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Forgiveness in Business
02/26/2009

The strange thing about forgiveness...we are selective about "who" gets it. Why do we forgive some and not others? Why are some people on "the list" forever while others seem to be forgiven quickly?

We tend to forgive (or not) based on the relationship we have with the person in question. Sometimes forgiveness can be selfish in motive. We will sometimes forgive because we "have to" and other times because we "want to".

In business, we may not "have to" forgive in order to maintain the working relationship. We may "hold on" to the negative feelings for a co-worker for years without intentions of forgiving the person or the behavior. I have seen cases with two individuals disliking each other for years when the original reason may have been long forgotten. Oddly enough, they dislike each other but cannot remember exactly why they feel the way they do.

To forgive or not to forgive is based on the relationship between the people involved. Think of it this way...if there is equity in our "relationship bank account" we are more willing to forgive. If the account is empty (or worse, overdrawn) we are far less likely to forgive the other person. With our spouses and children, we make deposits on a recurring basis through normal activities together. We make deposits with our friends through interaction and conversation.

On the other hand, we may not require interaction on the job and many "relationship bank accounts" go unattended and ultimately ignored. A mother will forgive a murdering child while a coworker is "written off" forever for a comment made many years ago.

So, how can you improve your work relationships? Following are some tips to better improve your team for high performance:

1) Schedule regular "teambuilding" activities such as retreats and interactive group training.

2) Require team members to work on problems and projects with those they don't routinely interact with at work.

3) Make group assignments randomly to promote further interaction.

4) Hold events that promote bonding such as meals or other social gatherings.

5) Be aware that teams will tend to split up into subgroups based on friendship and comfort.