How does your company view banter in the workplace?

The OED defines banter as “the playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks” and as highlighted in an interesting report produced by the Institute of Leadership and Management, it can help to foster relationships in the workplace and make work more enjoyable. The report found that workplace banter is a normal part of everyday life, with 98% of respondents agreeing that banter was ever-present in the workplace. However, a significant minority experience negative impacts from it, some of which are quite serious.  When banter crosses the line it can become damaging, resulting in negative impacts on working relationships and making work a miserable place to be. Here are some interesting statistics produced by the survey:

  • 1 in 5 people have been embarrassed by workplace banter
  • 10% of women say banter has had a negative impact on their mental health (3% for men)
  • 20% of women and 10% of men report loss of confidence due to workplace banter
  • 1 in 10 avoid workplace situations due to the impact of banter
  • 1 in 5 has left a job due to banter

Interestingly though, only 5% of people surveyed thought banter should be banned in the workplace with 73% disagreeing and a further 20% being unsure.

Steps to protect your company:

In light of their research ILM recommend that all organisations:

  • Review their bullying and harassment policies, looking at how banter is addressed
  • Foster a safe culture where staff feel comfortable raising concerns when they think a line has been crossed
  • Ensure there are clear policies and procedures that provide clear guidelines on how staff can raise concerns
  • Make inclusivity and cultural awareness training part of the induction and onboarding process
  • Appreciate the potential negative impact of inappropriate banter, especially with regard to inequality within the workplace
  • Recognise the impact on the bottom line of banter that is closer to ridicule and so adversely impacts productivity
  • Be particularly mindful of people in their first job and early careers, ensure they know they do not have to suffer in silence or, even worse, leave.

Excerpts taken from The Institute of Leadership & Management (2018) “Banter”, available from www.InstituteLM.com/resourceLibrary/Banter.html