There is a major shift happening in the world where certain behaviours that may have been tolerated in the past are now no longer acceptable.
A global awakening is occurring where different biases that may involve gender, race, religious or cultural backgrounds, sexual orientation or preference, or political views are not excuses for behaving in ways that may cause harm to another person or violate their rights.
This is a good time to look at why certain behaviours may be tolerated, without any judgment, so that we can have more awareness of what’s acceptable and what’s not, and be in a better position to make choices that will support us in accomplishing what we want, without putting ourselves at risk.
When I graduated from university and started a career in manufacturing and logistics, I worked for a packaging company that consisted of a site manager and a few supervisors who were responsible for different departments. My initial role was in planning and purchasing so I didn’t have direct responsibility for workers on the shop floor.
One particular supervisor, who had been with the company for over ten years, was very good at what he did, but his communication or leadership style was poor. He used a “command and control” leadership style which included being abusive towards workers, intimidating them by how he spoke and basically did things his way.
As the site where I was employed was a brand new site and the company had lost almost half their employees when they relocated to that new site, management was reluctant to performance manage him or help him improve his leadership style.
Interestingly, as I got to know more about the history of the company, particularly the history leading up to the relocation of the site, I learned that the previous site manager also displayed similar behaviours that included throwing tools in frustration when things were not going well and also being an intimidating person.
The behaviour of the previous manager made it acceptable for the supervisor to behave in a similar manner. The cost of this type of behaviour led to:
- Employees leaving the company.
- More time spent rehiring and retraining new employees.
- Loss of productivity and operating efficiencies.
- Late deliveries of customer orders.
- Poor employee morale and low levels of engagement.
The supervisor was eventually offered different types of training and counselling so that he could improve his communication and interpersonal skills. As the site improved its efficiencies over time, he did improve, but I think the damage had already been done.
Sometimes I wonder what could have happened if an employee had gotten so stressed at work and resorted to violence to take their frustrations out on the supervisor. People will tolerate bad behaviour for so long before they decide to do something about it.
Therefore it’s helpful to first be aware of why people tolerate bad behaviour in the first place.
5 Reasons Why People Tolerate Bad Behaviour
- They’ve become accustomed to bad behaviour. Sometimes we become so used to what we see all the time that it becomes familiar. This familiarity makes it hard for people to determine what’s acceptable and what’s not, so we hear comments like, “Oh, that’s Jim! That’s how he is. Just ignore him.”
- They lack self-confidence to speak out. It has been said that putting up with someone doing the wrong thing is just as bad as the person doing the wrong thing. People often have low levels of self-esteem which results in them not having the confidence to say, “Don’t do that!” or “What you are doing is not acceptable.”
- They fear retribution or reprimand. This is often at play between genders and with people in high positions of power. In a work environment, for example, a worker may fear losing their job, if they speak up about someone in a higher position. There can also be the fear of being physically harmed so it’s safer to be quiet.
- They may be going through other personal challenges. When we are more self-focused, we tend to block out other things that may be going on around us. This lack of self-awareness can affect our ability to be fully present to what other people in our lives may be going through.
- They don’t believe anything will change even if they speak up. If people don’t believe they can make a difference, then it’s highly unlikely they will speak out about something they know is not right. This often goes back to their self-worth and what they believe about themselves, others and the world. The stronger a person’s self-worth, the more chances they will not put up with bad behaviour.
As human beings, one of greatest desires is to be our true selves and have the freedom to be who we are. If that is taken away from us, then we aren’t being true to ourselves and living life on our terms.
Next time we hear someone has been tolerating bad behaviour for a period of time, before judging them, it will be helpful to pause and consider things from their perspective. If we can do something about it, we shouldn’t hesitate to do what’s right.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us, “The time is always right to do what is right.”
Question: What is another reason why people tolerate bad behaviour?
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