Swings + Roundabouts Winter 2022

Some readers may be aware of the recent passing of Bruce Russell. Bruce wasn’t exactly a household name, but he was a very highly-respected New Zealand broadcaster, with a very loyal following. In recent years, Bruce’s speciality had been the midnight to 5:00am timeslot on the Newstalk ZB stations. In the early hours of the morning, he would take calls from a wide range of night-workers, eccentrics, ramblers, and insomniacs, who seemed to form his core listenership. I would occasionally listen in to his programme, if I found myself driving home at some unsociable hour of the morning, with an urge to connect with fringe New Zealand. Bruce had a very gentle, open, and nonjudgemental style. For many of his callers, a chat with Bruce was like talking with your best friend. You could reminisce aimlessly about your great-grandmother’s collection of jam jars, and Bruce wouldn’t stop you. In fact, he might even have a few stories of his own to throw in, for good measure! In many ways, Bruce was a broadcasterout-of-time. His style was something from the past, unhurried and, at times, somewhat aimless. He didn’t seek to impose his views on others. He rarely challenged callers, and he didn’t have an agenda to push. Bruce’s passing has given me reason to think about a lot of things. The certainty of mortality is one of those things, as is the need to do some good while we are still here. Another one is the role of tolerance and kindness. In a world in which we are constantly being told to ‘be kind’ to others, we have to realise that intentions to ‘be kind’ to other people are not the same thing as actually being kind. Similarly, the self-belief that we are tolerant people is not the same thing as actually being tolerant of challenging and diverse ideas. The ability to resolve important issues correctly is, in itself, a challenge for some people. Hegel’s dialectical method of discourse (where argument and counterargument are used to arrive at a correct solution, through reasoned and open argument), is a good example of this challenge. Literary great, F. Scott Fitzgerald, summed up the issue with the words: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” Ryan Deschamps put it more bluntly, when he said “Anyone who has worked with real data realizes that ambiguity is more the norm than not. The unintelligent will try to force an answer out of that ambiguity or get angry about it. The intelligent just get more curious and try to understand what’s going on.” For some of us, the concept of tolerance is important as a fundamental principle of civilised society. However, the real value of tolerance is that willing exposure to different ideas is an important part of critical and independent thinking. We need to be tolerant, so that we can entertain a range of diverse ideas, in order to make sense of the world around us. Openness and tolerance are an antidote to dogma. Tolerance also has an important role to play in good business practice. Somewhat curiously, it has a connection with concepts such as employee engagement, productivity, and workplace performance. The well-known analytics and consulting firm, Gallup, has an interesting piece of employee research, which it has been conducting over many years. The Gallup research seeks to understand the things which contribute to productive and highperforming workplaces, by asking questions of employees. Over the years, the research has been refined to the point where the answers to just twelve questions can produce a valid and reliable snapshot of employee engagement within a business. The result is Gallup’s famous Q12 survey. Gallup organises its twelve questions into four groups, which can be conveniently displayed in the form of a pyramid. The pyramid structure reflects four hierarchical levels over which the survey findings are organised, ranging from basic needs (at the base), through individual contribution and teamwork, up to growth issues (at the top). The two basic needs questions cover whether the employee knows what is required of them at work, and whether they have the materials and equipment to do their job. The next four questions are about individual contribution, and relate to personal By Phil Sales Tolerance and employee engagement June 2022 { 30 }