More than thirty members of the Greater Birmingham Engage for Success network learnt how to tread the banter borderline in an engaging share, learn and inspire event in February.
Engage for Success volunteer Baljit Kaur from Innate Consultancy walked people through a host of tricky banter-based scenarios to help show where the legal and workplace line for banter lies. While banter can be seen as part of the in-group language developed by high functioning teams it can also be a cover for exclusion and bullying. And when you are encouraging people to engage and have the conversation then as an engagement professional you need to handle those linguistic borderlines. How? It’s all about the context as Baljit demonstrated with real life examples.
These case law case studies caused plenty of debate in breakout groups as network members sought to understand what is meant by concepts such as ‘sufficient connection to the workplace’ and what amounts to a ‘cogent philosophical belief’ under equality law. Baljit also made it clear that ‘intent to harass’ is in many ways less important to the context of any banter that crosses the line. In other words, not knowing you would cause offence, or not intending to cause offence, may be no defence depending on the surrounding context of a remark or comment that is perceived or received as harassment.
Greater Birmingham Engage for Success is always keen to make the learning practical for the workplace. So our enthusiastic delegates then looked at ways to constructively challenge people whose banter is getting close to the line without shutting down the adult conversations needed to make a difference.
At the end of the session Baljit concluded “nothing that makes people feel uncomfortable is acceptable.” Yes, engaging people inevitably means raising difficult topics, understanding banter better means we can professionally steer those conversations productively.
Look out soon for the next Greater Birmingham Engage for Success learn, share and inspire event as we continue to concentrate on our 2018 theme of productivity.
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