Okay…although we’ve written about this before, we want to confirm that it is really is okay to talk to someone about accent reduction when an accent is difficult to understand. We’re bringing up this sensitive topic again because we recently talked to an HR Manager who felt accent reduction was discriminatory and culturally intolerant. But would the same HR Manager promote an employee who was difficult to understand? I imagine they would have a hard time with that question.
So if we don’t promote someone because they are difficult to understand, yet are hesitant to talk about accent reduction because we think it's discriminatory, aren't we simply ignoring the elephant in the room? By avoiding an issue which can have a profound impact on the individual and the company, are we really achieving a workplace that doesn’t discriminate? If someone is struggling with communication at work and missing out on promotions, isn’t a conversation about accent reduction really about empowering employees?
We don't reduce accents because we don't like the how they sound, we reduce them when they cause communication difficulties. Conversations about accent reduction allow individuals to choose if they want help. Having a bias against accent reduction is short-sighted — if someone can’t be understood because of an accent, then a conversation about accent reduction is empowering, not discriminatory.