I am just back from SHRM14 where I spent time with HR professionals from South Dakota, Indiana and Wisconsin who developed a southern accent from spending three days in Florida.

Like, uh, how does that happen?

The answer is simple. It’s called accent mimicry, and it reminds me of when Hilary Clinton speaks to African American audiences and sounds southern. I am a fan of HRC, but even I think it’s hilarious.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but some people find mimicry to be annoying. If you didn’t grow up saying y’all on a regular basis, maybe don’t try to say it at work or at a human resources conference. It sounds dumb.

And if you live in North Dakota and you find yourself talking to someone from Arizona who sounds like she is imitating the movie Fargo, you should know that accent mimicry can be subconscious. That HR lady isn’t being rude. She doesn’t know she is doing it.

Do you work with leaders who speak differently than you do? Do you find your accent changing? Do you catch yourself sounding like Madonna when you go to London? (Guilty.)

Watch the fake accent at work and in your personal life, and try to give grace when someone does her best New Jersey accent.

She’s trying, y’all. Bless her heart.

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