Tag Archives: humility

Letting Go – Part 2

Hello Everyone,

Almost two years ago, I emailed “Letting Go”. I then posted that article on Positive Psychology News Daily in June 2010.

To continue sharing information about forgiveness at work, Part 2 below highlights some key points from two recent articles about workplace forgiveness. This article also includes some practical tips from people who practice forgiveness at work. The article below was originally posted on Positive Psychology News Daily in July 2010.

Leadership and forgiveness

The two articles, one by Charles Kerns and the other by Susan Madsen and colleagues, emphasize that the benefits gained from practicing forgiveness at work are so compelling and persuasive that all good leaders and managers could benefit from creating cultures of forgiveness.

“Forgiving requires the manager to accept the responsibility and challenge in accepting others as human persons with and without their faults, and learning to live together without sustained anger and resentment.” (Madsen et al).

Thriving at work through forgiveness

The nature of work is such that perceived transgressions, annoyances, interpersonal conflict, arguments, disagreements, and mistakes are bound to occur. It can be hard work to find ways to move beyond these situations in order to work productively together. When employees practice forgiveness, the benefits at work include:

  • productive interpersonal relationships
  • thriving teamwork
  • job satisfaction, high morale, and employee retention
  • innovative problem solving
  • flexibility when facing change
  • productivity
  • resilience
  • physical, mental, and emotional health

“Forgiveness has been shown to motivate employees to ‘extend acts of conciliation and goodwill toward the offender and to overcome social estrangement’, which makes the working relationship between individuals more effective and productive. Forgiveness is actually a type of ‘problem-solving coping strategy in that it reconciles conflicting parties and salvages the social relationship for future interactions’. When resentment and other negative feelings between co-workers exist, it is very difficult to maintain current levels of job performance let alone improve it.” (Madsen et al)

Forgiveness takes strength

Repeating a theme introduced last month, forgiveness is not a weakness. It is not about condoning poor behaviour or offences. According to Madsen and colleagues, it is not about “letting someone off the hook, forgetting, giving up or giving in, or being soft. Authentic forgiveness is none of these.” To forgive takes great power. Strengths we can use to help to be more forgiving include: self discipline and self-control, courage, compassion, empathy, creativity, open mindedness, perspective, kindness, and leadership. And humility….

Humility and forgiveness

“When people do not see beyond their own needs and desires, it becomes difficult for them to practice forgiveness. They are not disposed to forgiveness, and expect things to go their way in most organizational encounters. Egotistical people are more likely to perceive transgressions and transgressors in unforgiving ways.” Charles Kerns

I asked Kathryn Britton, who wrote a recent PPND article on Humility, for her views on how humility helps to build forgiveness:

“Humility means not setting yourself apart from others, not believing yourself specially deserving or endowed. It means being open to new information that contradicts previous opinions. Humble people are probably less intense about the perceptions of injury in the first place and more open to perceiving the other person’s point of view. They may also be more likely to think, “There but for the grace of God go I”.”

Real examples

How do people achieve forgiveness? A number of clients and friends shared their insights:

  1. Person 1 had some angst about an ex-colleague who broke his trust. They no longer work together nor see each other. Person 1 has a valuable item of stationery which was given to him by the ex-colleague during better days. Not wanting to be petty (he thought about throwing it away in anger), when he uses the object he thinks only of the good times he had at work with his ex-colleague.
  2. Person 2, in the face of another’s transgressions, stays focused on the future and works very hard on staying true to her values, strengths and integrity. This prevents her from falling into unhelpful thoughts and vengeful behaviours.
  3. Person 3 was the recipient of verbal abuse by a colleague who was jealous of Person 3’s success. Worthington’s REACH process was very powerful and effective in helping Person 3 to eliminate her own anger and to remain open and constructive to everyone, including the abuser.

    Recall the hurt
    Empathize with the one who hurt you
    Altruistic gift of forgiveness
    Commitment to forgive
    Hold on to the forgiveness“The reason I was able to get to this point was because I was humble enough to recognize that I could react in the same way. We’re all capable of unpleasant behaviours.”

  4. Person 4 uses breathing and mindfulness. The goal of this was to find calm in the storm, and he realised in hindsight that it also helped him to forgive and find empathy.
  5. Person 5 practices self-forgiveness. He re-judges, stands back, and accepts that it is ok to make a mistake. He asks, “Am I going to let this thought affect me?.” He practices being less judgmental of himself, and this lessens his guilt and regret. The outcome is greater self-confidence and learning.

Letting Be

The final perspective to leave with you is this one offered by Sue Hays at the Canberra Mindfulness Centre about the emotions we harbour when we hold a grudge. I explained that many discuss the notion of letting go of those emotions. Sue offered this alternative: “Forgiveness can be easier if you don’t try to let go of the emotions that arise when holding grudges. Instead, practice ‘letting be’. Notice, accept, and then turn your attention to growing something new. Growing the new means turning attention away from feeding the past. Let the old just wither away with non-attention”.


Kerns, Charles D. (2009). Forgiveness at Work: Managing the Dynamics and Reaping the Benefits,. Kravis Leadership Institute, Leadership Review, 9, 80-90.

Madsen, Susan R., Gygi, J., Plowman, S. F., & Hammond, S. C. (2009). Forgiveness as a workplace intervention: The literature and a proposed framework. Journal of Applied and Behavioral Management, 10(2), 246-262.

Stratton, S. P., Dean, J. B., Nonneman, A., Bode, R. A., & Worthington, E. (2009). Forgiveness interventions as spiritual development strategies: Comparing forgiveness workshop training, expressive writing about forgiveness, and retested controls. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 27(4), 347-357.

Information about Everett Worthington: http://www.has.vcu.edu/psy/people/worthington.html

Keeping Us Grounded

Hi Everyone,

What keeps us grounded? Many things keep us grounded, for example, mindfulness, humility and meaning.

The main content in this email is about meaning and purpose. See further below. First, I want to draw your attention to mindfulness and humility.

1) Sue Hays has recently launched the Canberra Mindfulness Centre.  I recommend you take a look.

2) Kathryn Britton wrote a great article on the strength of humility.

3) Meaning and Purpose

Meaning and Purpose
“Work matters – serving the greater good”

In all the stories I have heard from people who describe their memorable and positive experiences at work, i.e. those in which they had high job satisfaction, at some point I hear such words as ‘passion’, ‘committed’, ‘drive’, ‘I believed in what I was doing’, ‘it’s just what I do’. They realise they derived great meaning from that work.

Having meaning in one’s life is important to the quality of our life satisfaction and subjective well-being. (Refer at end for two journal article references and see here for further information: http://positivepsychologynews.com/news/amanda-horne/200908034634)

But what do we know about finding meaning at work?

This is the subject of a chapter in a newly published book, The Handbook of Positive Psychology and Work, edited by Linley, Harrington and Page.

In this chapter the authors, Michael Steger and Bryan Dik, review the literature on this topic, the historical background, the factors which could contribute to meaning at work, and the known and proposed benefits of meaningful work. They acknowledge that there is more research to be done in this area.

Below I present some of the highlights from the book chapter.

Historical context….

‘Vocation’ comes from the Latin word vocare, meaning ‘to call’. In religious history there was a belief that ‘people were called by God to engage in a religious vocation.’ A number of historical scholars noted that beyond a religious calling, anyone could be engaged in ‘good work’ which ‘served a greater purpose and a greater good’. Work could be a call to ‘love one’s neighbour through the duties that accompany their social place or station’. They note that there is a dignity that comes from such work which is directly or indirectly a social service. The authors note that in modern days, the complexity and variety of work roles can sometimes lead to people becoming disconnected from their sense of service and meaning.

…and now

Referring to current research and thinking, ‘calling’ often refers to how work contributes to one’s own sense of purpose and that it contributes to the greater good. ‘People have been summoned to meaningful, socially valued work by a transcendent call….the common core of these concepts includes both the sense that one’s work is meaningful and purposeful and that it serves a need beyond one’s self and one’s immediate concerns’.

The components of meaning

The authors suggest that meaningful work comes from:

(1)   Comprehension – people develop a sense of identity which comes from knowing ‘who they are, how their world works and how they fit in with and related to the life around them’. Forming social connections with co-workers and understanding their organisation and its role in society adds to a person’s comprehension.

(2)   Purpose – ‘people’s identification of, and intention to pursue, particularly highly valued, over-arching life goals’.

Benefits of meaning

The authors draw on research and on their theoretical understanding of this area to propose benefits to suggest that engaging in meaningful work can result in enhanced:

  • motivation
  • work performance, effort, efficiency
  • self-efficacy
  • understanding of the organisation
  • psychological and physical well-being
  • satisfaction with work
  • happiness
  • faith in management
  • team functioning
  • attitudes at work
  • intrinsic motivation to work
  • mentoring and motivational skills
  • sense of self-transcendence

Implications and suggestions for leaders

Drawing from the commentary in the chapter, here are some suggestions for leaders and managers:

  • help people to understand how their role is important in contributing to the purpose of the organisation
  • help people to see how their individual purpose can be achieved by contributing to the organisation’s purpose, and thus use the organisation as an ‘instrument’ to find meaning at work
  • ensure the organisational purpose is clearly connected to the greater good, and that organisational goals align with that purpose
  • encourage social circles to thrive where workers see meaning as not just contributing to the work, but also to cultivating strong social connections
  • help workers to more deeply understand themselves and when they work at their best
  • get to know employees and what drives their meaning and purpose; put them in places where these needs can be met

“People and organisations prosper when they are engaged in meaningful work”.


Steger, M. F., & Dik, B. J. (2010). Work as meaning: Individual and organizational benefits of engaging in meaningful work. In Linley, P. A., Harrington, S. & Page, N (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology and work (pp. 131-142). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Peterson, C., Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. (2005). Orientations to happiness and life satisfaction: The full life versus the empty life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 6, 25–41.

Vella-Brodrick, D. A., Park, N. A., & Peterson, C. (2008). Three ways to be happy: Pleasure, engagement and meaning – findings from Australian and US samples. Social Indicators Research, 90, 165-179.

(This article also appeared on PPND, 3rd May 2010:  http://positivepsychologynews.com/news/amanda-horne/2010050310825 )