Forgiveness in the Workplace: The Next Workplace Skill

By Tammy Dewar

model That people join companies and leave bosses is a saying still relevant today. Almost everyone has a story of a bad boss and I am no exception. A good number of my individual and team coaching clients also have a bad boss lingering around in their heads.

For some, the idea of forgiving your boss might be ridiculous. The boss has the power, he or she has done the wrong and you have to do the work of forgiveness??? Yes … that is what I am suggesting and after much reflection, research and conversation with friends and colleagues, I have pulled together 5 steps towards forgiveness:

  • P – Price you pay – That you pay a price for working for a boss who’s done you wrong might seem like an obvious statement and it is. The other, less obvious, meaning is the price you pay for not forgiving a boss who’s done you wrong. As Buddha once famously said, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
  • O – Own your story – Unless we learn how to forgive our bosses, we are doomed to living out a “story” of unhealthy patterns that disempower us and leave us feeling like victims. We need to own the impact our boss has on us and change how we think and talk about it in order to reclaim our power.
  • W – Widen your view – We often see only a portion of the organizational complexity in which our bosses work. Our bosses are often dealing with situations, structures and people that exert a huge influence on how they behave and the decisions they make. This also applies to the wider view of their lives … we may not know the other general life complexities of our bosses.
  • E – Embrace frailty – We project a lot of “ideals” on bosses and then are disappointed that they show up as human beings. We need to embrace human frailty, our own and that of our bosses.
  • R – Release baggage – A large part of forgiveness is releasing negative emotions and thoughts and the idea that the past could have been different. This allows us to reclaim our own power and live more fully in the present.

Forgiveness - 19I have noticed that some people come to forgiveness, or at least letting go of things, without a lot of fuss. Others are like me, “recovering festerers”, those who find it difficult to put these ideas into practice. For some of us, we need more tools and activities to shift those negative patterns. Because of my own challenges and because I have spent the last 10 years coaching people who are struggling with a boss, I decided to explore this in more detail and have written a book. Well, actually, the book wrote me as it wasn’t until I began writing that I began learning more about the whole process of forgiveness.


Contributing Member: Tammy Dewar, PCC, ORSC, CTPC

Tammy Dewar is co-owner of Calliope Learning, a consulting company that specializes in leadership development and coaching. If you are interested in the book, visit Calliope Learning.