Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Tolerance Can Be Carried Too Far

Why do you put up with that??

A supervisor was telling me about an employee who was well known for lying about small issues as well as a larger ones, to the point that the employee wasn’t believed by anyone. 

I asked the supervisor if he had ever confronted the employee about it. “Nah. It makes him feel important, so we all just act like we believe him and walk away shaking our heads.” I don’t think that person’s lack of integrity and respect for others is a trivial matter to them, so this was very frustrating for me to hear.

Someone else was telling me about a coworker who is officious and bosses her and everyone else around. I asked her why she puts up with it and she said if she tried to stop it the coworker would be hurt, so she and everyone else has learned to tolerate it.  I see this a lot: They care more about her feelings than she cares about theirs.

A woman told me about the rants she endures from a coworker who has extreme and angry opinions about everything from politics to religion to social issues and street maintenance, etc., etc., ad naseam.  She said she used to be upset and distracted all day but she has learned to tolerate it so they can get along. Apparently she feels she should be the one to work at getting along, while the coworker can do anything he wants.

I don’t advocate continual confrontation about every small difference of style or opinion. But, it’s foolish and harmful for the majority of people in a workplace to “learn” to tolerate the one or two who are unpleasant or problematic. We create entitled royalty who think they can do or say anything they want–because the reality is, they can.

The next time you wonder why you have a coworker or employee who is unpleasasant or who gossips, gets angry, refuses to cooperate with someone, is disruptive or who exhibits other bad behavior, look no further for the answer than the people who put up with it–coworkers and/or bosses.

If you have sincerely tried to stop the situation and approached it the right way but have been shut down by managers or others, you have my sympathy and also my appreciation and admiration. If you have been tolerating something that continues to bother you, remember that tolerance isn’t always a good thing.  Sometimes what we call tolerance is just a lack of courage. Show some courage this week and speak up about something you shouldn’t be tolerating.  

May 27th, 2012 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 4 comments


  1. Have a great Memorial Day, Tina! I agree with you that it takes courage to say something. I’ve improved in that area so much in the last few years and our section is better for it. It’s easier on everyone to stop problems right away rather than trying to tolerate it but never succeeding.

    By the way, we had a person who lied when the truth would have served him better. He just lied all the time! That was before I developed better skills (thanks to you!)and I was too embarrassed to say anything. When our new Director was hired he caught him in several small lies and called him on them. Within a few weeks the employee quit. We all wondered if there was some big lie he was afraid was going to be found out by someone who would look closer!

    I hope you’re going to do something fun today. We’re having a cookout on our little patio that the sheriff let us get two summers ago. Come on down!

    Comment by P.A.H. | May 28, 2012

  2. Being a long-suffering person isn’t admirable in my opinion, so I definitely agree with this.

    Comment by Meeker | May 28, 2012

  3. Well said. When I took over a new division there was one person who everyone complained about. Unfortunately, even though we tried training and coaching, his habits were so set that he couldn’t or wouldn’t treat people differently. He was told he was going to be dismissed so he quit. The kicker was that some of the people who had complained the loudest also complained that we pushed him out.

    Comment by H.K. | June 1, 2012

  4. Hello Tina, thank you for the items you sent. I am one of the ones who tolerates things and I realize it. I hate to confront people because no matter how bad things were before they always seem worse afterwards. If I thought things would get better I might do something, but I know they won’t!

    Comment by Doormat | June 2, 2012

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