Tom is a 45-year-old supervisor who has been working for 15 years in an industrial chemical plant. A tall, kindly-spoken and well-dressed man, he is a good manager who is popular with his colleagues. After many years of experience, he has a preferred way of doing his job and has built a good relationship with his team and runs an efficient department.

Jasmin, a newly qualified MBA student, has just been brought in as assistant departmental manager, designate. Fresh out of college, she is anxious to implement some of her new learning to see how it works in practice.

Both Tom and Jasmin try to work alongside each other but their way of working is entirely different and try as they may in going forward, they start to see each other as a threat. Tom thinks that she is a ‘new broom sweeping clean’ for the sake of it and Jasmin sees him as ‘entrenched in his ways and moving behind the times’.

They start to become intolerant of each other and, therefore, do their best to avoid one another’s company. However, as this is a relatively small department, it is putting pressure on other members of the team. They can see that the new IT system that Jasmin wants to implement may speed up their output but on the other hand, they prefer their own ways of working together with the fact that they like Tom and don’t want him to think that they are being disloyal to him by accepting a new system that he hasn’t endorsed.

This is a situation that is not unusual where different working styles need to be integrated in order to complement each other, rather than be seen by anyone as a threat. The differences in approach need to be identified and harmonised by showing mutual respect. Both managers have a huge amount to offer the company and, therefore, need to work through the challenges they face and communicate openly and honestly between themselves which, in turn, will have a positive effect upon the team and the organisation.

Importance of tolerance

Tolerance and understanding are the key issues. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, tolerance is the willingness to accept the existence of opinions or behaviour with which one may dislike or disagree. Therefore, this is the specific task that both Tom and Jasmin have to manage in order to move forward.

We as human beings are not necessarily born tolerant. We see something that is different as being a threat or we meet someone who has conflicting opinions to our own and we want to either confront them or walk away from them. We often find it difficult to accept change or new methodologies that may initially make us uncomfortable, until we are used to them.

In fact, just because you may see things from another perspective does not mean than you are necessarily right or wrong. It is a time to evaluate and embrace the differences and to see how they can make your work or home life a richer and more exciting place to be.

There are many things that encourage tolerance and here are a few:

In order to start to see things from a different perspective, you need to consciously have an open mind to do so. New ways can provide a whole new world of possibilities.

We are not all the same and nor should we be. Learn and adapt from other people’s ways of doing things.

New is not a threat

Don’t see others always as a threat.

Listen and evaluate what is being said and do not object merely because it does not accord with your own views.

Set an example. Both at home and at work. Tolerance and acceptance of others’ opinions and ideas, both at home and school, need to be encouraged.

In a world of different cultural backgrounds, age groups, viewpoints and religions, it is vital that we all work together and embrace our differences with respect and compassion. A good cake has many ingredients, otherwise it has no taste. And it’s the same with life.

Key Points:

1. It’s important to value differences.

2. New ways can provide a new world of possibilities.

3. Success comes from an amalgam of ideas.

— The writer is a BBC guest broadcaster and motivational speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management consultancy and her new book, ‘Show Stress Who’s Boss!’ is available in all good bookshops.