The UK is a nation of ‘Accent Chameleons’ with two thirds (66 per cent) of us consciously changing our accent when doing business, according to findings of a nationwide study unveiled recently from ntl:Telewest Business.
The London and South East accent was seen by most of the UK business community as the ideal professional accent for financial, sales and customer service careers.
The ‘Accent Factor’ study of 1,300 business professionals across the UK found that younger employees (71 per cent of under 30-year olds) were more inclined to change their accents when engaging in business conversations than older workers (61 per cent of over 50s). The London and South East accent was seen by all regions of the UK as the best accent to have to get ahead in finance (54 per cent). It was also seen as the best overall for sales and customer service (33 per cent) across the country, although further away from the region the accent scored lower.
People from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have the strongest accents, the study found. One in five business people (19 per cent) claimed to have a ‘strong’ regional accent across the country, but this level was notably higher in Northern Ireland (42 per cent) and Glasgow (28 per cent) and above average in Edinburgh and Wales (21 per cent each).
Every region, with the exception of the East of England, felt that their own accent was the ’warmest’ and the best for conveying bad news.
Mike Phipps, Creative Director of office power consultancy, Politics at Work, said: “It is perhaps not surprising that people chose to alter their accent in an attempt to understand, be understood and build relationships.
“In business, as in life, the greatest success is often achieved by those with the best rapport and ability to adjust their body language and language patterns to most closely mirror those of people they speak to and work with. In the case of young people, their readiness to alter their accent is also likely to be connected with the fact that they are still learning the finer nuances of communication and therefore are more consciously aware of what they are doing.”
Other key findings include:
• Liverpool’s accent was voted by other regions as the best for telling jokes in the workplace, although Liverpudlians think that their own accent is the ‘least trustworthy’ for business in the UK with a mark of 6 out of 10
• East Anglia faces an identity crisis as almost half (46 per cent) its residents feel they have ‘lost’ their regional accent or say they don’t have one at all. An above-average number of East Anglians (56 per cent) will consciously change their accent when doing business
• Scots are most likely to modify their voices in the workplace, with two thirds (65 per cent of people from Edinburgh and 62 per cent from Glasgow) admitting to altering their accents in business
• People in the North East of England rated their accents as the ‘friendliest’ for commerce in the UK, with a mark of 8.8 out of 10