Conflict itself is not what creates problems and increases costs for businesses. Rather the problem arises from the inability or unwillingness of those involved and those in leadership to address a conflict in a timely and honest way, resolve the issue, and then for all participants to – most importantly – move on without harboring residual bitterness. Thus, at the heart of all conflict resolution is the ability and willingness of people to give an apology or accept one and let go of all resentments…. the basic concept of ‘forgiving and forgetting.’
Indeed, all religions hold forgiveness as a basic, important principle. For example, in the Jewish faith, if a man offends someone else, only the offended person can forgive him. The offender must go and ask for forgiveness. If it is withheld, he should go again, later, and ask. If it is withheld again, he must go once more to ask for forgiveness. If it is refused him a third time, then the person withholding the forgiveness bears the blame. Not only is the person who offended required to seek forgiveness, but the person wronged is also required to give it. Yet, while forgiveness may be a fundamental part of all faiths, it is in scarce supply…. especially in the world of work. Last week, we saw that unresolved conflict is considered the single largest reducible cost for businesses. But people find it hard to give and receive a heartfelt apology and let go of old grudges. Why is that? And are there strategies that can help in giving forgiveness? Continue reading
Gordon Hinckley once wrote in his book Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes that “The willingness to forgive is one of the great virtues to which we should all aspire. Imagine a world filled with individuals willing both to apologize and to accept an apology. Is there any problem that could not be solved among people who possessed the humility and largeness of spirit and soul to do either or both?”
As “Monday Mornings with Madison” is a work-life advice column, what does forgiveness have to do with work or business? Forgiveness is a virtue we typically relate to personal relationships… unresolved conflicts with close family and friends. But actually forgiveness is a virtue – dare we call it a skill — that has value and purpose in all areas of life, including and perhaps especially in business. There is ample evidence that while forgiveness is regularly discussed in classrooms and places of worship, the act of forgiving or being forgiven past transgressions is one that is neglected and undervalued in the world of work, and certainly seldom spoken of in board rooms. Yet, some experts believe that unresolved conflict represents the largest reducible cost in many businesses, yet it remains largely unrecognized (Dana 1999, Slaikev and Hasson, 1998). What might the average workplace be like if every person, from entry level staff to C-Suite execs, were all equally willing and able to give and receive apologies and release resentments quickly and freely? Might forgiveness actually impact a company’s bottom line?
According to a 2011-2012 Towers Watson North American Talent Management and Rewards Survey, despite a volatile economy and a stubbornly high unemployment rate, almost 60% of U.S. companies are having trouble attracting critical-skill employees. This is an increase over 2010. Those companies also have to balance that against strong pressure to manage costs, a growing trend of expecting employees to work longer hours, and a steady drift toward decreasing the rate of merit pay raises.
Having just commemorated Labor Day, it is a good time to consider the meaning and purpose of this holiday, often referred to as “the day of the worker.” What are the most important factors that companies and managers should consider as they celebrate their organization’s greatest asset: its workers? Do companies do a good job of demonstrating that they value their employees? And does leadership understand the things employees value most?