How to do office banter – without causing offence

The Compliance department at News International is apparently advising journalists about office behaviour: saying they should avoid banter, show each other respect and report bullying by senior staff.


Frankly, I’m surprised News International is so backward about personal ethics. At The Independent, we pride ourselves on respectful behaviour towards our colleagues at all times. Here are some basic everyday scenarios.

The sexist remark

Gordon and Steve are standing by the watercooler. Samantha from the fashion desk walks past.

Gordon (regarding her retreating view): What an agreeable colleague Samantha is. A credit to the Hair and Beauty pages.

Steve: I would under no circumstances kick her out of a high-powered boardroom discussion about the Bundesbank.

Gordon: She can dictate my news agenda any time she wishes.

Steve: Are those real, d’you think?

Gordon: I believe those are authentic Christian Louboutin pumps. They set off her limbs in a most appropriate and gender-neutral way, do they not?  

The risqué conversation

William in Features is about to marry. His colleagues are delighted.

James: What form will your stag night take, William? I’m gasping for a small glass of low-alcohol lager and some crudités.

John: I say. That sounds rather louche. Will there be adult entertainment?

William: I have asked a lady called Legs-Apart Laverne to perform for us. She will be playing Elgar’s Cello Concerto in D.

Rebecca: Have you booked your honeymoon? Which activities are you planning with your lady wife?

William: I have secured a fortnight in Bath. We look forward to some strenuous hill-walking and examining the misericords in the famous Abbey.

The deadline crisis

It is 7.15pm. Daphne, the Production Editor, is on the warpath.

Daphne: Have you not yet completed the arts pages? They are, I believe, scheduled to arrive at the printers before midnight.

Arts sub-editor: The review of Die Meistersinger was late, and we could not agree on a headline for the Latvian ballet.

Daphne: I completely understand. These unforeseeable setbacks could happen to anyone. But unless you achieve greater levels of efficiency, you will find yourself working henceforth for Caged and Aviary Birds.        

Arts sub-editor: It’s not my fault. The work experience youth went home at teatime.

Daphne: Desist from assaulting my ears with excuses, you silly chump.

The dressing-down

Alan, a senior editor, is displeased with Timothy from News.

Alan: When I sent you to report on the Bermondsey riot, why did you neglect to interview any rioters, police or emergency services?

Timothy: There were missiles raining down on my head. Tear gas canisters were deployed in my vicinity. Horses were stampeding. I was impelled to decamp at some speed.

Alan:  You are a funking cur. You are utterly shiftless. I am very disappointed in you.

Timothy: I trust you will not consider terminating my employment?

Alan: You will soon feel the toe of my sports footwear in your large colon.

Timothy:  Oh dear.

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