Cultivating tolerance in the workplace


It is time to confront ignorance with knowledge, to discover the joy that comes with understanding the world and others, and our unique place in an inclusive society.

Respect ~ it was the anthem for a civil rights movement in the ‘60’s and almost a half~century later the lyrics to Aretha Franklin’s signature song still resonates.

Boldly, she challenged: “R~E~S~P~E~C~T, find out what it means to me.”

Though we all know it and can heartily sing along to it; have you ever stopped to think what the notion of respect means to you? Moreover, have you considered that your definition may not be the same as another’s? In South Africa, where we have such rich diversity, contrasting personal and cultural definitions can lead to a greater divide. The unfortunate reality is that we live in a post~apartheid era where integration is slow and ignorance rife. The road to a tolerant, inclusive culture is long, and recent divisive political rhetoric is seeping into our businesses, stunting our growth. It is time to confront ignorance with knowledge, to discover the joy that comes with understanding the world and others, and our unique place in an inclusive society.

Focussing on our perceived differences does not serve us as a society, and it doesn’t work for our businesses. Divisive attitudes lead to increased interpersonal conflicts and decreased productivity. Employees are likely to show greater signs of stress and anxiety. Discrimination affects the bottom~line and keeps turnover costs high ~ people won’t stay where they don’t feel welcome. On the other hand, inclusive companies who cultivate and safeguard a culture of tolerance display higher company morale, improved productivity and high retention rates.

How to adopt an attitude of inclusion and tolerance:
Respect and tolerance require a collaborative and intentional effort to develop an understanding of another’s point of view. This doesn’t mean that we need to agree on everything. An organisation’s strength lies in its diversity. Timothy Keller probably said it best: “Tolerance isn't about not having beliefs. It's about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you.” Open and honest communication in the workplace breeds understanding. But, opening channels of communication needs to be handled with care and respect, requiring a willingness to listen and be compassionate. To display empathy for another.

The benefits of tolerance:
Open and honest communication leads to an open~minded exchange of ideas. Teams who trust one another are more engaged, displaying greater motivation to solve a broad spectrum of business problems. Teams who are tolerant of each other produce outstanding teamwork and cooperation resulting in increased productivity. Tolerance helps us work towards collective goals. Diverse teams have a safe environment to develop creative solutions to a variety of workplace challenges.

Management needs to protect tolerance in the workplace to create an inclusive and welcoming work environment where employees can thrive. Colleagues who display intolerant attitudes need to be guided towards inclusivity. Changing hearts and minds can be challenging, but together we foster inclusive cultures.

Contact us today for more positive ways we can help your business grow.