24 Nov 2023

I’m An Employer…Get Me Out of Here!

Recently we’ve seen a lot out there on social media and the internet about what we can and cannot say in the workplace with our campmates. This seems like a big challenge. The world of work has changed so much in recent years and ITV’s ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!’ has shown how people behave and interact has changed, particularly the immigration debate between Nigel and Nella.

Employers should be mindful of good standards of behaviour in their workplaces. We should not however, be afraid to encourage teams to have good relationships which might include discussing their personal lives, views, and beliefs. Do employees all have to agree on every aspect of each other’s lives, providing they are respectful and mindful of how other people choose to live their own life? We don’t want to cancel fun in the camp, as strong relationships at work can lead to high performing teams with high levels of trust. Just look at what happens when people put aside their differences and work together… Fred & Nella!

We are not here to be the jungle rangers, to wag our fingers at you or tell you what you can’t say. We also don’t want to encourage explosive political debates in the office line the blow-up row between Nigel and Nella but there are ways that healthy relationships can be developed based upon trust and respect. The average person spends a third of their life at work. This can be an opportunity to build social contacts and many strong friendships and relationships are born at work.

Clearly being derogatory about someone’s appearance, religion, race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, or preference is very serious indeed and an absolute no-no.

Personal lives
Employees should be able to share things that are going on in their personal life, whether good or bad. How your employees spend their weekends however might be the anathema for other people in your team, therefore how much is shared with colleagues should be considered and too much information might border on making others feel uncomfortable. For example, you may have employees in your workplace who do not drink alcohol for religious, health or other reasons. Employees regaling colleagues with drunken antics may find these don’t go down too well, which would be understandable.

You may have a diverse workforce which may also include religious diversity. Employees should be encouraged to be respectful of others’ beliefs but should also not be afraid to discuss religion, particularly if trying to educate themselves about religion and to understand more about other employee’s lives, customs and culture.

The blow-up row between Nella and Nigel started out as a debate which quickly got out of control. You don’t really want heated political debates in your workplace, causing arguments between employees and detracting them from working and causing rifts between teams. People can work very harmoniously together with very different backgrounds and viewpoints, as long as they are tolerant and respectful, and don’t expect everyone to share their own views. You won’t all employee Nigel Farage but you may have people who have such strong opinions.

Dingo dollars $ will always be a hot topic in most workplaces. It’s what people go to work for. People are always thinking about payday and often talk about what colleagues get paid. This will no doubt spill over into personal finances. Whilst employees might not want to hear about their colleague who has just been on 3 holidays abroad and bought a brand-new car when they are really struggling to pay their electricity bills, it is human nature to want to talk about the good and bad times you are going through. It is ok to be pleased for colleagues who are going through a particularly good time in their lives financially, as well as support those who are not. This doesn’t have to be decisive, and employees shouldn’t feel they have to hide every positive aspect of their personal life for fear of offending others.

When employees are poorly, or have a poorly family member or friend, it might be a tonic to share at work and have support from colleagues. Equally, they might be a private person who doesn’t like sharing personal information, and they don’t want people asking how they are. Employers should deal sensitively with employee health issues and family problems and not share details unless they are sure employees are comfortable with colleagues knowing some of the background.

So, what can employers take away from this?
Encourage your employees to set clear boundaries with colleagues and to speak up if there are topics discussed at work that may cause them upset or they feel uncomfortable with. If a fellow employee says something they find inappropriate, they don’t wish to discuss, or their behaviour makes them feel uncomfortable, unless there has been some very overt poor behaviour, encourage your employees to speak to the person in question and highlight to them how their language/behaviour/actions have made them feel, and ask that they are more mindful of their feelings in future. A quiet word between colleagues is much more effective than managers or business owners having to step in and point out where boundaries might have been blurred or upsets caused.

We recommend that you have robust policies in place about respect, equality, and diversity to clearly set out expectations of behaviour and how you will manage any issues that arise including how people can raise concerns about other employees’ behaviour.

We always say that we don’t know what people are going through, and that is true of when things are going well, or not so well. Encourage your employees to be considerate to what others might be going through and how sharing aspects of their lives may make others feel inadequate or unhappy at times.

There will always be bushtuckers trials when it comes to employee relationships in the workplace but don’t get stuck in the jungle quagmire. The big ‘takeaway’ from the Nigel and Nella debate on ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!’ was agreeing to disagree, despite their differences and being able to carry on winning stars together.