Almost half of UK company directors and senior managers believe that a plummy upper-class accent is a hindrance rather than a help when it comes to succeeding in business, according to research from The Aziz Corporation.
However, having a working-class accent is considered even worse, with 86% of those who took part in the survey feeling it is a disadvantage in business. 64% of businessmen believe that in fact a neutral accent is a strong advantage.
While the diversification of different accents, both upper and working class, in the media has helped bridge the class divide to some degree, it is clear from the research that the business world puts more emphasis on personality than how posh someone is. Having a cheerful and upbeat manner or a good sense of humour are thought to be a strong advantage by 74% and 54% of businessmen respectively.
Chairman of The Aziz Corporation Prof Khalid Aziz said: "The days when merely speaking with ‘the right accent’ was a prerequisite to rising in the business world are now all but gone, although being an effective communicator is still paramount.
“The rise of Britain’s self-made men, often from working-class backgrounds, such as BHS boss Philip Green or Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary reflects the changing profile of the successful boss. These are people who aren’t afraid to speak their minds, and are proud to make a virtue of the fact that they have worked their way up from humble beginnings to positions of influence. In both cases though, they are better known for their forceful and charismatic personalities than for their class origins.
“Conversely, one only has to think of the way that a person with a fairly plummy accent, like Boris Johnson, is portrayed in the media to understand that the impression created is of someone who is rather bumbling and quaintly old-fashioned."
Professor Aziz added: "The modern business environment is clearly not as class-riddled as our society remains, and it is interesting to note that being perceived as working class is every bit as bad as being seen as posh. It is therefore much more important that business leaders have a powerful personality, humour and presence. Being classless in business merely allows these other, more valuable, qualities to shine through."