When starting out in a new job you can almost guarantee a bit of “banter” in the early stages, especially in single sex environments.
You know the sort of thing, being sent for long waits, glass hammers, oxtometers (I was asked to go and get one of these once, it's for measuring bullshit), drilling small holes in the bottom of someone’s mug and plugging it full of wax, burning someone on the neck with hot spoons after stirring the tea…
But it's just banter right?
It’s All About The Receiver
The trouble with banter is it’s all dependent on how the recipient feels about it or, more often than not, it’s banter until it’s being done to you.
Legally, all of the above things would be seen as bullying and could get people into a serious amount of trouble.
When I was an apprentice, even though I was young and new to the company, I was still quite confident. Years of playing rugby (another very good environment for banter) put me in good stead for being the butt of the odd joke and for giving as good as I got; but someone of a quieter, less confident, disposition would have hated every minute of it.
Individuals could have gone to their line manager or HR department and reported that banter as acts of bullying and, to be honest, would be well within their rights.
Perhaps not for sending me to another department looking for a fictional measuring device that measures bullshit, but certainly for burning me on the neck with a hot spoon.
How Does It Start?
I’ve got no research, other drawing on my own experiences, to back this theory up, but I believe banter escalates every new generation.
You see, memories are an interesting possession. What we think we remember about when we were 16 or 17, or when we went through our initiation (another term that’s often banded about) can often be different to what actually happened.
Facts are often forgotten and replaced with false memories, fueled by emotion and it’s these memories that people use, later on in life, as a datum for the "banter" they pass on.
Add into the mix, military regiments that have the reputation for the hardest intake then the banter levels go up a notch.
This article was inspired by a thread I’d been following in a Facebook group for new British Army recruits. One of the group members posted a link to this article on how a new recruit was facing military prison because of going AWOL after some "banter".
What was really interesting is how the article split opinion. Some new recruits are actually preparing themselves for incidents like those featured in the above article, because that’s what they feel it takes to get into to certain regiments.
Others felt that the things talked about in the same article were over the top and tantamount to abuse.
Banter Or Bullying
Banter or bullying is, in my opinion, the same thing being see through two perspectives and is a dangerous line to walk.
Just because you went through certain initiations, or banter, does not mean that everyone will tolerate it, nor should they.
It can make someone’s life an absolute misery and it could, if they decide to make a complaint, be the end of your career.
Ask Yourself This...
Does the behavior I've mentioned or the actions that occurred in the linked article fit in with the British Army values; courage, discipline, respect, integrity, loyalty and selfless commitment?
Tell us in the comments below, I'd love to hear what you think.