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Blog - “It’s just a bit of banter” ... how jokes that go too far can affect our mental health

“It’s just a bit of banter” ... how jokes that go too far can affect our mental health

Posted by Tracy Powley 03/02/20

Steve is a new manager working in an account management role in a large Insurance company. He manages a team who are all female. They have all been in their roles for some time and know each other well. The laugh they have between them has extended to “teasing“  Steve about various aspects of his love life and dubbing him “The Vicar,” because he gets embarrassed and is reluctant to join in the joking. In fact, the more awkward he looks, the more they ramp the jokes up.

And he doesn’t know how to handle it.

His manager has noticed and told him to “man up” and get them under control, which has added to his feeling of inadequacy.  It’s starting to make him feel really down. He can’t see how to break the pattern and feels he has no authority or influence. He feels powerless and unsupported. It’s affecting his life outside work too.

He starts to call in sick.

The impact our behaviour can have on others can be profound. As we approach Time to Talk day on the 6th Feb one of the key areas we can all make a difference in, is how we treat others. Most of us don’t set out to hurt others or make them feel uncomfortable, but we don’t always stop to put ourselves in their shoes and think about how they may be feeling.

We make assumptions about people and how a joke might land or how someone might cope when the banter goes on and on.

And we often mistakenly think because they laugh along, that it’s all ok … it’s just “a bit of harmless banter”, after all.

Work should be a way of nurturing good mental health, offering a sense of purpose, helping people feel valued and giving opportunities for positive connections with others, but when more than 1 in 5 of us have called in sick to avoid workplace stress (Mind), we really need to look closely at our cultures and what is going on day to day, to ensure the work environment really is playing that positive role.

We should support people like Steve and his team to build a positive team culture. That doesn’t mean stopping the humour; it just means being a bit more aware of the effect our words and behaviour can have.

Use Time to Talk day and the spotlight on mental health to open up a discussion with your teams about what is Ok and what isn’t and start to raise some awareness – it could be life changing for someone like Steve.

For more information about how we can help you cultivate the right behaviours and help teams understand where the lines are between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour, call us for a confidential chat on 01903 732 782 or email us or contact us or take a look at our case studies.


Tracy Powley
Tracy Powley

Stella Chandler and I founded Focal Point on a shared belief that a training course run in isolation doesn't work. We passionately believe there must be support both before and after the training or coaching session itself for it to make a difference. When I am not facilitating sessions with clients or looking at ways to grow the Focal Point business, you will find me in a calming yoga class...

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