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16th November 2016

16th November is the UN’s International Day for Tolerance, recognised since 1995 as a way to generate public awareness of the dangers of intolerance. We asked ELAS consultant Jacob Demeza-Wilkinson to take a look at tolerance in the workplace including the importance of diversity and how we tolerate each others little quirks.

It’s very important that companies embrace diversity and ensure that people from a wide range of backgrounds are afforded the same opportunities and treatment. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly employers have a duty to ensure that equal opportunity is considered at all times during the recruitment process and throughout employment and, secondly, employees from different backgrounds can bring different perspectives and insights to their roles.

Traditionally we’ve looked at diversity in the workplace as being inclusive of race, gender, age, sexual orientation and cultural background however, these days it can also mean diversity of thought.

It’s often said that we live in a small world and some industries can be particular insular, drawing from the same traditional employment pool. Employees from diverse backgrounds bring individual talents and experiences to their workplace and forward thinking companies are now looking to change their recruitment and hiring practices, actively seeking out those with different thinking and problem-solving backgrounds. With an increase in the number of people retraining or changing career direction these days, it can be beneficial to bring in employees with a different skill set in order to keep ideas fresh.  This can help meet both your business strategy needs and the needs of customers more effectively, resulting in higher productivity, profit and return on investment.

Life would be very boring if we were all the same. Everyone has their own little quirks and in a close working environment when you are with the same people every day, sometimes these little nuances can become big annoyances. The girl who sits opposite you constantly clicking her pen or the man in accounts with a loud snorting laugh can seriously grate on your nerves when you’re spending 40 hours a week with them.

There are three main options for dealing with someone’s quirks, the first of which is to simply try and ignore it. You are not necessarily at work to make friends and, as such, should try and remain professional at all times and focus on your own work wherever possible.

If that doesn’t work then you could speak to the individual involved, explain the situation and see if they are able to stop or work on their quirk. In some cases they might not even realise they are doing it and where the quirk is something like whistling all the time or tapping their feet regularly then it should be relatively easy to solve. If you speak to the individual concerned and they do not make any effort to stop, or even go as far as to actively try to annoy you now that you have pointed it out to them, then it’s likely that they would be in breach of the bullying and harassment policy.

This leads to the third option which would be to speak to a superior about the issue if it continues, particularly if you believe the person involved has begun to deliberately attempt to annoy you. The manager can then exercise their discretion as to whether an informal or formal approach should be adopted in an attempt to resolve the concerns.

How to promote diversity in the workplace:
Foster an attitude of openness in your organisation; encourage employees to express their ideas and opinions and give all a sense of equal value
Promote diversity in leadership positions
Employee satisfaction surveys can identify which challenges and obstacles are present in your workplace and if any policies need to be added or amended


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