Do I sound competent to you?

Ever paused to reflect on how we perceive others based on their language use?


Have you noticed the subtle judgements we make about people when we hear them speak?

These reflections can shed light on the prevalence of language bias in our workplaces and its profound impact on our experiences and interactions.

Let's delve into why language matters and how addressing language bias can foster a more inclusive workplace culture.

Acknowledging language bias:

Language bias refers to the subconscious judgements we make about individuals based on their language use, whether it's professional or social.

These biases can manifest in various forms, from assumptions about intelligence and competence to cultural or regional stereotypes.

— Association with Education and Social Status: There's often a lingering association between standard English and higher education or social status.

This association can lead to negative judgements of those who speak with non-standard accents or use non-standard grammar. People may unfairly assume that individuals who don't adhere to standard English norms are less educated or less competent.

— Linguistic purism: Ever been in a meeting where someone corrects your grammar?

It's not just annoying—it's a form of bias that says only one way of speaking is right.

 In some formal settings, there's a push for adherence to "proper" English, with deviations seen as signs of poor education or lack of respect.

This rigid adherence to linguistic norms can create barriers for individuals who speak dialects or non-standard varieties of English, stifling their ability to fully participate and contribute in professional environments.

— Influence of colonial history: The legacy of British colonialism in Ghana can influence perceptions of language, with standard British English often viewed as superior.

This can result in negative attitudes towards other accents or dialects, perpetuating stereotypes and marginalising individuals who don't conform to standard English norms.

Language bias in the workplace can have significant consequences, including:

• Reduced opportunities for advancement or recognition for individuals who speak non-standard varieties of English.

• Alienation and exclusion of employees who are perceived as not fitting in due to their language or accent.

• Undermining of diversity and inclusion efforts, as language bias can contribute to a culture where certain linguistic backgrounds are valued over others.

• Negative effects on morale and productivity, as employees may feel disrespected or undervalued due to their language use.

Addressing language bias:

• Education and Awareness: Organisations can provide training and awareness programmes to help employees recognise and challenge their own language biases.


This can foster a more inclusive workplace culture where diverse linguistic backgrounds are valued.

• Promoting Inclusive Communication: Encouraging open dialogue and respectful communication practices can help create an environment where all employees feel comfortable expressing themselves, regardless of their language or accent.

• Celebrating Diversity: Embracing linguistic diversity as a strength can enhance teamwork and creativity in the workplace.

Recognising and celebrating different linguistic backgrounds can foster a sense of belonging for all employees.


Language bias can significantly influence workplace dynamics, affecting everything from hiring decisions and performance evaluations to team collaboration and professional advancement.

When language biases go unchecked, they create barriers to inclusion, hindering diversity and stifling innovation.

Power of inclusive language:

Embracing inclusive language is key to mitigating bias and fostering a more equitable workplace environment.

By consciously choosing words and phrases that value diversity and respect individual differences, we can create a culture where everyone feels valued and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives.


As leaders and colleagues, it's essential to lead by example and actively challenge language bias in the workplace.

By promoting inclusive communication and demonstrating respect for diverse linguistic backgrounds, we set the tone for a more inclusive and welcoming atmosphere.

Raising awareness of language bias and its consequences is crucial for driving meaningful change.

Through training sessions, workshops, and open discussions, organisations can empower employees to recognise and address bias in their language and behaviour.

Language bias is a pervasive issue in the workplace, but by acknowledging its existence and taking proactive steps to address it, we can create a more inclusive and equitable environment for all.

Let's commit to embracing inclusive language and fostering a workplace culture where everyone feels respected, valued and empowered to succeed.

The writer is an Inclusion Strategist, Leadership Coach, and Language and Communications Consultant.


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