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Getting Along with your Colleagues – What does Tolerance at Work Mean to You?

Written by: Morgan Hunt
Published on: 21 Jul 2014

Good workplace relationships help you do your job better and  they can make going to work every day a joy. It stands to reason then that poor relationships with your colleagues can leave you feeling demotivated.

Tolerance in principle and practice can be a challenge in the workplace for various reasons, such as personal biases, disagreements and prejudices. Just because they’re challenging, doesn’t mean that they are not ‘fixable’. Making the right choices on both the individual and organisational level will facilitate resolutions in helping overcome these challenges.

What is tolerance?

Tolerance, to put it simply means adopting an open mind in your interactions with others who, because of our innate and acquired individual differences, are unlike you. It’s a good rule of thumb that you treat others the way you'd like to be treated yourself, despite potential differences in values, beliefs, and opinions.

Why is tolerance so important?

We’re not born with a chip on our shoulder but as we’re exposed to society's norms, we develop our own opinions, idiosyncrasies and beliefs that don’t always fall in line with that of our colleagues. These differences have the potential to get in the way of establishing and strengthening relationships in the workplace. In some cases, disagreements arise and escalate, when they could have been avoided.

On the flip side, when we adopt an attitude of inclusion and tolerance, we open up a world of possibilities. Think of the benefits that come with a conscious adoption of tolerance including:

• Open and honest communication

• Creativity fostered by an open exchange of ideas from across a broad spectrum of expertise

• Respect and trust between individuals

• Teamwork, cooperation, and coordination among professionals in the workplace

• Loyalty and productivity, both of which are crucial for organisational efficiency

Tolerance is the foundation of all good working relationships, so instead of burying your head in the sand or muttering frustrations at the water cooler, consider our steps to a trouble free (and tolerant) workplace;

Top tips for tolerance

It must be emphasised that tolerance is the responsibility of both the manager and the worker. Keep in mind that tolerance is an individual responsibility that organisational initiatives can strengthen. There is no sure fire method for each and every situation but these guides will certainly get you moving in the right direction.

Encouraging tolerance in the workplace can include the following initiatives from management:

• Implement a comprehensive tolerance policy in the workplace. The policy must encourage employees to adopt an attitude of tolerance whilst also detailing acceptable words, actions, and behaviours as well as the appropriate redress measures.

• Set an example. Managers, who are in the position of authority, must set an example for their peers and subordinates. Workers can follow their lead which then, in turn, increases the depth and width of the culture of tolerance in and out of the office.

• Draw the line. Tolerance does not extend to tolerating, much less condoning, the words, behaviours and actions that are legally, morally, and ethically unacceptable in modern society. Lines must be drawn between "acceptable" and "unacceptable" in the employee handbook and memos, for example.

Closing thoughts

The bottom line: Embracing the differences in your personal and professional relationships will promote a greater sense of understanding and, in the process, better working relationships and ultimately higher productivity in the workplace.

Tolerance should be a daily commitment made by all employees in the organisation. Morgan Hunt is just as committed to fostering an environment of tolerance among its recruiters, candidates and clients. Contact us today for more on the positive ways that we can help you with your recruitment needs.