When it comes to managing your employees, you will have many aspects to consider. Some of these aspects are obvious; how you can encourage good levels of employee productivity and how you can ensure your staff feel supported, for example.

Then there are the secondary, less clear-cut, issues to consider. For example, whether or not you should be friends with your employees, and — as we’re going to discuss today — how readily you should forgive your employees when something untoward happens.

Employees can make all kinds of mistakes. Some of these can be at work; some will be in their personal lives. If an employee has made a mistake, you have to decide whether it is something that you can forgive and thus continue your professional relationship with them— but this is often easier said than done.
If you find yourself in a situation where you have to decide whether or not an employee can be forgiven for a transgression, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you ascertain the best answer for you…

“How directly related to the business is the issue?”

If you have an employee who has had a legal problem outside of work, this can be difficult but not impossible to forgive. If the issue is completely unrelated to their work, then it could be argued you have no authority over the incident and thus there is nothing to forgive. You don’t have to be supportive, offer a helping hand or take the time to find out here about the practicalities of hiring a legal defense, but you don’t have to dismiss the employee either. Obviously, the degree of seriousness of their crime is a factor here, but forgiveness is a viable option for less severe offenses.

If the issue you need to forgive did happen at work, then you will likely struggle more with forgiveness. The problem was on your watch, when your company and your money was on the line; ultimately, this kind of transgression should be treated more seriously than most out-of-work incidents.

“Have they done anything like this before?”

If the answer is no, then there’s a chance it’s a one-off, and forgiveness is more reasonable to consider.

If the answer is yes, forgiveness may not be the answer; they need to change their behavior and escape repetitive, self-destructive behavior before you can reasonably offer forgiveness.

“Are there any mitigating circumstances?”

When people are going through a bad time, they are more likely to make mistakes. This applies to incidents both in and outside of the workplace. So before you make your final judgment, it’s worth asking your employee if there are any mitigating circumstances you need to be aware of— you can then decide for yourself how valid these circumstances are.

“Am I sure I will be able to trust this person again in the future?”

Sometimes, offenses committed both in and outside of the workplace are just too much, and you will never be able to forgive them. You need to have a functional relationship with your employees, so if you cannot see yourself ever moving on and putting this incident in the past, it may be best to consider parting ways.

If you can anticipate a time when the issue will be less troubling, there may be a future to consider. If the employee in question is valuable to you organization and has other merits, it may be worth continuing your professional involvement with them.

In conclusion

Ultimately, the decision as to whether or not you should forgive a transgression by an employee is entirely personal. However, having thought through the above, you can be confident that you have covered the essential ground that you need to consider. This should, in turn, help to guarantee that you are able to make a sensible decision that is beneficial to you, your employee, and the company as a whole.