Positive workplace ‘banter’ is a good thing.
Having a cohesive workforce and a strong workplace culture is something that all employers strive for. And friendly relationships in the workplace increase productivity, as employees are more committed, communicate better, and encourage each other. Banter can play a pivotal role in cementing these relationships.
There is, however, a fine line between ‘playful’ banter and what might be considered bullying and harassment.
Recent research found that a third (32%) of UK workers have experienced bullying masked as ‘banter’, while it is estimated that about 30% of the American workforce (which equates to roughly 48.6 million workers) feel bullied at work. And the number of employment tribunal claims citing allegations of bullying increased by 44% in 2022, which was a record high.
To mitigate the risk of this happening, regularly updated management training is essential.
The current workforce has the largest ever mix of generations working together, which means that lot of workplace banter risks being ‘lost in translation’ due to the fact that the boundaries of acceptability and what is tolerated have shifted so much across the decades. Consequently, what one person may intend as a joke, another may perceive quite differently.
Having managers who have been trained to understand what is acceptable means that they can diffuse these situations and act accordingly if someone feels that banter is going too far. But this training needs to be regularly updated as boundaries of acceptability are constantly shifting.
It is also vital that managers appreciate that cyberbullying is becoming much more common at work– especially with the rise of remote and hybrid working models.
Passive aggressive emails, pestering messages, and group chat banter can all result in employees feeling they are being put down, so it is just as important to establish positive online working policies in an evolving working world.
Finding the balance of banter at work can be difficult – but it is important to embed a culture of acceptance and inclusivity to avoid playful exchanges tipping over into bullying and harassment.
To discuss creating a positive and inclusive workplace culture in more detail, please get in touch with us.