What do you talk about at work?

Recently Anne Franke, Chief Executive of the Chartered Management Institute, suggested that companies should discourage people from talking about sport. Her suggestion is that it disproportionately excludes women. She also suggested that “it’s very easy to escalate from the VAR talk and chat to slapping each other on the back and talking about their conquests at the weekend.”  Really? I’ve never heard that.

Those of you who have met me or read my blog before, will know that I am a huge football fan. I can testify that, yes, there are still more men than women in the football stadiums. It’s the only place where women walk straight into the toilets, but men queue for ages. However, there are far more women there now than there used to be when I first started going to live matches. Women’s sport is growing too.  Lots of women like sport.

Using sport as an example

A ban on talking about sport at work would be tough on me. I try to explain complex HR ideas using everyday examples.

When I deal with a conflict between colleagues, I explain that it is often about different perspectives on the same issue. Football is a fantastic example. I support Arsenal. I simply cannot understand why anyone would support Spurs. It’s more than a disagreement – I don’t understand it. Talk to a Spurs supporter and they would say the same thing about Arsenal. We are both looking at the same thing from a different perspective. Each of us is convinced we are right. However, we can often agree on whether something was a good goal or a poor decision. Just like many of the conflicts you see in the workplace, it is about finding common ground and a way to work together.

The importance of small talk

One of the biggest problems I come across is people not communicating. If people can talk on a personal level, they are much more likely to co-operate in a workplace. Whether that talk be about sport, TV, hobbies, whatever, small talk should not be underestimated.

To censor people from talking about sport, in my opinion, is ludicrous. Unless of course, a day comes that Spurs win a trophy. If that happens, I reserve the right to change my opinion totally.

In the meantime, Anne Franke’s comments have sparked a debate. However, in my opinion, that’s all it should be. A debate.

Categories Communication