Isn’t it awesome when you run into validation for a perspective unexpectedly, especially when it’s from an authority that you respect? As you know, I’m a proponent of not allowing others to control my future due to unforgiveness. Episodes 136 and 137 were dedicated to the issue of resentment and the problems it causes us as leaders when we don’t resolve it. It can sometimes lead to a controversy regarding forgiveness.
So I came across a post from someone who I admire greatly in the LinkedIn community. I always read his comments because he strikes me as well-balanced, genuine, with a high degree of integrity. His name is Mark A. Smith and he’s a speaker, writer, editor, and Sr VP of Sales at Frontpoint. He was commenting on a question that had been posted to Liz Ryan who is the Founder and CEO of Human Workplace, also an author.
So here’s the question posted to Liz:
Q. My ex-boss from two jobs ago sent me a connection invitation on LinkedIn, with a long note gushing about what a great coworker I was. Spare me. He was horrible to me. I quit without having another job. I guess he is job hunting. That’s the only reason he would reach out to me.
What should I do? I’m not going to connect to him. He did not apologize for or even acknowledge the brutal way he treated me.
Before I give you Liz’s response, I want you to put yourself in this person’s shoes. A horrible manager that drove you to quit your job seems to be “making nice” and wants to connect – no apology for the past. What would you do?
It’s easy to be overly simplistic because it didn’t happen to us. Maybe think about something painful that did happen to you. What if it was that person? Could you operate in forgiveness with them?
Frankly, Liz’s response surprised me. Here’s her answer:
A. Ghost him. You are not responsible for checking your LinkedIn inbox on anybody else’s timetable, or at all. Many if not most evil bosses have amnesia when they run into you years later. They remember what a great coworker you were, but forget what a snarling beast they were.
So Mark typically calls a spade a spade and doesn’t hide his feelings. Here’s what he said in a comment to Liz’s post:
This is atrocious advice. The strong act. The weak are acted upon. Forgiveness is the supreme act. Forgiving freely shows tremendous mental and emotional fortitude and takes away any power that negativity once had over you. Forgiveness is merciful to the offender and redeeming to the offended. He may not have known how brutal he was. If you are a powerful person, you won’t be afraid to tell him. Doing so maybe his chance to change, and that kind of change can have far-reaching implications in the lives of anyone he impacts. If he’s still a jerk, well, you tried. Your hands will be clean.
Years ago in the mortgage industry I had a truly terrible regional boss (my direct boss was terrific). He was condescending, added stress to my life, and never helped me once. A few years later, after the crash, he reached out to me. He told me he had some forced clarity and could see what a schmuck he was to me, and others – he wanted to apologize. He was sincere and it was plain to see he really was trying to change. I forgave him and now think fondly of him. If I would’ve ghosted him, I would’ve missed that redeeming experience. Forgive. Early and often.
This isn’t popular. Especially with people who feel victimized. As one comment stated:
I’m appalled at the number of people suggesting forgiveness and acceptance of an abuser. I’m deeply struggling to understand what having this high percentage of people in the workplace next to me means for those of us who have been/get abused in the workplace. Quite frankly, it’s terrifying! Forgiveness in her heart someday, sure, for her own spiritual growth, but that does not require interaction with him ever, not if she doesn’t want it to.
And I want to point out a few things. First, I don’t advocate acceptance of abuse or treating it as if it’s inconsequential. People must be held accountable for their behavior in the workplace. But forgiveness isn’t tied to the correct outcome.
Second, if you have been, or are, abused in the workplace, then you know that it’s your responsibility to say something and work to stop it. Leaders act. They certainly don’t risk that silence might mean it happens to someone else.
Third, I want to point out that the sex of the victim was not revealed in the post. This comment assumed a man abused a woman, but that’s not in the original post or response. Why is this important? Because unacceptable behavior doesn’t only target one sex. Unacceptable is unacceptable whether it happens to a man or a woman. Forgiveness isn’t dependent on sex either.
The woman noted that she’s terrified of the “high percentage of people in the workplace next to me” who are willing to forgive even those who have abused them. I’m more terrified by those who are unwilling to forgive. I would not wish a future of bitterness and hostility on anyone.
And what does this mean to those around you who God-forbid if they ever make a mistake because now they may become one of the unforgiven? Don’t allow this sad way of living to impose its control on you.
You don’t have to be friends with that person, you don’t have to hang out and pretend bad things never happened. You don’t even have to connect with them on LinkedIn. But for your sake, you have to be able to move forward by forgiving.
It reminded me of another media posting I saw this week that I want to share with you. It was an experience where the poster was sharing a challenge she had getting her money refunded from a well known MLM company. She was getting brutalized in the comment section – mostly by those defending this particular MLM – for describing her experience which wasn’t like theirs.
Then she did one of the most admirable things I’ve ever seen – she told people how it happened. Then, she offered some forgiveness to herself.
This woman (I’ll call her Tracy) had been approached by a girlfriend (Amanda) to hang out together, just some girl time, right? Well, it would appear that it was a little more calculated than that on the part of Amanda. When Tracy arrived at Amanda’s home, Amanda said she and her husband, Tim, had started a new business. Amanda wanted to know if Tracy would be willing to allow Tim to “practice” his really rough presentation on her.
Most of you have probably sat through a presentation like that, some of you may have been the ones who gave a presentation like that. Hopefully, none of you were deceitful in your approach. There are few things more painful in a friendship than being deceived by someone you thought was a friend.
Tracy was didn’t see that coming. Now, she’s on the spot and agrees. Not because she has any interest, but because she feels awkward saying ‘No.’ Which, by the way, is always the best answer when you aren’t sure. But you can relate – I mean she’s already at Amanda’s house. So, Tim proceeds with the presentation and Tracy realizes this isn’t just practice, there’s an ask: they want her to sign up.
Now she feels super weird and wonders how this affects her relationship with Amanda if she says ‘No.’ She doesn’t want to crush their dreams and so, thinking that she’s being polite, she signs up at a cost of a little more than $300…with the intention of immediately canceling and getting her money back. So literally, the comments are attacking her for being honest about how it all came down and her chosen approach to make her way out of the mess.
So, I said she did something super admirable. After telling everyone how it happened, she admitted what she wished she would have done differently. First, she wished she had told Amanda ‘No’ when asked about the presentation. She was acknowledging that in the moment, she could not find the strength or courage to say ‘No.’
If only she let Tim and Amanda know that she didn’t have any desire to participate after the presentation. She recognized and admitted that she handled the whole situation incorrectly. It was refreshing to see her owning everything that she could have done differently.
I feel like this is imperative. It’s the try, fail, learn, improve, reenter process perfectly executed. We try something, make a mistake, learn from it, change how we do it in the future, and reenter the fray! We offer forgiveness to others and ourselves and keep moving forward. Isn’t that what our lives should look like as leaders?
Resources Mentioned In This Episode:
Amy Robles’ website thinkenriched.com
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