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CISI warns managers of workplace 'banter'

CISI warns managers of workplace 'banter'

More than half (60 per cent) of financial service professionals put forward fewer ideas when they are uncomfortable with ‘banter’ in the workplace, while 69 per cent contribute less in meetings. 

Research by the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI) in collaboration with Focal Point Training revealed that some respondents found it difficult to have the confidence to “call banter out”, with less than a third of respondents stating they would feel comfortable most or all of the time in asking people to stop.

Only one in 10 said they would be comfortable to call it out “all of the time”.

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The research surveyed almost 750 individuals, 43 per cent female and 55 per cent male. 

Some respondents said the banter can sometimes be rudeness masked as friendliness, with 97 per cent of those surveyed stating they were made uncomfortable by banter at some time.

Others pointed out that it an be harmless fun but is often used as an excuse to cover up bullying and single people out. 

Focal Point Training’s director, Stella Chandler said: “Banter can bring barriers down in teams but as soon as it crosses the line, barriers go up. This can have a damaging and long-lasting effect on teams and individuals.”

Chandler also noted that the survey responses showed a lack of confidence in HR departments to handle issues perceived as banter. 

“Additionally, the survey shows that unfortunately HR departments or cultures within financial services businesses are not giving people the confidence to speak up,” Chandler said. 

Some feedback from respondents:

  • “HR often make it worse”
  • “I’m not sure what HR actually do; I feel I am at risk of losing my job if I make a fuss”
  • “A senior manager did not know where to draw the line, but you couldn’t do anything because he was friends with the HR Director”

Notwithstanding these concerns, CISI’s assistant director, Samar Yanni said a nuanced approach was needed. 

“There is a very fine line to be drawn with banter, as it can play a positive role in creating a sense of camaraderie in teams," she said. "However, jokes at someone else’s expense can become uncomfortable and escalate. 

“Managers therefore need to be vigilant and teams, from the top down, must be seen to have zero tolerance of inappropriate banter.”

Yanni also said that discussions on banter can be undertaken in team meetings, in relation to the link to wellbeing and positive mental health. 

“Building trust in teams is essential, so that if someone “crosses the line” people have the confidence to call it out. It is essential that people can trust that, if a concern is raised, line management will take the right action and that those people will be supported.”