Is Forgiveness a Business Skill?

bob's Blog Dr. Bob Nelson

Recently, I was speaking in Los Angeles with 800 Human Resource managers about my latest book, Ubuntu! An Inspiring Story About an African Tradition of Teamwork and Collaboration (currently on sale for 50% off at, and posed the question:  “Is forgiveness a business skill?”  Granted, we usually think of forgiveness as being a personal skill, used with friends and loved ones, but I think there’s a business application as well.  When we hold a grudge at work with our manager for being a jerk or shutting down a great idea you had – or promoting someone over us – it typically takes a toll on our effectiveness going forward in working with that person and others.

Amy Watner-Freeman, Director of Human Resources for Community Health Alliance of Pasadena in Pasadena, California, came up after my presentation and shared a story I thought was quite powerful:  “I was promoted at work and now managing a gentleman who felt he should have gotten the promotion I received.  He made my life miserable, constantly interrupting and undermining everything I was trying to do.  Even the simplest of tasks became horrendous.  After several weeks of this, I finally hit on a solution:  One day I wrote a letter to the guy’s wife telling her how honored I was to be working for her husband, how much knowledge and experience he had, and how much I looked forward to working with and learning from him.  I expressed what an important role he played on the team and how much I valued him being a part of the group.

“The next day after sending this letter, the guy brought in a plate of chocolate chip cookies that his wife had baked and I never had a single problem with him thereafter!”

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