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I think everyone's idea of a great workplace is very different and even between different teams, the experiences can be quite vast.

I've not experienced it myself directly but, I feel I witness this happen in a few workplaces.

For example: Without naming any names. In one company, there used to be a guy (fake name: Dave) that used to always mess up. But no intentionally. He just had poor attention to detail so he had a lot of checklists spread out across his desk. He was trying...So as the mistakes accumulated over time he acquired the name dipstick Dave.

IT would always know that he'd be coming over to get something change and managers would be annoyed that he was using up valuable IT resources to fix his mistakes.

I guess it started out like banter and everyone joked around. Even Dave seemed quite happy on the surface. He didn't know that people were talking about him behind his back...company politics.

So the question is when does this kind of name-calling and teasing become unacceptable or is it even acceptable from the get-go? Who draws the line?

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I think a definition may be helpful:

Bullying and harassment is behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended. Harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

Examples of bullying or harassing behaviour include:

  • spreading malicious rumours
  • unfair treatment
  • picking on or regularly undermining someone
  • denying someone‚Äôs training or promotion opportunities

Source: gov.uk

I think the example you gave with Dave is bullying, as it is listed as an example in the 3rd bullet point.


It is a grey area, but to answer your question:

So the question is when does this kind of name-calling and teasing become unacceptable or is it even acceptable from the get-go?

I would argue that the difference between 'banter' and bullying is for the recipient to judge. At some point, Dave's esteem will be eroded to a point that banter becomes bullying.


To answer your question:

Who draws the line?

The line is drawn by:

  • Dave, the recipient of the banter/bullying, as he sees fit
  • All staff, as bullying should be confronted directly and is a shared responsibility in many (UK) companies. This is especially the case if the bullying is discriminatory, e.g. is based on race, gender etc.
  • Management have a responsibility to report and tackle workplace bullying
  • HR, if management is unable to resolve a bullying issue
  • An employment tribunal, if the issue develops to a sufficient level of seriousness, e.g. constructive dismissal
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    I would add that in harassment, the rule is also would a reasonable person find this upsetting. Sometimes the person being harassed or bullied can;t speak up without making things worse. In this case if any reasonable generic person would be harmed by the name, then the action is harassment or bullying. I submit that no one would like to be called dipstick Dave. – HLGEM Apr 11 '18 at 21:44

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