A perfect storm: behaviours at odds with publicly stated corporate values, immense individual distress, leadership that didn’t intervene, gravity of findings from independent investigation downplayed, resignations and enormous damage to brand, reputation and financially. The events at Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC) are a reminder that this can happen in any workplace, even at the highest level.

Suspended from hosting England matches, board resignations, disciplinaries, stress related absence, calls for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive to resign and sponsors severing ties, the damaging impact on YCCC is on-going and far reaching.

There is much to learn for all workplaces, from YCCC. Investigatory findings, for example, considered within a culture of continual learning. Approached as an opportunity to learn, develop, and improve across all areas, including people, processes, and systems, findings can help to prevent a situation where racism is diluted to the phrase “inappropriate behaviours”.

Leadership is, naturally, the key, and a genuine commitment to a diverse and inclusive culture is critical. A meaningful exploration, to cultivate a whole team understanding, of what is unacceptable and why, can also help to ensure racism does not get interpreted, as it was in the first YCCC investigation, as “friendly and good-natured banter”.

Harmonious working relationships and productive collaborative working are highly likely to feature some degree of banter, an easy rapport in a healthy, high performing working environment. When banter goes wrong, however, it brings the risk of the devastation experienced by YCCC, that is, significant damage to reputation, brand, individual health and wellbeing and finances. 

Of course, standards of acceptable workplace behaviour are varied and there are many contributing factors to the nature of banter, and what is the norm, in each and every workplace. Professional styles, personalities, type of business, organisational framework are some of the strands that characterise our workplace banter. Nonetheless, whatever the working environment, under the legal and statutory umbrella there will always be limits.

“There is a lack of clear boundaries as to what is acceptable. My line manager is happy to share her own personal information with the team, which is embarrassing, yet she informed me that my ‘banter’ is inappropriate. I personally do not use the word ‘banter’ and take the lead on the tone and content of office chat with my line manager from her.” (IT Worker, Grievance Letter)

Cultivating a unique workplace identity, to embrace the nature of the business, brand, professional styles, personalities, and organisational framework, with a common understanding of the boundaries of repartee, can help build a workforce with a healthy respect for difference.

Topical, lively, and flexible learning and development initiatives, absorbed into everyday activities can become valuable opportunities to shape a healthy, high performing workplace culture where concerns are explored early and informally.

Embedded in a culture of continual learning, people strategies and everyday workflow, compact and engaging development activities can be an integral and cost-effective component of business growth and sustainability.

Click here to learn how Exploring Banter At Work – A Digital Resource can help you ensure your workforce understands the boundaries of repartee.

Image 1 by Michael Weir, 2 by Mimi Thain, Unsplash


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