How to Instill Tolerance in the Workplace

Nowadays, workplaces all over the world are made up of individuals from different backgrounds, viewpoints, races, ages, religions and sexual orientation. Therefore, to co-exist harmoniously, people must learn how to tolerate each other. Tolerance means accepting these differences and treating everybody with compassion and respect. Other differences could be in dress, political beliefs, gender, marital status, class and education.

Tolerance promotes innovation and creativity, encourages honest and open communication, fosters good relationships, enhances team work and cooperation, and promotes respect and trust. In addition, it improves loyalty, cooperation and productivity in the workplace.

The following are some tips for promoting tolerance at the workplace:

1. Seek to understand

When team members have differing values and opinions, there is likely to be friction. To promote tolerance, encourage your team members to take time to learn about the behaviors and beliefs of others. Teach them active listening skills which will help them understand better what others are saying. Your aim should be to help your people become more empathetic. This way, they will be able to see things from other people’s perspectives.

2. Watch your words

Your words can impact people in a positive or negative way. Therefore, you need to pay heed to what you say, especially in regards to sensitive matters. Saying the wrong thing can hurt someone and result in strained relationships. For example, don’t make disparaging remarks about Islam when you have Muslims around you. If you don’t have anything good to say, it would be advisable to keep your mouth shut.

3. Set an example

Don’t just teach people tolerance through your words. You need to lead by example and demonstrate compassion and kindness with others. Your words combined with your actions can be very powerful for encouraging others to exercise tolerance. People will have someone to emulate, they are likely to develop tolerance themselves.

4. Understand different working styles

Tolerance also has to do with people’s ways of working. Everyone has their own way of getting things done. For example, one person could have a slow, unhurried business style while another wants to get things done as fast as possible. Some people like multi-tasking while others prefer to handle one thing at a time. None of these approaches is necessarily wrong. Everyone just needs to learn how to accommodate other people’s ways of working. You can use psychometric tests to help your people understand and embrace the personalities of others. This will make it easier for them to work together.

Drawing the line

Tolerance should not be confused with apathy, indulgence or indifference. It does not imply justifying or allowing behavior that is ethically or morally wrong. While exercising tolerance, you need to learn where to draw the line. A behavior should not be accepted if it produces the following results:

  • Damaging the team’s cohesion
  • Harming other people
  • Violating the organization’s values
  • Damaging relationships in the workplace

If you feel someone’s behavior is morally or ethically wrong, you should be firm enough to challenge it.

Getting along with people holding different persuasions is not easy. It requires a delicate balance between tolerance and assertiveness.


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