What Are You Tolerating?

A question from a podcast I listened to last week really stuck with me:

What are you tolerating in your business or work?

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The word “tolerate” is most often used about people or behaviors we don’t particularly like, but put up with for the sake of harmony. It’s the “I can live with it” standard.

  • Maybe you tolerate that one coworker or acquaintance you don’t particularly like, but are polite to in order to keep the peace at social functions.  
  • Maybe you tolerate someone in your household listening to music you don’t care for, but it’s only fair since sometimes you listen to your own music at high volume.
  • If you are a parent, your kids likely know what behaviors you tolerate, and what will result in you reprimanding them as a way of teaching them to be civilized people.

If something is adding to your workload and stress, why tolerate it?

What I find so intriguing about the question of what you are tolerating in your work life is that, for me, it brings to mind inefficiencies, relational problems, and operational deficiencies that can likely be addressed. These are often things that you know could be different or could be improved upon, but are not a priority to fix -- at least not yet.

For me, identifying aspects of my work that I tolerate means identifying opportunities for organizational change.

When you think of organizational change, you probably think of big, forward-thinking goals like implementing a new program, hiring for a new position, or targeting a new audience. These changes are fun to think about, and they get people excited about possibilities and opportunities and innovation.

But organizational change can also mean internal improvements.  These improvements can include:

  • fixing a process that isn’t working as it should,
  • retraining employees to make sure they are performing to their maximum potential,
  • or bringing in outside expertise to set up a new system.

These changes might seem less sexy than sweeping new visions or company-wide innovations, but they will have an immediate and lasting impact on the organization and everyone in it.

Think about it: how much time do you spend dealing with the stress of those things you are merely tolerating?