(or Its just Banter love......now get back in the kitchen and make me a cuppa.)
I was all lined up to write this week’s blog on women in board rooms but then Andy Gray and Richard Keys decided to make a few disparaging remarks, which have dominated the headlines for the last few days and I feel I would be remiss of me not to comment.
So I know the offside rule has very little to do with the construction industry – though it can be helpful for networking and I’m quite sure a healthy knowledge of football in my late teens secured me my first construction job.
But it wasn’t that which raised my brow, it was a common response from Joe public men and women alike that this is just banter, worse is heard down the pub and maybe we should all grow a sense of humour.
Firstly I would like to defend my sense of humour as I know that writing this blog will automatically render me humourless to some. Whilst I have not won the Perrier award I have been awarded “joke of the day” by my Fiancé on 2 separate occasions this year – quite the accolade in our house. I also enjoy banter lots and have been told I spar well, having honed my skills over many years in pubs and building sites across the land. Should we meet at a networking event I would be happy for you to challenge these skills – though I warn you my language can be a little blue.
The issue I have is when banter effects the way people do their jobs, by all means down the pub tell me “I should be at home doing the ironing”, I’d probably hit back with a “why? By the look of your shirt you clearly don’t bother”. Not sparkling wit but you get the point.
Do not though as my boss, tell me “I would do you” this makes me feel like a piece of meat. In the pub I can stand my ground say what I like, remark as low as you do if I choose or sit with another group of people. At work I don’t have those options, if I make a witty retort and dent someone’s pride I risk losing out on future opportunities, if I make a complaint I’m seen as not able work as a team and so I choose to go along with it and smile, and pretend that it’s OK to speak to me like that.
Don’t get me wrong on its own it’s not enough to leave the industry over, but when you don’t get the promotions it makes you wonder how your viewed and its certainly enough to make you enjoy your job less which research shows will make you less productive.
Now before anyone mentions delicate little women, many men have taken me to the side to state they also thought this was inappropriate but did not feel they could speak up within the group. Bad banter is bad for everyone except the alpha male/female’s that use it to control, belittle and bully. This is not a male/female ethnic/non ethnic issue, it’s a people issue I hear complaints in relation to age, ability, height etc if is offensive to someone its offensive.
The most high profile case I have seen was in the midlands around 3 years ago where a Muslim man was made to eat bacon sandwiches, dumped in a BNP loyal part of the city and called a number of offensive names, in this first case this was called banter – the judge ruled discrimination.
Now before we get our knickers in a twist this doesn’t mean that we should stop banter, In fact quite the opposite banter should be encouraged and protected it promotes healthy happy teams and makes the day go faster.
What we should do is challenge those who use banter in the wrong way and spoil it for the rest of us, let’s not consider banter to be a bad thing but to recognise bad banter. You wouldn’t ban chefs from owning knives because one went rouge and stabbed someone, you also wouldn’t blame the person stabbed, you would seek to stop the stabbing.
So here are some guidelines to stop bad banter and keep us all happy.
1. If you hear something that’s clearly offensive and unprofessional do not laugh, even to save face this will encourage the behaviour and make it seem ok.
2. If you are offended but don’t wont to seem humourless try switching. Using a response that points out its inappropriateness. Eg Bad banter“women should stay in the kitchen” Response “ill bear that in mind when I do your valuation”. Of course be careful when using this method on people in a position of power over you.
3. If you are a manager and you hear your staff talking offensively put your foot down, your there to be respected not liked and if you show leadership by taking a stand your staff are more likely to follow.
4. Rule of three, bad banter can be a hard habit to break so don’t blow up the first time you hear something you don’t like take the individual to the side and explain why and ask them to refrain. If they do it again reiterate your point and at the third attempt take stronger action if you feel it is necessary – never go in guns blazing on the first comment unless it’s crazy offensive.
5. Be aware your offensive is not every one else’s and vice versa. For example I love being called petal, I don’t know why but I do (clearly taken out of context with a side order of malice I’m not so keen but in the main I’m a fan). But there are those who hate being called petal in much the same way as I hate being called chick so when they ask me not to call them that I stop. Sometimes I forget and call them the name again but will apologise when the error is brought to my attention.
In summary, be nice. If it feels offensive if probably is and there are plenty of other non offensive things to banter about. If someone says it’s offensive to them, respect that, it will make you come across as an intelligent and reasoned adult.
No one wants to work with an ass, so let’s all try not to be one!
As always I would love to hear your comments.