my boss’s family comes to work with her, will employers care that I drop my G’s, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My boss’s family members are volunteering in our department

I work for a small-to-medium nonprofit institution where many of the high-level administrators have been there for most of their professional lives, and there is a TON of turnover at the middle-to-lowest level, mostly due to the toxic environment that’s been plaguing this place (but that’s a story for another letter). My immediate boss is a department director, and our department is small and, like most nonprofits, underfunded and overworked. Because of this, we frequently have college-age interns and the occasional volunteer. Boss started at our institution as a teen volunteer and just rose through the ranks; I believe this has been her only professional job, which is maybe why this situation is the way it is.

For the past few months, Boss has been bringing in her retired mother in to help clean her office and file paperwork, as well as do small research projects and even take notes in meetings. Boss’s mom is a lovely, sweet person, and I absolutely have no problems with her personally, but her presence as a “semi-coworker” makes me uncomfortable! The office environment is definitely casual, and I have socialized with Boss on occasion outside of work, (we are close in age) but having her mom in meetings with outside consultants cheerfully introducing herself as “[Boss]’s mom and secretary” is a little embarrassing.

Lately, Boss has also brought in her teenage niece to help a few of our consultants with the design portion of a grant-funded project. Again, the niece is a pleasant and talented person, but her working on a project that has legalities and deliverables outside of our institution gives me pause. This is weird, right? Or is this a mildly odd but harmless thing, since we take in volunteers anyway? I’m wary of going to HR, partially because I’d feel like a narc, and partially because our HR department is extremely useless. The phrase “conflict of interest” has been nagging at me, but I need an outside (professional) opinion on this.

It’s not necessarily a conflict of interest, but it would be considered weird and inappropriate in most offices. If the mom is coming in as a volunteer, when there’s an existing tradition of using volunteers, that’s okay. But she shouldn’t be introducing herself as “Boss’s mom and secretary” because that makes you all look unprofessional (and is kind of undermining to your boss, who now appears to need her mom assisting her at work).

The niece part potentially has other issues. Does a teenager really have the skills to help professional designers? Maybe she does, who knows. But I’d be wondering about that. And with both the mom and the niece, your boss needs to demonstrate that she’s treating them both as professionals while they’re at work, not as relatives.

Is it something to report? Eh, possibly not, not if you don’t have a particularly competent HR department. It’s not so outrageous that it demands redress, so I’d either raise it to your boss directly (ideally with some of your coworkers so that you have safety in numbers) or just roll your eyes and let it go.

2. Will employers care that I drop my G’s?

I was hoping you could help me out with some professional advice I just received. A professor from graduate school who I became close with professionally told me that I drop the g in -ing words such as “runnin” instead of “running.” She told me she thought employers might look down on it and that while it might not be the reason I don’t get hired, it could be a factor in hiring decisions. I told her that it is a cultural quirk from the area I am from. It is common for people in my area to drop the g (I am not Southern though, so I don’t have a Southern accent).

I am conflicted because half of me is grateful for the candid advice while half of me is confused. I would never tell a person with a Boston or New York accent to change their voice. Is she right? Should I work on this? I have four interviews coming up and now I am worried about this.

It’s true that dropping g’s is generally considered a less polished way of speaking (in most areas of the U.S.), and some people will read it as less educated. On the other hand, some people will find it charming and others won’t care one way or another.

It’s really up to you if it’s something you want to try to change or not. It’s not a “you must change this or you won’t get hired” thing, although it’s a “be aware that some employers may see you as less polished” thing.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Asking for a flexible schedule because of burn-out

I’m really burnt out at work — we’ve recently finished a major project for which I was working 50-60 hours a week for eighteen months, and then 70-80 hour weeks for the last month of it. All for a good cause, but not good for me! My manager has been super helpful in pulling things off my plate now we’re through it and–at her request–I’m down to a nice 40-45 hour week. But nine months later, I can’t shake being unhappy. Really unhappy.

Other members on my team regularly work a flex schedule to manage childcare–either working longer days or working offsite one day a week. I’d like to do the same: not cut back on hours, but just cut back on days that I have to summon up the emotional energy to go into the building. But I worry about how to ask for it in the right tone. I’m the only one in my department of six who doesn’t have kids (including my boss), so I normally pick up the slack because I can be more flexible. But I’m not coping well right now and condensing my work week would really help me get back on track with some self care and work-life balance. How do I say that in a way that doesn’t sound like me wanting to pursue underwater basket weaving on Tuesdays is as important as my coworker’s kiddos getting to school on Thursdays?

“Would you be open to me working a four-day work week for a while, where I’d still work the same number of hours each week but compressed into four days instead of five? Or the same schedule but with one day a week of working from home? I’m finding that after that year and a half of such intense hours, I could really use a schedule alteration that would let me get my life back into more balance.” (You might decide which of those two options you’d prefer, and just ask for that — with the other as a back-up if your first request gets turned down.)

But before you ask this, I’d think really hard about whether this is going to solve the problem you’re having. Based on your framing here (“really unhappy,” “summon up the emotional energy to go into the building”), you sound like you may be done with this job in a way that switching to a four-day work week won’t solve.

4. How can I get coworkers to stop calling me a “ninja warrior”?

I have cranio-facial hyperhidrosis, which means that I sweat (a lot) from my scalp and face. It doesn’t take much — the slightest exertion, hot/humid weather, or wearing a hardhat — to trigger sweat pouring down my face and soaking my hair. It’s really unpleasant and embarrassing.

I work in a factory environment and split my time between the office and the factory floor, and when I work on the floor (where it’s always warm because of the machinery, especially in the summer), I usually end up sweaty. When I go back to the office, I do my best to cool off and dry my face and hair, and I often wrap a scarf around my head to absorb the sweat. For some reason, people think this makes me look like a ninja warrior. I’m not making this up — many people (mostly from outside my department) have said this on numerous occasions, and they seem to think it is a hilarious observation. I have lost count of how many people have asked me, “Haha, are you a ninja warrior?” or simply stated, “Oh, you’re wearing your ninja headband today.”

How do I even respond to this? I am really self-conscious about my hyperhidrosis, and the “ninja warrior” comments make me feel like people are mocking me. I don’t understand why so many people think it’s hilarious, and I don’t think they mean to be hurtful, but they are. Once when I was having a particularly bad day and someone asked me if I was a ninja warrior, I replied, “No, and I don’t appreciate being made fun of.” She apologized so profusely that I felt terrible for mentioning it and I ended up apologizing to her. How can I get people to stop making these comments without hurting their feelings?

I really don’t think people are mocking you — this sounds like the kind of joking comment that people make as a way to establish camaraderie or warm feelings, especially since they don’t know it’s linked to a medical condition.

That’s probably why your coworker apologized so profusely; when you told her you felt she was making fun of you, she was likely mortified that you thought that when she intended just to be friendly.

But none of that means that you can’t ask for it to stop! Start say this to people who joke about it: “I know you’re just joking, but it’s for a medical condition.” Say it without smiling and in a serious tone. Most people will stop after hearing that. For anyone who doesn’t, say this: “Like I said, it’s for a medical condition. I really don’t like calling it that.”

5. My former boss is ignoring my emails

I work as a teacher in a middle school, and last year towards the end of the school year (I’m not in the U.S.) I had my second child. I took maternity leave, but due to unforeseen circumstances (my child developed meningitis which has caused long-term medical care and general delays in development and also in vaccinations, meaning that he has only been able to start daycare at a little under a year, not the four months I hoped), I extended my leave a little longer than usual, with my school’s permission.

My school was very understanding, and when I discussed the issue with my boss he assured me I was welcome to return any time in the future. I have continued to work for them as a substitute teacher on a regular basis, and they have even had me train new staff. I was a very successful teacher there, and the kids and parents loved me. I had no performance issues and received consistently good feedback.

About three months ago, my child gained a daycare spot, and I heard from a coworker that a former coworker was leaving, opening up a full-time position at my school. I emailed my boss but was met with radio silence. I put it down to me being late to hear about the position, but a few weeks ago another coworker handed in her notice due to ill health, and again I emailed my boss to register my interest. Again, no response.

Should I just assume they don’t want me anymore and look elsewhere? I would like to go back, and I know I’m a good teacher, but I’m getting such mixed messages from them. Not to mention they are still employing me very regularly as a substitute. How do I go about asking this directly, without sounding pushy or rude?

Try calling or (if appropriate in your workplace) stopping by in person. When you’re emailing repeatedly and receiving no response from someone who you’d expect to respond to you, it makes sense to try a different method of contact.

It’s possible that this is your boss’s (rude) way of communicating a lack of interest, but it’s also possible that he’s not receiving your emails for some reason, or that he’s putting them aside to respond to later and then forgetting, or who knows what else. So try one more time, but use a different method.

But also, don’t wait for a response from him; go ahead and apply now, or you may miss the window entirely. (Plus, after you apply, your final message to him can say “I wanted to let you know that I’ve applied” rather than “should I apply?”)

{ 420 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, do you have a regional accent? I find that folks are less likely to focus on how polished/unpolished it is if a person has a regional accent (even if it isn’t Southern), but of course, they have to be able to recognize it as a regional accent, first.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      This. Unfortunately, dropping the g can make you sound less educated. It’s an interesting thing, but the more educated people are, the less they have regional accents – at least while doing business!
      I wouldn’t focus on it but you may want to casually work on it. Especially since it’s fixable.
      It’s pretty funny how some coworkers can turn their childhood accents on and off.
      I also notice that my own regional accent comes back when I’m home visiting family. Then it goes away again when I get back to work.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I don’t think I like the idea that an accent is ‘fixable’. That sort of implies it’s broken.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          Let’s stop with the word picking semantics, shall we? It has the potential to cause issues. That means it’s worth considering for changes.
          It’s neither fair nor right that people are judged on such things. That said, someone might wish to adapt to fit in better and gain an edge. That’s up to them.

          1. Hills to Die on*

            Exactly. I get tired of the nitpicking that goes on around here, and it keeps me from posting more often.

            I spoke the same way and absolutely viewed it as a hindrance. I fixed it and no longer speak that way unles I am with people who also drop their gs. The more conservative the company / hiring manager, the more likely this will be a problem.

            1. Jesca*

              To me, it is more the “ideal vs reality” mentality. Everyone has prejudice as people are natural categorizers. You can try to eliminate in yourself, but generally is not easy for everyone to be objective all the time. Yes, people will judge me for the PA accent outside of this area. We all for the most part change it if we are in career paths that work with those outside of the area. Even now, if the accent is thicker with some of my neighbors, I still can’t help myself thinking how dumb they sound. It is not fair, no, but it is reality. We have to deal with reality.

              1. MashaKasha*

                Yup. It’s all fun and games until your accent comes up in your performance review. Fair? no. Did it happen to me? yes. Did I go out and take classes to reduce it? yes, I want to eat and pay bills.

              2. Hills to Die on*

                I agree. We all know the ideal should be the standard, but we live here on Earth and have to deal with what is.

              3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Right, exactly. We can argue all we want about whether it should be this way, but the reality is that for many people it is, and we do them no favors by pretending that it’s not. People use code-switching for a reason.

        2. Recruit-o-rama*

          I mean, whether you personally like it or not, many people consider accents and dialects “fixable” because they do see it as “broken”. I grew up just north of Boston and when I went to college outside the area, I encountered the accent police and took a class to unlearn the accent which MANY people “hear” as uneducated, and they judge people for it pretty harshly. I know other regions have faced the same prejudices. The OP can choose to change her accent or not, and the prejudice is ABSOLUTELY more about her professor than it is about her, but that doesn’t change the reality.

          As a side note, I now work in a company with a lot of facilities in the mid-west and south and I absolutely would not be as successful if I still had my Boston accent.

          Finally, in central rural PA, a LOT of my co-workers use the word “yins” the same way southerners use the word “ya’ll” and when I hear “yins” I totally cringe inside because it sounds so freaking stupid to me. My point, many accents and dialects come across as very jarring to people outside the area the accent or dialect is from and if a person’s professional experience is geographically limited, they many not even realize it.

          1. Rebecca*

            Rural central PA girl, born and bred here – and I consider my PA Dutch speak and regional dialect a gift from my heritage. That being said, when I’m at work, and dealing with people all over the world via email and on conference calls, I speak totally differently than I would speak at home or when talking with my family or neighbors. When speaking to a friend, I would say “the lawn needs mowed”, but if I work with you, and you asked me what I was doing after work, I’d say “I need to mow the lawn, so I’ll be busy this evening” or something along those lines.

            I have no problem with using work-speak and home-speak.

            @Recruit-o-rama – I too cringe when someone uses “yinz” or “you-ins” in an office communication. There’s a place for it, and an interoffice email is not one of them.

            1. Lora*

              High five! From middle of nowhere Pennsyltucky, now living in Boston. Best of all, my PA Dutch accent leaks into my German so that it sounds like Swiss German, and from a rural part of Switzerland at that. I can’t win.

              I made an effort to lose the accent in college and now it only comes out when I’m very tired, upset or after a few drinks. And it invariably surprises people.

              This carries over from other cultures: I often see people from different regions of India or China treat their fellow Indians and Chinese condescendingly for similar reasons, even if the person from the more rural area actually has a better education and more experience. It’s literally everywhere.

                1. Lora*

                  Boston directions to places are the best, and by “the best” I really mean THE WORST OMG SO BAD.

                  Wuh-stah = Worcester
                  Leh-minstah = Leominster
                  Ruh-veah = Revere
                  Glaw-stah = Gloucester
                  Bill-rick-ah = Billerica
                  Sit-choo-it = Scituate
                  Woo-bin = Woburn
                  Not to mention blinkahs (turn signals), bubblahs (water fountains), carriages (shopping carts), gravy (spaghetti sauce), regular coffee (coffee with two milks two sugars), tonic (soda pop) and wicked (awesome).

                  Although recently the Boston accent has been getting some love in pop culture, it’s perceived as gritty and down to earth sort of thing. Thank you, Affleck Brothers.

                2. Laura*

                  Ironically, Lora, those place names pronunciations you are dismissing so cavalierly are actually pretty close to the original English pronunciation. Which makes them correct and you look a little uneducated as you mock people for being “OMG SO BAD”, to quote your own very elegant and sophisticated argot.

              1. New Englandah*

                This makes me feel so much better about my accent! I’m the same exact way!
                I encountered the accent-police when had my first internship, they didn’t even bring it up professionally they just pointed it out obsessively and would repeat what I said with exaggeration.

                I learned to hide it so they would stop mocking me but if I’m tired, angry, had a few beers, if I’m around anyone from the same region, I immediately code-switch back to my native way of speaking.

            2. Jesca*

              Boom! Central PA girl here as well! I was not born here, but definitely have been here long enough. Definitely dropping the Gs is very common. People who come here definitely pick up on the regional accent as well (central PA is kind of an unusual place culturally, food wise, and dialect wise than other areas). But I definitely speak differently at work. In casual conversations with coworkers, it comes out, but just about everyone changes as soon as they are in meetings or are dealing with people outside the area.

              it kinds of reminds me of Minnesota. I will never forget how the hotel staff spoke with a very minimal accent towards me, but as soon as they went into private conversation, I could barely even understand their conversation the regional accent was so thick!

              But yes, people definitely turn this off professionally.

              1. Snark*

                My mom’s people are Minnesotan, and they have totally neutral accents until they’re all out on the lake drinking beer, and then it’s oh yah, whir oht on the boht, you betcha. Instafargo.

                1. Seal*

                  I’ve been living in the Deep South for the past 10 years after spending most of my life in Minnesota. When I got here, I was told that I have an accent, which made me laugh. But everytime I go back home to visit family, as I walk through the airport I’m always struck by how strong the Minnesota accent really is. Definitely not neutral!

                2. Snark*

                  It’s always funny for me, because I grew up in Colorado, which has basically the most neutral American accent/dialect imaginable.

                3. Earl of Grey*

                  I also grew up in Colorado, but moved around a lot, too. After living in the UK for four years, coming back to Colorado the accent sounded very…country… to me. It was weird because I, too, thought it was the most neutral of accents. But apparently, all accents sound stronger when you haven’t been around them for a while.

            3. Nervous Accountant*

              This is so interesting. We have a huge client base in PA, and a lot of the PA clients i speak to have what sounds to me like a southern accent. (I realize it’s really not a southern accent, but I’m born/raised NY-er and that’s how it sounds to me). I talk to people from the south (Fl, Texas, GA, N/S Carolinas etc) too and honestly, accent has never made me think someone is ignorant or uneducated.

              1. Samata*

                My dad refers to this with “it’s not southern, just hillbilly” when people try to identify us as southern.

                1. Jesca*

                  I always just refer to it as my “lazy speech” especially the dropping of consonant sounds. Interesting fact: the reason why people view PA dialect as “uneducated” and “low class” is because of the way people viewed PA dutch. It wasn’t a culture unnoticed by the broader American population. They were seen as rural and backwards. This was so ingrained in society, that someone had erected a statue somewhere in the south that too much resembled a “dutchy” that they forced them to tear it down.


            4. Elizabeth West*

              Around here, people use you-uns (kinda like yoonz) but it’s something I literally never heard even growing up in a small Ozarks town until I started dating someone who was even more rural than that.

              I’ve been told I don’t sound like “a hick” and people outside the area are sometimes surprised to find out where I come from. But I chalk that up to having an educated mum who doesn’t have much of an accent either (my dad is from Texas and speaks with a distinctive drawl). Plus, I tend to adopt the speech patterns I hear around me. When I came back from California, people said, “Why are you talking so funny?”

              To this day, I can’t say pop anymore; I say soda like a Westerner, LOL. And it only took five weeks in the UK for me to start saying toilet roll, bin, rubbish, football, bog or loo, cuppa, brekkie, sorry (instead of Excuse me), and biscuit.

              1. A. Schuyler*

                That “sorry” vs “excuse me” thing really surprised me when I recently visited the US. I understand that they’re the same thing in theory, but in practice “excuse me” felt rude. Like saying “excuse me, you’re in my way” as opposed to “sorry, I need to ask you to move”.

              2. Optimistic Prime*

                Nobody can ever tell where I’m from. Growing up I used to have a New York accent, but when I moved to the South I was told people couldn’t understand me and I unlearned it. So now I don’t really have much of a regional accent, except when I’m drunk or tired and then apparently there’s a tinge of either New York or Southern depending on what I’m saying.

            1. hermit crab*

              Huh, that’s so interesting! I’m from south-central PA (where we have a nice mix of yinz, youse, and youse guys) and I’ve never heard that one before.

              1. Lora*

                Hayna is more like meaning “do you agree?” But it marks the speaker as NEPA, Luzerne or Lackawanna counties.

                As in, “that hurricane was worse’n Agnes, hayna or no?”

                1. Jesca*

                  Definitely. My Luzerne relatives use this – especially the older ones. Sometimes I can honestly say that I have no idea what they are saying to me!

            2. hermit crab*

              Also, to stay on topic — I’ll add that having a recognizable regional accent can actually help in some jobs. For example, we sometimes work with communities or local organizations in specific areas of the country, and having people on staff who are from there and can speak the language (so to speak) at outreach events, etc. can be a real asset.

          2. Samata*

            100% this. SWPA girl here!

            At home ahrn the clothes, fahl our bills, sweep the carpet and redd up the living room youse guys.

            At work I definitely iron out the details, file the paperwork appropriately, and ask to borrow the vacuum when I tidy up my office.

            I am not embarrassed by my accent – in fact I probably overdo it at home but am aware of how it sounds. Especially living in the mid-South now.

            1. Synonymous*

              My husband is from PA! The first time he said he was going to broom the floor and then sweep it, I was so confused. (brooming is what he does with a broom and sweeping was done with a vacuum cleaner)

              1. cookie monster*

                My 3 year old calls sweeping “brooming” and I thought he was just confused. Now I know he just has a past life in PA.

            2. Dialect Coached*

              I recognized very early on (like around 8 or 9) that my family didn’t speak the way people on TV did, so I started training myself out of our Appalachian Ohio dialect as soon as possible. I grew up in a house where my dad “warshed” the dishes and my mom “woyshed” them. I am still horrified to hear them talk sometimes.

          3. AKchic*

            I’m from Alaska (2nd generation born and raised) and I have what we call the Californian accent. Occasionally I pick up on southern drawls, or if I’m getting sick I get some kind of weird nasally twang, but generally I sound more like I’ve walked off of a surfer movie set if anything. I’ve never been to California, so it’s a little funny to me.

            My mom, on the other hand, has a ridiculous southern drawl she picked up. Her husband is from South Carolina and she went to visit his family and came back with it and now she purposely uses it. She’s visited South Carolina a total of 4 months in her 55 years of life (all in the last 5 years) and I really want to start calling her the southern Madonna because the affectation is annoying.

          4. 42*

            Here’s what I can’t figure out: I was born and raised in northern NJ, and have the accent that goes with it (CAWfee, dAWg, “draw” for drawer, AWder for order, et al)…but both of my kids (and all their friends, now that I think of it) ALSO born and raised in northern NJ, say those same words, differently (cahfee, dahg, drawer).

            And I don’t know how that happened! But my kids make fun of the way I speak, yet they grew up in the same household, listening to me all day every day. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

            1. CMart*

              If I had to guess? They watch more “TV” than you did (people on YouTube etc…) and are exposed to the more neutral accent that way, and they have more peers from elsewhere than you did growing up.

            2. Optimistic Prime*

              My parents have strong, heavy New York accents – my mom’s is identifiable Brooklyn – despite not having lived in New York since 1998 (they were both born and raised there). But none of their three kids do.

              The difference, though, is we moved to Atlanta when I was 12, my brother was 10 and my sister was 8. My two younger siblings actually have slight Southern accents now – my sister more than my brother.

              The funny thing, though, is that I was never able to hear my mom’s Brooklyn accent until after I moved away from home for a while and lived in the Pacific Northwest. Now I can hear it.

      2. Gen*

        I grew up with a very strong regional accent (plus dialect) and trained myself out of it at university because it wasn’t considered ‘academic’ enough and I was told it’d sound unprofessional. I ended up with a very distinctive phone voice which was helpful in some jobs for clarity, but then a lot of companies moved their call centres to our region because the local accent tested as most ‘friendly and reassuring’. So once I started working in call centres my accent became an issue I had to train out of again. My regional accent now is not the same as the one I had as a child, apparently a famous actor from the region did the same when he went to RADA and sounds nothing like he did as a kid. I wish I hadn’t changed as much as I did, because I never moved out of the area it didn’t help me much

        1. Nelly*

          Gary Oldman? He said in an interview he couldn’t remember his original accent anymore after learning so many new ones.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          This is remarkably common in certain (regional) customer service roles, local/regional news, and even in some national news. Apparently most television shows are produced with a “California” accent, but national news is produced with an “Ohio” accent because it translates as more trustworthy.

        3. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          My mom was from the Deep South and she trained herself out of her accent when she moved to the midwest and married my dad. She still has traces of it (you can take the girl out of the south but you can’t take the y’all out of the dialect). Likewise, I have a very neutral accent except when it comes to certain words because I grew up in Missouri. I can force myself not to use those, but I say y’all and have a few drawls on words. But the prejudice against dialects is real; one of my good friends and also my husband have both said that they find Southern accents to sound unintelligent or “hick”. That’s why my mom changed hers and why I have moderated mine.

      3. Kathleen Adams*

        Whether the OP should try to change her accent or not is a larger question for another time.

        The question for *today* is “Should she try to change that accent for interviews that are coming up in the near future?” And to that I say “Heck no!”

        With such a short time to prepare, she almost certainly won’t be successful in eradicating it, and if she focusses on that, she’s going to shortchange other things – more important things, such as presenting herself as the best possible future employee, with or without those voiced g’s.

        Sure, some people will judge her – positively or negatively – on her accent, and she can think about this for the future.

        But not right now. Now she has more important things to worry about.

      4. ZK*

        My husband is from England, but he’s been in the US over 25 years, so his accent has faded a bit. It’s still there, but much less obvious. Until he calls his brother on the weekend. Then it gets much stronger for the rest of the weekend.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          My auntie is the opposite–she’s been in England for over forty years and does not sound strictly American anymore. Her accent is the same, but her pronunciation has changed. Example: she doesn’t say guh-RAHJ anymore for garage; she says it GAH-ruhj (like carriage).

        2. Becky*

          I don’t have a super obvious Southern accent because I haven’t lived there for many years and the region where I grew up has a slight Southern accent instead of a super strong one because of blending populations. But when I talk to my mother on the phone I always end up with a stronger accent for a few hours.

          I started laughing when I first realized that my Boston born father now has a slight Southern accent after something like 40 years.

          Even though I don’t generally sound Southern I will hold on to my “y’all” forever.

          1. Stinky Socks*

            I’m not Southern, I’m a New Yorker transplanted to the Left Coast who has lost the NY accent. But for goodness’ sake– WHY DOESN’T ENGLISH HAVE SECOND PERSON PLURAL?!?? We need it, which is why we have regionalisms like y’all or my beloved youse (guys.)

            1. BouncingBall*

              Fun fact: you is the 2nd person plural. Thee (I think it was thee) was the singular, but it fell out of favor several hundred years ago. And that is why, today, we still say “you are” instead of “you is”, even though we would normally use “is” for the singular (he is/they are).

      5. Specialk9*

        My dad actually is from the NY/NJ region, and he absolutely did retrain his speech to sound blandly Midwestern like a tv announcer. We’ve moved around the country and the world, and nobody comments on our accent because it’s perceived as generic.

        Lots of people with accents tighten up just a bit at work. You might talk with a voice coach or speech pathologist. Or you could ask some really honest friends or close co-workers for advice – but be specific that you’re considering voice training, or they may politely lie because that’s more socially acceptable than seeming to criticize someone. By giving an option, it opens up the doors you honesty.

        The question of accents in the US just is nowhere near as fraught as in British English speakers. (Shudder) That is a judgmental system! There’s is literally no way to win, it seems. You’re always too crass, too regional, too posh, too big city.

      6. Rat Racer*

        In my first job out of college, everyone in our “entering class” was trained to get the “California upspeak” out of our voices. You know, that thing where all your declarative statements end with a question mark? It makes you sound unsure of yourself? I’m from California, but apparently, it’s a nationwide thing that people of a certain age (I would guess born in/after the 1980s) are prone to.

        Now and again, I hear an expert interviewed on NPR or a podcast with a terrible case of upspeak and it just makes me cringe. As much as I disagree with erasing people’s regional accents, I do think it’s important to teach young college grads (women in particular, but men too) to unlearn the upspeak habit.

          1. Specialk9*

            Does vocal fry in men bug you? Because I read an article pointing out how it was a gendered double standard that only women get criticized for. I then paid attention – I found it to be true. Men really don’t get criticized for vocal fry, but they totally do it.

            1. Artemesia*

              That is interesting. In my experience natural vocal fry is very common in old ladies (as an old lady having a problem keeping it out of my speech and remember my mother had it in her old age) and fairly common in young women. I don’t remember hearing it in male voices and thought it was a function of vocal range i.e. more common in tight upper range voices.

            2. Lalaroo*

              I think this is true in general, but for me I actually can’t stand it in men but don’t mind it in women. Somehow it seems like the voice is bottoming out more when a man does it.

            3. many bells down*

              I mentioned this to my husband, and pointed out that *I* have some vocal fry and I’m usually complimented on my speaking voice. He’s like “You don’t have vocal fry!” Turns out he (and I’m guessing other people) think “vocal fry” means the exaggerated “oh my gaaaawddddd” drop that people sometimes use for effect. Not the occasional minor fizz that my voice naturally does.

            4. Elizabeth West*

              I can’t stand it in anyone. In younger people, it’s seems affected and is like nails on a chalkboard to me. As I age, I watch really hard for it in myself—they say it happens to older women. Plus, I’m really glad I quit smoking so long ago; I don’t want to sound like Selma Diamond either, God love her.

              Upspeak makes people sound like they’re six and asking their mum for a twinkie. Mum? Mummy? I want a Twinkie, Mummy?

            5. Al Lo*

              Yes. Yes, it does. My church had a very vocal-fry-y pastor, and it always drove both me and the sound engineers nuts. It can be tough to accommodate.

              I also was a theatre major and took plenty of voice and speech classes, and so bad habits like that irritate me, no matter who employs them.

            6. Viva*

              It bugs me on everyone but I rarely hear it from men. It seems to skew 90%+ from women around here (Greater Toronto Area). The men I’ve occasionally heard it from are young (teens or early 20s). FWIW I’m a woman and I do it too – I try hard to shut it off when I hear it creep back in to my speech. Vocal fry grates hard on my own ears.

      7. Bend & Snap*

        I’m in the Boston area, and the dropped G is associated with a Boston accent. My company employs about 10K people in this area and nobody I work with has a Boston accent. People are pretty modulated and I think a heavy Boston accent would raise an eyebrow.

        I had to get rid of my Southern accent when I started interviewing for jobs in this area because people associated Southern accent with being stupid/a redneck. I miss it but dropping it was good for my career. Now nobody can tell where I’m from because I have no accent at all.

        1. Kathleen Adams*

          But you didn’t decide to drop it one day and it was gone by the next week, right? You had to work on it.

          I am a little concerned (which is why I’ve also brought it up below) because while many people are suggesting that the OP might want to consider at least toning down her accent – and they could be right – many are doing so without addressing her current issue, which is that she has interviews scheduled in the near future. She shouldn’t be worrying about changing her accent in time for those interviews. This is something she might want to think about for the long-term. For now, she should concentrate on other things, things she actually can control over the next few weeks.

          1. Bend & Snap*

            It did take time, and the Southern still creeps in at times. But it is something OP can start to work on immediately–being more aware of what she’s saying and how she’s saying it, and listening to people with more generic accents. Podcasts or audiobooks might be good.

            Outside influence can definitely help curb an accent (or make it more pronounced).

    2. Magenta Sky*

      That was my thought. Did you grow up around where you are now? Did your professor? If you did, and she didn’t, she may well be the one that people think talks a little funny.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I think this matters too – if everyone in the area has the accent or is super familiar with it, it’s less likely to stand out (in a positive or negative way).

        I grew up in the South and then lived in Northern WI for awhile – I had to really work on getting rid of my Southern accent to be taken seriously, but no one batted an eye at the yooper “ya dere eh” accent (which sounds super unpolished to me!).

      1. Becky*

        The T dropping in the Utah accent doesn’t really bug me but there are some other things in the Utah accent that bug me because I can’t understand what people are saying. Usually this is around vowels–“feel” is produced more like “fill”.
        Some older Utahns still show some signs of the or->ar transformation (so “fork” sounds more like “fark”).

  2. Sylvan*

    #2: I doubt anyone will care. I don’t see why your professor cares (I suspect the advice says more about your professor’s own hangups than it does about you). You would be better off going into interviews confident in your work than self-conscious about your speech.

    1. KR*

      Most of our company is in the south and most people drop their gs. I don’t think anything of it. To my northern ears it sounds lovely

      1. Artemesia*

        I did my career in the south and there are huge differences between accents there. Some are soft and lovely and don’t disadvantage. But even in the south some accents are considered uneducated and ignorant and grating. My kids grew up there with ‘TV accents’ because we have those accents, but both can do southern and my daughter finds it occasionally useful when she travels to meet with southern clients.

        My husband grew up in the south and went to high school and college in the north and lost his accent as a result of the ridicule he faced in school. But when he was practicing law in the south and had to interact with NYC lawyers on cases, he could trot out the accent if he thought it might benefit him. He was convinced that these lawyers were not as careful when they thought their opponent was stupid and that gave him an advantage.

        Local dialects can be charming or useful but they are often unprofessional sounding; it is worth being multilinqual so you can control your presentation of self.

        1. A grad student*

          Definitely seconded. I’m at a program in Virginia, and many people have different varieties of southern accents. Some of these I love to hear, some I perceive as neutral, and then there are a couple of people if I never had to hear talk again it would be too soon. Incredibly grating.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      Came here to say the same thing about confidence. It’s great that you have four interviews. Good luck. Try not to focus on this and to remember these four employers have called you in for a reason!

    3. TL -*

      As someone with a Texas accent – there are places where people do care and it does matter. (One of my friends who lives and works in Boston was told to drop his Boston accent when presenting.)

      It’s up to the OP what they want to do in the situation – you can let your work speak for itself and tell the rest of the world to go screw, you can modify your accent, you can code-switch in other ways to offset the accent – but accent does matter and plenty of people will judge you by it.

      1. CM*

        I think it also really depends on whether OP#2 wants to work in a place where she can be fully herself, or is willing to do some code-switching in order to get along. If OP#2 is going to feel resentful every time she has to pay close attention to her pronunciation, she should keep her accent and accept that she may not be deemed classy enough for places that consider themselves very prestigious.

        1. Tammy*

          Yes, this. So much this. It’s a different challenge, but when I was applying for my first position at CurrentCompany, I made a decision that I was going to be open and authentic about the fact that I’m a transgender woman – something else that people can be judge-y about. I reasoned that if someone wanted to look at my experiences and the outcomes I’d created in past jobs and all that I had to offer, and that was the reason they wanted to not hire me, then it was clearly not the right place for me to work. I’ve been here almost 5 years and am now a senior manager with a ton of credibility and respect from my team, management and executives, and I think part of the reason for that is my courage in being unapologetically and authentically who I am.

          I recognize that there’s a certain amount of privilege inherent in being able to take that kind of “risk” (though IMO showing up as your most true and authentic self shouldn’t be a risk, but that’s a hobby horse for another time). But I think we’d all do better if we could show up that way at work, and I think creating a culture where that’s possible is part of a manager’s responsibility to the company and her team.

        2. Former Hoosier*

          Thank you for bringing up code switching. It is a real and important issue. I advise students that they have to choose what they want to do. I used to not wear a wedding ring at interviews because I did not want to be identified as married. Now I do. It is a decision that should be made consciously.

          Each person has to decide what is right for them. You may not want to change your accent, your clothes or something else that can be perceived by others as negative. Tattoos are a good example as I work in healthcare. Many healthcare facilities are relaxing their requirements about no visible tattoos but it can still have an effect. If you want visible neck tattoos or sleeves, I support you but there could be consequences that you never realize.

          And I agree that all of these issues have nothing to do with whether or not you are competent at a job, but prejudices and biases do exist.

      2. BananaPants*

        Living in the Northeast, having a very strong Boston or New York accent can peg you as being from a working class/blue collar background. In my professional/upper middle class work environment, it’s not uncommon for folks from Boston in particular to either drop the accent or to code-switch in other ways if they can’t or don’t want to drop the accent.

        My accent is pretty neutral. That said, my word choice is different and my diction is more crisp at work/in professional settings than at home or with friends. It’s a conscious decision that I made early in my career when a trusted mentor told me that some of my speech patterns could be problematic as I progressed to higher levels.

        1. Specialk9*

          Bostonian accent, though, is distracting because words sound like other words.

          I got distracted from a VP’s presentation because he made an offhand remark about being late to the potty. I was sitting there trying to process why he was being so open to his whole dept about having pooped his pants (!), and whether he had a toddler at home to use the term potty, but no he was too old, so what was even happening here?

          Turns out he was late to a PARty. A celebration. Not a toilet.

          1. Annie Moose*

            >words sound like other words

            That’s definitely not a feature unique to a Boston accent. Pretty much all American accents have some form of merger or sound shift that makes “words sound like other words” to people without that same accent.

            1. fposte*

              I just had an informal survey in my Midwestern meeting about the cot/caught merger. It seemed to be generational–older people differentiated more than younger people, and at least one hadn’t even noticed that some people differentiate.

              1. Annie Moose*

                For extra fun, in my dialect (Inland North, the “Great Lakes” accent) we have the Northern Cities Vowel Shift, which means that the way we pronounce “caught” very similarly to the way people with other dialects pronounce “cot”. But we don’t actually have the cot-caught merger, because our “cot” has a different vowel entirely! (technical stuff: our “caught” lowered from /ɔ/ to /ɑ~ɒ/, but our “cot” fronted from /ɑ/ to /a/, so they didn’t merge)

                1. 42*

                  As someone who can’t hear the difference (NJ/NYC metro area), I wonder…do you say “Dawn” and Don” the same way? My own pronunciation is dAWn/dAHn, but I imagine those without my particular accent saying them identically.

                  This goes along with the caught/cot question above, because I hear them as the same when they’re being spoken by those without my accent. Hope this makes sense.

            2. Bend & Snap*

              I grew up in Texas. Pen and pin sound the same. Marry, Mary and merry all sound the same. These words all sound different in New England (apparently) but I can’t hear the difference.

              1. Zinnia*

                I’m a lifelong New Englander (New Hampshire). Mary, marry and merry are all the same to me, as are cot and caught. Pen and pin and different.

                1. BananaPants*

                  Southern New Englander here – Mary, marry, and merry are all the same to me, but cot-caught and pen-pin are different. The cot-caught merger is one of the differences between CT/RI accents and the rest of New England; we haven’t merged them and the rest of you have.

                  Most of the dialect tests I’ve taken point toward “General American”. According to Canadian friends I also have more Canadian raising than most New Englanders, which is probably because I learned to speak in the upper Midwest.

                2. Laura*

                  But can’t you see they’re all spelt differently so require different pronunciations? I can’t understand someone stating that they’re lazy as if they were proud of it, or even- worse! – were somehow indemnified from making an effort because they come from a specific area.

                3. Stevonnie*

                  Laura: I know it’s been a long time, but I just can’t let this go unanswered.

                  I literally cannot hear the difference between the central vowels of “cot” and “caught”, no matter the dialect of the person pronouncing it. This is common with people who learned language in areas where most people pronounce them the same. My early-childhood mind learned that they were the same vowel, and that was it.

                  It might be possible to train me to hear the difference, but I imagine that would require a vocal coach *and* moving to an area where most people make the distinction.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Ah, and milk and melk.

                My favorite part of the central Connecticut accent is dropping hard t’s that appear in the middle of words or compound noun phrases. So “East Lyme” sounds like “Ees-slime” and “New Britain” sounds like “New Bri-en.”

                1. Specialk9*

                  That’s called a glottal stop, I think. Bottle is said “bo’uhl”. Britain “bri’en”. I think it’s now common in British English, maybe Cockney (?) than US. I’ve never actually heard it.

                2. BananaPants*

                  It’s a glottal stop. You can peg a central Connecticut native by how they say “hard hitting New Britain”.

                3. Alienor*

                  “Melk” drives my daughter batty. She’s an actor and has had dialect training, so she tends to notice little differences in speech more than usual. Sometimes I put on my childhood accent (sort of generic American Southern) to annoy her, but I have to be careful because once I get started it’s hard to stop.

                4. Typhon Worker Bee*

                  Yep, glottal stop. I had to train myself out of mine when I left Yorkshire! People could understand me in Newcastle and Glasgow (they just laughed at me, which is why I started the training), but Canadians were completely baffled by it so I had to learn to ask for “warder” instead of “wa’er”

                5. oranges & lemons*

                  I live in western Canada and some people here do the glottal stop for certain words–what comes to mind is “kitten” and anything that rhymes with it. When I visited family in the UK I got self-conscious about softening “t”s to “d”s though. I think that’s pretty common here, although I tend to think of my accent as pretty neutral generally.

                6. Viva*

                  What’s it called when you change tt’s to dd’s? I have a strong Southern Ontario accent and we pronounce butter as budder, for example. And of course, Toronto is Toronno. Sometimes it ends up as Tohrahnah lol.

                  This thread is fascinating.

              3. Jesca*

                My grandmother was from the Appalachians in West Virginia. This makes me laugh because while most of her dialect i was used to, I could never get past the pin/pen thing. Every single time she would ask me for a pen, I would be like but I have no pin? What do you need with a pin? And every single time she would get so frustrated haha.

              4. Former Hoosier*

                My husband says pen and pin differently. I honestly can’t hear the difference. I also worked with a woman named Dawn once who said her name was pronounced differently than the man’s name, Don. I honestly couldn’t hear the difference either and I really tried because I didn’t want to pronounce her name in a way that she didn’t like, but I really could tell.

                1. Bend & Snap*

                  Erin and Aaron! Same to me, different to most folks in this region.

                  Dawn and Don sound the same to me also.

                2. paul*

                  I run into that a lot with au and plain o, and i and e in words. Even with people that swear they’re saying them differently it just ain’t there for me.

              5. Risha*

                The marry/Mary/merry retained split is more Mid-Atlantic, so PA, maybe some of NJ, Delaware, and Maryland. I’m originally from just outside of Philadelphia, so they’re distinctly different for me (as are pin and pen). I’ve been living in Providence for just over a year now, and I still have problems understanding locals sometimes. Half of them sound like Brooklynites to my ear, and the rest sound accent-less… but I still can’t make out what they’re saying.

              6. Becky*

                Grew up in the South–I can’t hear or produce the difference between “pen” and “pin”. To my New England roommate they sound different and I usually say the wrong one.

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Yeah—the “words sound like other words” description basically describes 90% of regional American accents. There was a great NYT piece on this with maps showing how these different sounds have shifted.

              In addition to signaling class background, some regional accents actually signal your generation. So some broad accents don’t appear less educated if the speaker is older, because their accent when they were growing up was associated with the upper classes (see, e.g., Jackie Kennedy’s accent, or Katharine Hepburn’s, or FDR’s accent).

          2. Turkletina*

            I’m from the Boston area, and it goes both ways. (No use stigmatizing our accent in particular!) Michigander telling me about a cot? I wonder what kind of cart he could possibly be sleeping on.

            1. Annie Moose*

              Haha, so, this reminds me of a story from a guy I know who is in fact from Michigan! He was out in Boston, I think, with his family, and they needed a cot for one of the kids. So he calls up the front desk and asks them for a cot.

              “A cot?”

              “Yeah, we need a cot.”

              “You sure?”

              “Yeah, we need a cot!”

              Needless to say, they got a cart.

              1. Dialect Coached*

                Oh lord, this reminds me of the time my mom repainted the bathroom and then went to Wal-Mart for some decorations. She asked the sales associate for a “pitcher for the bathroom.”

                SA: A pitcher?
                Mom: Yeah.
                SA: Like to pour water out of?
                Mom: No, a pitcher!
                SA: ….
                Mom: You know, like a painting!

          3. Formerly of Boston*

            First day of my first summer law job. One of my supervising attorneys had just come back from vacation, so at lunch, she was telling all about her trip. It sounded like she had a great time in New York, but I just couldn’t figure out what a “pock” was until she mentioned “Central Pock.” This is where it becomes relevant to say that the job was on the north shore of Boston.
            Well, fast forward to the end of the summer. She and my other supervising attorney took me to a restaurant on my last day. “We were thinking of going to the Dark Side, is that okay with you?” Mentally, I’m wondering what the heck restaurant is called the Dark Side and what type of food they serve, but I hesitantly say it’s fine. We drive a few blocks along the ocean to… the Dock Side. I’d assumed when I heard “dock” that it was her accent. Not the actual word.

            1. Artemesia*

              Went to a Cracker Barrel near Nashville back when smoking was allowed and so asked to be seated in a non smoking area. The host handed us menus and said there is a table by ‘the far side. ‘ So I am confused and ask ‘where on the far side’ (there were at least 3 areas that seemed to meet that criterion) ‘THE FAR side’

              Took us a lot of gesturing and finally him leading us to a table near the fire place.

          4. Rusty Shackelford*

            When I was in college I had a professor whose last name was Peel, and a seminar instructor who pronounced that professor’s name Pill. Or maybe it was the other way around. Either way, I spent the first seminar class wondering who this second professor was.

            1. Dialect Coached*

              My grandfather once uttered the sentence: “Why don’t you keller me a pitcher of a feesh?” It took me forever to figure out what he was asking.

              1. Skunklet*

                My husband’s from Long Island; moved to VA many years ago. When he went in for his first day at work, his boss asked him what he did during the week he was off… one of the things he did was go to a Pawn shop…

                Boss:…”I don’t think that’s appropriate for work…”

                Hubby didn’t realize his accent was so thick that PAWN came out like PORN………….

                1. Dialect Coached*

                  Dr. Ruthless got it. He was specifically asking me to DRAW a picture of a fish for him, as coloring and drawing were the same in his eyes.

        2. BananaPants*

          For reference, I was like OP2 and dropped final Gs in -ing words; I’d say “gettin” rather than “getting”.

          Having a relatively neutral dialect, dropping the final G was more of a class signifier for me than anything else. I was raised in a working class/lower middle class household and neighborhood and most of my colleagues at work – and almost all of our management – were raised in upper middle class environments. They didn’t drop that final G, I did. Combined with a moderate glottal stop on Ts (typical of this area), I felt that it made me sound less-educated than I am, and it was confirmed by my mentor.

          I chose to work on pronouncing that dropped G. I still have the glottal stop (although not to the full extent that I often hear it), but just pronouncing the final G has improved my overall speech pattern and IMO makes me sound more professional. Basically, I don’t worry anymore that I “sound poor” at work.

        3. Viva*

          My word choices and diction also improve when I’m ‘on’ at work. It’s unconscious code switching and didn’t realize I do it until a few years ago when my partner called me at work and told me I had ‘business voice’ on the phone.

        4. Optimistic Prime*

          Yeah, both of my parents have very strong New York accents that ping blue-collar. My mom is decent at modifying hers for her “phone voice/professional voice”; my dad just sounds like the Bronx 100% of the time. I have a pretty neutral accent, having unlearned my New York one long ago and never really picking up a Southern one.

          We’ve also got the added complication of being black and speaking black vernacular English at home and with friends. So yeah, I use a completely different dialect at work than I do at home.

    4. Temperance*

      I just don’t think this is true. I grew up in rural PA, where we share a lot of speech quirks with southerners, including using words like “ain’t” and dropping the g. I can assure you, speaking like this to middle class folks gets you judged as uneducated, at least by some.

      Even normally kind, open-minded people can be judgy about this.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          You are making a judgement about someone based on their speech, regardless of how good they are at their job otherwise (and assuming the job isn’t something like radio broadcasting where speech is the whole point of the job).

        2. Sue Wilson*

          I actually find it a little uneducated to consider words you can find in the OED with examples of use in formal literature uneducated.

          1. fposte*

            It might not be uneducated, but it doesn’t mean it’s workplace appropriate, given that the same could be said for “dickhead.”

            1. Sue Wilson*

              Really, what’s the formal literature sue of “dickhead”? I’d like to read whatever it is where it occurs.

              1. fposte*

                The OED cites Leonard Michaels’ Going Places, a nominee for the National Award for Fiction in 1969, as the first use. I’m not sure what you mean by “formal literature,” since it isn’t really a literary term, but “dickhead” basically turns up in the same genres “ain’t” does–fiction, dialogue, deliberate mannerism. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if it has turned up in contemporary essays what with the freeing up of that style; I would actually suspect that “dickhead,” with its ringing testosterone, is less likely to hit barriers than an essayist who uses “ain’t” instead of “am not.”

                1. Sue Wilson*

                  When I read the entry for “ain’t/amn’t” (mind you at least a year ago) the examples were of 18th century lit, including essays, since that’s when it was popular as written rather than spoken without quite as much negative connotation. So I’m not sure why it would occur in the same genres as “dickhead” since it would just be a contraction (albeit quickly controversial) and was popular in a complete different century.

                  I’ve never heard of Leonard Michaels but he sounds right up my alley.

              1. Really?*

                You’re the mod and the site owner. Do something about it. Or maybe don’t have comments. Sounds like the site is a bit too big for you now and you need to find someone else to help mod or you need to quit doing it.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  “Doing something about it” would mean much, much heavier moderation, and probably requiring registration to comment — both of which would significantly change the tenor of the site. I’m not interested in doing that so far.

                  This kind of thing is pretty par for the course when you have a large group of strangers from many different walks of life and with different frames of reference, all talking anonymously. But I’m certainly going to speak up when I see things I don’t like and don’t want on the site. I won’t be able to do it 100% consistently because I don’t read every comment and I’m not online 24/7. But I hardly think it’s at the point where I need to get rid of comments altogether. I don’t think the site needs 100% perfect moderation in order to justify allowing comments. Sometimes they’ll be annoying (believe me, I’m annoyed sometimes) and people who want a perfectly curated experience should definitely avoid the comment section, but I don’t think most people want that.

                2. Jesca*

                  Meh. It is only here and there as far as the condescension and nowhere NEAR the levels as on other advice column sites. If you want to see people who literally find a way to hate everyone, check out the comments on uexpress.

                  Anyway I like the comments, sometimes people say things that change my mind. It is nice and mostly thoughtful space.

        3. Jesca*

          There is a difference between formal speech/writing and informal speech. A lot of dialects are really local slang derivatives which are totally fine in informal settings. If someone uses ain’t in say a large presentation, then yes it can come across uneducated as it is outside formal presentation norms. Using slang in informal speech generally shouldn’t be judged as harshly. So saying slang does not belong in a work environment ever is pretty close-minded and sort of out of touch with language norms by-in-large. Then again, I always encourage people to check their prejudice on a regular basis.

          1. Annie Moose*

            Yeah. “Ain’t” is a perfectly natural and normal part of people’s dialects, and it’s 100% arbitrary that the prestige dialect of American English doesn’t happen to have “ain’t” in it. There is no objective reason why “ain’t” is bad and “isn’t” is good. It’s literally just a quirk of history.

            Would I advise people to lean toward the prestige dialect when speaking or writing formally? Yes, because of all those judgy people who will judge you for saying “ain’t”, evidently not realizing how arbitrary it is. But there is zero reason not to use it in casual speech, such as talking to coworkers or customers in a laidback setting. (and maybe someday, we’ll get over these silly biases, and nobody will bat an eye when you say it formally too!)

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think the problem is “ain’t” in the workplace, it’s about code-switching. As Jesca notes, almost all communities have multiple registers of formality depending on the context they’re in. The way I speak with my hometown friends is different than how I speak to my college friends is different than how I speak at work. And it all has to do with levels of formality. When folks hear certain “informal” word choices in settings they believe to be formal, the speaker’s failure to code-switch is what triggers the “put off” feeling. At least that’s been my experience.

          Unfortunately, I think a lot of bias against regional accents is tied up with class background, portrayals in media, and area of origin. I have absolutely met people whose reaction to particular accents is to assume a person is either uneducated, “ignorant” or an indication that a person is mentally slow. Which is kind of horrifying, if you take a step back and really think about it.

          I’m not sure how to advise OP, because I think there are jobs and contexts in which keeping a regional accent helps. And I think it can also help filter out if you don’t want to work someplace that will police your accent. I’ve seen my father struggle to lose his accent (which I think is beautiful and sounds like the soft rumble of a river), and it literally breaks my heart. Everyone can understand him, he always uses the correct level of formality, and no one has trouble understanding him when they hear his voice on the phone. It’s only when they see him at person that they suddenly lose the ability to understand/hear him and begin to perceive him as less capable.

          1. Anon for this*

            You make an excellent point that I was going to make elsewhere. OP should consider whether this is something they find worthwhile. Personally, while I have a slight WV accent, drop my G’s and say “y’all”, I wouldn’t want to work for a place that considered that worth hindering my progress. My linguistic quirks are ties to a long line of Appalachian heritage and I’m just not willing to erase that for a job.

        5. Kate 2*

          Actually “ain’t” is a proper contraction of “am not”. It is correct to use in that way, it is only when it came to be associated with the lower classes through the writing of Charles Dickens, that the notoriously, ridiculously class-sensitive Victorian middle class stopped using it and started stigmatizing it. Hilariously the upper classes still used this correct and useful contraction.

      1. Specialk9*

        One of the smartest hardest-working guys on my team of very smart hard workers was from rural PA. I hadn’t known PA could have the southern drawl and country music thing going. It was disconcerting. Honestly, I think it impacted how people perceived him initially, but he worked on long term projects and he ended up highly hugely valued so it wasn’t a long term impact.

        Southern accent has double impact – many think it sounds not too smart (unfairly) but super charming. Personally, my theory of life had come around to the idea that school lies to us – smart is so much less important to success than charming and socially adept. So I still think southern accents come out ahead.

    5. Kinder Gentler Manager*

      I would care. I have to put my directs in regular communication with high-level people across the country. I had a fantastic candidate once that I didn’t hire because she said “you’s guys” throughout the interview. Very commom local thing, but there would be no way she would be successful with the people she would have had to work with because of it. They would not have taken her seriously or respected her ideas.

      It’s not fair, but it’s the reality.

      1. Mike C.*

        It seems like the problem is them, n0t your candidates. This sort fo behavior is really, really gross.

        A few decades ago, would you have decided not to hire women for the same reason?

          1. Jesca*

            Well I do not know where Mike lives/has lived, but in some regions, particularly outside of the United States, dialect is actually a huge class indicator and is used to persecute, shun, kill, etc. So depending on where you are from or what your experiences are, I can certainly understand why some people would find it as disgusting as gender or race bigotry.

            1. Kate 2*

              Yep! Particularly if you live in a region where a particular accent is associated very strongly with a “lower class”, with poor people. A lot of people have not really seen or even heard about true generational poverty, from before social security, welfare, and food stamps, when you really could starve to death and a job was the difference between life and death for you and your family. So yeah, keeping someone out of a job because of an accent seems more serious to some of us than others I think.

              1. Jesca*

                I also think that a lot of poverty is also associated with cities in this country for some reason. To this day, there are large swaths of rural areas in the US where access is VERY limited to social services of any kind. And this is actually a significant portion of the population without access to purchasing food with stamps, access to mental health services, job services, affordable housing, etc. Therefore, dialect in those isolated small rural areas are still pretty huge in regards to keeping people unemployed and disadvantaged. You remove race, you remove gender, the next thing to use is dialect. It sucks, but it really is the case and is very sad and very overlooked issue in our country. I am only really *aware* of it as a sociology professor made it a specific point to educate classes on this.

          2. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

            Really? I’d say ethnicity and native language are pretty comparable. They’re both accidents of birth. Nobody *chooses* to acquire language in the way they do; it’s instinctual, and depends on the linguistic input you receive as a child from your parents and the speech community around you.

            It gets even closer if you start talking about things like ethnolects.

        1. Optimistic Prime*

          I think there’s a fine line between recognizing that your clients would look down on a candidate who speaks like that (regardless of your own feelings on the topic) and you yourself looking down on candidates who speak like that.

      2. BananaPants*

        “You’s guys” and “ain’t” just aren’t features of speech of educated professionals. Like KGM says, it’s not fair, but it’s reality.

        1. Jesca*

          I think it is important to note that this is very true, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t in turn look down upon people who do judge others this way. I even judge myself on this at times! So I wouldn’t recommend that people shout out proudly to the world that they feel this way …

        2. Viva*

          Agree. It’s about professional norms (as Alison might say).

          If it’s an informal company that type of vocab might be fine around the water cooler, but even at an informal company it’s inappropriate during an interview or when speaking to clients.

      3. Temperance*

        I don’t consider it unfair, though. If people are representing your organization, they should be polished if that’s important.

      4. Linguistics is fun*

        However, I would point out that in some cases a dialect or accent or differences in usage can hinder intelligibility which IS a legitimate concern. “Youse guys” is one that is less so in this case but some of the local second person plural pronouns in use in the US would confuse people not familiar with the local dialect. “Youse guys” and “y’all” would probably be understood by most listeners (though there is a chance not all) but something like “yinz” as a second person plural might not.

        When I was in college I remember hearing someone say something like “All I do is study anymore” and I literally could not understand the meaning of the sentence. In my dialect “anymore” in declarative sentences could only be used with negation such as “I never go there anymore”. It took me a little bit to understand the usage. (In ended up writing my senior paper on the Non-negative Anymore phenomenon because it fascinated me so much.)

        There are cases where you have to adopt more standard speech in work settings because of judgement about education/class/race based on dialect, accent or usage and we can debate the injustice of such judgments, but often you need to adopt more standard speech in order for everyone–who may or may not be local or even native English speakers–to understand what you are saying. This is a reality of businesses that span states, countries and continents and often has little to do with accent or dialect prejudices.

        1. Typhon Worker Bee*

          Where I grew up, “while” can also mean “until” – e.g. “I work nine while five on weekdays”. This is definitely prone to misinterpretation! There are some (no doubt apocryphal) stories of people being confused by “do not cross train tracks while lights are flashing” signs when they first leave the region, for instance. I know my parents (who aren’t from the same region originally) were confused when I picked this little quirk up from school friends and brought it home with me…

    6. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

      I’m a Philly girl and worked on losing my hard Philly accent while I was in high school. I LOVE Philly speak and I’m happy to speak Philly whenever I can, but I wouldn’t have the position I have if I talked like I was out of a Rocky movie. Are we going to merchandise “tals” or “towels”?

      Philly English is an actual dialect and a wonderful one. Code switching is a professional asset.

      1. OoohLaLa*

        I also have a Philly/South Jersey accent. When I went to undergrad up in Vermont, I was mocked terribly. During my time there, I learned how to tone down the accent but, now that I am back home, it still comes out. I agree with Wakeen Teapots, being able to switch back and forth between the accents is definitely a plus.

            1. Optimistic Prime*

              Jawn! I lived in South Jersey for two years and much of my extended family still lives there. “Jawn” is something I picked up from there and still can’t shake like 20 years later.

              Hoagies and jimmies also come to mind.

        1. Risha*

          I haven’t lived full time in the Philly area in more than two decades, but goddammit I refuse to lose my “wudder”s.

      2. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

        BTW, I think a lot of it is about annunciation. You will pry my “yo” out of cold, dead hands. That never went anywhere, and I go down the shore before we then go to the beach.

        Annunciation though (which goes with original question about dropping g’s) – in Philly “mirror” is “mir” and “towel” is “tal”, etc. Many words are compressed and it made business sense for me to practice enunciating, especially because I do business across the whole country.

        1. Jesca*

          This is very true. PA people really drop a lot of continent sounds when we speak. “is n’at”= “This and that”. I definitely tone this down when speaking outside the area.

            1. Samata*

              I never thought of us a consonant dropper, but more vowel swappers ….still=steel, fill=feel, fahl=file, mill=meal (or mill in the case of still mill)

              but now I see you are correct – we also seem to have issue with the consonants.

              I was recently on a blog where people from the area were saying their accent wasn’t as bad as other people make it out to be — but after you leave for awhile and go back you realize it is exactly like other people hear it. Which I don’t think is a bad thing…it actually endears me more to “home”.

              But I do think there is a place for it in personal vs. professional context, as I noted (and I think you commented) above.

              1. Jesca*

                Oh yes some vowel sounds are said pretty oddly the more rural you go. Like the word “meal” can be heard said mee-ahl drawing out both vowel sounds in a strange way. But over all, the speech is compact, glossing over all of “details” lol. Like “I don’t know” is pronounced “I-ahl-no” (which I will throw out in casual conversation at work. Like “Why did Brett approve that report?” “I-ah-no” haha) but rarely ever in a formal meeting!

        2. SJ*

          I’m from a county next to Philly (though I live in Philly now) and I totally agree with everything you’re saying. Honestly, I never really adopted the “wudder” pronunciation for “water” or “Iggles” for “Eagles” or anything like that, but I’m totally guilty of having the mushy enunciation you’re talking about, and I have a habit of dropping my g’s at the end of words (talkin’ instead of talking, etc). And I say “yo” and “jawn” :)

          I tone it down it all way down in meetings and interviews, but when I’m just casually talking to coworkers it comes out… and with friends it’s out in full force!

        3. NotThatGardner*

          or “di’jeetyit?” “naw, d’jew?” — took me awhile to realize people had no idea what was happening in that exchange if they weren’t from philly.

          1. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

            too funny but I’m afraid I’m even shorter:
            jeet-jet? No, ju? (without the d) Absolutely “jeet-jet”.

            That’s at home and then at work it is “Did you eat yet?” , “No, you?”

            1. NotThatGardner*

              yes, definitely! and that both ways of saying that short exchange are understood by a philly resident, but not outside that — you have to much. slower. and. more. clearly. state. the. question ” did you eat yet?” :D

    7. Observer*

      Experience says that you are wrong. It shouldn’t be that way, but people DO judge. And the worst of it is that it’s often not conscious, so it’s hard to fight. eg Someone comes in for an interview and one interviewer says “I don’t know what it is, but he seems a bit odd and not all that intelligent”. If you ask him why he thinks that and he says “Well, listen to that accent. Really stupid” you could call him on it. But if he answers “I’m not sure, but that’s the overall impression I got.” what are you going to say?

      The person who does that may actually believe that they don’t care. But the prejudice is still there.

      Fortunately, it’s not universal, but it’s very real.

      1. Myrin*

        I’ve always found the “dialect = not intelligent” thing so weird and sad (and it seems to be a somewhat universal thing, too; I’m not in the US or even an English-speaking country and it exists here too, someone above mentioned India and China, and I know of several other countries with that mindset as well). Because technically, a dialect only tells you where someone is from, geographically speaking, and at least in my country it’s a very recent thing that “rich people”, for lack of a better expression, or those who want to seem particularly sophisticated don’t speak a dialect; dialects used to be a pretty much all-encompassing thing here so I’m constantly surprised by how this seems so ingrained already. (I mean, I work with language and history, I know where it comes from, but it will never cease to feel weird to me.)

        It throws me because it’s just so false. Like, I actually speak two dialects (the one from my home region and the one from my mum’s hometown) which I can switch between and turn off at the drop of a hat and I’m pursuing what is the second-highest level of education in this country (held by only about 1.3% of the population) and would also generally consider myself an educated and knowledgeable person; if anything, I’d say my multi-dialect background has enriched my understanding of things overall. On the other hand, it doesn’t do much good if someone can speak perfectly accent-less but is dumb as a bag of hammers.

        I know it is what it is but this is one particular aspect of language evolution that saddens me a lot, personally. (And which has little to do with practical advice for the OP; I’m much more musing on a philosophical level.)

          1. Jesca*

            My previous boss was from England, and he was explaining this to me. I think in the US he had a lot more fun playing up his cockney accent than he ever would have in Great Britain or even the broader UK. Even when we had to travel internationally, he definitely toned down his cockney accent. It did get really funny when he would go full into it though for fun, because he really had to explain half of what he was even saying.

          2. Typhon Worker Bee*

            Oh yes. When two British people meet, we do an instant assessment of “is this person posher and/or more Southern than me, or not?” It was so refreshing to move to Canada and not have to do it any more. Unless I meet other Brits, of course. My (lovely!) mother in law went to private boarding schools and has a cut glass accent – it was pretty intimidating when I first met her. I still sometimes feel like a dirty Northern oik when I talk to her…

            1. oranges & lemons*

              As a Canadian, I always find it slightly jarring that a “Southern accent” has basically opposite connotations in the UK and US in terms of how wealthy/educated/”polished” you sound. Always takes me a minute to figure out which “Southern” it is.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          A lot of it is driven by media portrayals, as well. For example, I think the Southern accent reads as “uneducated” to non-Southerners because we’re raised on a diet of cartoons that portray characters with Southern accents as bumbling or ignorant.

        2. Specialk9*

          Agreed. It’s pretty stupid and shows ignorance of bell curves for populations.

          Though governments can impact population IQ by government-enforced racial segregation into lead paint filled housing, as Baltimore notoriously has done. I suspect we will find a similar population impact in Flint MI, tragically.

          Barring that kind of tragic failure of our children and vulnerable, though, people are people. How they talk isn’t their intelligence.

    8. CheeryO*

      It definitely does matter in some areas. In my corner of the world, the dropped G brings to mind a certain suburban area that is actively stereotyped as being full of trashy/poor/uneducated people (yes, it’s not very nice, but it’s definitely ingrained in our city’s culture, for better or worse). My dad grew up in dropped-G-land, and it rubbed off on me in a bad way. I mostly trained myself out of it in college. I’m positive that an interviewer here would judge someone for dropped Gs, even just subconsciously. I don’t think it’s entirely right for a person to have to train themselves out of a natural accent or speech pattern, but it’s just how the world works, at least in some places.

    9. Kathleen Adams*

      Whether you decide to tone down your accent or not is of course your choice. I love accents – the more the better, is my feeling – and would think it’s a shame if someone felt she had to change hers to suit me. And I certainly sound far more like a girl from Southern California (where I’m from) than a native Hoosier even though I’ve lived in Indiana for decades now.

      But I really would not recommend trying to change your accent for interviews that are coming up so soon. With such a short time to prepare, you almost certainly won’t be successful in eradicating it, and if you focus on that, you’re not going to be able to focus on more important things. So I recommend going into those interviews with your head high, concentrating on how to present yourself as the best possible future employee rather than on voicing those g’s.

    10. Purplesaurus*

      I’m going to agree with the point I think you’re trying to make (and please excuse if me I’m putting words in your mouth) – that there are other, more important aspects to interviewing well that OP should polish before the lack of Gs.

      While I agree with everyone that dropped Gs might be judged, I think preparing some answers and discussion points, doing your research, picking out a nice outfit, and not walking into the interview ultra nervous are more important and more likely to impress interviewers.

      1. Kathleen Adams*

        Yes, exactly. Now is *not* the time to say “I should gain/lose 20 pounds” or “I should acquire experience in ____” – or “I should change the accent I grew up with.”

        Those are questions for the long term. With these interviews, the OP needs to think more short term – “What are the most important things I need to focus on now?”

    11. Dr. Ruthless*

      Accents matter, for good or for bad. I’m a southerner, living in New Jersey. I definitely code-switch–talking with a pretty neutral accent most of the time (and catching myself to stop from saying “y’all”). But I had a bunch of southern clients who were sniping back and forth with each other and I’d had enough of listening to them, and I gave them a sharp “Y’ALL! Figure this out and get back to me.” I 1000% would not have done that with my Extremely Jersey clients, but it worked with folks from South Carolina.

      I also have been known to lure people into a sense of complacency with a southern accent. People hear it and think you’re dumb, fairly or not. Use that to your advantage! (I work in a litigation setting, so this might not work for everyone–but it can be convenient to be underestimated in my line of work).

      As far as actual advice for OP #2–it’s probably too late to work on this for upcoming interviews, so I’d do my best to put it out of your mind (easier said than done, I know). But it might be something to work on in the future, especially if you’re finding yourself not progressing as much/as fast as you’d like.

      1. Jesca*

        It is more than likely something they will drop once in the working world for a little while. You definitely develop your professional voice and your local voice no matter where you live anyway.

    12. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      The issue with accents is that it’s not a yes/no situation. Specifically, an accent can have both vocal inflections (cot/cart/caught) AND missing/added vocalizations (dropped G’s, added R’s, dropped R’s, D instead of TH). My observation is that the inflections are accepted and sometimes even appreciated. Adding or removing sounds, however, is a clear problem. They shouldn’t indicated social class or intelligence, but that is how they are perceived. This is particularly important as you climb the ladder. I have found that in most organizations, the senior leadership never drops or adds sounds. They can be Southern/Midwestern/Northeast/etc. in their vocal inflections, but “running” is pronounced with a G,” diner” ends with an R, and “this” and “that” do not start with a D.

      1. Specialk9*

        I generally agree that US execs often speak with bland Midwestern accents (and are often thin).

        Interestingly, not so at my mega-corp, execs (VP +) have nasal New Yawk accents, broad Bostonian accents, Indian continent accents, and Southern accents. It’s a bit of a quirky place though.

      2. BananaPants*

        Yes, very much this. It’s perceived as a mark of social class, intelligence, and education. We can argue all day long about whether it’s right or wrong, but those perceptions are widely held and I think they’re often unconscious biases at that.

        In my experience, you’re not going to hear “runnin”, “dat”, and “ain’t” in the C-suite. You just aren’t.

          1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

            If you liked the show, you will love their MIT commencement address: Why MIT? Both are graduates…but with their accents, most listeners would never have guessed that was the case. Perfect example of how accents and context shape perceptions.

  3. neverjaunty*

    OP #3, speaking as a full time employed person who’s had to juggle kiddos – you are just as entitled to life outside of work as anyone else.

    It’s true that dependent people (like kids, or an elderly parent) may mean a less flexible schedule for some of your co-workers, but that doesn’t make your downtime any less important. In a healthy workplace, everyone pitches in and everyone gets to have a life.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      +1. Your wellbeing is important. Self-care is not on a par with underwater basket-weaving. It matters a lot.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Also, when you say you picked up the slack, is this how you ended up working all those hours in the first place? Or could others not have helped due to different skillsets?

    2. Blue*

      Yes, thank you. So much this! That said, OP, I asked for some scheduling flexibility over the summer months (1 day working at home/week) for very similar reasons – I was burnt out as hell coming out of our busy season and my 60-75 min. commute was killing me. He approved it, even though working remotely is very much NOT a standard thing in our office. It did help somewhat but was ultimately just a bandaid on the issue. As Alison pointed out, it may be time to start fresh elsewhere.

    3. straws*

      Yes. This so much. If I thought that my coworkers were being negatively impacted just because I have a child, I’d be appalled. I love my son, but he’s my responsibility. I’m happy to accept help from others and return those favors in other ways, but I would never want to have my ability to care for my son become detrimental to other people.

    4. ThePM*

      Yes, this. I had my 2 kids very late (38, 41) and I consider any out of work activity to be equally important. I would never, never assume a childless colleague had more bandwidth. In fact, I try to take the sucky weekend remote support shifts (even as a manager) as I can’t do as much of the travel anymore. It’s your own truth!

      I think the proposal to work 4 days a week (obviously with flexibility if business requires) is the right one. Good for you for recognizing what you need.

    5. Kj*

      Agreed, but I would be concerned that 4-10s might not be the improvement the OP is looking for. I switched my crazy job to 4-10s, as I was working crazy long hours and boss and I thought it would help. It did not and now I’m quitting. I found that 4-10s, for me, meant I was so TIRED, I couldn’t do anything with my “extra” day off AND my workplace would never acknowledge I wasn’t supposed to work on Monday. They’d try to ping me constantly and if I turned off my phone, they’d complain about my being “out so much!” I wanted to throttle people 90% of the time I worked 4-10s.

      I hope a flexible schedule helps you. But it may not and you might want to consider if you are just burned out on this job.

      1. Specialk9*

        I was actually wondering, if she worked so many many many extra hours, couldn’t she just work 4×8 hour days a week, or get 2 weeks off paid? They literally got a year of her working 150%, and likely didn’t pay for all those hours.

  4. Ramona Flowers*

    #5 Is it possible your boss thinks you’re also submitting an application through whatever the usual channels are, and that the emails are just a heads up? If it’s not the same position you’re on leave from, chances are you need to submit an application and not just say you’re interested?

    1. GermanGirl*

      Yeah, that was my first thought as well.

      At my workplace you have to do a full application even for internal transfers so they can document that they did a candidate search and compare you to other external or internal candidates.

      It’s a bit annoying for the external candidates, but at least in our case it’s not totally hopeless for the externals. Sometimes one of the external candidates gets hired instead, in order to bring in some fresh ideas, or someone else who’s applying from inside the business.

    2. MK*

      Maybe the OP thinks she doesn’t have to apply, that when they said they would be glad to have her back meant that they would just giver the next available position.

    3. hbc*

      That’s an interesting thought. They’re both sitting there thinking “This is something the other person expressed an interest in, how come s/he hasn’t gotten the process started already?” Definitely worth a phone call to clear up.

  5. Artemesia*

    I know lots of people who have taken breaks or other changes for burn out and it has never worked. If you are burned out, it is hard to bounce back in the same environment and just rearranging the deck chairs isn’t going to keep the boat afloat.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I recovered from burnout by changing field, not just project or job. But I think it depends a bit on how burned out you are – OP may not yet be at the point of no return.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          It was a big change for me. I went from software test to software architecture and systems engineering. A very different way of thinking (forest vs trees). It also helped that I went from a hated manager to working under a VP I would follow anywhere.

        2. Jesca*

          I left my last job because of burn-out. There was nothing they could have done to keep me. I just could not take it anymore. I likely will never go back to that career path again. I am in my early thirties and have grey hair and a whole slew of physical issues related to stress! Stress really can age you once you get to that “omg, I can’t even stand looking at this building anymore!”

        3. tigerStripes*

          When I’ve been in the “kinda burned out” phase, if I take it easy after work and schedule a relaxing vacation, it helps. Might not be so good for very burned out.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Same. I stayed in my industry/subfield but changed employers. It had a massive (positive) impact on my burnout problems. Unfortunately burnout is usually an indicator that something is out of balance beyond simply load management, and in many cases (for me, anyway), that something is that specific workplace.

      Also, as someone with depression, hearing about the struggle to get out of bed and to work signals to me that the burnout might be transforming into something bigger than “run of the mill” burnout. I’m not suggesting OP has depression, but rather, that the sustained burnout seems to be bleeding over into their emotional/mental health (as it would for anyone in similar circumstances!).

      1. Blue*

        The point about burnout spilling over is a very good one. And in my experience, once it starts impacting mental/emotional health to that extent, it can be harder to recover from.

    2. Lora*

      Yes. Very true. It’s not just hours worked that you have to address but the “why am I even doing this” part. I mean, the answer might be “because I like eating and having a home” but nevertheless.

    3. Naltrexone?*

      I think this is probably the case, and I would still suggest OP take a long vacation. I don’t think it will make the job tolerable for them, but it might fortify them enough for the searching period.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      Agreed. I was burned out for a very long time–years–and it took the company closing for me to finally get back to feeling like myself. Over the years the burnout improved, but it never truly went away until I was no longer in the company.

      Also, when you’re burned out it can be very tough to determine if you’re unhappy because you’re burned out, or because you’re totally over your current job/company/field.

    5. SystemsLady*

      Yeah, at the very least I think they might have a lot more success taking a blanket two weeks to preferably a month off.

      I hated a job I loved even switching to a different project until my boss gave me some extra PTO.

      1. DoubleBigLaw*

        I came here to say this exact thing– I got the sense from the letter that OP3 may have been working for 27 months straight without a real vacation (a year and a half of which were totally crazy hours). You don’t recover from that kind of crazy schedule by just cutting back on your weekly hours– you need to take a real break and hit the reset button, and THEN come back to your nice 40-45 hour week.

        Especially at the beginning of my career, I hesitated to plan trips and often worked through staycations, and I couldn’t figure out why I felt so burned out all the time. Now that I make sure to plan a solid chunk of time off following any major project at work (and have a day off at home on either end of any travel), I’m so much better equipped to come back fresh after that.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        I think you need a combination of time off for healing PLUS a fresh start.
        That probably translates to a month off for a relaxing vacation plus a brand new project. The vacation should include a slower pace, something interesting to stimilate the mind, plus a change in scenery.

    6. Robot Guy*

      Didn’t work for me either. I was able to take extra PTO this year for paternity leave and even when I could take it at a not stressful time with the new baby it wasn’t enough to recover. When I finished a week back at my job after a two week break and earlier in the year had a month off but was back to being as miserable as I had been the previous year, I knew it was time to go. Just accepted a new position today though and already can feel hope I have not had in a long time!

  6. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 I’m wondering how the teenage niece being involved squares with whatever was in the grant funding application – maybe it’s okay in that respect, but maybe it’s not.

    As to boss’s mom, is boss in these meetings and aware of these introductions, or is she not witnessing this first hand?

    1. OP#1*

      I am not 100% sure of the grant requirements, but I do know we’re required to have professional, outside designers on the project. The volunteer thing is where it gets a little iffy.

      And boss is always there! She normally laughs and says, “yep! That’s my Mom!”

      1. Lars the Real Girl*

        I don’t think the niece thing is even a deal. You said that she’s helping the professional consultants. As a teenager “helping” professional designers/consultants I feel like her role is more “hey, how do you think this color looks”, and them teaching/showing her as a student or intern, and doesn’t equate to her taking lead on a major part of a grant-funded project.

        At then end of the day, as long as professionals are the ones signing off and supervising the project, using a volunteer, even a college or teenage intern, should be a non-issue.

        (If there are confidentiality issues at play, then those exist whether the volunteer/intern is 8 or 80, but you didn’t specifically mention that.)

        1. OP#1*

          That’s true – she is working closely with professionals the entire time, and we certainly trust them to guide her properly. Thank you for your input!

        2. I prefer tea*

          I would be concerned if this is the scenario. Professional outside designers shouldn’t be expected to teach a teenager who’s hanging around. I work as a designer, and while I enjoy teaching others, I don’t do it while I’m working. That’s a favor that I devote separate time to.

          OP, I don’t think you can do anything to change the situation, but you’re right that it’s not ideal. Nothing egregious, just not great.

          1. Artemesia*

            The question is, can the kid do scut work that is needed and frees up the pros to do something else. I used to hire my daughter to work on my research (paid out of my pocket as to pay from grant funds would be risky even though the work was done) and there are a lot of routine tasks she could do easily and well with a little instruction that relieved us of those tasks to focus on things we could do. If she were not doing the tasks, we would have been doing them, we didn’t have funds to hire additional personnel. She could even run simple data analysis for us. so if the niece is pulling her oar rather than getting in the way, I don’t see an issue. She is the ‘intern.’

            The Mom being there as Mom is kind of icky. The only way that can work is if she is viewed as a volunteer and her relationship to the boss is not referred to and even then , Mommy on the job is not a good look for the boss.

            1. OP#1*

              Agreed! A lot of the weirdness I’m feeling about this situation mostly has to do with cringey vicarious embarrassment.

          2. sstabeler*

            I think the point is that her being a teenager isn’t necessarily relevant- providing she is doing the work expected of a volunteer working on X project, then her youth is irrelevant.

            If the grant doesn’t allow volunteers, however, then there is a problem, but that’s using volunteers when you shouldn’t, not that the volunteer is a teenager.

          3. Infinity Anon*

            I think the main question is whether the niece is getting the same opportunities as other interns. If she is being included in the same things as other similar interns, it isn’t an issue. If she is being given opportunities that would not be given to a typical high school intern, then there is a problem.

          4. OP#1*

            She is doing essentially scut work for sure, and it seems as though there’s not much of a chance for her to “screw up” so to speak, but I have a feeling that if she wasn’t Boss’ Niece, we wouldn’t have a volunteer on the project at all.

  7. Delaghetto*

    Op 2
    My teacher, who was a communication instructor, told me that I did the same thing. I live in the South, but I don’t really have a noticeable southern accent(well, in comparison to other people who live here.) I had no idea that I did that, and once she told me, I forced myself to stop.

    For me, it goes along with being a good communicator. I can change depending on my audience, if need be. If one strives to be an adept speaker, public speaker in particular, I think they should clearly enunciate and pronounce words correctly.

    Now I teach communication classes, and inform my students about their habits, quirks, and whatnot. (They are graded on enunciation and pronunciation.) If people don’t want to change the way they speak, they don’t have to. It’s important to be aware that, just like with other things, there will be some people who will judge you less favorably because of the way you speak. They might view you as less educated. Change it or don’t, it’s up to you.

    1. TL -*

      Yes, this. Do what you want with the information. I do science outreach and when I’m dealing with an audience that seems a little more intimidated of educational content, it’s amazing how quickly I get back my drawl and relax my grammar. When I’m with audiences that are clearly all about the impressive academic achievements, I sound way more Northeastern and my language gets much crisper.

      But if you’re not a public speaker, it’s easier to pick one style and stay with it consistently. Just know why you’re picking the style you pick.

    2. On Fire*

      I have a friend from south Mississippi, who moved up to the mid-south for work. He speaks with very little accent – until he starts talking about Mississippi. Then the Deep South comes back into his speech. It’s beautiful, but his crisper everyday speech “fits” better with our area.

      OP, change or not as you choose. The biggest thing I would say, though, is to not become so focused on pronouncing Gs that it undermines your confidence or makes you sound hesitant in you answers while interviewing.

      1. Sled Dog Mama*

        I am very much the same as your friend. I’m from eastern North Carolina, unless the person is a linguist most people will peg me as mid-western (I’ve been told I have very good radio accent), until I start talking about home, then it is very clear where I’m from.
        Another thing I’ve been told that I do is I pick up accents very easily, so everything from being able to understand a very thick creole accent well after a few hours (my husband had to have people slow down even after a week) to picking up a vaguely Scottish brogue after two weeks with my host family in the highlands (which they found hilarious).
        I’ve always thought that my lack of accent (compared to the people I grew up around) was due to my training as a singer. I sang in a Children’s choir where we had very rigorous training in diction from age 7-14, went on an international choir tour, and sang in Carnegie Hall by the time I was 14. In fact I recall one particularly memorable rehearsal where the director threatened to completely stop us in the middle of a concert and make us restart the song we messed up the pronunciation of this one particular syllable. She was hard on us, but we sang some incredibly tough music well because of how high her standards were.

        1. Kathryn T.*

          The diction training you get as a singer definitely makes it easier to move your accent around. I was born in England and raised in Texas, which created all kinds of delightful opportunities for accents and colloquialisms, but I’ve been a serious singer since childhood and have performed works in close to fifty different languages (everything from Arabic to Zulu). My neutral accent is American Broadcast English* as a result, but if I get tired or passionate or inebriated, I fall back into a weird patois of Texas semi-drawl peppered with Britishisms.

          *With two exceptions. One, I pronounce “corollary” with the accent on the second syllable. And two, you will take my “y’all” when you pry it from my cold dead larynx. IT IS SO USEFUL

        2. Kelli Too*

          I also have a choral background, and also pick up accents lightning fast. I never made this connection before! I remember one summer in college, I came home from a two-week vacation in Virginia and my boyfriend kept telling me to “stop with that fake drawl”. I sounded like I’d lived there for a year.

    3. EE*

      But why does “being a good communicator” require the accent of people from the north of the USA?

      People from Kerry don’t sound like people from the south of Dublin yet we all cope somehow.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        It’s not about sounding like a Northerner – they have accents and regional dialects too. It’s about losing any regionalisms at all. If you’re not living/working someplace where everybody talks exactly like you do, “youse guys” has the same effect as “y’all.”

        1. G dropper*

          But not everyone in Ireland says ye or you’s (equivalent to y’all), some regions do, some don’t, but we’re all able to understand each other.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Of course we can all understand each other. I can understand someone who says “youse guys,” even though I don’t live in an area where it’s commonly used. It’s not about *understanding* people.

            1. G dropper*

              Then I suppose I don’t really get the point of all this. If you can understand each other then why not let people talk like they talk.

                1. G dropper*

                  I have read all the comments thanks.

                  I don’t get the point = I don’t agree with this, I’m apparently being one of those indirect askers from the question about new processes the other day!

                  I mean that I don’t think that people should make assumptions and judgements about other people’s intelligence and education based on their accent/dialect, especially when in a lot of areas, accent is an indicator of social class. I would be pretty horrified if someone with a working class accent from my local area didn’t get hired because they were qualified but ‘sounded uneducated’. But I know this is like saying people shouldn’t be sexist, doesn’t solve anything for women and is maybe unhelpful to add when someone is asking for help combatting sexism.

                  I’ll bow out now though.

                2. Lissa*

                  The thing is, most of these assumptions and judgments aren’t conscious. There are lots of people who absolutely don’t believe they make them, but they happen subconsciously. It makes it very hard to fight, and not just a matter of not being a jerk.

              1. Jesca*

                Because it is not about understanding. It is about people’s class and social prejudice to specific dialects and accents. Basically in the US if you have a noticeable accent of any type, people associate you with a lower class by in large. You are expected to lose your accent professionally in order to not be judged.

                1. G dropper*

                  Sorry only saw yours after I posted mine, I totally agree with you. I was maybe being unclear, my point was that if we all understand each other then I don’t think someone should have to change their accent in order to seem professional. Maybe not a helpful comment to make as that unfortunately seems to be the way the world works in a lot of cases and people need to get on as best they can.

              2. Colette*

                Sometimes it is about understanding, though. Yeah, most of the time you’ll figure it out in a 1-on-1 conversation, but trying to decipher a pronounced accent of someone you have never met takes work on both sides, and that takes away mental energy from the work you’re supposed to be doing (whether it’s discussing requirements, learning from a trainer, or whatever).

                1. Jesca*

                  This whole argument is like saying “I should never have to work with anyone from a foreign country because I don’t understand their accent and it will take up too much time for me to be patient and work with them.” I hope you see the parallel, because a lot of people don’t seem to understand that they are prejudice for the sake of being prejudice and use all sorts of “reasoning” to try to prove why they feel the way they do …

          2. Becky*

            I am going to vastly disagree with Rusty here–it IS about being able to understand each other. You say that regional differences don’t stop people from understanding each other. In some cases they don’t, but in some cases they absolutely do.

            The Midwestern US accent is generally considered to be the dialect with the fewest regional markers–things that set it apart–and aligns most closely with what people call Standard American. It has traditionally been used for news broadcasts and is understandable to a wide range of people whether or not they speak it locally.

            It isn’t necessarily about the effect–though that can be part of it, but more practically for example, most Americans would probably take a moment to understand the “ye” as second person plural. This of course only matters if you are doing business with a wider audience.

            Many regionalisms or accents can be difficult for people outside the region or accent to understand. If your business works with people from different areas it is best to adopt a more standard/formal register and enunciation to make sure everybody follows–this goes double if you routinely work with non-native speakers of your language.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              But the LW wasn’t told to stop dropping her Gs because it made it difficult to understand what she was saying.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          “You sound like you’re from the North.”
          “All planets have a North.”

          (probably grossly misquoted.)

      2. G dropper*

        I was just going to comment about Ireland! I’m Irish too, and for such a small country we have a lot of different, very distinct, accents and I would be shocked to hear if someone with a strong Donegal, Kerry, working class Dublin, or from a different country, was advised to drop their accent. If someone isn’t understandable then they might need to slow down a bit but that’s not losing an accent. I currently work in a professional environment and there are about 10 distinctive different accents sitting within 20 feet of me and like EE said above, we cope. I also work with people who say ye and you’s, hiberno-english versions of you plural and I would never think less of someone for it, and I’d be surprised if I heard someone who said they did.

        Is this not all very classist? We should all wear our accents with pride!

        Would like to hear more non-US opinions on this because I’m kind of baffled.

        I say all this as someone who is highly educated and drops their g’s :)

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          I gave a non-US opinion much the same as yours and was told off. I’m as baffled as you by the whole thing, but that’ll be the whole not being in the US angle I guess.

          1. Kate 2*

            I don’t think you were told off. I know you mean well. And unless you have seen and experienced the negative reactions an accent gets it is probably hard to believe. But it is real.

            It’s just that saying “We should all be proud of who we are and not change a thing!” is about as useful in the real world as telling women who experience sexism “Be proud of yourself and don’t change a thing! The rest of the world will come around eventually!”. Same with racism or any other ism.

            Unfortunately we have to live and work in the real world and we all need to eat. Not getting hired or losing jobs because of an accent isn’t something most people can afford to do. *Until* the rest of the world changes, we are the ones who have to change what we can to get by.

    4. fposte*

      It’s funny, because on the one hand I really dislike the dialectical hierarchy; while I think it’s tricky to try to map one country’s negotiations of anything cultural onto another, it’s interesting to me that the UK has moved more on this than the U.S. in my lifetime.

      On the other hand, I don’t see any argument for dialectical pluralism that can’t reasonably be applied to written communication, and I’m really strict about written communication. So I’d love to hear a rationale of why it’s okay to have different metrics for speech and writing here.

      1. Annie Moose*

        There’s always the option of not being strict about written communication, you know!

        (Aside from that, I’d say that written language is inherently different from spoken language anyway. It’s almost always more formal than spoken language, to start with–there are things a person would say in a formal speech that they almost certainly wouldn’t say in a formal written statement. Unfortunately, we associate “prestige dialect” with “formality”, hence why written language tends to be closer to the prestige dialect than spoken language often is.

        Also, writing is inherently different from speaking because there’s features of it like spelling that are totally disconnected from dialect–if you have the cot-caught merger, for example, you’re still going to spell those two words differently. And that’s not even getting into conventions like abbreviations/acronyms that we use only in written contexts–“lol” has a very different meaning than “laughing out loud”, and is almost universally only used in writing. So there’s not a one-to-one match between written and spoken dialects anyway.)

        1. fposte*

          Sure, but if we’re saying all natural expression is equal, why isn’t that an argument for textspeak in written work?

          1. Annie Moose*

            It’s a good question! And honestly, I’m not sure what the answer is.

            It’s easy to go “ah, well, clearly we should just go ahead and USE textspeak in formal writing”, but even I don’t actually do that.

            One argument could be that your audience might not understand textspeak–but in a formal context, you’re probably using lots of words that aren’t in common parlance, and if your audience can google what “antidiestablishmentarianism” means, they can google what “IMO” means.

            Another common argument basically boils down to “formal language is old and informal language is new”, but plenty of speech viewed as informal is old, while many formal technical terms are very new.

            This is all related to “register”, the style of language you use in a given context. You speak to your boss differently than you’d speak to your sister–and you speak to both differently than you’d speak to a stranger on the subway. You might only have one dialect, but we all use tons of different registers. Ultimately, I don’t think there’s a real reason why some words are OK in one register, but not in others. It’s like any sort of formal-informal distinction, it’s all pretty arbitrary. Why do I wear a suit jacket to work but a T-shirt with friends? They’re just cloth, cut and sewn in different ways, and a designer T-shirt could easily cost more than a cheap blazer! But as a society we’ve concluded that one is formal and one is informal.

            So, at the end of the day, why is it not OK to use textspeak in formal writing? Because for better or worse, society decided not to do it. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing–unlike dialect (which is how a speech community speaks overall and is closely tied to geographic location), register is more stylistic. As long as we all realize that this is kind of arbitrary and not some kind of moral code. (and that different registers overlap and fade into each other, as opposed to being strictly distinguished)

            1. Jesca*

              Very well said. I would also add that “formal writing” is pretty arbitrary and nuanced as well. For instance, writing an argument will require a different use of formal language than opposed to writing a report on a study. Formal technical writing is very different from either of these, and then depending on the type of technical writing, even technical writing changes due to social and pretty arbitrary societal rules. So, yeah, welcome to societal constructs.

            2. Purplesaurus*

              Or maybe it’s because linguists haven’t agreed on a formal grammar for textspeak yet. (Or have they?)

        2. fposte*

          BTW, Annie Moose, I’m really enjoying your comments on this–I hope you don’t think I was trying to shoot you down!

    5. Zip Zap*

      There’s a third option. You can keep speaking the same way but also inform people about it. Say something about where you’re from and, if it feels right, also mention that some people choose to drop their accents but you’ve held onto yours because you appreciate the culture of the region, or something like that. Whatever makes sense.

      Personally, I think it’s sad that we’re losing regional accents, and that there are negative stereotypes about them. They’re part of our cultural heritage.

  8. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 Even if people mean this warmly as Alison says, you don’t need to take so much responsibility for their feelings. Sometimes people will apologise profusely for this stuff, and it can be really excruciating, but that doesn’t mean you were wrong to say you felt made fun of. If that happens again, just say: “Thanks for apologising, but let’s move on from this now. Hey, so do you think about [new coworker/ TV show/ other subject change].” It’s okay to let them deal with their own feelings from thereon in.

    I have a medical condition some people think is funny (narcolepsy) and I’d say it’s just not possible to protect everyone else’s feelings all the time as well as your own – and if they are adults, they can ultimately cope with being told you feel you’re being made fun of. An apology is a better result than someone downplaying it, and is the decent thing to do (so long as it’s brief and to the point – after which they’re making you responsible, as mentioned above).

    In my case I tend to just say it’s off-limit for jokes because it sucks, or that it’s not as funny as it sounds. It sounds like they don’t know yours is medical, and while it’s horrible to feel self-conscious, it sounds like it’s not noticeable to others – they’re not joking about your symptoms. I appreciate that doesn’t mean you won’t be self-conscious, but it may be something to bear in mind.

  9. Magenta Sky*

    #4: When my hair to thin out, one friend made hair jokes. Which were amusing. The first couple of hundred times (and I’m really not exaggerating). You might have some luck with “That was funny the first few dozen times, but do you have any other jokes?”

    (I eventually just told said friend to save everyone time and just – literally – say “hair joke.” That was actually funnier than the same joke for the 1,001st time. (And if it was an especially funny moment, it was “hair joke, with a goat,” because everything is funnier if there’s a goat.) That lasted a week or two, and then he figured it out.

    1. OP #4*

      Aw, sorry that is happening to you. I don’t know about you, but to me it feels hurtful for people to call attention to and laugh about something that I’m already self-conscious about. Part of the problem for me is that it is many different people saying it, and they probably don’t realize it is the 1000th time or whatever that I’ve heard it — but then I’m sure it is also annoying for the same person to say it over and over! I don’t want to make them feel bad about what they probably think is an innocent joke or camaraderie, but I would like to shut it down without making a big thing of it. I am so grateful that Alison published my question and I will try her advice the next time somebody says that.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I think this is people not realizing how big a thing some conditions can be on the other end. A joke can be kindly meant and still just too on-the-sore-spot for the recipient.

      2. Magenta Sky*

        It really doesn’t bother me in the least. It just gets boring, like hearing the same stand-up comedian do the same act over and over. Get some new material once in a while, dude!

      3. HR Recruiter*

        OP #4 I understand you a joke can be taken as offensive when you are already self conscious about something. I’m sure they wouldn’t make those comments if they knew it was related to a medical condition. I had a condition that caused me to loose a massive amount of weight while pregnant. Everyone kept saying “wow congrats on loosing weight!” Every time they said that it was a reminder that my body was loosing when it should be gaining and may not be able to survive long enough to carry my child to term. I had some go to phrases I developed and learned to ignore comments knowing that they didn’t mean harm by it.

        Side note my husband is a sweater and he ordered some cooling bands online. Not sure if that’s what you are using. It does look like a ninja. But they have some cooling technology. He wears it under a hat so no one notices. If you are wearing a hard hat that may help and remove it before anyone sees.

        1. Parenthetically*

          I had the same issue with my pregnancy and my responses ranged from irritation to rage when people would compliment me on losing weight (or being “all belly” or looking “so great!!!!” or whatever). I’d usually respond drily with something like, “Yes, it’s great to be unable to eat, I love it,” or “Yes, it’s very admirable to have slightly less mass/gravitational force/whatever” or, if I felt particularly pedantic, “Isn’t it strange how our society is so obsessed with thinness that we’ll even see dangerous weight loss under terrifying conditions as a net positive?”

          1. Jesca*

            Yeah, that is weird especially during a pregnancy.

            I have to say that I am sort of dealing with this now. I was on a medication to regulate a medical issue that resulted in an even more serious medical issue (think hormone therapy that set off a chemical unbalance causing emotional issues). I went off the medication but also have to take meds now to “balance me out”. This whole ordeal caused me to drop like 20 lbs in about a month. All I got were compliments, when really I was going through this really awful ordeal. All the physical pain I had prior to taking the initial medication came back, coupled with the side effects of the new medication, coupled with still dealing with the long term side effects of the other medication! Since that takes too long to explain, I would just respond with “well, it is due to a medical condition” and just change the subject. People dropped it, so that was pretty successful. I didn’t get emotional or offended, I just stated the fact. People understood enough to let it go.

          2. HR Recruiter*

            Yes, its so strange how obsessed ppl are with weight. I get told daily ppl are jealous of me. I say hey if want to be so weak you can’t hold up your own body weight to stand you can look like this too!

          3. peachie*

            It’s infuriating. I lost 25% of my body weight due to a medical condition and dipped well into THIS IS DANGEROUS! territory before sorting everything out. If I got a comment (I got a lot of comments), I’d explain that it was a medical thing–essentially, I stopped being able to experience hunger and eventually could barely eat at all. What still gets me raging mad to this day is how more often than not, the response would be, in all seriousness, “Wow, I wish I had that problem!”

            1. Hrovitnir*

              People should learn not to comment on people’s bodies then. I know it’s a social norm, but it’s a pretty unhealthy one, and I wish it would become better accepted just to not unless that person has expressly mentioned they’re trying to change their body.

      4. Beachlover*

        Hi OP# 4,
        I have the same problem, but fortunately do not have to worry about it at work, since I have a desk job. However, it does not take much exertion (especially when its humid) to end up with a wet head, and sweat dripping down my face. My brother is the same, and my dad was also. Have you looked into getting Botox shots? I understand they will help. I am getting ready to look into them myself.

      5. Anion*

        I understand your feeling on it, and you have every right to ask them to stop, but do consider that these people are trying to be friendly and make a connection with you–they don’t realize it’s hurtful, they’re trying to make you feel comfortable. When they make those jokes it’s their way of saying, “This thing you’re doing is just fine with me.”

        Doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t ask them to stop, of course. It just might make you feel better to realize that they’re trying to connect with you, not pick on you.

  10. GermanGirl*

    #1 I think Mom and niece doing volunteer work at an organization that takes lots of volunteers is ok – one just has to be extra careful when money comes into play.

    Introducing them as mom and niece is weird though. Maybe if you’re on good terms with your boss, you can say something like “I’ve been thinking it might be better if you introduced Jane and Jill as Jane and Jill and not mom and niece, because introducing them as family members could detract from the professional impression you otherwise project so well.”
    I’m not a native speaker so you might need to adjust that a bit ;)

    1. Al Lo*

      My dad has a small contract (very part time) at my non-profit workplace, and I always refer to him by his first name when talking with any colleagues about his department. I’ll talk about my dad as such in a personal context (i.e. “My weekend plans? Having dinner with my parents”), but will switch back and forth, even in the same conversation, depending on the context.

  11. Hazel Edmunds*

    I used to work with my daughter and we were very careful to keep the relationship at work on a professional level. She was very good and not once in over a year did she address me as Mum. I think that it’s very important that this happens even when many of the people at meetings etc know what the relationship is.

    1. Kj*

      Yes, this. I worked with my Mom and brother one summer and at camp my mom was Miss FirstName. No kids knew we were related but our co-workers did(because most of them knew us before the job started). It was not a problem at all for us, but I didn’t introduce myself as Miss FirstName’s daughter either.

  12. Tim C.*

    #3 – I am assuming you are salaried and not compensated for your efforts. You are being taken for granted and possibly taken advantage of. It is nice you picked up slack for coworker with kids, but they should return some of the favors. On some conscious level you have sensed it and now began resenting it. I have been there. You begin having fantasies of getting in the car one morning and just driving off to some isolated cabin in the woods. Employers should give their staff time off after a big project to avoid this condition. Ask for what you want to stay in the job. If you are really this unhappy you have little to loose. If you have a good manager who values your work, they will work with you to retain your value.

      1. stuff*

        It is a lot of assumptions but I can personally attest to most of them if you switch cabin in the woods with train by toxic workplace. It very well may not apply to the op but it’s worth considering that the burn out had deeper, broader roots than needing time off.

        I can’t vouch for the last sentence. In my experience, managers change things for a week for an employee before going back to the old ways. Though, I concede that I may never have had a good manager.

    1. nonymous*

      >It is nice you picked up slack for coworker with kids, but they should return some of the favors

      My attitude is that staff with strict schedules/commitments outside of work may mean that they can’t pitch in as much during the high demand weeks of 50+ hours, but they also can’t participate as much in the downtime that follows. So for OP#3 the staff with kids might be leaving at 50 hours during sprint weeks, but during lighter periods they should still be working 40-50 hrs/week, which would allow the flexible employees to flex. It is a legitimate solution to a varying workload.

      Keep in mind that the employer may really have OP#3 slotted in a position that has 40-50 hrs/week of work during slow periods and 60-80 during the busier half of the year. In that case, the employee needs to do some sleuthing to identify whether (a) they are being compensated appropriately for the workload and (b) whether it is an environment that fits their lifestyle. OP knows their work culture but as a really direct person, I might pursue the idea that since they are the go-to for flexibility during crunch time, their job should allow for that flexibility during lighter periods. This takes the childcare question off the table – OP is just asking for similar flex options throughout the calendar year.

  13. Amy*

    The issue with the accent is interesting because it has recently come up as a heated issue at my job. I work in a B2B sales role where we sell professional development. For some reason, we have a lot of Southern trainers with deep accents. My clients are in the NYC area. I am becoming frustrated with the accents, truth be told. We have evaluations and I see a lot of “didn’t feel like a great fit” comments from clients . I am positive the accents and demeanor are playing a role. Last week, I called a trainer before she flew in. In a heavy accent, she said “I declare, I’m just so excited – I’ve never been to the big city before.” I requested someone else. I recently had another trainer who kept saying “This is how we do x in Georgia” to an audience of Brooklyn teachers. When I finally brought it up internally and got the impression that I was being perceived as mean and “regionalist” (is this a word?) I don’t know a great way to phase this but I want my clients to be comfortable, not distracted and open the door to “what does this trainer know about our needs?” I certainly engage in a fair amount of code-switching on a daily basis and I don’t think it’s an unreasonable expectation for a national trainer. My ideal accent would be closer to the flat “accentless” TV presenter voice. (My own childhood accent comes back only when I’m home and or drinking) I prefer zero references to other locations unless they nationally significant. How to I raise this internally?

    1. Lars the Real Girl*

      Propose a prolonged language training session in Nebraska!

      Nebraska is considered to have the most non-accent in the country and has been used by news organizations, call centers, actors, etc as basis for and physical location for accents in the last 50+ years (since the Mid-Atlantic accent fell out of style.)

      As for what to really do internally, if you keep taking and getting the same feedback, use THAT as the basis of your message and frame it as “we’re seeing this over and over from the Southern trainers, especially those with a thick accent, I think it’s detracting from the material and is detrimental to the training.”

    2. Frozen Ginger*

      I think your issue is with demeanor, not accents. It’s one thing to speak in a Southern accent, another to say “This is how we do things in Georgia.” It’s also easier to change someone’s actions than change their accent. Advice the trainers to avoid personal anecdotes and figures of speech.

      1. Murphy*

        This. I think a trainer with an “accentless” voice saying “This is how we do things in Nebraska” might also turn off some of your NYC clients.

      2. MK*

        I agree. A grown woman saying “I ’m just so excited – I’ve never been to the big city before.” would sound unprofessional and somewhat juvinile in any accent; that is, when spoken to a colleague about a work trip. That’s something you say to your friends about your upcoming vacation.

        1. Solidad*

          It’s not juvenile. It’s inexperienced and may demonstrate naivety. There’s a difference.

          The fact that you (someone who doesn’t seem to have any ill intent or racism) think it is “juvenile” says something about who and what we view as the “default” in this country and who and what we value.

          Some of the most respected tribal elders I know – people who certainly are not “juvenile” – have said very similar things to me in professional settings when they have been asked to attend conferences in places like LA, Chicago, or NYC. Some of them have never even been off the Rez. That doesn’t make them less smart or less worthy.

          Americans of all political leanings are very, very close minded and unsympathetic to the experiences of others. We have this presumption that urban “hard boiled” experience makes one more adult or more educated or somehow more valuable. A lot of us let this slide b/c we assume that the juxtaposition is the mythical Hillbilly Appalachia. We forget it’s also a lot of other types of people like those men and women I work with through the bands, tribes, and nations.

          1. LBK*

            But those travelers treating the city like some magical, exciting land is the same kind of “othering” of places different than yours.

          2. Joielle*

            Ok, but whether we call it “juvenile” or “inexperienced and naive,” the point is the same. If you say something like that to a colleague about a work trip, it demonstrates that you don’t have the sort of worldly knowledge and experience that is expected of people in many fields. In your field, it’s understandable and normal that someone wouldn’t have that experience, and even in other fields, a person can of course be competent and smart and valuable without having traveled far from home. But I’d at least expect a person to know how it sounds to tell someone that you’ve never been to a big city, and to not say it at work if it would reflect poorly on them in their particular role.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Yeah, I think when someone’s coming to train you, you want them to project an air of experience and expertise. I mean, it would be one thing to say “Cool, I’ve never been to New York City before, this will be fun.*” But the golly-gee “never been to the big city before” reflects a level of inexperience that might make me wonder how much experience this trainer has in anything, whether or not that’s fair to her.

              *At least, I think it would be different. I mean, I’ve been to London but not to NYC. I hope saying I’ve never been to NYC in particular doesn’t make me sound like I’m all that inexperienced.

              1. LBK*

                There’s also something weird I can’t put my finger on about expressing that kind of excitement when you’re going for a work trip, where unless you’re staying extra time you probably won’t really be seeing the city anyway. It’s not a field trip.

          3. MK*

            I am not from the US. And I am not convinced the difference between juvenile and naive/inexperienced in this particular instance matters as much as you think, inasmuch as coming across as one or the other is equally bad. Joelle puts in very well downthread. An adult being excited as a little kid about a new experience may be charming, but in a professional who you hire to give training this attitude projects the wrong image.

            I am not saying it’s not natural to feel this way. I come from a small (and poor) European country. I was 38 when I went to NY for the first (and possibly last) time. I was very, very excited about it beforehand (though slightly underwhelmed afterwards). But if I had been going there for work, I would never say something like this to the person who was paying for me as a serious professional to go there. Maybe it’s pretentious, but in business dealings what you project matters.

          4. Kate 2*

            Yep! I grew up in a rural area. I’m pretty sure my life experience dealing with a wild dog and the possibility of a bear nearby, as well as the threat of dying from hypothermia is just as “hard boiled” and non-“juvenile” as navigating public transportation and dodging scary sketchy people which has been my urban area’s equivalent.

    3. Yorick*

      You seem to have an issue with Southern accents. If clients are distracted by the trainer’s accent, they will also be distracted by something else if the accent is gone.

      You prefer zero references to other locations, but other people would disagree. It depends on the training and the context, of course, but it may be relevant to explain that an aspect of the training is a practice in Georgia. Maybe that aspect is a best practice in Georgia, which is a state known for doing this thing well. Or maybe that aspect is used in GA but wouldn’t translate well to another location.

      It is very regionalist to assume that trainers from the South aren’t capable of instructing people in professional development.

      1. Amy*

        And this is exactly what my company’s argument was. However, I did not say Southern trainers were not capable of delivering high quality PD – the issue is with the clients. When you get consistent feedback about not being the right “fit” and that they don’t feel like the trainer “gets” them, I don’t think we should tap-dance around the issue. I get very different feedback from clients about both local trainers and ones that seem more region-agnostic. It seems that with truly excellent trainers, the clients overlook their accent. But with more average trainers, it becomes a focus. If the situation were reversed and it were a trainer with a strong Brooklyn accent (think “My Cousin Vinny”), I would also be concerned about sending them to Texas. The best trainers blend in with the group, even if that’s not their natural fit. The focus is not on them but on clients’ needs. I want to be able to talk about this internally without it being intensely politicized internally.

        1. Sue Wilson*

          Okay, but you can’t. It is fairly politicized. And frankly, considering that PD can be regional, you might want to address it from that level instead of talking about accents. “The clients don’t trust anyone who doesn’t know much about the local regional quirks/anyone who won’t adapt to their cultural style” is a much better argument than addressing something so personal as accents.

        2. Solidad*

          Would you say or do the same thing if the issue were racial or gender-based or sexual orientation based?

          It seems like you are fine with your clients being biased. Maybe the solution is to forewarn the trainers that they may experience some bias and to prep the clients that the trainer is from elsewhere but it’s valuable for them b/c they are getting a different POV on an issue and might learn from it.

          I used to work in a training related area. We always prepped clients when the speaker was not one of them. That was true whether or not they were from another region or another country.

          I once sent a young Indian woman with a heavy accent to rural Kentucky. It was fine. Why? Because we let them know ahead of time who she was, what her qualifications were, and why we were sending her. We also let them know that it’s ok if they didn’t understand something she said. They could ask her to repeat it or slow down. We also told her that she might experience some people who couldn’t understand her accent, but that she’d be fine and we’d work through it with her. She got really high marks at the end and was invited back. She also made some lifelong friends among the factory workers.

          I have major issues with the forced homogenization that’s going on in this country and coddling to people’s biases. It’s one thing if you are the worker and cannot change the system. But companies should be trying to find ways to mitigate this. They should not be encouraging it.

          1. Amy*

            I think it matters that this is a sales role – we’re not a non-profit. If customers don’t feel that our sessions are addressing their needs, they go elsewhere. And in turns of a forced homogenization, I actually feel like it’s the opposite. Our NYC clients are a very diverse group. Our internal trainers are not. I would prefer a much more diverse training pool but in the short-term, I would like to trainers to be more unobtrusive in their regionalisms, unless these regionalisms are local. I’ve worked with plenty of great trainers where I never realized they were flying in from thousands of miles away because they always chose to de-emphasize their personal style in the trainings. The focus was the content of the instruction and the clients’ needs, not the instructor. PD is often about growing in uncomfortable ways. If we can create a comfortable environment, it can help the attendees take more risks with their own professional growth.

            1. Amy*

              And when I say “local regionalisms,” this would include Russian speakers from Bay Ridge, women who are veiled, people who are Orthodox etc. These would all be considered “local.”

              1. Lalaroo*

                It sounds like you’re saying that a hijabi or an Orthodox trainer would also be unacceptable to you, am I understanding that right?

                1. Amy*

                  No, the opposite. I would strongly either prefer an Orthodox trainer from Ditmas Park who references Brooklyn (for example) or someone who displays no strong regional affiliations that might be be jarring to an audience. Either local or neutral.

      2. Observer*

        This is not about zero reference to other locations. It’s about telling people that “we” are different than “you” (and in the first example, implying better as well.)

        Amy says that this is consistent feedback – when that happens you need to recognize that it’s not just about some unreasonable people, but a pattern that needs to be examined.

        1. Solidad*

          Maybe the pattern is the unreasonableness of the clients. A lot of Americans assume all New Yorkers are rude and arrogant, all Southerners are ignorant racists, all Midwesterners can’t cook and are repressed, and all Californians are liberal freaks.

          I used to send out trainers into the field. Sometimes we’d get complaints about speakers and trainers. From a few places, the complaints were always about women, minorities, gays, and foreigners. Should we have coddled them on that?

          “This is how we do it where I’m from only” does not imply superiority on its face. It only does so if one or both of the parties is carrying bagging.

          From my experience with Southerners and New Yorkers, the bias could be coming from either or both.

        2. Anna Held*

          It takes a while to adjust to a strong accent. If you’re in a one-day seminar being led by someone with a strong accent and regionalisms, it’s easy to feel like you’re missing bits. It’s tiring to have to strain to understand all day. If you’re paying a lot of money to come and then having trouble understanding, that’s an issue.

          And yes, lots of people make a fuss over a very slight accent, and that’s not right either. But if they’re paying for a service and potentially taking their business elsewhere, you have to deal with it.

          1. Amy*

            Yes – this is part of the issue. These are generally 1 day trainings. Or if they are for multiple days, it’s often a different trainer each day. I do about 500 PD days a year so at that volume, my goal is consistency.

      3. LQ*

        If I was listening to a trainer and they kept saying something like “This is how we do it in Georgia” I would get SO frustrated. Just like I would if they said “This is how we do it at MIT” over and over and over and over and over. If you are a good trainer you say “These are industry best practices out of the Institute of Awesome in Georgia.” and then conduct the training! (I could be a little crabby because I had a trainer recently say the same thing about 50 times (I started keeping track about half way through and she got to over 30). Saying anything that much the same way? Means you are a horrible trainer.)

        And if I complained it might very well come across that I was frustrated about the trainer being from Georgia when what I was complaining about was it was a bad trainer, especially if people just know what they don’t like and can’t identify specifically that these training methods were inappropriate or poorly implemented with this group of learners.

    4. Observer*

      You actually have two separate problems here, I think. One is the accents. But I suspect that a good chunk of the problem with your feedback is coming from the second issue. That issue is exactly what you are being accused of – regionalism, if you will. “This is how we do it in Georgia” as part of a training is just extremely tone deaf. And if I had a New York trainer doing this in Georgia, I’d call them on the carpet, too. As for the “I’m so excited, I’ve never been to the big city before” OUCH! Ask people how they would react to someone showing and say “Wow! I’ve never been to farm country before! It’s SO exciting!” It’s well meant, but people’s eyes would be spinning to the back of their heads.

    5. Artemesia*

      It is almost always a loser to say ‘this is how we did it at Band Camp’ when not at Band Camp. No one wants to hear how they did it elsewhere repeatedly. That is a different issue from the accent. It sounds like weak trainers rather than just the accent is the issue. If you are getting a lot of negative feedback on the trainers, that is your best argument for hiring training from somewhere else.

  14. MommyMD*

    The constant Ninja thing is terrible. When it happens, I would calmly say “please don’t call me that” each and every time, without apology or explanation. It will stop with time. No need to get into your medical condition unless you feel comfortable doing so and want it out there. It is teasing and they’ve taken it too far, no matter their intent.

    1. LBK*

      Yeah, I’m gonna be honest – if you told me wearing a headband was related to a medical condition I would be suuuuper confused without more detail, so I think I’d only go that route if you were willing to say what the medical condition was. This is stupid but the first thing that came to mind for “medical condition that requires wearing a wrapped item” was the old campfire horror story where the woman has to wear a scarf to keep her head attached to her neck.

      I can see where Alison’s coming from with it being about camaraderie, but I feel like that would only apply if she were being made to wear it for a goofy teambuilding event or something. It really feels like playground teasing to me to be commenting on someone’s apparel to their face. I might just say “I know you’re joking but I’m not really amused by making fun of my outfit”.

  15. MommyMD*

    I would work on not dropping the g. Whether fair or not, it is going to come off lesser educated or unprofessional to many people who have the power to hire, or not. Grammar, pronunciation, and perceptions do matter and do carry weight in the professional world. “I’m interested in runnin the advertising branch” may immediately cost you the job, unfair as it may be.

    1. Soon to be former fed*

      I’m Black. Code switching is an absolute necessity for us to succeed in the business world. Some are resistant and call it “talking white”, but that is nonsense. I use black dialect with family and friends, it’s almost like being bilingual. We have enough obstacles to success without removing a barrier we can work around. The king’s english is the workplace standard, fair or not.

      Interestingly, the highly selective university I attended as an undergraduate required me to have free speech therapy to change certain Southern sounding speech patterns. I am not southern, but was raised on the south side of Chicago where many Blacks have southern roots. I appreciated the help. Think of it like news anchors, probably all have had speech lessons to obtain the generic tone they have. It’s not a personal slight against one’s heritage, it’s not useful to think of it that way.

      Tl;dr – OP, add those g’s back in while working. It will become much easier with practice even if it never feels entirely natural.

      1. LBK*

        I think there’s arguments to be made about whether people should have to do this, particularly POC since white people tend to be able to get away with accents and slang to a greater extent. Although I wonder how much of that is because of how greatly AAVE has diverged to the point of basically becoming a dialect rather than just a collection of slang like most regional language differences in the US.

        That being said, I do think most people working outside of a homogeneous area practice some level of code switching – I certainly don’t talk the same way at work as I do when I’m hanging out with my other gay friends. Although recently someone told me about some ridiculous email he got and I unintentionally let out a “girl…” which was sufficiently embarrassing.

  16. Look What You Made Me Do*

    OP #4, do you know specifically why other people think you look “ninja-like”? Is it the scarf in particular, or the way you wear your hair plus the scarf? Or maybe the way you’re tying the scarf? Could you change up one of those things and see if the comments just naturally stop? There are lots of “how to wear a scarf” tutorials online and a simple change in style might just stop the comments altogether.

      1. OP #4*

        No, just plain white cloth, and it is also much wider than a headband. I can’t figure out why so many people have separately come to the conclusion that it makes me look like a ninja warrior. I just wrap it around my head and hair in a way that is effective for absorbing the sweat and keep it from dripping down my face.

          1. Myrin*

            Yeah, super strange. I mean, I have so very little to do with ninjas in day-to-day life that I doubt anything short of a shuriken would remind me of them, but the connection to a wide white headband is especially mystifying to me.

    1. Lady Bug*

      I think they mean “Ninja Warrior” like the TV show, which is on right now. Several of the competitors wear headbands.

      1. Solidad*

        In addition to being insensitive to OP, the comment is also racially tone-deaf.

        I really wish the obsession with Ninjas and Geishas would die.

        1. Anonygoose*

          I don’t see how it is insensitive or racially tone-deaf to point out why people may be making the ninja association, when the OP seems confused about it. The show may be insensitive or racially tone-deaf, but that comment was not.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Oh, I thought Solidad was referring to the comments from the LW’s coworkers, not the comment from Lady Bug.

          2. LBK*

            Not to nitpick your comment about nitpicking, but Solidad says “the” comment, not “this” comment or “your” comment – I think she was referring to the comment(s) people are making to the OP, not Lady Bug’s comment.

  17. MommyMD*

    I think when you’ve gotten to this level of burnout, you need time off. I know all about burnout. Even a few days out can be restorative. Also, expecting you to work 80 hours a week for extended periods of time is abusive.

  18. eplawyer*

    With regards to the accent thing, work on not dropping the gs at least in interviews. You want to make the best impression possible. Then when you have the job and they know your work, you can be a bit more relaxed. You want people to know your for your work at your job, not your accent/way of speaking.

    Think of it like wearing a suit to an interview even if you will not wear a suit every day on the job.

    1. Turkletina*

      This is basically what I do. I try to maintain a very weak accent until I’m sure people are taking me seriously. Once I relax about that, the accent creeps back in.

  19. Essie*

    #3 I’m concerned that you’re downplaying your own importance in favor of coworkers who have kids. Is this something you’ve always felt, or is it a viewpoint your workplace has cultivated? As other commenters have said, everyone deserves to have a functional work-life balance, not just the parents. People don’t stop being important and valuable beings once they hit eighteen! The U.S. is a heavily child-centric culture (much to the detriment of adults and elder care, but that’s another rant) and it takes conscious push-back to develop balance.

  20. CM*

    OP #4, it’s hard when you feel you’re being mocked for something that’s painful to you. But I wonder if you could just own the “ninja” thing and find some humor in it. Just like on the playground, if you’re laughing at yourself too, the comments from others lose a lot of their power. And in this case, as you found when you called out a coworker, it’s not even that they’re making fun of you — this seems like friendly teasing, like if you notice that Bob wears orange every day and you joke about it a little.

  21. Rusty Shackelford*

    Is dropping your Gs necessarily an accent, though? I have a regional accent, but when I take care not to drop or slur things like Gs, I still have that regional accent. (Also, I’ve been told I say “hanger” in a weird hypercorrect way because I pronounce the G. What’s up with that?) I mean, picture someone with a strong southern or Texas accent saying “we’re fighting this battle and we’re winning it,” either with or without the Gs, and it doesn’t change the fact that they’re speaking with an accent. So I think you can clean up your pronunciation without losing your accent.

    (Does that beg the question of whether “fixing to” is more correct than “fixin’ to?” Discuss.)

    1. WellRed*

      haha. To me both “fixing to” and “fixin to” sound … regional? rural? No matter we are, we all have phrases and sayings and pronounciations and accents that sound funny to others. Ayuh.

    2. fposte*

      I was thinking the same thing. I suspect just how comprehensively you drop them matters. “I’m gonna get to that” is pretty near universal. “What’s holding up the project?” “It’s the compilin'” is less common. I actually do a studied dropping of gs for emphasis sometimes, so I could actually see me going with “It’s the damn compilin’!” whereas it would just be “compiling” in my unemphasized speech but I don’t think that’s what the OP is talking about.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I believe that should be “the dang compilin’.”

        (And I’ve used “all y’all” for emphasis, which I think is along those same lines.)

    3. Annie Moose*

      If you’re interested in the linguistics explanation for hanger…

      The reason people notice if you pronounce /g/ in “hanger” is not because they’re dropping the /g/… it’s because it isn’t there to begin with! (at least not in any American accents I’m familiar with) The sounds are not actually /ng/, it’s a separate sound /ŋ/. So it’s a hypercorrection based on spelling (the sound /ŋ/ is spelled “ng”, but isn’t actually pronounced the same way as the sounds /ng/)

      You may be able to hear this more clearly if you pronounce “finger” versus “singer”–“finger” has a /g/ in it, whereas “singer” does not. If you pronounce “singer” with a /g/, most American English speakers will find it an odd pronunciation.

      [Footnote: /slashes/ refer to specific sounds, “quotation marks” refer to spellings. It’s supposed to be angle brackets but I didn’t want to screw up the formatting!]

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        You may be able to hear this more clearly if you pronounce “finger” versus “singer”–“finger” has a /g/ in it, whereas “singer” does not. If you pronounce “singer” with a /g/, most American English speakers will find it an odd pronunciation.

        I pronounce “finger” and “singer” the same (well, except for the /f/ and /s/), so apparently I’m just weird. (And yet people who pronounce the /t/ in “often” grate on my nerves.)

      2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        Weird. I pronounce the g in all of those words and have a slight emphasis on the g in each. HanGer, SinGer, FinGer

        I have moved around a lot so have a Frankenstein accent

        1. Tau*

          High-five for Frankenstein accents – I’m delighted I’m not the only one who refers to theirs that way! My own is some sewed-together combination of American (a la Connecticut), German, Scottish, and British-English-as-taught-in-German-high-school that nature never intended to exist. No one can ever figure out where it’s from.(Also, I now hear no accent as “neutral”/accentless – including my own!)

      3. acmx*

        Singer and finger are pronounced the same. But then I drop my G’s because kids used to make fun of the way I pronounced words end in -ing.

        How is ‘hangar’ pronounced then?

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Sadly, I pronounce “hanger” and “hangar” the same, so I tend to say “airplane hangar” when it’s not obvious from the context.

      4. Alienor*

        Pronouncing the ‘g’ in words like ‘hanger’ and ‘singer’ is part of the general northern English accent–also a hard ‘g’ at the ends of -ing words, so ‘singing’ sounds almost like ‘singink.’

  22. Jerry*

    Accents…One reason to consider using a more neutral accent is so the most people can understand you. I have an auditory processing disorder that makes it difficult for me to quickly comprehend what someone with an accent is saying. I have to spend a lot of energy focusing on figuring out the actual words being said that I can miss a lot of the content. I do OK with most US regional dialects due to exposure to them on TV but some foreign accents are really tough. I had an interview several years ago with a foreigner and 10 minutes into it I knew I wouldn’t take the job no matter how much they offered. It was just too exhausting to talk to him. This can be mitigated somewhat by in person interviews because I can watch lips move. I know that I’m not the only one out there that has this problem.

    1. behindbj*

      Maybe a bit off-topic, but here is the advice I give folks regarding understanding accents: Think of the person speaking as if they were singing. People have an easier time understanding different accents when singing because they switch over to the part of their brain that follows musical cadences.

      Many people I encounter who have issues with understanding accents are subconsciously trying to “translate” what the other person says, causing a delay and a dissonance in their heads. I’m in the USA, and remind people that the folks they are talking to are speaking English – so no translation necessary. Folks have told me that the “think of it as singing/music” thing works. You might find it works for you (and it worked in one of my grad school classes taught by a lovely gentleman from Uganda. He was speaking perfect, accented English – but my fellow students had some problems understanding it. They tried the “musical thinking” thing and most said it worked for them. Just one example…).

  23. Sue Wilson*

    #2: Code-switch! You don’t have to lose your accent, but it’s a good idea to be aware of what you’re saying and how you’re saying it anyway, and to decide whether a certain audience is worth talking a different way. Talk a “neutral” way in interviews and get a feel for the culture. Otherwise speak as you normally do with people you know won’t mind.

    I’m black, and I don’t even remember learning to code-switch. It was just so obviously (unfortunately) necessary even as a kid. Both my grandmother and my mother did it all the time on the phone with professionals. You could suddenly hear them enunciate way more than usual and their tone would slightly lower and more deliberate.

      1. Soon to be former fed*

        Oh, my DD code switches so well that I haven’t recognized her when she answers her phone at work, LOL!

    1. NASA*

      I was just thinking about this last night! I didn’t kn0w there was a word for it. I’m a WOC and do it too, but was feeling bad about doing it (???). I’ll save the rest for this weekend’s open thread :)

  24. Bea*

    #2 I don’t have an accent, I have a speech impediment that sometimes when I’m exhausted, upset or just because I woke up that day like that, it gets worse.

    I had to do speech therapy as a kid and it help somewhat. Still those bad days exist.

    The number of jobs I’ve been passed up for is high until I got my speech and anxiety associated with it in check.

    It’s not fair but it’s one of the snap judgments and first impressions you set yourself up for.

    1. eplawyer*

      I’ve got a speech impediment too. It’s gotten better but when I’m really tired it comes out — badly. So I try to be aware and talk more slowly. Or try to avoid words with the sound I can’t make.

      1. Bea*

        On bad days when I can’t get the word out I’ve gotten used to just saying “yeah not going to be able to force that one out” and switch gears/end the discussion.

        I also pronounce things “my way” and whenever anyone has the balls to correct me I tell them I’m mostly incapable of forming the sound they want me to, they know the word I mean, they can stuff it.

        I’m high enough in the chain, I will be fine. Starting out was hell on wheels and right as the recession hit. So try could nitpick the hell out of me, exhausting stuff.

    2. Tau*

      I have speech disorder myself. In my case, my last run at speech therapy made me so incredibly miserable that I gave up and decided I’d just stutter and people would have to deal with it. I’m sure it’s going to have a negative effect on my career, but I’d rather pay the cost that way than in my mental health.

      Life isn’t fair, but there’s no one-size-fits-all solution and these are decisions people have to make for themselves.

      1. Bea*

        I feel for you, at my age now there’s no way to change how I talk. I had a job for a week where the person training me tried to correct me every time I mispronounced something. Frigging city names of all things as well, that was one of many reasons I knew that was the wrong place for me. Speech therapy as an adult is like learning a new language, it’s not impossible but isn’t as simple as people not in our shoes want to think. “Just open your mouth wider” response is “how about you just open your mouth less.”

  25. Laura Bot*

    Just stopping in to say re: OP#2’s question – my boss doesn’t pronounce her g’s and nobody seems upset about this. Well, I’m upset, but I’m also a grammarian and noticing that kind of thing in print is part of my job. She pronounces things in a childish way: runneen instead of running; walkeen instead of walking. Drives me bonkers.

    1. Annie Moose*

      It’s not childish, it’s simply a different dialect than yours. Dialects are not inherently superior or inferior to each other, they’re merely different.

  26. SheLooksFamiliar*

    For OP 2’s question: I don’t understand why so many people call G dropping an accent issue when it is about verbal presentation – syntax, mannerisms, patois, dialect, whatever you care to call it. G dropping absolutely can botch your candidacy. For that matter, so can ‘yeah’, ‘you guys’, and calling the interviewer ‘hun.’ If those words are used in an interview, accent or no, I will deduct points for communication. Know your audience, know the situation, adjust as necessary.

    BTW, I’m in Illinois. Our governor is famous for dropping his Gs. He gets negative press for it (and other things), and he gets caccused of dumbing down to his audience’s level. So there’s that.

    1. Delphine*

      Perhaps because the rules about “verbal presentation” tend to favor a very specific dialect–people who grow up speaking different English dialects may drop the “g” because it’s part of the dialect, and it’s not wrong. Your rules about what is proper communication and what isn’t are influenced by the (often prejudicial) biases most social interactions are. Unfortunately, candidates in English speaking countries will need to be aware of what is considered “polished” in their neck of the woods, but that doesn’t make the bias acceptable.

      1. Snark*

        It’s been said a number of times: whatever you think of it, it’s the terrain we’re walking on. Biased and prejudicial it may be, but accent and dialect have been human social signifiers since humans and societies existed on this earth. You can work with it or not, but to deny that it’s a thing because you embrace more egalitarian ideals isn’t going to help someone who’s looking for practical advice on the matter.

        1. fposte*

          Right. On the one hand it sucks, and on the other hand it drives conventions about clothing, writing, manners, etc., so you can’t really pick out a single area as uniquely illogical. Then there’s the irony that a lot of people are getting paid *because* of these structures, not in spite of them–anybody in most retail, especially clothes, anybody in communications, anybody in advertising.

          One thing I really like about the concept of code-switching is that it destabilizes the fixed-mindset idea that there’s one ingrained method of expression for each of us, and I think a lot of the resistance to dress codes and office language is actually a fixed-mindset framing that has a lot of downside. (After all, even the most monocultural of us probably do a little bit of code-switching between Grandma and friends.)

          1. Tau*

            This is an interesting point. I’m inclined to treat accent and dialect as something that goes deeper than choice of clothing, writing style, and the like, and view demands to change them as far more unreasonable and bigoted as a result. Thinking about it, I’m not sure how reasonable that is, and how far my own unusual background wrt speech modification is causing me to have a knee-jerk reaction. Something to mull over!

            1. RVA Cat*

              I see as being more like the bias against natural African-American hairstyles. A person can be professional without having to change who they are in a way that affects them during their off time.

          2. paul*

            Yep. The way I talk at a backyard cookout with friends isn’t the way I talk to my boss. And that is A-ok.

            You’ll pry my “y’alls” from my cold dead hands, but I do keep my accent in check at work, and particularly on the phone, because it can be hard for people to understand what the hell I’m saying. I know I have a hell of a time understanding someone with, say, a thick Maine accent or a thick Cajun one. So I figure trying to reign it in some is only fair, as I’m sure others have a hard time understanding some of my colloquialisms and accent.

  27. Anonymous Engineer*

    #2: I was born in Mississippi, live in Alabama, and sound like it. I could change my accent when interacting with colleagues from outside the region/country if I wanted to, but I find there’s a certain strategic advantage to having people underestimate me initially.

    I’ll grant that in an interview you may not have enough time to reverse that initial impression, though, so it may be worth being a bit more careful with your speech in that situation.

  28. Annie Moose*

    Have to throw my two cents in on #2…

    As somebody who loves language, I’m always on the “every dialect is beautiful! Don’t be ashamed of your dialect! Speak however you want, and if anybody doesn’t like it, that’s their fault!” bandwagon.

    Buuut I also realize that we all do live in the real world, where people do judge you on arbitrary things like dialects and where you’re from and the color of your skin. If you have to change your accent to get people to take you seriously, that might just be what you have to do, and I’m not gonna sit here on my high horse and judge you for it. But please don’t feel ashamed about it. There is nothing wrong with your dialect. It doesn’t mean you’re uneducated, it doesn’t mean you’re unintelligent, it doesn’t mean you’re unprofessional, it doesn’t mean any of those things people claim. If you need to code-switch or otherwise change your dialect, please do so knowing that the problem is them, not you.

    1. peachie*

      This is wonderfully put. I feel similarly about men who wear their hair long (or women with very short hair) and about wearing makeup in the office.

  29. designbot*

    #3, my first instinct is that you shouldn’t be asking for a flexible schedule, you should be asking for leave! You need time to really recharge. Two weeks at the bare minimum, 3+ would be better. After all of that, you must have some pretty solid vacation built up and if not what I’d be asking for is comp time. Then your brain and body can really reset from all the stress and let you come back fresh.

    1. GrandBargain*

      This is a really good idea. What about a month’s leave of absence with pay. With all those hours over 18 months, you’ve certainly put in more than enough time to balance out 160 hours away.

  30. Yorick*

    #2: Dropping the g isn’t really a regional accent, it happens in many regional accents when people speak informally. Your professor may have been pointing out a more general issue of using an informal speech pattern in contexts where it’s less appropriate. If that’s the case, then you need to correct it. In my opinion, speaking more formally in a professional setting isn’t code-switching in the same way as dropping AAVE to use a standard Midwestern accent. Work on pronouncing g’s, and think about whether there are other ways that your speech may be too informal.

  31. Miss Herring*

    #5, is it possible that your boss is out sick, out on a long leave, or left the job entirely? I remember sending the woman who was our payroll department a few emails requesting a change to my deductions (standard procedure at that job), but when it didn’t change I ended up trying to call her only to learn from the receptionist that payroll woman had retired a few months previously! No one told our office staff, no one redirected her email to her replacement, and it messed up a lot of things.

  32. Mokey*

    OP#2 – I’ll tell you what I did. I tried at first to reel my accent and dialect back. I do understand that it can make me seem uneducated, unpolished, whatever bs excuses people have mentioned. Then I decided not to bother. People who are so quick to judge using these class indicators will find another reason to judge you anyway. I do code switch sometimes and I tend to use less slang or profanity based on the audience. But I use ain’t, and drop my r’s and g’s sometimes. This is definitely about class and also race. Not hiring someone because of a dialect or language quirk lets them slide on their classism and racism. I know so many incredibly intelligent people who don’t speak perfect, “standardized” english. The passivity in this thread is a huge part of the problem. Saying “that’s just how it is” when you are in a position to employ someone means that you are part of the problem. Oh and I have been gainfully employed for over 20 yrs. Could I have advanced further in my career if I had “fixed” my accent? Perhaps. But is that really the company I want to be in? Nah.

  33. Newlywed*

    #2 If there’s anyway you don’t have to “fix” your accent, please don’t. Just because you have an accent doesn’t mean you’re unintelligent or broken, and you shouldn’t have to change a fundamental part of who you are just to please someone in an interview. I would try to keep from using particularly egregious slang (like “ain’t”) during professional conversations, but don’t change your accent. Most people I know find it endearing, and there’s one woman I know who has used it to her advantage as she travels across the country for work. Her accent is, I dare say, at LEAST as strong as yours, but she is so charming and professional and warm that people love it. When I went to college someone (who happened to be from a northern state) made fun of my southern accent and I worked really hard to get rid of it, and now I really wish I hadn’t, because it was a charming part of who I was and I can’t get it back.

    Also, I think that the media (particularly tv and movies) grossly portrays people from the south as uneducated hicks. Even people from major metropolitan areas aren’t safe from this kind of ridiculous satire (I’m thinking of characters like Kenneth on 30 Rock who is from the suburbs of Atlanta but his character is made out to be a complete naive religious nutcase whose grandparent slept with a goat or something. I like 30 Rock but that portrayal did irk me). Don’t change your accent just because a few people can’t get over their own bias or prejudice against people with accents. That’s on them, not on you.

  34. Cheeky Librarian*

    I can understand this. I’m from Upstate NY and I’ve been accused of dropping my G’s a lot in conversations, mostly by friends jokingly. Because I work in NYC it’s rarely commented on but I feel your pain on this one. I think that it’s just an accent quirk and it shouldn’t get in the way of your actual work.

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