5 Ways to Build Tolerant Workplaces

Last week we discussed a related topic titled “Agree to Disagree @Work”. This week, we are going to contemplate on a similar subject which has always been closer to my heart. For me, tolerance helps employees build bridges and capitalize on the differences present @Workplace, such as those related to diverse cultural backgrounds. A lack of tolerance thwarts team and company progress and encourages a breeding ground for misunderstandings and unethical behavior. For a startup or a smaller business, tolerance is an essential part of working toward goals and developing creative solutions to a wide range of workplace issues and difficulties.

Tolerance, Acceptance & Diversity

Tolerance is defined by Dictionary.com as “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry”. Demonstrating tolerance in the workplace requires a concerted effort to develop an understanding of another’s background, experiences and beliefs.

Acceptance goes a step beyond tolerance. If a sign of tolerance is a feeling of “I can live with A (behavior, religion, race, culture, etc.),” then acceptance moves beyond that in the direction of “A is OK.” You can tolerate something without accepting it, but you cannot accept something without tolerating it.

Diversity brings in fresh perspectives, ideas and experiences where people can learn from each other. Bringing in diverse ideas and perspectives leads to better problem-solving. Working in diverse teams opens dialogue and promotes creativity. We all have our individual biases. It helps dispel negative stereotypes and personal biases about different groups. In addition, appreciating cultural diversity helps us recognize and respect “ways of being” that are not necessarily our own. As people from diverse cultures contribute language skills, new ways of thinking, new knowledge, and different experiences. Diversity gets us to know someone different than us. Invite input from others with different backgrounds. Find someone with a different background who shares the same company goal with you and strategize with them. That’s why diversity is termed as strength, not a weakness.

Among the 5 most important ways organisations can influence tolerance, acceptability and diversity include:

1. Lead By Example

Reflect for a moment on how often you have heard someone complain about the lack of empathy they received from the top team or your HR? Never lose sight of how the decisions you make or those you support have on the people in your organisation. While of course it’s necessary to take reasonable steps to protect the business, the sensitivity with which you communicate and implement those tough decisions is critical.

It’s also important to reflect on the ways in which you influence tolerance. Do you bring an open- and fair-minded approach to your role? Do you influence the way leaders in your organisation view diversity and the power of difference? Do you demonstrate patience when dealing with emotional issues? These are critical questions that the top leadership must deliberate on.

2. Educate Teams

Takes steps to educate teams on a stronger link that exists between being respectful and their ability to leverage a diverse team through collaboration. Begin by helping people appreciate the power of diversity, and teach them why tolerance and sensitivity matter to building great relationships with anyone, but especially those who are different.

Work closely with people leaders to develop their ability to deliver truthful feedback with sensitivity. While the truth is undeniably a gift of opportunity we give someone to understand their reality, the sensitivity with which we deliver the information is essential to the recipient’s ability to hear, let alone accept, our feedback.

3. Set clear expectations

Clearly define what it means in your organisation to behave with respect and sensitivity. Having a documented Codes of Conduct should be a must-have ritual at the organisations which must be signed off by each and every employee.

Work with leaders and members of your team to clearly articulate what successful behaviours and acceptable attitudes look like, as well as those considered damaging and undesirable. Take the time to ensure every member of your team understands what is expected of them, and that managers know how to reinforce expectations.

4. Accountability

Among the most common reasons organisations struggle to shift culture is they fail to hold people accountable for their behaviour. So, you have to avoid the all too common pitfall of allowing so called “high performing employees” to get away with insensitive or intolerant behaviour. Everyone should be held equally accountable for their actions, irrespective of his or her seniority or individual performance.

This means that everyone including the top team, managers, team leads and employees take complete charge of their respective assignments, keep their promises, meet deadlines, ensure quality, and everyone owns their roles and responsibilities in the organization. This also means that everyone including the management team is held accountable for their actions, behaviors, and performance.

Also read: Remote Workplace Accountability

5. Respect & Empathy

Beyond issues of potential and performance, the mental health and employee wellbeing of your workforce depends on a respectful culture. The first, and arguably most important step, is to ensure the experiences people have at work are positive.

Treat others with the same respect you expect to receive in return. Leadership is nothing else other than being empathetic. Demonstrate kindness to others and offer assistance when needed. Choose to become a leader by setting the bar high for other employees. Hold yourself to a high moral and ethical standard to avoid getting involved in difficult and precarious situations.

Final Word

In a nutshell, in a global and fast-changing world, the pressure is on for organisations to keep pace and evolve with the times. Leveraging the full potential of people through seamless collaboration is essential for any organisation looking to compete with the best in their industry. Delivering an outstanding customer experience, offering tailored solutions, driving operating efficiency and profitability all demand teamwork.

Any organisation’s ability to thrive depends greatly on people being willing and able to work well together. How well your team share ideas, engage in robust debates and make decisions influences the extent to which full potential is realised. Whether people learn and move forward together is fundamental to your organisations ability to survive, let alone thrive.

Learn how sometimes smaller things in our lives make huge impact and you can take some learnings on a personal and professional level by following me on LinkedIn and Evolve HR’s website.

Muhammad Sajwani is the Founder and Managing Director of Evolve HR which aims at transforming, enriching and evolving Human Capital of Pakistan, At Evolve HR thrives in challenging assumptions that hinder organisational aspirations, by creating innovative solutions that yield maximum impact, scalability & benefit to a wider base of stakeholders. As a Business Coach and Organisational Consultant, Sajwani knows how to combine business insights with people insights to transform organisations and put them on the path to growth.

C-Level HR, Transformation Leader, Board Advisor, Writer, Business Coach & Organisational Consultant