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Integrating Forgiveness in the Workplace

Forgiveness is an art, a skill that good leaders work to develop and strengthen over time. However, the power of forgiveness is not reserved for only leaders or management at your organization. Any employees who can exercise forgiveness in the workplace will find they have improved well-being and increase in productivity, overall.


Being able to forgive coworkers or managers in the workplace may not be something with which everyone is comfortable, nor may they understand the circumstances that call for forgiveness.


Ask employees to avoid blaming one another for situations beyond their control or mistakes or accidents. Placing blame on someone else for whatever reason doesn’t help to solve the issue at hand. It’s easier to forgive the involved parties and move on to remedying the situation.


Similarly, accusing someone of fault can have a worse result than blame. Accusations lead to poor morale, decrease in a team or collaborative environment, and can shed a negative light on the company overall. Holding on to negative feelings from an accusation or from being blamed can lead to disengagement or even aggressive behavior.


There are three simple steps to fostering forgiveness in the workplace:

  1. Lead by example. Employees will look to managers and organizational leaders for how to act, what to say, and ways to encourage others to follow suit.
  2. Take responsibility. Be honest and sincere in your apology. In every situation where forgiveness is necessary, try to take something away from which you can reflect and grow both personally and professionally.
  3. Move on. Create new memories with the person(s) with whom forgiveness was issued. Don’t dwell on the issue or return to it frequently to make a point. After the conflict has been addressed and rectified, consider the matter closed.


Encouraging employee and team forgiveness fosters a sense of adaptability and creates an environment where everyone can communicate authentically with each other, customers, and business partners. These are the businesses for which top talent, including millennials, will want to work.


Managers and organizational leaders should be the role models for exhibiting forgiveness in the workplace. While the act of forgiving another employee is the primary goal, it is also important how they move through what happens after either they give forgiveness or they are forgiven. For example, in either situation, it is crucial to show compassion by recognizing the imperfection and giving yourself time to recover. In some situations, this process can take minutes, while in others it can take days or weeks. The timeframe will vary for each person, and that is perfectly acceptable.


In the end, forgiveness creates a renewed sense of integrity throughout the organization. When leadership emphasizes the power of forgiveness over negativity, their employees will not only understand, but they will also respond better in stressful situations. These employees will be more likely to offer new ideas, speak up in meetings to share their point of view, and ask for help.


People are constantly learning how to be better and more productive versions of themselves. Mastering the art of forgiveness is no different. This doesn’t mean that bad behavior should be ignored; Instead of holding on to something that makes you upset or that has bothered someone else, take the step to apologize or forgive that person.  When it comes to hiring the best leaders for your organization who can model forgiveness while upholding and improving company culture, turn to Human Capital.

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