Tuesday 28 January 2020 9:35 am

No cricket chat? Management gurus dropped the ball this time

England’s cricketers haven’t made a habit of winning Test matches abroad recently, so the 3-1 series victory over South Africa is cause for celebration — not least due to the arrival on the international scene of Ollie Pope and a sign that we might have found openers who can keep us in a game beyond the first morning.

Of course, if you were to comment on this in the office, you could be guilty of making women feel uncomfortable — or so the boss of the heretofore sensible Chartered Management Institute yesterday insisted, as she called for bosses to crack down on sports chat in the workplace.

“It’s very easy for it to escalate from VAR talk and chat,” Ann Francke said, referring to the new video referee in the Premiership, “to slapping each other on the back and talking about their conquests at the weekend”.

Here we can offer a word of advice to anybody considering discussing their “conquests” in the office: don’t. But nor should chat be so rigorously (and ludicrously) policed.

This hypersensitivity feels counterproductive and unnecessary. Quite apart from the fact that her comments are remarkably patronising towards women (tell Katarina Johnson-Thompson or Jo Konta that women are alienated by sport talk), what about people who don’t watch Love Island?

“I have nothing against sports enthusiasts or cricket fans,” Francke explained. “But the issue is that many people aren’t cricket fans.”

What about colleagues who couldn’t care less about politics, Poldark or Harry and Meghan? What other topics does the Chartered Management Institute consider an unexploded workplace grenade?

Perhaps they might like to give us an approved list of conversational topics which are universal — the weather, perhaps, or the state of the trains, though the latter would no doubt risk alienating cyclists.

The increased awareness in recent years of the need to cultivate an inclusive workplace is entirely welcome, and there are many businesses which have made huge strides in their workplace culture and, doubtless, some that still have a long way to go.

There is certainly still work to be done in some corners of the City: the damning report into behaviour at Lloyd’s of London, for one, should be a reminder that some institutions aren’t where they should be.

But Francke is guilty here of making a mountain out of what barely amounts to a molehill. The best we can say of her intervention is that it’s given us something to talk about — other than the cricket.

Main image: Getty

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