“If it was me, I’d have given you such a slap.”
How would you feel if that was said to you? I was watching a care worker say this to a service user. They’d known each for years. Certainly, the exchange had warmth to it. The service user was giving as good as he got. But is it appropriate to tease and banter in professional worker-client relationships?
On one hand, in many health and social care relationships, the workers need to build intimate and supportive relationships. A little bit of teasing and bantering suggests affection and attention implying that ‘we are close enough to have this sort of relationship and enjoy shared laughter.’ Banter is a social lubricant. Perhaps it builds bonds.
Health and social care work can also involve embarrassing, awkward and unusually intimate situations. Humor can lighten the mood and drain uncomfortable feelings. This may also be particularly important when the worker, dealing not just a difficult situation but a difficult person wants to comment on inappropriate behavior. Teasingly pointing out that someone is out of line stops anyone from losing face.
But is it appropriate? When does it become bullying? Research suggests that the teaser can enjoy the interaction more than the teasee. Is teasing and bantering a misguided way of building relationships and dealing with the sometimes awkwardness of practice?