Should Offices Ban Sports Chat?

British management leader says sports banter can lead to sexual bragging in the workplace.

Did you see that Ash Barty got through to the Australian Open semis?

Actually, sorry, let me stop there – I’m at work and maybe I shouldn’t be talking sport, in case I exclude my co-workers.

See, the head of a British management institute has told the BBC that office managers should look to curtail talk about sports in the workplace, as it can lead to sexist behaviour.

Ann Francke, the CEO of the Chartered Management Institute, said that sports banter could exclude women.

"A lot of women, in particular, feel left out," Ms Francke told the BBC's Today programme on Monday morning.

"They don't follow those sports and they don't like either being forced to talk about them or not being included."

I guess she feels they’d prefer to talk about knitting, baking, or chartered management.

Ann Francke with a purely work-related sphere. (Image: Twitter)
Ann Francke with a purely work-related sphere. (Image: Twitter)

But how can you talk about core workplace concepts like teamwork, goals, or heading one into the back of the net without the occasional sports reference?

And think of the likes of our federal Minister for Sport Bridget McKenzie. If she didn’t discuss sport in the office, instead focusing purely on work-based issues such as, say, which are the country’s most marginal electorates, who knows what kind of errors might be made?

While Ms Francke said she didn’t have a particular bone to pick with sports fans, she did suggest that it was a short road from talking about sport to blokes bragging about their sexual exploits.

"It's a gateway to more laddish behaviour and - if it just goes unchecked - it's a signal of a more laddish culture," she said.

"It's very easy for it to escalate from VAR (Video Assisted Referee) talk and chat to slapping each other on the back and talking about their conquests at the weekend."

I think technology is improving soccer. Which reminds me…
I think technology is improving soccer. Which reminds me…

Perhaps in her experience some men just can’t help themselves once they hear the word “score”.

But if we outlaw talking about sport, what about parents talking about their children? There’s no question that kid talk can be exclusionary and boring to workmates. And you never know when those parents will suddenly start going on about the conception.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the online backlash to Ms Francke’s comments has been swift and savage, from women and men alike, saying that her comments seemed to be sexist in themselves.

The pile-on has itself almost become a sport. So I’ll save any further discussion until after hours.