Most of us would have experienced the sadness of having to say goodbye to a work bestie.
Now more than ever, workers value the people they speak to every day at work over the work itself or pay. So, it makes sense that a well-valued colleague might be at risk of receiving a sassy departing gift, or does it?
A video has gone viral on TikTok of a ‘petty’ cake that was sent from an employee to their colleague as a comical farewell present. The well designed, cutely embellished, rainbow cake sports the slogan ‘you’re dead to us...goodbye forever QUITTER.’
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The baker says to viewers in the video: "Whoever ordered this cake is the level of petty I aspire to be, this may seem like a typical cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone will eat it and be happy, but someone is salty.
"There's nothing worse than losing your work wife, your work hubby, or work BFF when they quit, they are the ones that get you through.”
If a comical gesture, this is a funny one amongst actual friends rather than only colleagues. But what if it isn’t? What if there is politics between the cake giver and receiver unknown to everyone else? Should this be on the radar of HR, or would they be considered an uptight killjoy for raising an eyebrow?
Where to draw the line
It can be difficult to know where to draw the line when it comes to workplace banter, especially when jokes are of a harsh tone. Like pretty much everything in human resources, using your judgement is the only real way of identifying the tone of jokes. This essentially comes down to knowing your company culture and understanding the relationships that people have within the organisation.
Workers leave organisations for reasons they won’t necessarily share with everyone. It could be because they want to progress their career elsewhere, they’re moving to a new city, or because they’re changing industry. But it could also be related to incidents or a toxic work culture that is going unseen.
“There is a fine line between workplace banter and offensive gestures and personally, I believe the cake could be a HR issue,” says workplace solutions expert and CEO of Officeology, Adam Butler. “However, there are a few factors that determine this.”
“If the gift was given by a close colleague who is renowned for having this type of banter within their relationship with the employee who is leaving, it shouldn’t be a huge issue, unless the employee who is leaving finds it offensive. When it comes to these types of humorous gifts, it’s often dependent on who has sent the gift in the first place.
“On the other hand, the wording ‘you’re dead to us’ although written in jest, could cause offence and therefore if someone is offended by this, they have every right to go to HR."
A survey from Irwin Mitchell found that 32% of UK workers have experienced bullying disguised as banter, those between 45 and 54 years being the most likely targets. The study also showed that workers in the North-West of the country are most likely to have experienced bullying disguised as banter, while 35% of women say they have experienced this during their professional careers.
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Most people like a bit of friendly banter to get you through the day at work, but in some cases 'banter’ can be used as an excuse for actual harassment, bullying or discrimination, so it’s crucial to read between the lines.
Butler continues: “I believe it’s important to have good friendships and relationships with your colleagues, however, it is crucial to always remain professional. You’re in a workplace environment after all and a level of appropriateness must be adhered to.”
The sense of humour of some people is harsher than others and what people find funny is subjective, which makes this a difficult area to navigate. But ultimately, understanding your company culture and the various relationship dynamics that exist will let you know if there’s something to be concerned about.