I Didn’t Get the Promotion I Deserved at Work. Forgiving Others Led to Bigger and Better Things

Many working women and parents experience transgressions—minor and major—on a daily basis. It can be as small as a side eye when you leave to pick up a sick kid, or as big as being passed over for a promotion you know you deserved. There’s a lot of potential for anger, and take it from me, I’ve been there. It turns out, though, forgiveness is the key.

As a woman of color in a male-dominated field, I’ve had my share of disappointments at work. Discovering that a colleague with eight fewer years of experience than me—doing less work—was making 45 percent more money, for example. Or sitting in a meeting where my ideas weren’t acknowledged until other colleagues repeated them. I spent years constantly having to earn my seat at the table—and then sometimes defending the worth I worked so hard to attain. So, I decided to channel my negative feelings into being the most knowledgeable, prepared and hardest-working person in the room. I got the promotions I went after. It worked! Until it didn’t.

When I didn’t receive a promotion and the stellar performance rating I thought I’d deserved, it was a shock—to both me and my colleagues. I realized I had to change. Even though I wasn’t getting bogged down in others’ actions, I was still relying on their approval. I decided then to create my own lane, making my own promises. I determined whether I met them or not—no one else. It was a post-scarcity approach to my career, and it heavily leveraged the idea of release.

Release isn’t simply forgiving and forgetting. First, I reflect on the situation and think about what kinds of alternatives or steps forward I can take based on my desired outcome. Next, I conduct a real or symbolic outreach to acknowledge the person or situation, to dissociate what happened from what I can do to move forward. And finally, I redirect my energy to develop new habits and make a plan to achieve new goals. It’s about finding invigorating outlets to channel your energy, such as exercising, meditation or meaningful projects, while avoiding debilitating ones, such as holding grudges, feeling jealous or abusing substances.

If you’re still unsure how releasing negativity and practicing forgiveness in the workplace can propel you forward, here are four more reasons to consider:

Science proves forgiveness has value. Study after study demonstrates that it correlates strongly with lower stress, stronger relationships and lower levels of physical pain, anger and depression. In the workplace, forgiveness has been linked to increased productivity, decreased absenteeism and demonstrated reductions in personal stress. It inherently builds resilience for the long term.

Forgiveness is a form of self-care. We talk a lot about self-care and being kind to ourselves. Forgiveness doesn’t mean everything is OK, and it’s not an excuse for poor performance or a lack of accountability. Instead, it’s about acknowledging, accepting and resolving. By “releasing,” we’re ensuring that we’re putting ourselves first and creating situations to achieve our goals, regardless of anything out of our control. That’s self-care in a nutshell.

Forgiveness allows us to move forward. By choosing invigorating ways to let go of stale energy, you start living a higher quality of life. You redirect anger or hurt into things that make you better, such as quality time with family or friends or working on passion projects. When I released my disappointment, I focused on building my brand outside of my company. In doing so, I published my first book, launched a podcast, and broke out of my introvert bubble to begin speaking engagements, including a TedX talk.

Forgiveness creates a new playing field. When you hold a grudge or pour your energy into negative events, you allow other people and their expectations to define you. By forgiving, you release those expectations and create your own. Spoiler alert: I got that promotion the following year, but it no longer meant as much to me because of everything else I’d accomplished.

Releasing gave me accountability in my career, and allowed me to take control of desired outcomes. As it turned out, being the hardest-working, highest-achieving person—staying late, leaving early, crushing every project—didn’t make me immune to external forces. It didn’t prevent me from falling short of a goal set by someone else. Forgiveness in the business environment, when applied consistently, can ultimately become your superpower—and no one can ever take that away from you.

Christie Lindor is a seasoned, award-winning management consultant with expertise in organizational change and digital transformation, and a soon-to-be first-time mom. With 17-plus years’ experience working at top consulting firms such as Deloitte Consulting, EY and IBM, she specializes in helping her clients solve critical workforce-of-the-future challenges. Christie is also a TEDx speaker and host of the MECE Muse Unplugged podcast, a show focused on helping go-getters along their journey to greatness. She is also author of the Amazon bestselling book, The MECE Muse: 100+ Selected Practices, Unwritten Rules and Habits of Great Consultants, and the new guided journal Release: Use the Power of Forgiveness to Get Unstuck and Thrive in Your Career. For more about Christie, visit christielindor.com.