Have You Instilled a Culture of Forgiveness | KPMG | GLOBAL

Have You Instilled a Culture of Forgiveness in Your Family Business?

Have You Instilled a Culture of Forgiveness

A secure employee is an innovative employee.


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When your employees know that they can test the boundaries, try new things, and even fail without it meaning the end of the road for them and their career with your business, then they are motivated to put in that extra effort.

Forgiveness is a good business trait

It’s so easy for those in managerial positions to reprimand first and ask questions later. If you’re not careful then it can even become part of your managerial style, ensuring that no staff member will want to come clean when something goes wrong – which will more likely than not trigger a snowball effect.

“Truly transformational leaders are acutely aware of the cost of animosity,” notes Manfred Kets de Vries, INSEAD Distinguished Professor in Leadership Development and Organisational Change, in a recent article on Forgiveness as a Business Tool. “They realise the havoc that can be created by an unforgiving attitude… holding grudges is a form of arrested development; it holds people back.”

If your employees are constantly worried that a misstep could have serious consequences for them, then they are more likely to only do the minimum required of them, so that they can’t be blamed for anything out of the ordinary.

On the other side though, if employees are allowed the freedom to assess situations and then act on opportunities for innovation, then the company will quickly start to reap the rewards from everyone thinking bigger and better at every turn.

Leadership needs to set the example

A businesses culture starts with, and is nurtured by the Leadership Team. When the leadership of a company actively instils a culture of forgiveness from their own dealings within the business, then employees can start to feel secure in their own space without having to prove that security first.

In Kets de Vries’ 2013 paper, “The Art of Forgiveness: Differentiating Transformational Leaders”, he accurately states:

“If I ask my class which living political leader do you most admire, 95 percent say Nelson Mandela. When you ask why, the answer is forgiveness.”

Forgiveness allows people to grow and flourish, even after a mistake. When you don’t let mistakes fall away in a business, then they can start to define an employee, and that will hamper their abilities and productivity quickly.

Forgiveness is healthy

Not only are secure employees productive and innovative, but they are also less needlessly stressed. The happier and more secure the employee, the less likely they are to fall prey to stress-induced illnesses.

“While it may appear easier to hate than to forgive, revenge is so consuming that pretty soon hatred takes over from all other emotions, creating a life governed by endless cycles of resentment and retaliation,” says Kets de Vries.

“In comparison, taking the high road of forgiveness contributes to greater spiritual and psychological well-being, lower anxiety levels, less stress, lower blood pressure and lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse. People who forgive more readily also tend to have fewer coronary health problems.”

Taking the high road when it comes to turning the other cheek isn’t just a good thing to do from a personal standpoint, but is in fact important for your business’s future.

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