Today is Hari Raya Aidil Fitri. And, to all readers who have observed Ramadan, and are celebrating the end of this auspicious month of fasting and prayer, I extend a warm “Selamat Hari Raya”.
In this part of the world, it is common to greet each other with the phrase “maaf zahir dan batin”, on this day. This translates as “forgive my physical and emotional lapses”.
Aidil Fitri is not only for celebrations, but is also a time for atonement. People ask each other forgiveness for their transgressions, which they may have done, knowingly or unknowingly to others through their words, thoughts, deeds, and actions; but have worked on cleansing them as a result of the fasting in during the month of Ramadan.
I think forgiveness is one of the most underrated traits at the workplace.
A project done with Google employees in 2012, to build a more courageous culture, including the courage to forgive, also showed positive impact.
The training was done by renowned social psychological research, and neuroscience outfit, Courageous Leadership. And participants exhibited a greater understanding of the power of stressful situations that negatively affect behavior, after the sessions. The employees felt better and more connected.
Testimonies from Google employees were that they experienced the sensation of letting go of heavy weights. The forgiveness exercise was immensely powerful. The company recounted that their employees took more social risks, like offering new ideas, admitting fears or concerns, and asking for or offering help, after the training programme.
Further to this, a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Health shows that the power of forgiveness improves well-being, and productivity in professional settings.
Increased efficiency is arguably the Holy Grail for every employer, I know.
The research indicates that compassion, which is associated with a forgiving disposition, is clearly linked to improved output, decreased absenteeism, and fewer mental and physical health problems, such as sadness and headaches. It also points to reduction in interpersonal stress.
How do you foster forgiveness at work?
The biggest problem at the workplace is unresolved stress that comes from interpersonal conflict. You lose you compassionate capacity, and this makes you lose the ability to forgive.
Understand that you can influence the culture at your workplace. Your actions will inspire your colleagues, so become apt at forgiving others.
I recommend you use the model developed by psychologist Everett L. Worthington, called REACH, which will help you learn to forgive, at your place of work.
This model has been tested, with positive results in numerous scientific studies.
The first step is to recall the hurt (R). Worthington says that to start to heal, you must accept that you have been offended. Once you do this, you must decide not to be nasty and hurtful, because often, you will want to punish the other person. Do not treat yourself as a victim, and the other person as a scoundrel. Decide to forgive, and choose to not pursue “payback”. Instead, look for value in them. Remember, everyone has value.
The next is to empathise (E). The method he prescribes for empathy, which leads to forgiveness, is when you imagine speaking to the other person. In your mind, allow them to tell you why they may have acted in the way they did, which wronged you.
This exercise, as hokey as it may sound, will help you build empathy. Sometimes, even if you cannot empathise with cynical behaviour, you can feel sympathy, which helps you heal.
The third step is to remind yourself that you can give altruistic gifts (A). Worthington asks you to offer forgiveness as an unselfish gift. I am sure you have had occasion to wrong someone; a friend, your spouse or someone close to you. And, they have forgiven you.
I know that once my wife has forgiven me for misbehaving, I feel tremendous relief, and I don’t want to disappoint her, again. Similarly, when you forgive magnanimously, you are giving a gift to that person who has hurt you.
Next is to commit to the forgiveness (C). Write a little note down in your notepad that, today, you have forgiven that person. Like all goals, the successful ones come only when you commit to doing them.
And the final step is to hold on to forgiveness (H). As your anger resurges from time to time, learn to hold on to forgiveness. Remember that feeling of relief when you were forgiven for something, and keep reconnecting with that.
Forgiveness does not mean that you condone bad behavior. Your workplace must have policies and procedures for dealing with serious wrongdoings. But, I’d like to draw your attention to the old, wise saying that goes “…resentment is like taking poison, and waiting for the other person to die”. Do not allow a grudge to poison you, especially at work.
As, everyone celebrates the end of Ramadan, and wishes of “maaf zahir dan batin” echo, understand that you must give meaning to these words. Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri.
Shankar R. Santhiram is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”
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