A man and woman pointing and laughing there is a thin line between banter and bullying and it's your responsibility as the leader to have in place a procedure and recognise the difference.

A Thin Line Between Banter and Bullying

Never mind about love and hate; it’s a thin line between banter and bullying.  You may not be familiar with The Persuaders, but what would convince you that banter in the workplace has gone too far?  It’s not necessarily appropriate to tell someone to brush it off and toughen up.

Unfortunately, there have been many times when I’ve walked in on an exchange that seemed quite hostile.  It can be a culture shock if you are merely a visitor to the sector.  Other times it requires someone from the outside to point out the issues and to activate the remedy procedure. 

The Environment for Banter

A “bog standard” template will not consider your team’s dynamics. The whole purpose of the template is to appeal to as many people as possible. Therefore an accountancy firm could have the same policy as a scaffolding company.

As work cultures change with the varied ways of working, people are more of themselves in professions where they once resembled clones. It is the responsibility of those in charge to get a grip on which direction the business will move towards and then set the HouseRules accordingly.

Beware of the stereotypes and ensure that you have the appropriate policies and procedures and practices that align. Again, it’s effectively drawing the boundary lines to indicate what’s acceptable to the entire internal community and others.

Do Policies Ruin a Culture?

Whereas effing and blinding are not out of place on a building site, a person is less likely to put in a grievance because of the “colourful” language. However, the norm in an accountancy off is quite different, and such behaviour is more likely to be deemed as aggressive.

Tailor your policies within the constraint of the law to suit your organisation. The purpose of having them is to guide and clarify what the company finds acceptable. Problems rarely arise from the policy. Instead, it’s the lack of implementation, monitoring, and failure to take action.

Policies don’t ruin the culture of any business. On the contrary, policies are in place to build the desired culture specific to what you envisioned when starting this venture. Along with meaningful accompanying procedures, they support individuals within the internal community who veer a little off track.

Can you spot the point of crossing the line, and more importantly, do you have an effective plan of action to address such matters?

A Policy that Prevents Bullying

There is no golden document you can create that will prevent bullying from taking place in your workplace. Even as a solopreneur, if you look at it from the right angle, you could successfully bully yourself!

The key is creating the desired culture where everyone has a mutual understanding of the company ethos and respect for one another in the internal community. Without setting the ground rules (or, as we say, the HouseRules), there will be no blueprint to guide the team.

Have a policy so that others can get familiar with it and know what they can expect. But what is also crucial, as with any policy, is the monitoring and enforcing of the rules. Focus on developing relationships with those within your internal community, so this doesn’t become an issue.

To ignore the signs could cost you as the business owner.

One of the primary reasons to encourage business owners to have HouseRules from the beginning is to be ahead of the curve.  If you genuinely want to make your business successful, the planning is not exclusive to sales.  Your internal community is also a significant investment.  Individuals who feel that sense of belonging will contribute more than you can envisage but remember you have an obligation for their safety and well-being.
Don’t attempt to blame the individual by using the excuse that they should know the environment they have chosen to work in.  The “choice” is not as clear-cut as we often are fooled into believing it to be. 

The Ethical Strategist is the straight-talking ally, working with leaders and management teams to ensure their HouseRules translate into the daily practices of the business.

Not one to keep you any longer than necessary, look out for the following Ethical Insight. In the meantime, if you would like to talk more, book a Sip & Chat.

The Ethical Strategist - Cas Johnson

Leave a Comment