Is workplace 'banter' the enemy of inclusion?

Salma Shah examines the impact of inappropriate behaviour at work and explains how to tackle it.

by Salma Shah

Discriminatory, bullying and exclusive behaviour can often be dismissed as jovial teasing or light-hearted office banter. Bystanders may feel pressured to join in, and do so out of fear of feeling left out becoming unpopular, but ignoring, denying or shrugging off banter at the cost of others is giving employees the green light to carry on as usual.

Banter can often play out as microaggressions and microinvalidations, and we need to start by educating ourselves on these. A microaggression is a behaviour or comment that is negatively targeted at someone from a marginalised group, undermining a culture of inclusion and reinforcing privilege.

Microinvalidation is communication that subtly excludes, negates or nullifies someone’s thoughts, feelings or experiential reality; for example, telling someone they are being oversensitive about an inappropriate remark, or getting defensive when someone is sharing their experience of exclusion.

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