Tracey Powley Director of Focal Point Training looks at how a poorly designed job advert can look at the issue of Banter in the workplace and the inclusivity of all in recruitment agencies.An advert which appeared recently on linkedIn via a boutique recruitment consultancy demonstrates just how far many organisations have to go to create a genuinely inclusive working environment. One of the key selection criteria was “the ability to deal with male banter”. The fact they specified male banter shouts “laddish”, “boys will be boys” type culture loud and clear.
And sadly this is not uncommon, especially in sales driven cultures where robust competition is encouraged and rewarded.
We worked with one recruitment consultancy recently where one of the offices had lost two new female members of staff in as many months. The manager felt he had done his job by making the levels of banter amongst teams clear in the interview process and blamed the new team members for not being able to “take the heat”.
It took some persuasion to help him see that there is a responsibility (and a very good business case) for him and fellow managers to adapt their culture to make it more respectful and inclusive, rather than expecting team members to do all the adapting and tolerating.
It’s a competitive market out there and if organisations are serious about attracting and critically holding onto talent, they need to make the culture is as open and welcoming as possible … so that everyone feels comfortable and valued.
This isn’t just a gender issue. Banter can exclude anyone. We worked with an organisation where there were two male HR managers both named Chris. One carried a bit of extra weight, he was known as “Big Chris”. The other was slight of frame and not very tall. He was called “Little Chris” by his colleagues. Neither liked the names that were used to differentiate them; they were a constant reminder of their physical appearance, which both felt very self-conscious about. But, neither could quite find a way to ask people to stop, for fear of seeming unnecessarily “touchy”.
Such incidents go on in workplaces up and down the country, and are often dismissed as “just a bit of banter”, but the reality is they erode confidence and chip away at self-esteem. They grind people down.
These same organisations undoubtedly have a set of values, proudly displayed on their website (the consultancy mentioned earlier had a clear value around team work and respecting each other) and yet day to day behaviours often do not match up.
How can we say we respect each other or say we are an inclusive workplace if we perpetuate a culture where team members are expected to put up with jokes which regularly cross the line or where they are ground down by constant mickey taking or point scoring?
Our survey on banter last year showed 25% of respondents felt their communication with others was affected by inappropriate banter and felt only 1 in 10 managers would do something about it. There is a clear knock on effect here to reputation, retention, productivity and ultimately an impact on the bottom line.
One of the main barriers to organisations and their managers tackling this area is that they often don’t know where the lines are between what’s appropriate humour and behaviour, and what isn’t. Perhaps the misjudged advert could actually end up helping by prompting us all to discuss this very question within our teams … it’s certainly a good place to start.
Tracy Powley Director of Focal Point Training and Consultancy Ltd
Specialists in helping organisations tackle inappropriate behaviour at work
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M: 07812 247 091
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