The Sunday Telegraph has an interesting angle on a story about top lawyers Eversheds. The firm is a well-regarded name in the City and works closely with a number of high profile clients in the financial services sector. The newspaper says that one of its latest initiatives is a management game known as 'Banter Bingo'.
The story goes that 'bankers and brokers are sat in front of a screen to watch a succession of phrases flashing up'. The managers then hold up one of three colour-coded cards to signify whether they thought the phrase was politically acceptable, on the borderline or an out-and-out no-no. This is a creative and interesting way to deal with what is a very serious subject. It is a fact that many sexual, racial or religious claims are made against staff who just don't think through the implications of what they are saying before they open their mouths. But not meaning to offend anyone is really no excuse - certainly not if you find yourself before an employment tribunal.
Apparently one of the questions is 'Fancy another bacon sandwich, Mohammed ?'. Most bankers hold up the red card when confronted with this one. Although if it is 'another' bacon sandwich, then it surely can be that bad.
'Fancy a drink after work ?', usually elicts a green response, but can depend on the circumstances. A boss who constantly badgers a member of the opposite sex to come out with him (or her) would clearly be on dodgy ground.
An excellent example of just how careful staff have to be when speaking to colleagues is demonstrated by the 'Shirley Bassey' question. 'I suppose you are a big fan of Shirley Bassey' might just be taken at face value. On the otherhand, as Shirley is a gay icon, it could be taken that there is some inferrence there. When you remember that Shirley is also Welsh, of mixed race and is not as young as she used to be, the mind boggles at the number of ways a manager could put his or her foot in it.
Now 'Banter Bingo' is a bit of fun and it would be easy to dismiss it as a load of nonsense. But Eversheds are clearly using it to make a dramatic point - and managers do go away understanding the issues and enjoying the experience. Fair play to Eversheds - who says that all lawyers are boring and inhabit another planet ?