Opinion: How much is that workplace grudge costing you?


“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die”.

– Malachy McCourt


If you are holding on to a grudge at work, you are likely to be placing your health at risk, decreasing your productivity, increasing your stress and increasing the amount of negative emotions you are experiencing.

How does this help you succeed at work? How does this help you to enjoy your work?

Is the grudge worth the price of failing at work and experiencing pain?

Does being right become more important than your health and your career?

Over the past 20 years evidence has highlighted the positive impact of forgiveness. Now a new study supports the power of forgiveness to improve well-being and productivity in professional settings.

This research is important for employers and employees, as lack of forgiveness negatively affects the individuals involved and the organisations they work for.

Holding on to negative feelings after a workplace conflict can lead to disengagement, lack of cooperation and aggressive behavior. Carrying a grudge is also associated with increased stress and negative emotions such as anger and hostility.

Fostering forgiveness will make you smarter and will help your health and your career.

Smart employers will encourage and model forgiveness at work.

A bit like being a parent really.

But how do you do it?

Here are some tips to foster forgiveness at work:

  • Model forgiveness at work, especially if you are a leader. The person having the greatest impact on an organisation’s culture is the leader.
  • Apologise. Take responsibilities for your mistakes. Failure to do so will feed distrust.
  • Use interventions. Bring in a third party to help resolve conflicts. Use an external party to build an understanding of forgiveness, and to teach evidence based tools for forgiveness.
  • Unite through a collective goal. Create new memories based on cooperation, especially if you can show how the new project contributes to the greater good of the community.


Wendy Macphail is the director of Accord Employment Law Services in Tauranga.