Tips to Promote a Culture of Tolerance in the Workplace

The typical workplace is made up of employees from different backgrounds, religions and cultures. To coexist and function efficiently as a team, they must learn to tolerate each other. This means your employees must learn to tolerate the multitude of differences they will encounter when interacting with their colleagues.

To underscore the importance of tolerance in the workplace, the International Day for Tolerance has become an annual observance declared by UNESCO to generate public awareness of the dangers of intolerance.

In the workplace, some of the differences that have to contend with might even include things like dressing, education, marital status, age and tribe. Tolerance fosters creativity, productivity, trust and well as respect. How can this be achieved? The following tips will help you establish and maintain a strong culture of tolerance in your company.

Draw a Clear Line

The fact that you have employees from different backgrounds and cultures does not mean anything and everything should be permitted.

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Employees should not be permitted to plant seeds of religious or political hatred within your company. Personal beliefs should stay personal. Behaviour that is morally or ethically wrong should not be tolerated in the workplace.

If for instance, you have an employee whose tribe has a culture of smoking before lunch, this does not mean such an act will be tolerated in the workplace.

An employee who comes from a home or family where it is perfectly fine to consume alcohol at any time of the day must understand that your company is not a home. Rather, it is a corporate environment where other people from other cultures, backgrounds and beliefs also work.

Drawing the line means you have to spell out behaviour that you consider unacceptable. Such behaviour includes those that damage relationships at work, harm others one way or the other or threatens teamwork.

Respect Operational Routine

Your employees are bound to have different ways of getting things done. While some prefer tackling tasks one at a time, others might actually enjoy multitasking. You might have employees who take their time to deliver quality on tasks assigned to them yet, have those that deliver optimal results at an alarming speed.

It is your responsibility to let your employees know how important the culture of tolerance is. Take it a step further by highlighting the different ways their colleagues get things done, which might be different from theirs. To help your employees understand the personalities of others, you can make use of a psychometric test.

Choose Your Words Wisely

When addressing your employees, you should pick your words carefully and consider the cultural and spiritual sensibilities of others.

You have to consider the sensitivity of your employees when you speak to them to avoid hurting them and straining the relationship you share. Don’t say things that ridicule Islam if you have Muslims as members of your team. You will only succeed in losing their respect and eventually, their trust and dedication. If you are ever unsure whether what you are about to say will hurt your employees or not, don’t say it.

Help Them Understand Each Other

You should actively help your employees get along with their colleagues with different belief systems, philosophies and ideals. Help your employee who rarely watches TV that it is okay to work with a colleague who sees at least 2 movies every day. Encourage them to learn about the belief systems of others.

Help your employees improve their active listening skills. Your goal should be to make them better at understanding what others are saying, showing empathy and seeing things from the perspective of others.

Lead by Example

Don’t be that employer who always reels out suggestions to employees on getting along with their colleagues without leading by example. If you are known to show compassion and understanding to your employees and people around you, your employees will have a tendency to imbibe this as a workplace culture.

When you fuse your words with actions, it delivers a compelling lesson to your employees. You would be surprised how much your employees look up to you.

The moment you find one or more of your employees stepping out of line morally or ethically, ensure you are firm and decisive in dealing with it immediately.  

It is your responsibility as an employer to strike a delicate balance between the culture of tolerance and that of assertiveness within your organisation.

Is this enshrined in your recruitment policy or is it still something you are working on introducing into your company?

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