By Daneen Skube

Q. I've made some mistakes with people that I work with and I know they don't trust me now. I've been undergoing some coaching and can see what I did and I'd like to fix it. Is there any hope of repairing damaged workplace relationships?

A. Yes, mental health professionals have been studying the science of forgiveness for many years. We now know there are three concrete steps to fixing damaged relationships.

--Recognition (inner and outer understanding you've screwed up)

--Remorse (acknowledging the damage)

--Reparation (actions that repair the damage)

No one at work will give you a second chance if you don't follow these three steps. Many people think that saying, "I'm sorry," cleans up a mistake. The truth is that even if most people appreciate an apology they would rather hear your plan to not repeat the mistake again.

To start a forgiveness process, go to each person you've hurt and tell them you know you messed up. Give examples of what you did and how you believe you affected each coworker. Then express remorse about your behavior (realize you cannot fake remorse -- if you don't feel it, you aren't ready to have this chat). Lastly, give each coworker your concrete plan to fix what you broke.

Make sure you tell each coworker that you realize you may not be able to repair the damage and that you may have permanently undermined their trust in you. Tell them that you know it is up to you to prove that you have changed your ways. Also be gracious in letting them know that you know you're not entitled to forgiveness.

Don't expect anyone to throw their arms around you and welcome you back into the workplace community with open arms. People are naturally suspicious of us when we've hurt them and it will take time to prove your words.

The tough part of fixing interpersonal mistakes at work is we have to consistently demonstrate reparation. We can't breeze into a coworker's office, say pretty words, and expect all to be forgiven the next day. Your coworkers will now scrutinize your behavior to see if your walk lines up with your talk.

As you enter into the process, give yourself some serious pats on the back for your ability to learn and your change of heart. All of us make mistakes with people at work. But few of us have the humility, courage and resiliency to take responsibility and face the fire with people we've hurt!

The last word(s)

Q. I'd like to make a lot more money but I want a balanced personal life. Is there any way to do both?

A.Yes, self-employment. Otherwise, you'll have to decide whether you want money or balance.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, about Anything" Hay House, 2006.


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