What You Tolerate You Sanction

Published: July 15, 2019

Productivity and profitability are not always indications of a healthy team. Often, they occur at the expense of employee satisfaction and workplace culture. When money is being made, it’s easy to overlook the soul-sucking interactions that get normalized over time. Anyone who has ever been in this type of environment knows the compromise. Sunday nights are filled with dread yet you drag yourself in on Monday morning. Friday brings relief and Saturday is devoted to recuperation. Weeks turn to months and months turn to years. Before you know it, you’re old.

What you tolerate you sanction. Any pain becomes normal eventually: conflict, disrespect, mistrust, fear and depletion. When discomfort becomes a way of life, it’s easy to get stuck and accept your circumstances. The challenge is to see the struggle as purposeful and find the best way to cope.

Stay stuck or move forward. Solve for the pain. There are constructive ways to manage conflict. Disrespect and mistrust are cured by communication and accountability. Fear can mobilize action once calm and clarity are activated. Depletion requires refueling.

Healthy teams recognize the stage they are managing and the reasons for it. Strong teams resist the normalization of deviance by frequently asking these questions:

  1. In what stage is our team? Why are we struggling?
  2. Why are we at this stage? What led to this moment?
  3. What actions should we take to move forward? Can we become stronger and healthier?

The beauty of solving this problem as a group is that every teammate occupies a different place in the cycle. Each person’s circumstances impact everyone else. Understanding your teammate’s challenge helps steer your direction. Being understood enables others to adjust to your priorities. Why not make effective coping and resilience the norms you tolerate and sanction?

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.