The F-word at Work

forgivenessMy title may have gotten your attention for its shock value or for its yawn factor. Depending on where you work and the kind of position you have, the F-word you’re thinking of may be non-existent or quite prevalent,  but I’m not talking about that F-word.

The F-word I am suggesting we take to work is FORGIVENESS.

Yes, THAT one.

There are people believe that this F-word is best left to intimate relationships. spiritual teachings or self-help seminars. I suggest that it not only has a place at work, but that it could solve a lot of the people problems that take up an inordinate amount of our time, especially as managers.

Some time ago we abandoned the old-school assumption that you check your personal life at the door each morning when you arrive at work. While I think that’s a more realistic expectation of people, it can also create a whole host of other problems if we don’t also bring tools to deal with all of the carry-on baggage now coming to work.

In our personal lives we make decisions to forgive and forget on a regular basis. Life is messy, complex and sometimes painful. All of us have said things and done things that in hindsight, we regret. We’re grateful when those whom we have treated poorly forgive us. It goes without saying that we have forgiven spouses, friends, children, neighbors and others many, many times for things large and small in our personal lives.

We give and accept forgiveness because living a peaceful and productive life is near impossible without it. Is the workplace any different?

We show up at work as the same person we are at home, and in our community. This means there’s a high likelihood that we need to forgive and to be forgiven at the same rate in our working life as we do outside of it.

Spend any amount of time in a work environment and you will find that there are ample opportunities to use this F-word, and guess what? The results can be just as transformative as they are in your personal life.

Here’s an example.

“She said terrible things about me to others, including management. It’s not fair, and none of it is true; I’m new here – who will they believe? However, if I react negatively it will just fuel more negativity. I don’t know why she said those things, but I kinda feel sorry for someone who has to go there. I am willing to consider that she doesn’t know how to channel her frustrations WITHOUT being hateful. I’m thankful I can see a different path, and I forgive her for not knowing better.”

There are hundreds of other scenarios I could pen, but the bottom line here is to look at the end result of our choice to forgive, or to dig in and fight.

I choose forgiveness – not because I’m better than anyone or more enlightened; I choose forgiveness because it brings me more peace.

If I am constantly focused on who did me wrong and how I need to get them back I’m going to be in a terrible mood, most of the time. If I choose to assume that their actions came from a place of unintentional harm (if someone overlooks me for an opportunity) or a place of lesser understanding (if someone speaks badly about me), my life has more room to be filled with the GOOD things that people do to and for me – AND I get to move on; away from the situation or circumstance. Think of it this way: if we engage and remain embroiled in whatever it is that happened to us, we’re identifying ourselves with it. If we disengage and move on, the nastiness, inconsideration or negativity stays with the person who created it all.

In the same way that we have a choice in conversations on whether or not to use the other F-word, we have a choice in every circumstance: will we perpetuate the negativity or choose to rise above it, and forgive?

If you’re not someone already practicing this at work, give it a try. I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

(initially published on the author’s LinkedIn site)


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