A few weeks ago I had a Turkish client who works in London Stock Exchange. She said that her boss told her that if she doesn't lose her accent she will lose her job. Asides from the obvious Human Resource issues this statement creates, there is an underlying theme here that I have seen again and again. She told that her working environment is so fast and demanding, people simply don't have patience to try and comprehend accents that are unfamiliar to them.
This experience is typical for the multiple foreign workers who have been fortunate enough to land work in the UK. Many other struggle to even get past the interview stage due to inherent prejudices against accents by hiring managers.
Yes, we should be promoting equal rights opportunities for all workers and yes, we should be stamping out prejudices like the one experienced by my client in the workplace. However, the reality is that these prejudices or opinions are not something that will disappear. They have been part of society since we began and will continue to be so.
What can be done therefore to address this challenge?
The choices unfortunately are limited. The only person who can really affect change is the person with the accent! I have seen and worked with many people who have struggled in their professional life and who have been held back because of an accent. It is surprisingly easy to overcome and to change one's accent but stay tuned to this blog to read more stories of how accents have affected people's career progression and professional (and sometimes personal) success!