On the benefits of intolerance
On matters of style, swim with the current; on matters of principle, stand like a rock. ~ Thomas Jefferson
I was told last week (by one of my colleagues) that I needed to be more tolerant. When she said this, I didn’t really pay much attention to it, and it was only when the words composted in my brain, that it hit me. I strongly disagreed with this piece of advice. Because what she meant (and to be fair, she did have my best interests at heart) is that I needed to be better at keeping my thoughts and opinions to myself. I needed to go along to get along. I shouldn’t ruffle feathers or rock the boat. I needed to be more tolerant of the shortcomings of my managers and leaders.
I beg to differ though, because tolerance – or rather, keeping quiet when one should speak up – is why our workplaces are in the sorry state they are in. People keep quiet way too much. Workers are much too tolerant, and workplaces themselves suffer.
And I blame casualisation of the workforce to a certain extent, and the inbuilt imbalance of power structures in the workplace. People are less likely to want to speak up about poor work practices if they are worried they will lose their jobs (or there is an implied threat of contract non-renewal). And I completely understand. I have always been one to speak my mind (regardless of employment status), but I must admit, knowing I am a permanent public servant has increased my forthrightness. I might not do my career (such that it is) any good, but at least I can sleep at night. I refuse to tolerate crap.
I see so many people though, tolerating bullying, harassment, bad management, unsafe work conditions, dysfunctional teams and they all have their own reasons for doing so. I make no judgement. A paycheck is a powerful incentive for keeping quiet. But I am amazed at how many people say to me: “I admire you for speaking up. I wish I could do that.” The thing is: I can’t not. It is part of my genetic makeup – my DNA – to not let things slide. If I see something that is not right, I have to say something. If I see an injustice or bad practices in the workplace – whether it’s to myself or others – I can’t just stand by. I am intolerant.
And if that means sacrificing my career for peace of mind, so be it. I shall wear my intolerance as a badge of honour.
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