Seize the moment - Forgiveness at work

Forgiveness is something we regularly focus on in our personal relationships. Yet, how often do we think about what that looks like in the workplace, and what the benefits are to individuals, teams and the organisation? Recent studies are starting to support the idea that forgiveness may improve well-being, happiness and therefore productivity, in professional environments.

Forgiveness by its nature is difficult to define, yet there are certain steps and goals to work through that will allow you to facilitate a healthy breeding ground for forgiveness.

Forgiveness can require a change in thought process. This often starts with an acceptance of what has happened. What's in the past can't be undone, however, it's how you react and view the incident or incidents that shapes the future – for positive or negative.

Being able to stand back and observe your thoughts, feelings and actions is an underrated but extremely useful tool. Understanding what you are feeling can give you the distance you need to move forward.

While most of us can never truly suppress our negative emotions and thoughts, we can halt them in their tracks. By acknowledging them, you can start to interrupt your fight or flight response and move to a calmer place. Part of this acknowledgement process also includes taking responsibility for your own actions and behaviour in a situation.

Why forgive (and hopefully forget?)

Once you have the above under control, you'll start to acknowledge the benefits of forgiveness. How many of us have stewed on a problem or situation, gone over it again and again in our heads, and replayed it over and over?

Forgiveness has many positive repercussions. It allows you to practice compassion (for yourself and others). This ultimately leads to self-confidence and when practiced regularly a natural empathy and understanding of others.

How to make the shift to forgiveness?

Acknowledging your feelings - the good, bad and the ugly, is the first stage. This means being upfront with yourself about how you feel and what went wrong. This gives you the power to regain control of your emotions, rationalise them, and from there you can grab control of how you act.

It's not as difficult as it sounds, in fact you can begin the process now, through three proven methods that will help you to reset your thought patterns and behaviour.

  1. Take the time to be grateful. Yes, there are some terrible things in life, but there are also some incredible ones. A great lunch, an uplifting conversation with the barista who serves your morning coffee and even the birds singing in your backyard are all moments to cherish and be thankful for.
  2. Take hold of your physical presence. Many of us don't realise it, but we spend a lot of our time in a heightened state of physical stress. Even taking one minute to wander to a quiet place and focus on your breathing and slowing things down, can work wonders – not only in the moments and minutes ahead, but in the long term.
  3. Build a toolkit of skills to help refocus your emotions. Painful experiences often hit without warning, side swiping us when we least expect it. Having the right skills to put into practice in these situations is something you’ll appreciate once you’ve mastered it. All you need to do is find a comfortable, quiet spot. Focus on your breathing – in and out, in and out, slowing and purposefully. On the third breath let negative feelings soar away into the atmosphere and start on focus on someone you love – a pet who clambers on you as soon as you get in the door, or a child or loved one who embraces you at night. Give yourself permission to let go of the negative feelings. And let go. This is a simple activity that you can reuse as often as you need to.

Forgiveness is just as beneficial to the working environment as it is in our personal lives. And remember, while forgiving others is paramount, the ability to do this starts with forgiving ourselves.

Author: Peter Robinson
Team Leadership Services