak does so intentionally, with 13% confessing to not even realising they did it until it was pointed out by a colleague.
Speaking on the phone also seems to be a factor, as 27% admit to feeling conscious of their accents while making calls. What’s more, a fifth of British people are mindful about the way they speak in important meetings.
Despite the capital being known as a cosmopolitan melting pot of people from different regions and countries, Londoners are the most likely to switch up their accents at work, contrasting to the uncompromising people of Birmingham who are least likely to adapt their accents.
Age is also a factor, with two thirds of 18 – 44 year olds sticking to their natural inflection, versus 85% of over 45s who never change their tonation. This perhaps suggests the older generation, often more established in careers, feel less pressure to fit in and be accepted than those who are newer to the professional world.
But why do people feel the need to alter their accents in the first place? Consultant Psychologist and Clinic Director Dr Elena Touroni of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic sheds some light on the phenomenon: “It is important to understand what connotations (conscious or subconscious) the individual thinks about their voice if they are actively changing their accent.
“Do they find it embarrassing, indicative of their class, education or race? Or perhaps they feel it makes them stick out from everyone else. It is highly likely that someone who changes their accent is trying to avoid judgement from other people. This is a form of impression management strategy, to make them sound more professional, educated or of a higher class for example.”
Mark Pearcy, Head of Marketing at 4Com adds, “The variety of regional and international voices is one of the things that makes our country great. It’s a shame that so many people feel like they have to change their accents in the workplace. Our accents make us who we are, so let’s be as proud of our voices at work as we are at home!
“People should feel comfortable to be themselves when they are around colleagues, so it is important that employers make sure that they provide an environment where people can be themselves and everyone’s unique flares and quirks are celebrated.”