Why employers put accent on manner of speech

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The Independent Online
The Scouser and Brummie who believe the world is prejudiced against them because of their accent may be right.

People with strong regional accents are often discriminated against at work or when applying for jobs, according to a survey of recruitment specialists.

Some members of the Institute of Personnel and Development (IPD) advised anyone wanting to get on in life to adjust their vowels as necessary.

"I would advise anyone with a `redbrick' or industrial accent to upgrade. Politicians and lawyers do it so why shouldn't others?" said one London- based recruitment consultant. "[Accent] communicates background, education and birthplace and, frankly, some backgrounds are more marketable than others."

Accents were seen as important by many employers and people with strong regional or working-class accents were most likely to suffer discrimination, the IPD members said.

Companies took accents seriously because they could project an organisation's image. An institute spokeswoman said: "People in front-of-house positions, from telephonists to account managers, are therefore expected to speak, as well as dress, in a particular way."

Some of the consultants were more direct. "Let's face it, people with a Scouse accent sound whiny and people with Brummie accents sound stupid," said one.

The Glaswegian accent, along with those of Liverpool and Birmingham, also figured in the "negative" category.

However, cut-glass English was not always an advantage. In Scotland, an upper-class English accent "positively incites hostility", according to the chief executive of one recruitment firm.

A Dorset woman questioned for the survey said she had no idea how strong the attitude to accents was until she moved to London. "As soon as I opened my mouth, people would be queuing up to do Worzel Gummidge imitations," she said.

"A lot of people seem to think that if you spoke with a Dorset accent, you were thick and uneducated. Some would even slow down or speak louder when they were talking to me."

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