"There Was Banter, But I Meant No Offence," Said Philip Green

"There Was Banter, But I Meant No Offence," Said Philip Green by business consultant and former CEO, Denyse Whillier

How many times have you heard sexual harassment and racist abuse referred to, as Sir Philip Green did, as banter and a bit of humour? All too often is my experience. “While offense was taken, offense was not intended” was the response given to me only this month in response to a complaint I’d made about the use of sexist and vulgar language. You can imagine my reaction!

Last week, Top Shop boss (Sir) Philip Green used this exact same excuse when he brazenly told The Mail on Sunday that he’d suffered 'the worst week of my life' because of allegations of racism and sexual harassment made against him.

Green was identified as the man who’d taken out an injunction to prevent the publication of allegations about his harassment of staff; an allegation which he strenuously denies.

The retail tycoon claimed that he’d indulged in nothing more than 'banter' with his staff, stating he had a good relationship with those who worked for him. He said he hadn’t intended to cause offence and complained that he was being used as “target practice.”

Green’s comments were his first response since the story broke on Thursday, beyond an initial statement denying any “unlawful sexual or racist behaviour.” Peter Hain outed Green when he revealed he was the unnamed businessman behind a high court injunction preventing the Daily Telegraph from publishing “confidential information” from five employees.

Commenting from a health resort in Tucson, Arizona, where he is staying, Green said: “I’m very, very upset. I’m being used as target practice. It’s injuring my business, all the people potentially working in the business, and it’s injuring me and my family.”

“It’s a horror story. Somebody can say whatever they like, and people just follow you around, chasing you and harassing you. I’ve been in business for more than 40 years. There has obviously from time to time been some banter and a bit of humour, but as far as I’m concerned there was never any intent to be offensive.”

Green said he believed he had a good relationship with staff and that he had never previously faced complaints. “If anything I’ve said has caused offence, I’m happy to apologise,” he said. “Nothing I’ve said was ever meant to be offensive.”

Green you may recall is the man who was branded the unacceptable face of capitalism after BHS, the retail chain he sold in March 2015 for £1, went into administration leaving a £571m hole in its pension fund. In 2016, a damning report by MPs found that Green had extracted large sums from BHS and left the business on "life support". He later agreed a £363m cash settlement with the Pensions Regulator to plug the gap.

He and his wife Cristina are estimated by Forbes to be worth £3.8 billion.

Green’s response – to diminish serious allegations of racism and sexual harassment – to the level of banter is typical of serial offenders. They truly believe that their behaviour – which all too often negatively determines the trajectory of women’s careers - is not a big deal because the incidents are that trivial and unremarkable to them.

This is why, I imagine men like Green become so incensed when they’re asked to answer for their actions. We saw this in September during confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh when spluttering and petulant, he reacted with anger at being asked to answer for himself.

As Slate’s Lili Loofbourow put it: “This person does not seem to have a lot of experience coping with not getting what he wants.

Studies have shown that men are less likely than women to believe a woman when she says she was harassed and are more likely than women to hold negative views of victims of sexual harassment.

This explains how harassers have been able to succeed and flourish. Men are disproportionately represented as judges, police officers, editors, movie directors, CEOs and bosses. Men are far more likely to decide how accusations are handled, and we know from studies that they are far more likely to empathise with male abusers than with female victims.

This means that HR are complaints go unanswered (as mine was initially). And incidents are trivialised (as my complaint was). This has the (intended) psychological impact on both victims and perpetrators. Other women are reluctant to come forward with their complaints. While men receive the message that they can do whatever they like because they’ll be protected.

Until (the overwhelming majority of) men who don’t harass and abuse women are willing to face how their unconscious biases pave the way for those who do, harassers, rapists, and abusers will continue going undetected and unpunished.

Question: Have you ever been told it was just banter and no offence was intended? I love reading your thoughts. So please do take a moment to tell me in the comments box below.

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