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The thin line between banter and bullying.


Mon 7 September, 2020


There is a current trend for comments that cause serious offence to be dismissed as banter – or ‘bantz’ if you were probably born in the 1990s or thereafter.

The fear is banter is becoming a friendlier-sounding term for bullying, and it is being used more frequently as a defence by employees desperate to excuse their offensive behaviour.

An English teacher in Norfolk went as far as to ban the word banter because he claimed children were using the term to legitimise bullying.

This also became a national talking point when ex footballer Jimmy Bullard subjected I’m a Celebrity Get…Me Out of Here campmate and X factor finalist Jake Quickenden to televised tirade of verbal abuse, which he later dismissed as banter.

For employees legitimate banter – the friendly exchange of teasing remarks - is commonplace in many industries. Bullying is offensive, malicious insulting and humiliating.

A grey area appears to have been created where the line between banter and bullying is becoming blurred.

Employees should be aware that if the person on the receiving end of the comments complains it has gone too far, that is a good indication any so-called banter has crossed the line.

Many employers have a clearly set out bullying and harassment policy, which will include definitions of what is considered unacceptable behaviour.

Bullying in the work place is classed as gross misconduct and if proven is likely to lead to summary dismissal.

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