Intolerance of other’s others’ views, beliefs or practices may be widespread in society right now, but it’s a toxin you don’t want seeping into your workplace. Intolerance can lead to disputes, violence, harassment, mental harm, absenteeism, loss of productivity, turnover and much more. It also undermines teamwork, which is fundamental to business success.  

So what can you do? “Companies that successfully move forward in the years to come are those that nurture psychological health and safety, which includes having a culture of tolerance, civility and respect,” says Esther Fleurimond, WSPS Specialized Consultant, Mental Health in the Workplace. A culture of tolerance allows diverse groups of workers to safely bring their talents and ideas to the table, fuelling engagement, creativity, innovation and performance. “It ensures your business has a dynamic team in place to tackle change and obstacles.”

How do you nurture a more tolerant and sensitive workplace? Esther offers six suggestions.  

The path to a more tolerant workplace 

A culture of tolerance won’t be achieved overnight, says Esther, but with steady steps and management commitment, it will become a way of life in your workplace. Here are six ways to get the process going. 

  1. Know what tolerance looks like. The National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety (PH&S) in the Workplace includes ‘civility and respect’ in its list of 13 factors that influence psychological harm prevention. “If you don’t have civility and respect in your workplace, you will have intolerance; you will have inequities,” says Esther. In an organization where tolerance, civility and respect are emphasized:  
    • people treat each other with respect and consideration     
    • conflict among employees is handled effectively  
    • all people are treated fairly   
    • inappropriate behaviour is dealt with swiftly  
    • there is sincere respect for others’ ideas, values and beliefs
  1. Identify the behaviours you want and don’t want in the workplace. “Positive behaviours could include showing respect and sensitivity when you speak, or accommodating the needs of employees with language barriers so they can have input into an important meeting.” Negative behaviours might include telling jokes that offend a certain group of workers, speaking with disdain or showing frustration – anything that harms others, hurts relationships or negatively impacts teamwork. 
  2. Develop a policy and procedure on tolerance. Add these to your existing Violence and Harassment Policy. Include your company’s commitment to giving all employees an equal voice,  your expectations of employees, with examples, and how people will be held accountable, including managers and senior managers. Communicate these to the workforce.  
  3. Educate and train managers. Show them how a diverse and collaborative workforce contributes to workplace success. Provide training on interpersonal and sensitivity skills to enable your managers to develop good relationships with the employees who report to them. 
  4. Educate employees. Discuss your goals and expectations with employees during team meetings. Build their capacity for better relationships through practical exercises that focus on such things as appropriate versus inappropriate language and behaviours, how to build empathy, listening skills, and conflict resolution.  
  5. Lead by example. Demonstrate the attitudes and behaviours you want from your staff and managers. If you show kindness, empathy and fairness and welcome other opinions and views, these qualities are more likely to be embedded as a workplace ethic. “Allow yourself to be vulnerable as a leader,” says Esther. “To say, ‘I don’t know everything and I’m okay if you don’t agree with me because we can figure it out together.'”

Source: WSPS