December 22, 2017

Christmas Cracker 2017 – Part 2 “The Joke”

christmas cracker joke
Have you heard the one about…

Motto or joke?

The original love note in a cracker became by the 1930s a motto or cheesy joke. Mottos at work can be useful or tacky. For big brands their catch phrase, slogan or “motto” can be a powerful asset. But when it goes wrong look out. We have all heard of the embarrassing mistakes that can get made. Often translations are responsible for the worst gaffes. One famous cola brand marketed in China seems to have found its name translated as “bite the wax tadpole”. Then a rival cola’s slogan came out as “it brings you back from the grave.” I am not sure which was most successful.

Not only famous brands get caught out. A few years ago a brutal campaign advertising divorce lawyers services got the publicity they never intended when it seemed they were encouraging divorce.  So lots of discussion and testing before jumping in, is probably wise. Employees may spot something the boss has overlooked.

Inspiring employees?

Mottos or phrases intended to motivate or inspire employees can be risky as well as tacky. I suspect our general mentality is not inspired by slogans to work harder, make more or celebrate our employer’s product or service. However asking employees to come up with a favourite might shed some light on how they feel about the job.

Other dangers come from what employees may do. Social media is a fertile ground for making mistakes of this kind. You may recall from previous newsletters there are many cases about employees’ comments on social media getting them and their employers into hot water. Good clear policies can help avoid problems or mitigate them if things go wrong. However employees need to understand why you such policies are relevant and discussing what problems can arise may help avoid a lot of issues.

Jokes can be risky

Jokes at work can be good. Lightening the atmosphere, bringing people together, putting a smile on someone’s face, all make life more worthwhile. But, there are risks. What one person finds funny another may find offensive. Harassment or discrimination may not be intended but an employer, but having to spend time sorting out such a problem, isn’t being productive. Helping people to understand each other and recognise what might be a problem is valuable. Help stop turning a grin into something grim.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a big problem not a joke. Huge numbers of women and some men, are coming forward to raise the issue. Some people don’t see consent as an issue or view it as a challenge to their “skills”, or actively enjoy making the other person feel uncomfortable. The Radio Times reported Jo Brands comments in “Have I got News for You” saying that she pointed out that it’s not only rape or serious assault that is harassment. “If you’re constantly being harassed even in a small way, that builds up and that wears you down.” Some may pass this off as a joke but it happens in the ordinary workplace, not just high powered ones like the House of Commons or glamorous ones like Hollywood film companies.

Staggering Statistics

It is worth employers reviewing policies and the culture of a business. Employers should set a good example of courtesy and appropriate behaviour. What is appropriate? You might say, “if you need to ask it clearly isn’t”. However a YouGov survey produced some responses that may surprise and warn you.  It’s understandable, for example that, 80% of those surveyed consider “upskirt photos, bum pinching, flashing and requesting sexual favours as either always or usually sexual harassment.” But what about the 20% who appear not to think that!

Next time – the gift –     

What do you call Santa in the desert?- Sandy Claus

 Edit 47a2. This newsletter looks at new cases and employment related matters, which are likely to be of interest to many. However specialist advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking action based on comments in this newsletter, which is only intended as a brief note. For more information or if you have specific concerns phone me on 01233 714055 or

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