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Some want sports chat banned from the modern office



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Creating truly inclusive workplaces has become more important than ever, an issue which has led to debate as to whether reining in the discussion of certain topics in the office is part of the solution in changing corporate culture.

Ann Francke, CEO of a U.K. professional body called the Chartered Management Institute, said in an interview with BBC radio that talking about sports like soccer or cricket in the office made women “feel left out.”

She warned that discussing sport in the office was a “gateway” to locker room talk and left unchecked, could result in this becoming part of a company’s culture.

Francke said it was easy for a conversation in the office to escalate from debating sport to “slapping each other on the back and talking about their conquests at the weekend.”

While Francke did not call for an all-out ban on talking about sports in the office, she encouraged employers to moderate these discussions in order to ensure conversations were more inclusive.

However, some have argued that assuming women aren’t interested in having a conversation about sport is sexist in itself.

Pooja Jain-Link, executive vice president of U.S. think-tank the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI), said “women are just as likely to be sports fans and love to participate in that type of conversation.”

In fact, she said that talking about sports or other hobbies in the office can build a “camaraderie” and “connection” with colleagues, as well as helping foster employees’ “sense of belonging” at work.

Bev Shah, CEO of City Hive — a network working for greater diversity in the investment industry — agreed that “watercooler moments” discussing each other’s interests can actually help build a company’s culture and give “people points of connection that help develop working relationships.”

Having “shared moments” such as a soccer World Cup, cultural holiday or another event, she added, can help create “understanding and awareness.”


When asked whether these sorts of comments risked backlash, if employers started to censor workplace conversations, Jain-Link warned companies could face “disgruntled employees and bad press for diminishing freedom of speech.”

More problematically, she added that employers ran the risk of creating environments where people didn’t feel comfortable sharing opinions, which could “undermine innovation and impact the bottom line.”

Instead, she advised employers create guidelines about how employees can have difficult conversations or be more inclusive in office small talk.

“For instance, if you are having a conversation about football and there’s a person in the room that doesn’t follow the sport, you can still find ways to include them or bring them up to speed,” she suggested, explaining that “it’s about acknowledging and respecting your colleagues.”

Shah said that restricting the discussion of certain topics was putting the emphasis on the wrong issues as opposed to addressing a true corporate culture change.

“The risk is individuals will be made to feel a part of the problem as opposed to finding a collaborative solution that includes them,” she said.

Old boys’ club

At the same time, Shah said a workplace dominated by “one topic or one style of communication is not an inclusive one.”

“There should be a cultural contract in the workplace where colleagues are mindful of the intensity, volume and duration of the conversations they are having – this goes for any topic,” she said.

Shah said it was important for companies to “draw a clear distinction” as to where conversations crossed a “red line,” as “any communications that violates boundaries or makes people feel targeted or victimized is unacceptable.”

Jain-Link equally said distinguishing between discrimination and exclusion was key.

She actually argued that companies should be focusing on bigger issues, such as harassment and “not these side conversations about hobbies.”

The CTI has been conducting “culture audits” with a number of companies in the U.S. and Jain-Link said it found that for a lot of companies going through issues there was the presence of a “boys’ club culture.”

Also referred to as an “old boys’ club,” this alludes to a culture in a company which favors and is dominated by men, which originated from the connections men in the British elite have made in business from having attended certain prestigious schools.

Jain-Link said that sometimes this culture occurred “systemically” and other times in “isolated pockets” but emphasized that this should be the real area of focus for companies.

A recent working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research indicated that “male bonding” may be partly responsible for the pay gap between men and women.

Based on an analysis of a multinational Asian bank, it found men working for other men were promoted more often than women and suggested this could be responsible for nearly 40% of the gender pay gap.



N.H.L. Takeaways From January – The New York Times




On the blue line, three potential Norris Trophy finalists tied for the high mark in scoring. Nashville’s Roman Josi, Washington’s John Carlson and St. Louis’s Alex Pietrangelo contributed 12 points apiece.

In January, Blackhawks wing Dominik Kubalik had 10 goals, second among all players, and 14 points, first among rookies. Kubalik, 24, is a Czech player who starred in Switzerland’s top pro league last year. He was a seventh-round selection by Los Angeles, which traded him to Chicago for a fifth rounder. He has 21 goals over all.

Colorado defenseman Cale Makar, in nine games, and Vancouver defenseman Quentin Hughes, in 11 games, added eight points apiece to fuel their campaigns for the Calder Trophy.

In goal, Washington’s Ilya Samsonov and Columbus’s Elvis Merzlikins were lights-out in January. Samsonov was 6-0-0 with a 1.68 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage. Merzlikins was 8-2-0 with a 1.72 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage as he buoyed the Blue Jackets in the absence of the starter Joonas Korpisalo and a plethora of injured skaters.

The women’s world junior championships at the under-18 level were held in Slovakia and won by the United States, its fifth title in six tournaments.

The United States did not win a medal in the Czech Republic at the men’s under-20 tournament. Canada prevailed in the gold medal game with a frenetic rally against Russia that was capped by Akil Thomas’s daring game-winner. Thomas was one of nine prospects who competed in the tournament from the Kings’ system, the most representatives of any N.H.L. franchise. That was positive news for the Kings, who narrowly avoided having only one win in January by squeaking out an overtime victory in Arizona on Jan. 30. They tied the Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks for the lowest win total, two, in January.

At the N.H.L.’s All-Star weekend, Bruins right wing David Pastrnak took home most valuable player honors, though his Atlantic Division stars fell to the Pacific delegation in the three-on-three tournament’s final. In the skills competition, Islanders center Mathew Barzal upset Edmonton’s Connor McDavid in the fastest skater competition. For the first time, the league held an all-women’s hockey event, with representatives from the Canadian national team defeating members of the United States national team, 2-1. There were also women’s national team participants in the new “shooting stars” challenge, in which players shot from the stands at targets on the ice. Chicago right wing Patrick Kane won the challenge.


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