Is forgiveness one of the secrets to success? The benefits of teaching employees to forgive.

Summary of:

Toussaint, L., Luskin, F., Aberman, R., & DeLorenzo Sr, A., (2019). Is forgiveness one of the secrets to success? Considering the costs of workplace disharmony and the benefits of teaching employees to forgive. American Journal of Health Promotion. 1090-1093.

Background & Theory:

Past studies have proven that the benefits of forgiveness to alleviate stress and negative emotions are substantial in promoting the wellbeing of one’s self and others. Research additionally shows the relationship between forgiveness and workplace health and productivity.

However, little work has been done to examine the positive effects of teaching forgiveness to employees. Ameriprise Financial Services is one organization that has allowed such research to happen via a case study.

Question(s):

This case study was initiated to answer the following question:

  1.  Does teaching employees forgiveness lead to a change in quality of life and productivity?

Methods:

A group of approximately 104 Ameriprise employees were separated into seven cohorts and were trained via workshop sessions and support phone calls, with support phone call timespans dependent on each cohort. Prior to the experiment, all participants filled out quality of life measurements and the Emotional Quotient Inventory. The workshop sessions consisted of teaching the links between emotional intelligence, forgiveness, and stress management.

After the workshop, individual development plans (IDP) were made for each of the participants by certified psychotherapists using the pre-experiment survey data. The IDPs contained a couple of action items that the employee could use to improve their behavior. Additionally, a “coach” was assigned to each of the participants who acted as a type of accountability partner. The participants were given 6 support phone calls total with a psychotherapist for ongoing support and feedback.

The effectiveness of the program was measured primarily through the standardized and validated assessments given prior to the program and post-program completion, which includes the categories of productivity, stress, anger, positive states, health-related quality of life, and physical vitality.

Results:

After reviewing data from employees who completed the program, it was found that average sales productivity went up in comparison to employees not in the program. Although data was not collected from non-program employees, it was found that employees who were in the program noted decreased levels of stress and anger, with increased levels of positive states, health-related quality of life, and physical vitality.

Ultimately, partaking in the program led to an improvement in productivity and quality of life. While as an initial study this case study has its limitations, the results provide a general understanding of how teaching forgiveness in the workplace can benefit employees and present a direction for future research initiatives.

What We Can Learn:

Looking over this study, we can take away a few key things:

  • When forgiveness is taught in a work environment, worker well-being and productivity increases.
  • Teaching forgiveness as a proactive measure can potentially alleviate future problems for human resources departments and smaller organizations. Additionally, proactivity in this manner can prevent organizations from enduring the monetary ramifications of workplace interpersonal conflict and drama.

Final Takeaways:

For Consultants: It may be worth considering the benefits of workplace forgiveness training for organizations that experience high levels of interpersonal conflict. Exhibiting this case study as a forgiveness training success could help show organizations their need for consultant services.

For Everyone: Recognizing the role of forgiveness in your own relationships will play a big role in personal wellbeing. If you’re experiencing internal or external conflict, it may be helpful to consider how forgiveness could benefit you.

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