Founder Story: Forgive
Have you ever had a bad boss? I have. And after months of suffering under him, it was one simple piece of advice that allowed me to stop living as a victim and to start forgiving him and moving on.
Let’s call him “Jack,” even though that wasn’t his name. For Jack, micro-manager was an understatement. His emotions were constantly out of control, overreacting to everything. Jack managed through fear. He berated me, demoted me, and threatened to fire me. He used our weekly one-on-one meetings to ridicule me. It was scheduled for 30 minutes, but often went 60 or 90 because he had so much to say on the topic. One time, it went so long he had me schedule a follow-up later in the day so it could keep going. And it did.
And it wasn’t just me. Jack treated most people this way. I know because he would do it to them openly in front of others. Needless to say, Jack sucked all the fun out of the room, replacing it instead with fear and defensiveness. The team’s productivity tanked, and eventually everyone had both eyes on the exit.
It’s one of those situations that leaves you feeling lost. This person holds the keys to your livelihood. You feel trapped – like you have no power to change or fix the situation. You have two options: you can either put up with it or go get a new job, and neither option feels very good.
Well, fortunately for me and my team, the impact Jack was having became pretty clear to upper management, and Jack was let go 6 months after his hiring.
During this period, I often talked through my situation and Jack’s behavior with others, to get another perspective and for a sanity check. I talked about it with my friend Steph, who also happened to be a leader in HR, performance management, and leadership coaching. While she didn’t condone the behavior, she said something that helped me reframe Jack and the whole situation. It opened the door to my forgiveness of Jack. So what did she say? She reminded me to “remember, he thinks he’s doing his best.”
That phrase flipped a switch in my brain. I went from anger, frustration, and fear, to sympathy. All of a sudden, I felt bad that he was so in over his head and unable to accomplish as a leader what he was trying to accomplish. All of a sudden, instead of wanting him punished, I wanted to see him get better.
Oftentimes people aren’t trying to offend. Oftentimes, the offense is a result of the offender simply having a different approach to things than the victim, and these two worlds collide, and the victim finds their own worldview and way-of-life under attack, their internal rule set violated. That doesn’t mean the offender is off the hook. It’s still an offense, afterall. But it also doesn’t mean it can’t be forgiven by the victim, just like any offense can. It still deserves forgiveness. Not for the benefit of the offender, but for the benefit of the victim.