Unpacking the Diverse Workforce: How to Foster Tolerance in the Workplace

May 18, 20211:56 pm660 views
Unpacking the Diverse Workforce: How to Foster Tolerance in the Workplace
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Tolerance in principle and practice can be challenging in the workplace for various reasons due to personal biases, disagreements, and prejudices. Despite its challenges, it does not mean that a tolerant workplace is not fixable. Making the right choices on both the individual and organisational level will facilitate resolutions in helping overcome workplace intolerance. 

The psychology behind intolerance

In the current diverse society and workforce, there is every reason to address and oppose intolerance and promote tolerance. But, in doing so, it is important to clear out the differences in understanding intolerance. Having known each type of intolerance can help HR teams address and build better tolerance initiative among their employees. 

Professor of Interdisciplinary Social Science Maykel Verkuyten in his interview on the Psychology of Intolerance mentioned that there are three types of intolerance: prejudicial intolerance, intuitive intolerance, and deliberative intolerance. 

  • Prejudicial intolerance equates to having prejudice as generalised negativity or antipathy toward a group of people or an individual that is different from oneself in various respects, often because of feelings of threat. For example, employees socially distance themselves from other coworkers because of their race or religion.
  • Intuitive intolerance is based on a former process whereby one’s processing of reasons for showing self-restraint and tolerating something. To put it simply, intuitive intolerance means that people can apply a double standard, for example, by accepting practices of one group but not of another minority group despite engaging in similar practices. 
  • Deliberative intolerance has less to do with the out-group per se or with people’s immediate intuitions. Rather, it deals with reflecting on the perceived normative deviance of particular practices and beliefs. In this intolerance state, one can be intolerant of specific beliefs and practices of individuals or groups with whom one has no prejudicial feelings. 

Verkuyten added that addressing each intolerance might require different approaches. In the case of deliberative intolerance, for instance, there should be a weighing of the reasons for not allowing dissenting practices and beliefs (such as harm and rights principle) that might trump those for accepting freedom, such as religious freedom. 

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When addressing deliberative intolerance, HR team also needs to make people aware of and inducing them to carefully think about the nature and relative importance of the reasons why and when something cannot be tolerated is central. By doing so, there will be a decrease in one’s reliance on intuition, and therefore can lead to a more reflective than an intuitive judgment about not tolerating something. 

On the other hand, addressing intuitive intolerance requires people to reflect and recognise the civil liberties of others and acknowledge the democratic importance of freedom of expression and speech. 

The greatest advantage of having a tolerant workforce 

Intolerance of disagreements and differences can cause discomfort, but having it managed ethically can be considered intrinsically part of intellectual exchange. In fact, a well-managed diverse workforce helps create a more prosperous company. The differences can be the potential to get in the way of establishing and strengthening relationships in the workplace.

Think of these benefits: when you adopt an attitude of inclusion and tolerance, you can open up more possibilities, such as: 

  • Open and honest communication
  • Creativity fostered by an open exchange of ideas from across a broad spectrum of expertise 
  • Respect and trust between colleagues 
  • Teamwork, cooperation, and coordination among professionals in the workplace 
  • Loyalty and productivity 

All in all, tolerance is the foundation of all good working relationships that must be emphasised. Encouraging tolerance in the workplace is a foolproof way to prosperity and abundance. 

Previously, Verkuyten suggested how to address intolerance based on its types. However, addressing the issue without encouraging and promoting workplace tolerance is fruitless. There is no sure-fire method for each and every situation but the following tips can help get your team moving in to the right direction: 

  • Implement a comprehensive tolerance policy in the workplace. The policy must encourage employees to adopt an attitude of tolerance whilst also detailing acceptable words, behaviours, and actions. 
  • Train managers and help them to be role models and set good examples for their peers and subordinates. Some of the examples should include practising respect and kindness, avoiding stereotypes, being careful with jokes, being inclusive, focusing on commonalities, and standing up for others if they are being treated unfairly. 
  • Tolerance does not extend to tolerating but it extends to drawing the lines – lines of acceptability and unacceptability. Mention clearly and loudly by example and/or in the employee handbook by citing which behaviours, words, and actions are acceptable and unacceptable. 

Embracing differences will promote a greater sense of understanding and, in the process, better working relationships; which ultimately higher productivity in the workplace.

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