Language, Lies and Liability

Language, Lies & Liability: Stereotypes and their Impact on Performance in Work Environments
Prof. Dr. Sierk Horn – FH Vorarlberg


The English language is the workhorse of international business activities. The scale and scope of commercial activities across national borders make linguistic expertise – most notably the sophisticated use of English – more, rather than less, precious in the future. In spite of the significance now ascribed to Anglophone proficiency, we know little about what assumptions about a strong command of English as a prerequisite for career success does to people. There is a gap between the expectation to simply function in English and the apprehension that one’s English expression is insufficient to present oneself in the best possible professional light – often a problem for non-native speakers though native speakers have trouble, too. In this presentation Sierk Horn argues that stereotypes about inadequate language proficiency and, connected to this, worries about looking inept for the world of work add extra cognitive and emotional pressure. Such suspicions appear to seriously divert cognitive resources. Those affected are more easily frustrated and, as a consequence, appear to perform more poorly. He goes on to discuss what organisations can do about spill-over effects brought about by expectations to compete in Anglophone settings.