The creation of truly inclusive workplaces has become more important than ever, an issue that has led to debate whether controlling the discussion of certain issues in the office is part of the solution to change the corporate culture.
Ann Francke, CEO of a professional agency in the United Kingdom called the Chartered Management Institute, said in an interview with BBC radio that talking about sports such as football or cricket in the office made women “feel excluded.”
He warned that talking about sports in the office was a “gateway” to speeches in the locker room and, if left unchecked, could become part of a company’s culture.
Francke said it was easy for a conversation at the scalar office of the sports debate to “hit each other on the back and talk about their conquests on the weekend.”
While Francke did not ask for a total ban on talking about sports in the office, he encouraged employers to moderate these discussions to ensure that the talks were more inclusive.
However, some have argued that assuming that women are not interested in having a conversation about sport is sexist in itself.
Pooja Jain-Link, executive vice president of the US expert group. UU. From the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI), he said that “women are equally likely to be sports fans and love to participate in that kind of conversation.”
In fact, he said that talking about sports or other hobbies in the office can build a “camaraderie” and “connection” with colleagues, as well as help foster the “sense of belonging” of employees at work.
Bev Shah, CEO of City Hive, a network that works for greater diversity in the investment industry, agreed that “moments of water cooling” that discuss the interests of others can actually help build the culture of a company and provide “connection points to people who help develop working relationships”.
Adding “shared moments” like a soccer World Cup, cultural vacation or other event, he added, can help create “understanding and awareness.”
When asked if such comments risked a violent reaction, if employers began to censor the conversations in the workplace, Jain-Link warned that companies could face “disgruntled employees and bad press for decreasing freedom of expression”.
More problematically, he added that employers were at risk of creating environments where people did not feel comfortable sharing opinions, which could “undermine innovation and impact the end result.”
Instead, he advised employers to set guidelines on how employees can have difficult conversations or be more inclusive in small office talks.
“For example, if you are having a conversation about football and there is a person in the room who does not follow the sport, you can still find ways to include them or update them,” he suggested, explaining that “it is about recognizing and respecting your colleagues” .
Shah said that restricting the discussion of certain issues was to put the emphasis on the wrong issues instead of addressing a real change in corporate culture.
“The risk is that people feel part of the problem instead of finding a collaborative solution that includes them,” he said.
At the same time, Shah said that a workplace dominated by “a theme or style of communication is not inclusive.”
“There should be a cultural contract in the workplace where colleagues are aware of the intensity, volume and duration of the conversations they are having, this applies to any subject,” he said.
Shah said it was important for companies to “make a clear distinction” as to where the conversations crossed a “red line,” since “any communication that violates the boundaries or makes people feel attacked or victimized is unacceptable.”
Jain-Link also said that distinguishing between discrimination and exclusion was key.
In fact, he argued that companies should focus on more important issues, such as harassment and “not these parallel conversations about hobbies.”
The CTI has conducted “cultural audits” with several companies in the United States and Jain-Link said it found that for many companies that were experiencing problems there was the presence of a “culture of children’s clubs.”
Also known as “old people’s club”, this refers to a culture in a company that favors and is dominated by men, which originated from the connections that the British elite men have made in business by having attended certain prestigious schools.
Jain-Link said that sometimes this culture occurred “systematically” and other times in “isolated pockets”, but stressed that this should be the real area of focus for businesses.
A recent working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research indicated that “male bonding” may be partly responsible for the wage gap between men and women.
Based on an analysis of a multinational Asian bank, he discovered that men who work for other men were promoted more frequently than women and suggested that this could be responsible for almost 40% of the gender pay gap.