Tolerance, per Webster’s dictionary is, the “willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own.” American society is, in part, a continual balancing act between evolving social norms and tolerance. Think of how different America’s societal norms of 2015 are compared with 1915 (women lacked the vote), or 1815 (legal slavery). Changing society required passionate leaders, hard work and sacrifice. It also required a commitment to legal process and tolerance. A flawed, but tolerant, America has overcome many barriers and become a better society.
Caitlyn Jenner’s personal story of living life as a man and transitioning is testing America’s spirit of tolerance again. This story dominates headlines and water cooler chats. Now, at the age of 65, Caitlyn Jenner is the most talked about person in the country. Not all Americans accept or welcome this change, and most don’t understand how this can happen. Even closest families struggle to understand this journey, but they are loving and accepting. As shown throughout our history, Americans can practice tolerance, even without understanding.
Think of your workplace and how tolerance may be tested in the coming days. Get ahead of it now and evaluate how your workplace embraces diversity. Communicate your organization’s tolerance for diversity, and be sure it is modeled by leaders at all levels. Prepare for questions about what bathrooms and locker rooms a transgendered employee (or customer) may use. Carefully and sensitively discuss with staff about any discomfort with transgendered or transitioning employees. Understand that employees may have differing opinions, religious beliefs and other concerns that may conflict with LGBTQ employees. Learn the laws, both state and Federal, that apply. (As if on cue, OSHA recently released a new Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers that outlines legal requirements.)
Tolerance with respectful dialog are our best allies to successfully manage an ever changing society. It makes America a great, if imperfect, country and keeps our workplaces running.
Call MSEC to discuss your questions to help navigate your workplace through changing times.