As a child, my first memories of the word "grace" were before meals and during weddings and funerals when the hymn Amazing Grace was played.
As an adult, I began to hear the word grace used more frequently among my friends as we discussed the challenges of balancing the demands of our careers with running a household and/or raising children while trying to carve out a little time to nurture relationships with our significant other as well as maintain our own health and well-being. Grace was still primarily reserved for something we gave ourselves or other close family members or our friends on occasion.
But, like so many other things in the world, that all changed in 2020 when the gift of grace became much more necessary, acceptable and prevalent in the workplace.
My awareness of this positive trend began slowly during conversations with HR Source members, my team and industry colleagues. When sharing our pandemic-related challenges and brainstorming potential solutions, the concept of grace began emerging on a more regular basis whether the term was used outright or alternatively described by phrases such as, "give him a break," "let it go," "offer her the benefit of the doubt," "err on the side of generosity," etc.
Then, this fall, I heard the simple phrase, "give her grace" used twice in a single week, first during a HR Source management team Zoom meeting and a few days later during a CEO panel discussion on maintaining corporate culture I was facilitating for The Daily Herald. In both instances, the leader was describing a workplace scenario in which the recommended course of action was to extend someone grace. How simple, how timely, how wonderful.
Could this be a silver lining or "pandemic plus" that emerged from a year filled with so much upheaval, uncertainty, loss and hardship? Absolutely. One of the primary advantages of grace is that it can be offered for a variety of reasons with little to no expense or effort required from the giver, but at potentially great benefit to the receiver.
While there are many definitions of the word grace, the ones that are most appropriate in the workplace involve extending kindness, courtesy or a temporary exemption or reprieve. To apply the gift to any given situation, there does not usually need to be referral to an employee handbook, an internal investigation or proper documentation. Grace is somewhat analogous to a "mulligan" in golf or a "get out of jail free" card in Monopoly but even better and more valuable.
Building an engaging corporate culture has been increasingly critical to organizational success over the past several decades. With the major disruptions to the workplace experienced during 2020, nurturing corporate cultures has required additional creativity and concerted action. Many CEOs and leaders have found that the most impactful efforts have been relatively low or no cost.
Simple but meaningful actions that are appreciated by employees include phone calls from management to express gratitude, individualized thank-you notes and extra time off. Fortunately, the gift of grace can easily be used in concert with any of these or other proven employee engagement boosters. In fact, incorporating grace into your culture can lead to exponential rewards.
Finally, another incredible benefit of grace is that we can give the gift to ourselves. However, this is often the most difficult, especially if we hold ourselves to unrealistically high standards or struggle with perfectionist tendencies.
• Mary Lynn Fayoumi is president and CEO of HR Source.