Why banter needs to be redefined

by Oct 31, 2018

To make workplaces more inclusive, banter needs to be redefined

Banter is defined as: the playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks. The dictionary says; “There was much good-natured banter”. Banter typically takes place between peers with witty and equal repartee. Whether it’s at school, at home between siblings, in the locker room or in the office, there will always be comments thrown around in jest. Humour is vital to the work experience and life in general after all  But banter needs to be redefined, so that it is no longer an excuse for hurtful or politically incorrect dialogue.

Banter has a dark side. It can easily tip over into verbal abuse or bullying. Those who make the comments might believe that what they say is a joke and not intended to cause harm. Those who do speak out are ridiculed for not being able to take a joke, for being spoil sports, thin-skinned, sensitive or aggressively derided for being tiresomely politically correct.

Senior banter

We are seeing a growing trend to call inappropriate comments,suggestive, or bullying remarks “banter” by the person who is speaking them. But this tends only to be done when their banter is not acceptable to the recipient. The most recent case is the UK  retail billionaire Sir Philip Green, the owner of Topshop. He has denied sexual harassment and racist abuse of staff, insisting he was only “indulging in banter.”

Green was recently outed as the businessman who obtained an injunction to prevent the reporting of allegations of harassment, while saying he had not intended to cause offence. He is said to have paid out significant sums of money in exchange for non-disclosure agreements. Green himself has a reputation for rudeness and a hectoring manner. Do people really need massive compensation because someone called them “darling?” If I had a seven-figure payment for being at the receiving end of “banter” I would probably be a billionaire myself.

Verbal abuse is just one aspect which can affect retention levels in a company. Download the FREE 3Plus e-book NOW to learn 12 key steps to attract, recruit and retain female talent.

The banter defence becomes null and void if one of those involved is in a much more senior role. Junior staff or those not in an equal power position can’t possibly respond with the same level of “banter”. The children’s author Matt Haig said on Twitter:

Banter needs to be redefined

If a person needs to reference something as banter, it probably wasn’t. The failure to understand that comments we make are not banter suggests a complete lack of empathy. It implies an inability to monitor our own speech and self-edit and regulate. It also suggests an attitude of entitlement and power, to believe that people can say anything to anyone and be able to get away with it.

banter needs to be redfined

Fellow “banterers”

The word banter needs to be redefined. We have reached a point culturally where there has been a public shift in meaning. At one time banter was considered harmless verbal sparring between equals, although I am sure it has always been hurtful to some. Now the term is only used retro-actively when someone expresses hurt or offence. We need to call it what it is: abuse and bullying. It is seen as an excuse to be rude, racist, insulting, ignorant or sexist by the “in group”  which then victim-blames the “out group” for not getting the intention.

Banter is on the misogyny spectrum. It supports and embeds a culture of discrimination (gender, ethnicity, physical ability, religious affiliation) and exclusion for whomever it targets. It has no place in an inclusive culture.


There are many cultural aspects which are embedded in our behaviour yet detrimentally affect the inclusivity of the workplace. 3Plus can help you manage these with our Unconscious Bias Training Workshops.

If you feel passionate about gender balance and topical issues impacting women in the workplace 3Plus would be delighted to publish your work. Don't wait - send it in

Found that interesting?
Learn more about our services for building inclusive workplaces

Found that interesting?
Learn more about our services for building inclusive workplaces

Individual services

Only 50% of women create a career strategy. Make sure you are on the right side of that equation to reach your potential

Corporate services

“Inclusion is not a matter of political correctness. It is the key to growth.” — Jesse Jackson

Upcoming events


📢New program: How to create inclusive job postings

In today's rapidly evolving world, it's essential for organisations to embrace diversity and inclusion. Organisations unconsciously communicate their company cultures and values in everything they do including their job postings. These can either attract or repel talent from a diverse range of backgrounds.

A crucial step in this process is ensuring that your job postings reflect these values. Our training program will equip you with the knowledge and skills to craft job descriptions that attract candidates from all backgrounds, eliminating bias and fostering an inclusive hiring process.


create inclusive job postings

Full programme details HERE


📢New Programme available with 3Plus International

“If you have a brain you have a bias” and nowhere is this more apparent than in our hiring processes.

The ‘How to Mitigate Bias in the Recruitment Process’ programme is designed to convey the serious nature of bias in the recruitment process with a focus on gender bias and the way it impacts both businesses and organisations, but in a way that is thought-provoking and engaging.



Full programme details HERE

Dates for the Diary


11th June 2024 : Corporate Training  - Build your Personal Board of Directors

14th June 2024:  Corporate Training How to Handle Everyday Sexism

1st July 2024 Corporate Master Class  “How to make your job postings more inclusive “

9th October 2024 Corporate Event  ‘How to Build your Circle of Success for Career Advancement”

Download and listen free podcasts

Latest Podcasts

Related articles