When someone wrongs you, how do you react?  Are you angry, vindictive, ready to pounce?  For most of us, the answer is “it depends.”  We’ll take a breath and then decide the best course of action.

However, when it comes to employees, we often forget to breathe first.  We jump to the nearest set of policies and then comb through them to see what level of discipline needs to be metered out.  It amazes me as an HR person that when employees slip up, the reaction is usually swift, harsh and doesn’t take anything into consideration – really.

Our systems of progressive discipline and layers of breaking Rule 1.0.1, Subsection A litter our field with little regard of how these actions affect the person who broke said rule.  We act as if they are the most disloyal, uncaring and detrimental person who EVER worked for the company !!

Here’s a question for you . . . ever make a mistake or break a rule at work?

Did the appropriate action take place?  Were you written up, counseled, suspended or fired?  What if you were in this situation?  How should the Company treat you ??

GraceIt’s time for a different approach to HR.  Please take note that this path is much more difficult, painful and intentional.  However, it works !!


Before launching into the employee handbook, remember that your decision and actions are actually affecting another person’s life.  That may be their life at work, or their life in general.  I don’t think that as HR professionals, we ever think about the person we’re addressing.  Our system is more important because we feel we are acting justly and, in doing so, we’re protecting the Company.

I’m not saying that discipline and termination aren’t warranted at work.  However, I use a yard stick which says that these only occur based on an employee’s behavior and actions.  Even with that benchmark, I still review each case and take into account all of the factors as well as the person who’s about to be disciplined.  I want them to come out of any conversation understanding the situation, its context and how we move forward from there.

Now, so you don’t think I’m being Utopian or an idealist, understand that I practice this personally inside work and outside of work.  It’s not a popular position because most people want a pound of flesh when they are wronged.  I’ll hold out until the last moment that I can before making difficult decisions because I believe in people, even in the darkest situations.

You see, I make mistakes and I have disappointed others – even those closest to me.  How can I expect grace from others if I am not willing to be graceful myself?  Also, how will others show grace if it isn’t given to them?

I know this works.  And, I have reassurance as well because I’ve seen the results.  It’s like U2 says in their phenomenal song – Grace from All That You Can’t Leave Behind – “Grace finds goodness in everything.”  Try it and see !!

9 thoughts on “Grace”

  1. Great post Steve. It’s difficult to practice grace when also feeling the pressure of external regulatory agencies, internal compliance folks, and the human nature need to get that “pound of flesh.”

    Well said.

  2. Great post Steve. And Jay – you’re right – it is difficult to do in today’s world. That’s what makes it so very valuable and necessary. Difficult things have value. We need to strive to do the difficult things…

    “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

    Grace should fall into the same category.

  3. I love this post Steve. You are on fire lately! When I’m dealing with issues described above or making plans I try to “walk a mile in their shoes.” Meaning, I think about the situations people are going through, what has happened in the past and try to put myself in their shoes. That helps me to NOT jump the gun and see the situation in a better light.

  4. Steve, Great post. I’m with you all the way. As an HR professional I look at the picture and how the offense weighs out. The punishment or disciplinary action needs to fit the crime. You don’t terminate someone for being tardy for the first time. Walk a mile in their shoes. Take a look at the big picture. Make a fair decision based on what happened. You know what the right thing is to do.

  5. Agreed! When someone does something that seems to be unusual for them, I consider what the action was but then I also ask myself “what else is going on in their life right now that might have put them on edge today?” In many cases, it has nothing to do with work and you can be empathetic if you just take the time. Then you let them know that you understand but what they did is not acceptable.

  6. Steve, this is awesome!! I loved it! Thanks for sharing. You are clearly someone who is full of GRACE. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to cross your path in life continually benefit from your words and most importantly, your actions. I miss seeing you. I would love to get together sometime soon for coffee or lunch and catch up on each others lives. Let me know if you would be available anytime in the next montth or so. Take care. God bless you for being so bold and always stepping out of the traditional HR box. Julie

  7. Remember for every situation you either act or react. If you react, the situation controls you. If you act, you control the situation.
    Just my humble opinion.

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