Just before Christmas, Jeremy Vine was reported under the BBC equality and diversity code, for using the phrase “Man Flu”.
Thankfully the BBC took the view that no code had been breached , that Jeremy was clearly making fun of himself and dismissed the complaint.
But the incident does highlight how tricky it can be in working environments for managers to identify when a line has been crossed... what is the difference between a bit of harmless banter and something less acceptable? Headlines about Man flu breaching equality codes muddy these waters still further and managers almost become “rabbits caught in headlights” – worried about being labelled a killjoy or part of the political correctness brigade... and therefore do nothing, when some kind of intervention is really needed.
What we need to do is to help Managers and team members work out where “the line” is – what is acceptable and what isn’t. And that means discussing it.
How we behave at work, the language we use, the way we interact with our colleagues can make all the difference between a co-operative respectful environment where people can have a laugh and thrive (no - they are not mutually exclusive!) and workplaces where people feel singled out or worn down by the banter and apparently “harmless” humour.
It is different for different environments of course, but there are some simple pointers which can help.
Jeremy using the phrase “Man flu” to mock himself is fine (as the BBC have verified) but if he had constantly been referring to a colleague’s susceptibility to “man flu” over a period of time, thereby turning the “joke” into a bit of office folk lore – and probably making it very wearing and uncomfortable for the colleague, that becomes a different matter and a manager needs to nip it in the bud.
How we interact with each other on a day to day basis with work colleagues is fundamental to building a positive culture. Getting your team to discuss this amongst them can be a very powerful way to raise awareness and bring some clarity to an otherwise “grey” area.
If you would like some help in knowing how to start these discussions with your team or getting support for your team members and managers in working out where “the line” is , Call us on 01903 732 782 , email us firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us.
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...