Time, Distance and Forgiveness at Work


About a decade ago before I worked anywhere with a recognizable brand, I found myself responsible for providing HR support to a rogue group of angry, pissed off employees. They weren’t my group to support but the HR Director who was responsible for that division worked 1,000 miles away at another office. He asked me to step in, from time to time, to help out.

One day, the employees were super angry about something ridiculous. The word union was used. That’s a big word in a non-union environment. You don’t take it lightly even if the employees are just being babies. I asked the HR Director, “What do you want me to do?”

He told me to say X, Y and Z.

I used my best active listening skills and said, “I hear you. You want me to say X, Y and Z. Are you sure? That seems off.”

Nope. He wanted me to do it. My orders were clear. And what did I know? I was just a dumb kid. I had my SPHR but that doesn’t mean that I know anything about the business world.

So I went back and did exactly what I was told to do. I said X, Y and Z.

And the HR Director was wrong. Totally wrong. He was so wrong that his instructions nearly caused an entire leadership team to suffer a collective aneurysm.

And what did this HR Director do?

He threw me under a bus.


Of course he did.

At the time, I was devastated and hurt. Actually, I was Joe-Pesci-angry. I wanted to hit this guy in the face with a Louisville Slugger.

Except the HR Director was in the early stages of cancer treatment. And he had a disabled child. I thought to myself — am I gonna fight a guy with cancer? What good would it do? He needs his cruddy job more than I need mine.

So I took the fall. I apologized for my error [grumblegrumble] and tried let it go. It was tough. I was angry about this incident for YEARS. I’m not gracious by nature. I hold grudges. Actually, let me revise that — I was beyond angry. I was disengaged, suspicious and instantly offended by people who demonstrated a lack of character.

I still am offended, to some extent. Character counts.


I was washing my hair in the shower, yesterday, and remembered this specific incident. I hadn’t thought about it in ages. And guess what?

I couldn’t remember the HR Director’s name.

Completely. Gone.

I’m going to tell you something: the people who need forgiveness the most are the ones who will never appreciate it. The simple ‘thank you’ that you’re expecting from your colleague will never come. And if you stand around and wait to be recognized for doing the honorable thing, you will stand around forever. Alone.

Forgive them anyway.

Or try to let it go ad trust that time and distance will make you feel better about the interpersonal conflicts you have at work. In a few years, you won’t even remember the name of the jerk who treated you poorly at work.

It’s true.

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