Is Forgiveness A Corporate Issue? Is It A Required Leadership Competence?

Screen writers know that they can rely on someone getting revenge to excite their audiences.

In fact, revenge is a celebrated theme in movie land.

Also consider those with less than passing knowledge of the Scriptures who have heard "an eye for an eye" and ridden off with their faulty understanding.

Is there any reason for surprise then that Forgiveness is not given the respect and appreciation that it deserves in the corporate domain?


How does the organization benefit when old grudges prevent team members from engaging in meaningful dialogue?

What is the impact on employee satisfaction and staff retention when leaders use Performance Appraisals as a weapon to punish those who cross their paths?

Is there a likelihood that a culture of unforgiveness will encourage cover up and deception?

Have we considered the toll of the health challenges that are linked with unforgiveness in terms of medical costs, lost time, reduced capacity?

Are we oblivious to what in practical terms is corporate sabotage arising from unresolved conflict between team members?

This issue of Forgiveness has dollars and cents relevance to be bottom line in addition to its human factor challenges.


I advocate that Forgiveness should be treated as a required competence for leaders at all levels and be incorporated in their Training and Performance Appraisals.

I will share 3 reasons for elevating Forgiveness to being a required, monitored and nurtured Leadership Competence.

 1. Forgiveness embraces Empathy.

That act of forgiveness is directly linked to some degree of empathy with the forgiven individual.

No one would seriously question the critical need for empathy among those who lead.

The Oxford Languages dictionary describes empathy as "the ability to understand and share the feeling of another."

In the rough and tumble, dog eat dog intensity of many corporate environments, could the fresh air of empathy and forgiveness lead to higher levels of employee engagement, talent retention and yes - enhanced performance?

In my work with teams, I am painfully aware of classic examples of unforgiveness choking the life out of productivity.

There is the case where in an open-seating plan one team member waits until her colleague leaves her workstation to place a note on her desk. Communication and interpersonal relations had broken down to that degree.

You may have encountered examples in which the failure to forgive has placed a damper on intra and inter-departmental dynamics.

Consider how much could be gained if a lot of the existing bad blood could be washed away?

 2. Forgiveness is good for the leader

We often make the mistake of thinking that it is the offender who benefits from forgiveness.

However, there is overwhelming evidence-based documentation of the benefits to the individual who forgives.

Forgiveness is linked to benefits such as:

  • Stress reduction
  • Less hostility
  • Better anger management
  • Lower risk of a substance abuse
  • Healthier relationships
  • Greater religious or spiritual wellbeing
  • Improved psychological wellbeing.

On the other hand, Clinical Psychologist Everett Worthington, Jr, of Virginia Commonwealth University has found that people who won't forgive tend to have negative indicators of health and well-being. These include more stress-related disorders, lower immune function, and worse rates of cardiovascular disease than the population as a whole.

In essence, by failing to forgive they punish themselves.

 3. Forgiveness supports innovation and creativity

In an environment in which innovation and creativity have become survival strategies, organizations need to act in ways that facilitate experimentation and the free flow of ideas.

This is not possible in situations in which leaders document each misstep and errors are indelible etched into performance appraisals.

Organizations should seek to create a culture in which human fallibility is respected. From a mindset that accepts that reality they should adopt Forgiveness as strategic objective.

Providing team members with controlled room to express their creativity will yield positive returns on investment from this transformative initiative.


Issues like Forgiveness are not addressed in traditional approaches to work with developing teams and transforming culture. We need to widen our scope and vision to address present-day realities.