We have all witnessed or experienced the grudges that can exist in the workplace between coworkers. This unfortunate happenstance can determine the quality of the work environment in any organization. If leaders project an atmosphere of punishment for errors, they will foster an air of bad feelings and finger pointing among their employees. If they put stock in the value of every employee’s contribution and use mistakes as important lessons to improve, they will succeed in creating an environment where every person has a chance to do their very best.

Sometimes bad feelings among coworkers are based on small frictions that, when left unaddressed, can grow into hidden wounds that fester for years and affect everything they touch. I once worked in an organization where two of the top managers had not spoken to each other for years. When I asked each one individually why they disliked the other so much, I was surprised to find eerily similar responses. Apparently years before they had argued over a company designated parking space. Each one judged the other as self centered and untrustworthy for having argued to have the space in the first place. Expectedly, their corresponding staff was mired in a continual array of one friction after another among coworkers.

Silly as this incident may sound, I am sure you can find dozens of like confrontations in all organizations.

The ability to forgive is an important quality for anyone who hopes to lead an organization, a group or a family in a positive direction. This does not mean leaders should overlook errors or bad behavior by others; on the contrary, people should be held accountable. However, it is how these incidents are addressed that makes the difference in the work place, or anywhere else for that matter.

The interesting aspect of any virtue is that you cannot fake them into your psyche; you must have lived them first. Developing the ability to forgive others is honed by the knowledge of how our own mistakes were handled. We can all recall times in our lives when we made mistakes. We can also remember the pain we felt if we were belittled and punished for them. We can also evoke the redemptive buoyancy we experienced when those around us were gentle and forgiving enough to help us confront and overcome the consequences we had created for ourselves. It is by accepting and understanding our own frailties that lead us to make mistakes, that we realize others are human as well. It is by understanding that others aren’t always perfect we can become gentle and forgiving enough to lead them through the necessary learning process that are contained within mistakes.

When mistakes or bad things happen in the work place, good leaders don’t offer judgment, they offer perspective and motivation to learn and move forward. In so doing, they transform their colleagues and their efforts into better people and greater outcomes.

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