The price you pay for office banter

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Let’s be honest, we’ve all done it – ‘isn’t he gorgeous’, ‘she’s beautiful’, ‘not sure about that outfit’. Whether we mean to or not, we’re constantly passing judgement on the way people look or what they’re wearing – it’s all part of the human psyche.

While I’ll hold my hands up to an occasional bit of gentle admiration/derision, the ‘annual ritual’ that’s been causing such a storm at PricewaterhouseCoopers – where 17 male employees created a ‘top ten’ list of attractive female trainees in an email that went global – has definitely crossed the line.

Passing comment is one thing – creating a mock identity parade of 13 young women, along with the strapline ‘this would be my shortlist for the top ten’, is quite another. Not only does it smack of utter stupidity (to think an email sent to a few mates isn’t going to get caught up in a ‘viral’ wave), but it also seriously compromises PwC’s reputation and the office dynamic, while also making a complete mockery of the company’s dos and don’ts – not to mention belittling those female trainees!

It’s not the first time this has happened – the reference to an ‘annual ritual’ sort of gives it away. But will people ever learn that, as soon as you write something questionable in an email or post something for the world to see on Twitter, you’re setting yourself up for one pretty big fall?

The power of viral emails is breathtaking – we make it our business every day to come up with creative and fun ways to achieve the same reach. Perhaps the high-flying male accountants should start channeling their efforts into spreading some positive ‘viral’ messages – or simply keep their male bravado to themselves.