Office banter is an important part of company culture. It helps foster stronger relationships between colleagues, creates a more enjoyable working environment and provides an outlet for employees and managers to release pent-up stress in a calm and positive way.
That being said, there is a fine line between banter and bullying, and what one person may find amusing, another may find upsetting.
Therefore, as a manger or leader of an organization, it is crucial that you know what is and isn’t acceptable in terms of office banter. Plus, you should know how to deal with office banter that has been taken too far.
Being Able to Identify Harassment
There are certain topics and comments that can never be simply attributed to “it was only banter”, and could instead lead to harassment claims.
These include any comments or remarks made relating to:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and/or civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
As an employer, you are required to provide a safe environment for your employees where they do not feel victimized, abused or harassed. Failure to do so can result in a breach of contract and give your employee grounds for raising a constructive dismissal case.
Being Able to Recognize Bullying Behaviors
Bullying in the workplace can be just as detrimental to an individual as harassment that involves negative comments relating to someone’s appearance, weight or even their performance at work.
Ongoing bullying in a workplace can create a hostile and unpleasant working environment for all employees, and therefore, as a manger or leader, you need to know how to not only identify these behaviors, but also how to effectively deal with them.
It can be beneficial to undertake a communication skills training course that can be completed in just one day to ensure that you are up to speed with the proper (and improper) use of humor in the office. It can also cover how to deal with areas of conflict such as bullying.
Encourage a Safe Environment for All
This can be a challenge for managers as all employees are different. While a certain amount of humor and office banter can make some people more productive and content at work, others may shy away from this type of interaction and communication.
When used correctly, gentle teasing and humor can increase group cohesion and improve employee productivity and success. However, your role as a manager is to ensure that the entire group is comfortable with the type of communication being used, and that everyone is able to work to the best of their abilities without fear of feeling discriminated against.
Office banter and humor is a tricky subject for managers. There can be constant worry that someone will overstep the mark and offend another employee. However, with the right training and skills, you should be able to develop good listening and communication skills within your team, ensuring that mutual respect and understanding are given at all times, resulting in a happy and healthy workplace.