Informal conversations with colleagues are an important part of working life. Whether it’s around the water cooler, over lunch or waiting for a meeting to begin, chatting helps colleagues to bond, share experiences and feel part of the team. Or does it?
In a recent interview with BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today programme, Chartered Management Institute Head, Ann Francke, questioned whether some office chat makes others feel excluded. In particular, she said that banter about sport can exclude women and lead to laddish behaviour and chat about sexual conquests.
‘A lot of women, in particular, feel left out’, she told the BBC’s Today Programme. Although Francke wasn’t arguing for an outright ban on sports chatter, she suggested that because many people aren’t sports enthusiasts, bosses should crack down on those engaging in sports banter around them. Good managers, she argued, ought to be inclusive and ensure that everyone is involved.
There was a significant backlash against Francke’s comments. Sports journalist, Jacqui Oatley, said it was a ‘terrible idea’ and others asked what else would follow if sports banter was banned. For example, would chatter about the latest plot line in last night’s soaps be out of bounds – or perhaps parents wouldn’t be allowed to talk about their children for fear of offending the childless.
The general conclusion seems to be not to ban certain conversational topics, but to ensure that managers and staff are emotionally intelligent enough to be sensitive of those around them. Also, not to allow any staff interests to get in the way of effective management decision making or team working.
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Source: BBC Radio 4 Today Programme – 27 January 2020 ( https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51261999 )