Power of forgiveness at work­place

New Straits Times - - BUSINESS / NEWS -

TO­DAY is Hari Raya Aidil­fitri. And to all read­ers who have ob­served Ra­madan and are cel­e­brat­ing the end of this aus­pi­cious month of fast­ing and prayer, I ex­tend a warm “Se­la­mat Hari Raya”.

It is com­mon to greet each other with the phrase “maaf zahir dan batin” on this day. This trans­lates as “for­give my phys­i­cal and emo­tional lapses”.

Aidil­fitri is not only for cel­e­bra­tions, but is also a time for atone­ment. Peo­ple ask forgiveness for their trans­gres­sions, which they may have done know­ingly or un­know­ingly to oth­ers through their words, thoughts, deeds and ac­tions; but have worked on cleans­ing them as a re­sult of the fast­ing in dur­ing Ra­madan.

Forgiveness is one of the most un­der­rated traits at work­place.

A project done with Google em­ploy­ees in 2012 to build a more coura­geous cul­ture, in­clud­ing the courage to for­give, also showed pos­i­tive im­pact.

Coura­geous lead­er­ship Par­tic­i­pants ex­hib­ited a greater un­der­stand­ing of the power of stress­ful si­t­u­a­tions that neg­a­tively af­fect be­hav­iour af­ter the ses­sions. The em­ploy­ees felt bet­ter and more con­nected.

Ac­cord­ing to em­ployee tes­ti­mo­ni­als, they ex­pe­ri­enced the sen­sa­tion of let­ting go of heavy weights. The forgiveness ex­er­cise was im­mensely pow­er­ful. The com­pany re­counted that their em­ploy­ees took more so­cial risks, like of­fer­ing new ideas, ad­mit­ting fears or con­cerns, and ask­ing for or of­fer­ing help, af­ter the train­ing pro­gramme.

A 2016 study pub­lished in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Health showed that the power of forgiveness im­proved well-be­ing and pro­duc­tiv­ity in pro­fes­sional set­tings.

The re­search in­di­cated that com­pas­sion, which was as­so­ci­ated with a for­giv­ing dis­po­si­tion, was clearly linked to im­proved out­put, de­creased ab­sen­teeism, and fewer men­tal and phys­i­cal health prob­lems, such as sad­ness and headaches. It also pointed to re­duc­tion in in­ter­per­sonal stress.

How do you fos­ter forgiveness at work?

The big­gest prob­lem at work­place is the un­re­solved stress that comes from in­ter­per­sonal con­flict. You lose com­pas­sion­ate ca­pac­ity and this makes you lose the abil­ity to for­give.

You can in­flu­ence the cul­ture at work­place. Your ac­tions will in­spire col­leagues to be­come apt at for­giv­ing oth­ers.

I rec­om­mend you to use the model de­vel­oped by psy­chol­o­gist Everett L. Wor­thing­ton, called “REACH”, which will help you learn to for­give at work­place. This model has been tested with pos­i­tive re­sults in sci­en­tific stud­ies.

The first step is to re­call the hurt (R). Wor­thing­ton said to start to heal, you must ac­cept that you had been of­fended. Once you do this, you must de­cide not to be nasty and hurt­ful, be­cause of­ten, you want to pun­ish the other per­son.

Do not treat your­self as a vic­tim and the other per­son as a scoundrel. De­cide to for­give and choose not to pur­sue “pay­back”. In­stead, look for value in them. Re­mem­ber, every­one has value.

The next is to em­pathise (E). The method for em­pa­thy, which leads to forgiveness, is when you imag­ine speak­ing to the other per­son. In your mind, al­low them to tell you why they may have acted in the way they do, which wronged you.

This ex­er­cise, as hokey as it may sound, will help you build em­pa­thy. Some­times, even if you can­not em­pathise with cyn­i­cal be­hav­iour, you can feel sym­pa­thy, which helps you heal.

The third step is to re­mind your­self that you can give al­tru­is­tic gifts (A). Wor­thing­ton asks you to of­fer forgiveness as an un­selfish gift. I am sure you have had oc­ca­sion to wrong some­one, a friend, spouse or some­one close to you and they have for­given you. Sim­i­larly, when you for­give mag­nan­i­mously, you are giv­ing a gift to that per­son who has hurt you.

Next is to com­mit to the forgiveness (C). Write a lit­tle note down in a notepad that to­day you have for­given that per­son. Like all goals, the suc­cess­ful ones come only when you com­mit to do­ing them.

The fi­nal step is to hold on to forgiveness (H). As your anger resurges from time to time, learn to hold on to forgiveness. Re­mem­ber that feel­ing of re­lief when you are for­given for some­thing and keep re­con­nect­ing with that.

Forgiveness does not mean that you con­done bad be­hav­iour. Work­place must have poli­cies and pro­ce­dures for deal­ing with se­ri­ous wrong­do­ings. But I’d like to draw your at­ten­tion to the old, wise say­ing “… re­sent­ment is like tak­ing poi­son and wait­ing for the other per­son to die”.

Do not al­low a grudge to poi­son you, es­pe­cially at work­place.

As every­one cel­e­brates the end of Ra­madan, and wishes of “maaf zahir dan batin” echo, you must give mean­ing to these words. Se­la­mat Hari Raya Aidil­fitri.

The big­gest prob­lem at work­place is the un­re­solved stress that comes from in­ter­per­sonal con­flict. You lose com­pas­sion­ate ca­pac­ity and this makes you lose the abil­ity to for­give.

The writer is man­ag­ing con­sul­tant and ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship coach at EQTD Con­sult­ing. He is also the au­thor of the na­tional best­seller “So, You Want To Get Pro­moted?”

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