Banter. It’s a funny old word isn’t it? Oxford dictionary say this
The playful and friendly exchange of trading remarks.
We all love it don’t we? It’s just a bit of fun right? Everyone knows it’s just fun don’t they?There’s no harm in it, after all it builds great relationships and happy places to work doesn’t it?….all that may be true, but how do you know when the playful and friendly exchange of remarks are crossing a line? How do you know that what once was taken as banter is now actually being taken as bullying or harassment? How do you know that you’re not going to end up in the middle of an awkward investigation or potentially even worse, losing your job?
The truth is it’s very hard to be sure of any of that and that is why banter can be a hugely dangerous thing. I’m really not a fun sponge or a mood hoover, whatever you like to call it! I love a good giggle with the best of them and I don’t easily take offence but I’m extremely cautious of dishing out the banter to others at work. Just because my line might not be someone else’s. That is why I visibly cringe at times when I hear banter flying around that I know has the potential to go wrong! That said, banter is widely acknowledged as part of every day life and can support breaking the ice, reducing stress, building relationships and improving team spirit. It can be a really positive thing. I personally love being on the receiving end of banter it makes me feel part of a team and contributes for a positive day. Maybe I wouldn’t be saying that though if a line had ever been crossed?
I’ve recently read The 2018 report from the Institute of Leadership and Management about Banter. It has some really interesting facts in there. Some of them might surprise you. Did you know:
- Twice as many women as men report loss of confidence due to banter
- The most popular use of banter reported was to get to know colleagues.
- 4% of people have left their employer due to being at the receiving end of negative banter
- 73% of people do not think banter should be banned.
- 1 in 5 people have been embarrassed by workplace banter
- Topics viewed as unacceptable topics of banter: medical and mental health, religion/faith, sexual orientation and ethnicity.
- Banter is universal. 98% of people experience it.
Makes you think doesn’t it?
I’m definitely not suggesting banter should be eradicated in the workplace. I’m simply suggesting that it’s important to acknowledge that it can go wrong and would encourage employers to think about what they have in place to help reduce the risk of things going wrong and if it does, make sure you’re prepared to deal with it the best you can.
I would suggest employers could consider:
- Reviewing your bullying and harassment policies and ensuring banter is addressed.
- Training for line managers to include inclusion and diversity.
- Identifying and dealing with bullying and harassment effectively.
- Role modelling positive behaviour and raising awareness with others when inappropriate behaviour is spotted.
It’s great to be yourself at work, to thrive and to be happy and we all have a responsibility to ensure those around us feel the same. Be thoughtful in your actions and kind in your words.
It is beneath human dignity to lose one’s individuality and become a mere cog in the machine – Mahatma Gandhi
Love Laura x