Have you ever found another mind that exactly thinks like you? When was your tolerant mindset challenged last? Is respecting other’s differences already part and parcel of your organizational DNA? What are the secret ingredients that you foster and encourage for a tolerant workplace?

“What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly – that is the first law of nature. “-  Voltaire (Francois-Marie Arouet), French Writer

The foundation for collaboration, performance, productivity, honest communication and connection is tolerance. Tolerance is a term that allows for various interpretations and that serves for numerous discussions about what it is and means. Tolerance does not ask you to accept or like everything in order to keep the peace and make everybody happy. Striving to understand other people, their motivators and values and being aware of your own motivators and values is the critical first step in developing a tolerant mindset.

 According to Professor Rainer Forst, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany, tolerance comprises three stages: denial, acceptance, and rejection. He describes being tolerant as follows:
  1. Denial: You notice beliefs or practices that you consider to be wrong, bad or objectionable; you would rather do it differently or you have no opinion.
  2. Acceptance: You clearly see some positive reasons about those beliefs or practices and can acknowledge them. At the same time, you have legitimate rationales to reject them.
  3. Rejection: You reject those beliefs and practices based on your rationales and motifs. And by doing so, you set clear boundaries.

Knowing and sensing your own limitations, hot buttons, and values is key to being tolerant. And acting upon them enhances your credibility and predictability. Tolerance is a conscious choice. Whenever you demonstrate an open mind, understanding, empathy and respect to someone different from you, you are practicing tolerance. We are naturally more attracted to what is similar to us. Hence, it takes energy and effort to look into something that is different.

Speaking of tolerance in terms of leadership energy, a tolerant mindset marks the turning point. You can either go down the negativity spiral or you take the path to new opportunities. In other words: You can either go into judgment mode and start a blame game; or you chose responsibility and try to understand the others’ perspective. With a mindset of inclusion and tolerance a world of opportunities can open up. Read more about leadership energy in our article “good an bad team leaders”.

 Your decisions and behavior shape the environment around you. The more senior you are, the more important it is to be seen as a role model that fosters teamwork, client interaction and innovation. Let people know that intolerance is not acceptable, and address bad behavior at work quickly.

Imagine a highly creative process without tolerance. Everyone’s on fire,

brainstorming, developing, co-creating, striving for the best possible solution, something unheard of and innovative … . And then someone starts decrying ideas or colleagues because their opinions are not in line with theirs. The effect on the creative process, the people involved, and the outcome is detrimental.

Often times, it is “just” different working styles that seem to make our lives hard at work. Awareness and understanding about the others’ characteristics help us get along better with them. There might be colleagues who are more task-oriented, others prefer relationship building; and introverts and extraverts communicate very differently. Discover the differences and what you can learn from them. Everyone will appreciate the time and space you give them to be themselves and to do their best. You will be rewarded by great performance and collaboration and a reputation that attracts other talent.

“The highest result of education is tolerance.”
– Helen Keller, American author and political activist

It is one of the areas that calls for sensitivity and tolerance: When working with people from different cultures, try to understand their values and worldviews. Inspired Executives offer masterful coaching and consulting around cross-cultural communication. You will get some ideas as to how to make cross-cultural communication more effective from our book chapter or just contact us.

Inspired Executives support the Network for Tolerance. Check out their website for more food for thought on tolerance: www.netzwerk-toleranz.de.

The “5 Rs” are the secret ingredients that Inspired Executives chose for more tolerance

  • Responsibility
  • Restriction
  • Respect
  • Receptiveness
  • Response


What are yours? Please share them at Action@Inspired-Executives.com