Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Does the Andy Gray's dismissal mark an end to office 'banter'

Andy Gray made inappropriate remarks in the work place and has been punished for his conduct. Some may say the punishment was too harsh and disproportionate.  Others including myself are asking the question – has this incident marked the end of what has become a common characteristic of the work place that is, ‘office banter’.  Is this PC gone too far, particular at a time when we have a Government that is looking to reduce the level of red tape? 

I accept there is a fine line between respect for fellow workers and what some would call innocent banter. However in all of these cases each situation must be considered on its own facts and more importantly on how the banter is received. 

I am sure there will a lot of workers out there racking their brains to think whether they may find themselves in a similar position on the basis of remarks made in office conversations over the past month or so.  Re- living conversations at last year’s Christmas party must be happening in a number of offices throughout the country.

There is no excuse for offensive remarks but should we all be asking ourselves whether Mr. Gray’s dismissal has now sent out a signal that any form of office banter should now be restricted. The question of whether this is good or not is one that should be viewed against a background of low office moral due to risk of redundancy and wages that are being eroded by inflation.

Surely it must be best to leave it to the adult to decide what is appropriate banter given the audience and circumstances prevailing.  We should all know how remarks will be received and whether they may be unwelcome.

Time will tell as to whether Mr. Gray is deterred from challenging the decision through an offer of a secret severance payment or whether the appropriateness of the sanction will be aired in an Employment Tribunal.  One thing is for certain these circumstances have placed a big question mark over the future of unguarded office banter.  

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