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Blog - Do you know when nicknames and jokes have gone too far?

Do you know when nicknames and jokes have gone too far?

Posted by Debbie Stanfield 07/02/14

Making Fun of Someone


In an incident reported this week, a worker was awarded £27,000, because of racist remarks made to a colleague. 
The case highlights 2 key points for employers to consider...

1. Often in these instances, the worker using the racist terms – in this case a nick name - says them, not out of a desire to offend, but through naivety. Nicknames in particular are often used in a well intentioned, even affectionate way, unaware of the offense it could be causing the person on the receiving end or other colleagues around them.
2. Almost more worrying in this particular case was the attitude of the owner of the business, who remarked that the tribunal process was “the most dodgy, pathetic process I have ever come across in my life.” Employers have a responsibility to provide a harassment free work environment, including taking actions to address disrespectful remarks and jokes – no matter how much people seem to be going along with them. The tribunal in this case saw the owner’s lack of action as perpetrating a culture of racism.

Unfortunately we know from our work in this area that while concerning, this incident is far from unusual. Organisations up and down the country are allowing workplaces to develop a culture, where unwanted nicknames, racist and sexist jokes and a complete lack of respect for fellow workers is the norm.

It is a simple step to change this
• offering training to raise staff awareness around what is acceptable and unacceptable ... and why
• offering managers training around similar guidelines and helping them to develop the skills to address such situations when they occur.

Debbie Stanfield
Debbie Stanfield

I joined Stella and Tracy at Focal Point in 2003 and have seen both the Company and my role evolve during this time. I now work closely with the management team to achieve and improve business efficiently. To re-energise myself after a day in the office, I like to go to Zumba classes in the evening!

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