Linguistic profiling and implications for career development



Current career literature examines systemic barriers that diverse individuals encounter and some of the contextual factors that enable or hinder their career progression. However, there is limited research on how the systemic barrier of linguistic profiling enables or hinders the role of the organization or individual career development (Hughes and Mamiseishvili, 2018 ). Linguistics is the scientific study of language and its structure. There are several branches of linguistics, including sociolinguistics, dialectology, and applied linguistics among others has been used to discriminate and profile individuals in the workplace (Anderson, 2007; Barrett  et al., 2022;  Craft et al., 2020;  Hughes and Mamiseishvili, 2018), thus stymieing their careers. Baugh (2000, p. 363) defines linguistic profiling as “identify[ing] an individual … as belonging to a linguistic subgroup within a given speech community, including a racial subgroup.” and noted that one of the most famous occasions in which linguistic profiling took center stage was during the 1995 O. J. Simpson trial. Simpson’s attorney objected to the notion that race could be identified solely based on speech queues. Linguistic profiling is a term used to describe inferences derived from a person’s speech (Smalls, 2004) and has been shown to influence individuals’ development in many ways. When linguistic profiling describes discriminatory practices, it can be considered the auditory equivalent of racial profiling (Smalls, 2004). 

Career development theory (Super and Jordaan, 1973) examines how individuals grow and develop in their careers. We are still learning ways to enhance the career progression of individuals (Hughes and Niu, 2021; Hughes et al., 2019; Varma et al., 2022). The influences of linguistic profiling on individuals’ lives have been both positive and negative. One aspect where linguistic profiling has not been examined closely is individuals’ career experiences. Examples of linguistic profiling exist at all levels, including the President of the United States, Joe Biden, whose career has been scrutinized because he struggled with stuttering. Stuttering is just one example of linguistics that is profiled in the workplace. Other examples are nowhere near as highly profiled and do not have such a positive ending. 

There are individuals who are screened out of jobs within 3-5 seconds due to linguistic profiling during telephone interviews (Purnell et al., 1999).  Rahman (2008) found that racial identity was identified by listeners in 28 seconds and Anderson (2007) showed racial identity was determined in only 16 seconds. The effects of linguistic profiling may limit exposure to diverse cultures within groups at work and create homogeneous environments that lead to groupthink and lack of innovation (Wanous and Youtz, 1986). Linguistic profiling when used inappropriately prohibits the influences of diverse practices and decreases the collaborative effectiveness of individuals within an organization. Individuals may be forced to alter their self-presentation at work (Dolezal, 2017; Goffman, 1949).  

Baruch and Sullivan (2022, p. 146) suggested that scholars needed to “Investigate the dark side of contemporary careers.” In response, the purpose of this special issue is premised on the notion that some diversity is already in the workplace (Hughes, 2018). Understanding of the cultural, global economic, and technological innovation effects on linguistic profiling as it relates to the career development of employees is limited and there has always been a dark side of contemporary careers. This special issue seeks to add a linguistic perspective to enrich career theory and practice. In doing so, it welcomes research that delves into the dark side of careers and seeks to shed light on the harmful effects of linguistic profiling on career development processes and outcomes.

This special issue invites authors to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to the topic of linguistic profiling’s influence on career development. We expect manuscripts to bring strong empirical contributions that develop and extend career theory as well as more conceptual papers that integrate, critique, and expand existing career theories. We encourage the use of appropriate methods for both the research context and related research questions. We welcome both qualitative (Richardson et al., 2022) and quantitative designs (Schreurs et al., 2022).

Submissions will seek to address the following questions, but not limited to:

  • What is the influence of linguistic profiling on culture, global economics, and technology innovation within career development?
  • How do people modify their accents to achieve career success?
  • How do workplace accents affect career development?
  • How can accents harm/benefit? 
  • How can the dialect harm/benefit?
  • How can linguistics help, harm, or benefit career progress?
  • What is the influence of linguistic profiling on employability?
  • How does linguistic profiling influence adaptation to and thriving within the work environment?
  • How and why do people change their accents for career progression?
  • What are the economic implications of career-related outcomes after being linguistically profiled?
  • How can linguistic profiling be a benefit to career development processes and outcomes?
  • How can linguistic profiling be harmful to career development processes and outcomes?
  • How do people develop their careers while being linguistically profiled?
  • How is linguistic profiling examined from a micro or macro perspective?
  • In what way(s) does linguistic profiling occur during times when inequities increase?
  • How do we understand the growth and development of linguistically profiled individuals?
  • To what extent do individuals who are linguistically profiled hiding or seek personal fixes of their differences?
  • To what extent do individuals who are linguistically profiled isolated within the workplace?
  • How do individuals hide perceived linguistic profiled differences?
  • How can linguistic profiling be used as a career-diminishing weapon?
  • How can linguistic profiling serve as a factor to change and modify people’s behavior?
  • How can linguistic profiling influence code-switching?
  • How can linguistic profiling influence self-presentation?
  • How are accents perceived by employers/peers?

List of topic areas

  • Linguistic profiling
  • Careers
  • Career development
  • Diversity intelligence
  • Diversity, accents
  • Globalization
  • Culture
  • Dialect
  • Employability

Submissions Information

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Author guidelines must be strictly followed.

Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to “Please select the issue you are submitting to”

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Submit via ScholarOne

Author Guidelines

Key deadlines

Opening date for manuscripts submissions: 17/03/2023

Closing date for manuscripts submission: 15/07/2023


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