Does banter cross a line?

Does banter cross a line?


My supervisor and I have worked together for years and have a similar sense of humor. We play practical jokes on each other and banter back and forth. It makes the day go faster and it’s all the funnier when others aren’t sure whether or not to take seriously our put-downs of each other.

A couple women in the workplace seized upon the controversy caused by Donald Trump’s 2005 video to file a complaint about our banter, saying it’s inappropriate in the workplace. One of the two women who complained tells raunchy jokes herself but apparently that’s OK.

Human Resources has come down on the two of us and my supervisor has said we need to cut it out. I will, for his sake, but I think this is a crock. These women apparently have free rein and no one has protested their jokes, so I don’t see why our comments are now restricted. Have we gotten to the point where it’s politically incorrect to have a sense of humor? And why is it OK for the women if not for us?


You can do anything you want on your own time. At work, you need to respect others’ air space. Are your jokes truly funny, or mean? The fact that others don’t know how to take your banter indicates you need new punchlines. That goes equally for the woman who tells raunchy jokes.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at

This Post Has One Comment

  1. I think that HR should have had an intervention with all parties, the supervisor, and his (? her) co-workers to determine the concerns/problems with the humor. If the problem is one of exclusion, i.e., the women feel left out and believe that the male co-worker is being “courted” and therefore is the supervisor’s favorite, without substantive contribution on the job, then there may be grounds for a complaint.

    On the other hand, the females can be made aware of the expectations in the workplace and be reminded that :”raunchy jokes”, especially those of a sexual or degrading tenor will not be condoned, and may subject the provocateur to disciplinary action, up to and including discharge.

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