Forgiveness: the most underrated trait in business?

by Nicola Middlemiss08 Jan 2015
We’ve seen fad incentives, flexible working hours and even free food offered by employers who want to foster a positive company culture - but how often have we heard forgiveness’ touted as one of the top office traits?

Well, never, because according to leadership expert David William, it’s a key component that gets overlooked all too often.

“Forgiveness is rarely discussed or formally woven into a company’s corporate culture,” writes Williams. He says it should be and has long included clemency and compassion among the most important assets to his business.

“We believe one of the reasons our people stay at our company is that they know that when they make mistakes, we will help them overcome and learn new skills to avoid making the same mistake again,” says Williams.

According to Williams, this culture of forgiveness means workers at his computer software company Fishbowl are usually in it for long-haul; “We have sales reps who have been here for a decade, support techs who have been here 8 plus years, and 25-year-olds who state flat-out that they never intend to leave Fishbowl.”

So how do you incorporate forgiveness?

Begin with forgiving yourself, says Williams. “When we make amends and forgive ourselves, we naturally develop compassion and empathy towards others, which we believe is one of the most important components of leadership.”

Also, Williams suggest eliminating certain forms which he says “erode a person’s confidence.” Such as the new-hire form (with a standard 90-day probationary clause), quick-fit disciplinary forms, monthly evaluation forms, feedback review forms and corrective career counselling forms...the list goes on.


Without forgiveness, fear becomes the driving factor in an organisation. Working through fear of reprisal rather than passion to succeed is only damaging to a company says Williams; “The cost of not forgiving within an organisation is significant.”

“Forgiveness carries with it compassion, humility, and gratitude, which are good things for creating positive outcomes,” concludes Williams.


  • by Greg Pritchard 8/01/2015 11:27:48 AM

    The forms and processes that 'erode a person's confidence' can actually build skills and confidence if they are managed well. I agree with the general message in this post but only if the forgiveness about which you speak is enhanced by a level of accountability from all parties to ensure the employee learns and delivers on the job to be done and the employer gets value from the efforts of the employee. G.

  • by Kevin 8/01/2015 11:34:15 AM

    When I read the title I thought great, forgiveness and compassion are aligned to a "no blame" leadership style which I fully endorse but it appears it is something completely different. Not too sure what to make of it. I would suggest most of the types of documents listed are a consquence of employers attempting to protect themselves and their business from our current industrial laws. Applying these processes in a forgiving compassionate and no blame way is the key, not the forms.

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