Employers know it, employees know it and everybody ignores it. I'm talking about the accent – specifically when it creates misunderstanding. An accent is a way of pronouncing words that differs from the standard pronunciation.
It's like an elephant in a room – it's very obvious but no-one acknowledges its presence. This implicit acceptance is distressing because it covers up what needs to be addressed.
Employers are unsure how to handle discussions with employees whose accent prevents them from being understood, promoted or productive. Coworkers refrain from mentioning it because they don't want to offend the speaker, may be uncomfortable to mention it or do not want to sound racist. The non-native speakers are self-conscious about it and may refuse to believe that it's a hindrance. They know they could be misjudged, mistreated or misunderstood. They are more focused on being employed to support themselves and their families.
A research by the University of Chicago claims that listeners are less willing to believe someone with a non-native accent. The researchers believe people associated truthfulness with the ease of understanding a person and accents make that more difficult.
Not bringing this thorny topic to the forefront causes frustration for everyone concerned. I say let's be realistic rather than be politically correct. It's time. Then we can take practical steps to avoid misunderstanding and increase earning potential for the affected employees and revenue for the employers.
People who speak with an accent become less sensitive about it when they realize that it is keeping them in low paying jobs or that it is preventing them from being employable or promotable. Having a reduced accent opens up more employment opportunities and reduces the competition.