How to Practice Acceptance in the Workplace as a Leader

“Happiness can only exist in acceptance.” — George Orwell. This quote rings true in our life at home, but more so at work. Workplace environments comprise different personality types, beliefs, leadership styles, and more. What does it mean to practice acceptance at work How and when should we vote for change? Is acceptance of people acceptance of their habits? Here’s what industry professionals say and what we believe:


Acceptance in the workplace

Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, Chief Diversity Officer at Microsoft (then IBM), says, “When every employee feels safe and supported, they can be their best authentic selves.” Several studies echoed this, reinforcing how important it is for employees to feel valued and understood and how it contributes to their performance and gradually the company’s success. Awarded as one of Australia’s most innovative companies in the Smart100 and a Top 10 SME in the DELL Business Excellence Awards, LEXIGO shared simple examples of acceptance. 

  • Being sensitive to Muslim employees who fast during the holy month of Ramadan
  • Having a room for nursing mothers to use a breast pump in private
  • Being inclusive of the LGBTQIA community at office Valentine’s Day activities
  • Offering WFH options to employees with ageing parents, if needed

In a diverse company setting, acceptance is understanding that everyone has different backgrounds, cultures, upbringing, etc. — and that it is not a bad thing. On the contrary, a workforce that has a rich and all-inclusive culture should birth more creativity, innovation, and collaboration.

Simply put, it is having clear guidelines catering to every employee’s wellbeing regardless of race, gender, religion, culture, sexual orientation, and more. Companies that integrate practices of inclusion and diversity foster acceptance leading to a more vibrant workforce, something that will make every c-suite proud.

A leader’s role in achieving acceptance at work

Like a captain steering his ship, the conduct and overall DNA at work start with leaders. Leaders play a pivotal role in shaping and developing behaviour, language, and habits. An article by Forbes entitled Three Successful Ways To Practice Empathetic Leadership In The Workplace defines empathy for team leaders as the ability to temporarily see a situation from another person’s perspective — is a powerful leadership tool that, when used appropriately, eliminates individual and team negativity and can increase team performance.

Positive Breakthroughs believes in practising empathy in the workplace. Sometimes, some situations are beyond our control, and as leaders, it’s coming to a place where you embrace it for what it is and understand it is about empowering people at work to be free of any form of judgement, prejudice, or discrimination. Here are some practical ways to do so:

Establish and maintain safe boundaries

When team leaders establish a psychologically safe environment for their team members to share their personal and professional struggles, there will be room for understanding and working towards a solution-based action. Team leaders should also express gratitude for the team member’s work and contribution to the company and, if needed, direct them to the company’s emotional assistance program (EAP) accordingly.

Practice self-care to avoid burnout

Every person holding a top management seat is a human being — they carry the heaviest responsibilities like directing agendas, driving profitability, managing the maintenance of organisational structure and more. Answerable to the company’s performance at large, they ought to care for their emotional and physical wellbeing. Some companies make it mandatory for team leaders to utilise all their vacation time, while others ensure they have allocated times blocked as windows of personal time where they will not be available for any work matter.

Get back to the basics

Founder of Positive Breakthroughs, Liza Pavlakos describes a workplace relationship akin to a family one. From employers to employees and vice versa — it requires commitment, trust, and care to get a step closer towards organisational success.

“It’s like a marriage. You need two to thrive. You need to create a safe space to talk without breaking the unity,” said Pavlakos.

Like in a real marriage, when things get out of hand, the unit should seek help. For relationships, it’s therapy, and for work, there’s human resources. Partnering with HR and getting their point of view when dealing with team members experiencing personal or professional challenges. The idea is to seek the right kind of help when situations escalate.

A recent report from Sage found 87% of C-suite executives believe the pandemic accelerated changes in HR, with 57% adding that their HR leaders became more visible and influential since COVID. Some of the significant leadership skills HR had to hone over this period were soft skills – in particular, empathy, compassion, and trust – all of which helped Australian companies bounce back quicker.

The calling for acceptance

Remember that your employees will only feel belonged and accepted if they feel valued. While most workplaces focus on “cognitive culture” such as values like teamwork, result-orientation, or innovation — cultivating emotional culture is essential too, which is based on love, joy, pride, and other emotions. Focus on what you can do to help brighten their day or make their work simpler.

“There is magnificence in acceptance of unity, for, without diversity, this world would be an uninteresting place,” said Pavlakos. While the responsibility to create a wholesome environment is challenging, it is the antidote to inching closer towards a more accepting workforce.

On a policy-making level, consider practices that foster greater affection, caring, compassion, and tenderness amongst employees. For example, former Cisco CEO John Chambers asked that he be notified within 48 hours if a close member of an employee’s family passed away. Ultimately, everyone wants to be cared for and loved. A study conducted by Harvard Business Review entitled Employees Who Feel Loved Perform Better found that 3,201 employees in seven different industries outperformed those not satisfied with their jobs.

As much as happiness can only exist in acceptance, care plays a huge role too. People need to feel understood and have a greater sense of purpose, led by someone who cares about their wellbeing. As Theodore Roosevelt aptly said: “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

At Positive Breakthroughs, we offer you the private counselling, life coaching, and psychological practice you desire. Our subscription is the world’s first ready-to-go practice where we do the hard work, so you can serve your clients and thrive in your high-value tasks. Find out more here.


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