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The Tolerant Host

July 2012
How long are we to keep up the Host/Guest-Relationship? This was a question raised by a seminar participant recently, in a discussion on how we actually treat people of different cultural backgrounds. As part of the theme „Hello Diversity – Goodbye Monotony“, the focus was on the fact, that the understanding of diversity management in the last decades has changed and, with it, the way we treat those who are „different“. If diversity management is aimed at integration, inclusion, and the utilization of potentialities, such as the Charta der Vielfalt describes, then it is not sufficient to just appeal to the spirit of tolerance. ’Tolerance’, derived from.....

...the Latin word tolerare (to bear, to endure), generally describes the validity of foreign elements in an existing system. The capacity of the system to accept and tolerate differences, however, only works up to its tolerance threshold. Beyond that point, the system collapses. This means for us, that the simple perception and the tolerance of people of different cultures is not adequate enough to meet the expectations of a novel mindset for integration and inclusion.

Today's understanding of diversity management assumes that the given diversity is seen as a resource. One works together in partnership based on the foundation of mutual appreciation, diversity is not supervised. Being different no longer inevitably means to have shortcomings. Moreover, it is the „host“ - a majority in society, the employer, or a manager in an organization – that cares for providing an environment, where the hidden potential inherent in diversity can become evident and be manifested.

As long as the We/You-Mentality – we as „host“, you as „guest“ - prevails, it will be difficult to discover and to profit from the use of potentialities for the entire organisation.  This could be more easily achieved, if the “host”, but also the ”guest”, would see themselves as joint partners that want to advance the organisation together– whether a company or public entity -  based on sincere mutual appreciation. Of course, the participants, as many colleagues in further education confirm, must deal beforehand with intercultural misunderstandings, stereotyping and subtle prejudices.

More and more organisations advocate diversity management in accordance to the changed mindset. Diversity is embraced and not seen as a necessary evil.

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