Episode 410: Conflict Management, Conflict Resolution, and Forgiveness With John Baldino From Humareso

Summary:In this episode, we interview John Baldino, Founder and President of HR consulting firm Humareso, speaking about conflict in the workplace.

Episode 410: Conflict Management, Conflict Resolution, and Forgiveness With John Baldino From Humareso

Summary:In this episode, we interview John Baldino, Founder and President of HR consulting firm Humareso, speaking about conflict in the workplace.

Table of Contents

When I heard you talk at HR Florida, it was fantastic, your session, and I felt like it really created a lot of pause. So, I want you to talk us through what you’re calling functional forgiveness and the power of apology. So we’ve had this conflict. We’re trying to work through a resolution. Why should we forgive people?

– Jessica Miller-Merrell

It’s a really difficult concept. I’m going to start by saying that first because I think that there are, there’s baggage with forgiveness that everyone is bringing to the table. And I’m not here to minimize that. I understand the, the various backgrounds that people are going to come from when it comes to forgiveness, particularly because we don’t use this term very often, if at all, in a business context. For me, the reality of conflict management and conflict resolution, a portion of it has to do with forgiveness.

– John Baldino

Episode 410: Conflict Management, Conflict Resolution, and Forgiveness With John Baldino From Humareso

Welcome to the Workology Podcast, a podcast for the disruptive workplace leader. Join host Jessica Miller-Merrill, founder of Workology.com as she sits down and gets to the bottom of trends, tools, and case studies for the business leader, HR, and recruiting professional who is tired of the status quo. Now here’s Jessica with this episode of Workology.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:01:18.31] Welcome. Welcome to the Workology Podcast sponsored by Upskill HR and Ace The HR Exam. These are two of the courses that we at Workology offer for HR certification prep and re-certification, all for HR leaders. Before I introduce today’s guest, I do want to hear from you text the “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. You can ask me questions, leave comments, and make suggestions for future guests. That’s 512-548-3005. I want to hear from you. This is my community text number. Now on to our guest. I am so pleased to have John Baldino. He’s an SPHR, SHRM-SCP, and Founder and President of HR consulting firm Humareso. He’s going to be great. You’re going to love this interview. He has more than 30+ years of experience in human resources leadership development. John founded Humareso to strategize with companies to develop plans to manage talent, recruit for skills gaps based on employee inventories, assess markets for growth, develop long-range succession plans, and influence a culture of enthusiastic buy-in. John is an amazing keynote speaker for US and international conferences where he shares content and thoughts on leadership, collaboration, innovation, employee success, organizational design and development, as well as inclusion and diversity. He is the winner of the 2020 Greater Philadelphia HR Consultant of the Year award. Most recently, John was selected as one of the top influencers in HR by the SHRM organization. John, welcome back to the Workology Podcast.

John Baldino: [00:02:54.82] Hi. I’m so glad to be here, Jess. Thanks for having me.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:02:57.82] Of course. And I’ve known John for forever. We’ll link to, I don’t know, probably an episode from ten years ago when he was one of my first guests on the Workology Podcast.

John Baldino: [00:03:11.38] It’s years ago. Oh my gosh.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:03:13.63] We were just babies. Barely over 15 for sure.

John Baldino: [00:03:17.83] Yes.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:03:19.09] Let’s talk about Humareso. You founded this company more than a decade ago, and you have 20 years, 20+ years of HR leadership experience. Tell us a little bit about your background, too, and what led you to own your own HR consulting firm.

John Baldino: [00:03:33.76] Yeah, it’s a great question because it is unusual, right? That, that that would be a path that people would take. So yeah, as you said, I mean, I had about 20 years of HR under my belt at the time when I started Humareso, and I felt like there were gaps in the marketplace missing for, initially my thought was around small business, maybe lower mid-market type companies who really needed to compete with enterprise-level organizations and were never going to have the kind of budget to get a CHRO, VP of HR, Director of HR, you know, talent, areas of strategy, as well as those specific areas of discipline. And I thought, well, let me kind of put it out there and see who might bite to pick my brain on these things. Is there looking to compete. And yeah was right. Right? And grateful for that. And here we are actually a little over 11 years later. And we have a really robust HR consulting firm with amazing people on the team. And so we’re having a blast.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:04:39.50] I love it, and I love meeting all your consultants and just their individual personalities and how unique they are. That’s one of the things that I really love is I feel like you are really inclusive and speak to, like, you’re such a great example of a, of, of what companies should be doing in terms of culture and communication and conversations.

John Baldino: [00:05:05.09] Thank you for that. Yeah. I mean, we really do try and it’s difficult because, and you and I, again, we’ve been around for a minute. We have seen individuals who really espouse, you know, hire me to help me fix your company. And then you look at their own kind of backyard, and it doesn’t really match what it is that you keep coming back to me and training on. And I don’t, you know, I’m not looking to put anybody down, but certainly, um, you know, when the rubber meets the road, it should be authentic all the way through.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:05:33.17] Yeah. I feel like your house needs to be in order. Yeah. In order to be able to serve as a consultant or as a consulting agency in your area of expertise.

John Baldino: [00:05:43.70] Yeah. Agreed. Totally agree.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:05:45.74] Well, I want to jump into our hard topic today, which is conflict. And I wanted to ask, in your experience, why do you feel like conflict takes up so much of our time in human resources? Because it is like whether we’re involved in the conflict or we’re policing the conflict or just dealing with, I feel like therapy sessions related to conflict.

John Baldino: [00:06:05.63] Yeah. I mean, listen, the reality is we work with people. So conflict is going to happen. I mean, there’s no way around it. And, you know, you and I have laughed in the past as well because we come across these really sweet, new-to-HR kind of folks who are just, you know, I love people. I want to do this because I love people. And you’re like, that is going to last you five days, tops, right? Once you start doing it because you have to manage relationship. And with relationship inevitably comes conflict, misunderstanding, expectation, defaults. You’re not doing what I think you ought to be doing. All of those things are going to lead to some level of tension, and I think that’s why we’re never going to get rid of it in HR. And I think it’s foolish to think that we’re going to have sort of this, you know, plate of glass kind of environment. It’s never going to be that smooth and, and even all the time we ought to know that it’s coming, right? Just accept that it’s coming.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:07:05.91] It’s funny that we’re talking about this. And then I think about before we started recording, I told you that my daughter’s dealing with it’s new and fresh, some teacher conflict, right? And I said to you, I’m the person who deals with the teacher communication. And as you’re talking and we’re talking about the subject, I’m like, well, that makes sense, because as an HR leader, I have been, we have been like the middle man or the person that helps try to bring people to a place of resolution so that both parties or a group of people can be able to, to move forward.

John Baldino: [00:07:41.49] Yeah. And often, you know, unfortunately, sometimes some of the training that HR practitioners sort of just lean into is managing the situation, right? It’s not really resolving the conflict. It’s sort of just managing the situation. And so to exactly your point with with a teacher or with a coworker or with your boss or whoever it might be, if you just keep managing the situation and that’s why you’re going to lose your mind ultimately, because it’s going to keep rearing its head again, you’ve never really resolved the conflict. And there is a difference between conflict management and conflict resolution. And HR sometimes gets mired in the spiral of managing it, coming back to it, managing it, coming back to it. And, and that too adds to the exasperation of conflict, I think, for practitioners.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:08:33.67] Speaking of that, let’s talk about weaponizing patterns of behavior and how that impacts conflict resolution. Talk to us about that.

John Baldino: [00:08:41.11] Yeah I mean we’ve got I’ll use some dirty words and I apologize in advance, right? We use the words always never. We hear this so much, right? So and so never does this on time, you know. Or so and so. Always is the first for this. And you’re like, really? That’s you look at that person. And the only or first thing you see is an always or never whatever statement. And that becomes the attack. They’ll look at this conflict as one of a long line of inappropriate activity, as far as my experience is concerned. I don’t mean inappropriate in by matter of law or anything like that. I mean it that they don’t treat me well, and therefore I’m coming at you. And you know, I’m from Philadelphia, so they’re coming at you. Thing is like second nature to my people. This, this is how it’s going to be. You’re just going to to dive right in and be stubborn about this and absolutely use it as a tool of disparagement, but also of divisiveness. And so you get so stubborn about it, you don’t care what it costs. I’m going to be right. I have to be right. Listen, quite frankly, we wouldn’t be watching as many episodes on Bravo of whatever show you want to fill in with, if, right? If we didn’t love the fact that we weaponized these conflicts, we want to see the drama. But real life isn’t supposed to be like that.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:10:11.47] I’m going to repeat what you said. Real life is not supposed to be like that. But people want it to be like that. They think that it needs to be that way. But that is a reality show. Or it’s produced for television.

John Baldino: [00:10:23.26] Yes.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:10:24.50] It’s, it’s not it should not be the workplace or your personal life or your family life, like those are. That’s not real life. It shouldn’t be.

John Baldino: [00:10:33.46] Yeah, it shouldn’t be. And listen, if you don’t think Teresa and Joe are laughing all the way to the bank, well, everybody thinks that they hate each other as brother and sister on Real Housewives of New Jersey. Like, spare me, don’t at me and tell me you don’t know, John about the years of conflict. I’m sure like any brother or sister. But what we’re doing is paying them to have this conflict. We’re the ones enabling it. And I think in HR a lot of times, while we may not be paying our people, we are doing things that are enabling the conflict to continue.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:11:05.79] A little off-topic, but related to conflict in the reality space realm. My favorite show for a really long time was The Hills. Yeah, and I loved that show. And it’s recently came back on air. And so I found Spencer Pratt and Heidi Pratt on TikTok, and I love watching them because Spencer is savage. He’s a lot of fun, too, and they’re very candid and open about how the show wasn’t real and that they agreed to be cast as the villains because it did these things. And it, I think it opened up a lot of people’s eyes that these weren’t real things, even though it was called reality TV.

John Baldino: [00:11:43.68] Yeah, totally. And when you set people up like that, actually, I also think that there are scripted shows that are like that. I mean, you look at what’s happening now with Shannen Doherty and obviously the health issues she’s going through as an example. And everyone now is sort of seeing her as, wait a minute, she isn’t this villain. I know she played that on television and we treat her now in real life as if she is. Listen, just because you have to make hard decisions coming back to the workplace, just because you have to make hard decisions or be, in HR, we are the bearer sometimes at least a partner in terminations, right ups, some disciplinary procedures. If that’s all you have yourself leveraged as then as an HR practitioner, you cannot be surprised that people only see you that way and expect conflict to come with you because you’re, you’re bringing punishment everywhere you go. At least that’s the perception.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:12:35.08] And, and that is so that is so true. And it’s so it’s good for us to have other outlets outside of work to identify as a certain certain person, right? Or something that we have an interest in. So we’re not just the skull-crushing HR people who just hire and fire. There’s so much more to us as people.

John Baldino: [00:12:55.23] Totally.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:12:56.55] So one of the things that I want to talk more about when it comes to conflict is change, because that seems to be such a driver in conflict, I feel like, and even in our regular lives, but especially within an organization. So how can we address change resistance and the resulting conflict? Walk us through that.

John Baldino: [00:13:15.96] Yeah. I mean, obviously, I think to start with, you’ve got to have really good and wise communication, right? What is your preliminary messaging and if, if the change is coming, whether it’s software process or procedure, if there’s a new company coming in, you’re being acquired or merged in some ways, whatever the, the depth of change coming, it all still requires healthy messaging. So someone needs to sit with some other people. I’m going to say that again, someone needs to sit with some other people. If this is a department of one, you write up the whole messaging for everyone. I’m going to tell you conflict is coming. Don’t let it fall on the shoulders of one person, right? Let that communication be managed from some stakeholders, right? This way you’ve got a pathway forward. That’s a collective. We are putting forward what that expectation is. And that’s another big piece of it. We very rarely talk about expectation management. We kind of know in the back of our minds it’s important. But I think to your question, that’s another big piece of this. What should this look like as a result of this change? Here’s what people should see. And that does include telling people you’re going to feel tense. You’re going to feel stressed at moments. This is not going to feel natural because you’re used to doing it this way for the past six years, we’re now changing it to this, so those feelings are valid but don’t live in them.

John Baldino: [00:14:45.66] We have to also teach people how to not allow their feelings to come first in the train. Let’s start with the engine being the facts and let feelings come up the rear as far as the caboose is concerned, right? Because too often we let feelings lead the charge and you’re like, so what is it you’re really upset about? Because we went to this software? Yes, I’m really mad about that. Tell me your feelings about ADP. Let’s get down to it. Well, John that’s silly. It’s a no no. You just said it’s the software. So let’s talk about ADP and the venom you have for them. I’m happy to bring some people in from ADP if you want to. Often when I do that people are like well that’s not what I mean. Well, that’s what you’re saying. And that’s the feelings you’re allowing to lead this charge. Let’s reverse that expectation. What are the facts? What do we know so that you can really be much more confident and settled? We have to help people do that. And that’s a beginning stage. You have to just kind of lay that out in terms of those expectations, even the emotion.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:15:46.36] It’s interesting because in HR, I feel like sometimes it’s very procedural, like you said, like we kind of try to remove the feelings from the situation, but in this case, like feelings are tied to that change. So we need to address them. And I think. We’re not asking everyone to go out and become a therapist, but.

John Baldino: [00:16:06.15] Gosh, no.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:16:06.54] So much of what we do is listening and talking people through things. So we kind of, in a way, are the therapists of the workplace.

John Baldino: [00:16:14.25] Yeah.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:16:15.36] But this is challenging I think us to get some new skills to, to ask some different questions to help people through conflict. Because it is coming. It will continue to come. I just saw something the other day, just about I and a number of reductions that have come in the last week that we’ve seen in terms of tech companies, they’re trying to tie that directly to the use of ChatGPT, which I think is, is interesting. I don’t know if it’s true, but you know it. So there, there are a lot of people who might be conflicted. And these feelings are tied to a workplace or a person who’s delivering the message to say, hey, we earnings aren’t where we need to be. We’re making some reductions.

John Baldino: [00:16:59.73] I think that we also have to be compassionate. If we’re one of the stakeholders that are kind of leading this charge, we have to be compassionate because we, we we will have some people who haven’t learned not to act upon every feeling that they have. And I know that sounds sort of absurd to say out loud, but honestly, we really do. We really have folks that have been trained in some ways or allowed to grow up in ways in which their feelings do drive everything that they do. And so when you get into a workplace where there’s community, if everyone acts upon their own feelings, how will anything get done? So sometimes you really are sitting with some folks and saying, let’s, let’s talk about the five things you’re feeling. I don’t want to minimize any of them, but let’s talk about the five things. If you are going to act upon every one of those feelings, what might that do to some of those folks that are in your department or on your team? How are they going to feel about that if you act upon all of them? Well, all and you really get to reasonable, then honestly reasonable comes very quickly after that. I think we fear this kind of thing. But if you establish yourself beyond just this change, whatever the change is, right? Just that we’re sort of theoretically talking about like whatever it is, if I’ve already shown myself to be not afraid of feelings or tension, but also able to sort of be human about it, let’s just sit and talk about it. I’m not afraid of the fact that you’re angry, or I’m not afraid of the fact that you’re threatened by technology or another person. We don’t have to be afraid of that. Let’s put it on the table so we can get to solution, rather than letting you sort of wallow in this all the way through this change project and become a stick of dynamite to everything we’re doing, just address it.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:18:51.45] You’re talking about feelings. And I’m like, there’s no in my experience, and I’ve only been a parent once, but I have a teenage daughter. Sometimes we are driven by feelings so completely and it’s all we can like. She can’t control those things. And then I think about people in the workplace, and you might have a team that you support of 5000 employees. They all are operating at different levels, experiences and emotion levels. So it can be fantastic. It can be explosive and everything in between.

John Baldino: [00:19:27.90] Yep.

Break: [00:19:28.59] Let’s take a reset. This is Jessica Miller-Merrell and you are listening to the Workology Podcast powered by Ace The HR Exam and Upskill HR. I am talking today with John Baldino about conflict and forgiveness. He’s the founder and president of HR consulting firm Humareso. Before we get back to the interview, please text the word “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. Ask me questions, leave comments, and make suggestions for future guests. This is my community text number and I really want to hear from you.

Break: [00:20:00.81] Personal and professional development is essential for successful HR leaders. Join Upskill HR to access live training community and over 100 on-demand courses for the dynamic leader. HR recert credits available. Visit UpskillHR.com for more.

How to De-escalate Conflict in the Workplace

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:20:16.53] Let’s talk a little bit about de-escalation of conflict. What are some ways that we can help make that happen in our workplaces?

John Baldino: [00:20:24.24] Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things, again, is about just don’t fear it, right? Lean into it a little bit. Don’t try to avoid it. It’s, it’s coming. And, and I think if you’re a practitioner at whatever level. And by the way, those, those of our friends who are at that VP of HR, CRO, CPO level, whatever, you’re included, you’re included in this, right? Don’t just pass the buck down to say you generalist, go handle this for me. No no no no no no. Everyone has to sort of approach it in the same way to say, okay, we know what’s coming. Let’s, let’s not be afraid. But it doesn’t mean that you, you shouldn’t stop for a second and take a breath. You know it’s coming. You know it’s here. But take a breath. Sometimes we too can be pretty responsive emotionally. We, we amp up pretty quickly. You want to. I hate to say it. Sometimes we can slip into the always never as well. Oh, here we go. Here’s Joe. He never likes any of the change that we try to put forward. Okay. Let’s not do that to Joe because then you can’t yell at Joe for doing the always-never thing as well. You’re doing it. So take a breath, take the step back and then talk to people. Allow if it’s between people or if there’s a group to talk to or if it’s a misunderstanding about product.

John Baldino: [00:21:44.07] Just sit with whomever it is and say, explain to me from your perspective what the issue is, what’s causing you tension, or what’s causing you to feel that you hate this? Let’s just tell me. I’m not asking for you to defend it. I’m just asking for you to tell me what it is. So I make sure I understand what I’m addressing. Because sometimes, again, as a practitioner, we think we know what the problem is. And we come in as the fixer super quick with the solution. And the person sitting there like that isn’t at all what my issue is. But thanks so much for wasting an hour of my life telling me this, and it’s not what my issue is. So do some good active listening. Be quiet. Ask a good question and then just listen, take notes, and do the repeating, you know, tactic. What I understand you saying is this am I hearing that correctly? Do I need to rephrase that a little? Because I have to tell you, it’s not just about you mishearing, it’s also about the person who’s presenting the conflict, who will hear the words coming back to them, knowing that they said those words, but then thinking, no, that’s not exactly what I mean to say. I actually want to say it like so. Wonderful. Give them a chance to sort of reframe in that act of listening. And then the last thing I would say is, and I know I’m just giving some sort of simple punch steps, but the last thing I would say here is ask them what what does success look like? What does a win look like? What would resolution look like to this conflict for you? If you right now could wave a magic wand, what would a, what would it look like? Because that comes back to expectation management.

John Baldino: [00:23:23.84] Because if their answer is what will be a win, this entire tech stack has to go. Let’s go back to carbon paper. And I mean I’ve had that from people through the years, right? Let’s just go back to pagers and carbon paper or whatever it is. And you’re like, okay, I hear you. I have to, I want to make sure I level set this, that expectation isn’t going to be met. So now what does that mean? Are you going to just feel stuck for the remaining days and come in dreading this work? Because I can’t put the typewriter in carbon paper back on your desk? Is that what this is going to mean? I’m not mad at you and this isn’t threatening. I want to manage expectation. That expectation isn’t going to happen. And if that’s what a win looks like for you, then I only have lost for you. Can we figure out a different option for win? And start to ask about that as well.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:24:17.89] I thank you for all these tips, and I think we do need to go back to basics because we make assumptions about Jimmy and he does this and he’s always been this way. And when we take a step back and have a conversation and ask questions and really listen, maybe the assumptions that we’ve made or Jimmy has made about us or and vice versa are not valid like we’ve, we talked about this before. Like maybe we have people they’re trying to hold on to this. Oh Jimmy doesn’t he always doesn’t do it this way.

John Baldino: [00:24:50.12] Yeah.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:24:50.74] Maybe Jimmy’s changed, but we just have held on to this belief or this feeling that he is. Or they are the way they are.

John Baldino: [00:24:57.16] Yes. And, and if that’s coming from leadership specifically, then you cannot be surprised that everyone else that works in the organization is picking up on that modeling. That’s just how it’s going to be. And it’s like being the and I love that you were talking about your daughter a few minutes ago, and you know, you know, I’ve, I’ve kind of raised three of my own. I’ll give Kathy a lot more credit than me. But they’re adults now, right? And I think I’m done raising them. But the, the, the reality is I, I can’t always, always look at the always of what I thought I knew of my kids from ten years ago. They’ve matured, they’ve changed. They’ve had life experiences that have altered the way in which they process information. They’ve, you know, my son experienced some significant medical issues. And so it affected the way in which he communes with others. There’s a sense of compassion for him that I think is was cultivated as a result. But if I’m just looking at him specifically with a lens as the leader in the home and thinking, well, because I’m the parent, I’m just relegating these children into these buckets of existence, you’re going to do the same thing when you go to work as a leader and relegate people into these buckets of existence, and you are a conflict igniter, far from one. That’s going to be a resolver, far from it.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:26:20.80] If we want to be seen differently in the workplace. And when I say we, I mean HR. We have to see other people as different too, because it’s not a one-way street. I can’t just be like, oh, I’m going to have my seat at the table. I’m going to have all these executive conversations, right? We can’t those things can’t happen. People can’t see us as experts if we aren’t willing to, to kind of negotiate and see them in a different light.

John Baldino: [00:26:46.15] Yeah, totally. I mean, listen, I, I just had a conversation with a business owner, you know, bless his heart, honestly love him to death. All, all the, all the phrases, right? Like he’s mad. Mad at a manager. Mad mad mad. Why? Because the manager isn’t doing what he would want the manager to do now. It’s not illegal. It’s not out of compliance. It isn’t a matter of strict process. It’s opinion. I think it should be done like this. The manager thinks it should be done like that. They’re both getting to the same place, but because it doesn’t look like the way I want it to look. And this is behind the scenes, by the way, it’s not forward. The response from the business owner was, let’s move to termination. And, you know, I’m looking at the person thinking, first of all, you think that there’s ten people like this waiting to come work at your company? No, that’s answer number one. Answer number two is if you just want a whole lot of people that act and do what you do, then just do it yourself, because you’re always going to be frustrated. As a business owner, no one will act exactly as you act and respond as exactly as you respond. If that’s where you’re setting people up to fail, then yet you’re going to win every time they’re going to fail. And the conflict you’ll live in time after time with. It’ll be the different people, different faces, but the same result. That’s a you problem. That’s not an everyone else problem. So you’ve got to just be okay to say, what? Why am I white-knuckling the things that I’m white-knuckling, right? How much of my self-esteem is wrapped into this? What is it that I’m communicating to others? Because if you’re doing it, everyone else in the organization is going to jockey for position similarly, and you’re fostering this kind of fire of tension all the time.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:28:44.90] Thank you for that. And I feel like in some ways, that was my corporate HR career. When you are somebody who’s a divergent or sees the world differently and doesn’t follow, I can’t even control it. I just don’t think that way. The process that maybe my boss did, it was good for my career initially. I rose very quickly, but then you get to a certain level and there was a lot of conflict created that I was even completely unaware of. And I think sometimes those managers hang on to those things because that’s a control mechanism and it’s kept them safe. I’m hopeful that more leaders will open up to see and maybe, just maybe, do some work internally to say, okay, it’s not a bad thing because they aren’t the same way as me. It could be a really good thing and just, just open, open it up.

John Baldino: [00:29:35.24] Yep. Completely. And again, conflict is going to come as a result of that. But it just walk through it. It’s okay. You’ll get to the other side. Just be open but you’ll get to the other side.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:29:47.73] So we get to all we go through all of this. So this is the most important part in my mind. And the key which when I heard you talk at HR Florida, it was fantastic, your session, and I felt like it really created a lot of pause. So, I want you to talk us through what you’re calling functional forgiveness and the power of apology. So we’ve had this conflict. We’re trying to work through a resolution. Why should we forgive people?

John Baldino: [00:29:47.73] It’s a really difficult concept. I’m going to start by saying that first because I think that there are, there’s baggage with forgiveness that everyone is bringing to the table. And I’m not here to minimize that. I understand the, the various backgrounds that people are going to come from when it comes to forgiveness, particularly because we don’t use this term very often, if at all, in a business context. For me, the reality of conflict management and conflict resolution, a portion of it has to do with forgiveness. You know, I talk about grudges and things that you’re holding on to and things that I’ve experienced in the workplace for years, watched people hold on to things against a coworker or a colleague literally for decades. And you’re thinking, my gosh, why can’t you let it go? It is because we have not taught people how to forgive. We’ve, we’ve asked people to sort of suck it up and move on. That I certainly know that we’ve told people I know that we’ve threatened people with if you can’t get past this and it’s going to cost you your job. Okay, that’s not forgiveness either. What I think we need to be thoughtful about, and that’s why I call it functional forgiveness, is because there is a place within business that we have to help people understand that forgiveness is not just emotive, but it’s practical in the way in which it applies to what you’re doing. Forgive doesn’t mean I’m going to be a fool again and again and again, but it does mean what is the power that I’m giving to someone else in this conflict? A for ad infinitum.

John Baldino: [00:31:59.93] When it really doesn’t need to be that way. What is this angst getting me that I’m living with? And how do I learn how to give that away? It doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to hold the other person, absolve them of anything that ever had happened in the past. But I want to say, you know, and we, we talked a little bit about, you know, people moving on and changing. But I’ll look at my own life. The decisions I made when I was 21 are not the decisions I’m making today at 53. There are things that have influenced my life differently, and so I’m making different decisions. Well, if someone is still mad at me and I, there might be people who are still mad at me about something when I was 21. What is, what is that doing, do you think, to affect my life today at 53, I’m going to tell you nothing. I don’t think about you at all, and I don’t mean that negatively. I don’t mean that I wish you ill. I just want you to know I don’t think about you. And I’m not on Facebook enough to care about what’s happening in your life. Not because I’m better than you, but because I don’t spend hours on Facebook. I know other people do. I don’t, and what happens sometimes with those reconnections? It rekindles these things that are decades old. I don’t care that you put shaving cream in my jacket when I was 14 years old. I don’t care anymore. It doesn’t affect my life. But I will tell you, we have in the workplace people who are at every time that there’s conflict with a particular person, go back to the 14-year-old incident of the shaving cream and the jacket.

John Baldino: [00:33:31.52] Why? What we need to do is, HR, is really help people understand. How much power do you think it’s taking from you? How much energy do you think it’s taking from you in order to hold on to the things that you’re holding on to, in deference to a person who may not really be thinking of you at all, who may not care that this tension is eating you up, what is it that you’re holding on to? That’s a benefit to you? If the answer is nothing, which it likely is, then that’s where we can help people to be thoughtful around forgiveness, to identify these areas in life that are, are keeping me back, that are causing me to sort of stay mired in something that isn’t advancing sort of my business prowess, my relational maturity, my ability to really collaborate with team, be innovative, be creative. All these things that are healthy for business, that we wind up being stuck in conflict costs organizations. And I share this when, when you and I talked about this earlier, conflict causes costs organizations $386 billion a year measured all US organizations. That’s one huge number 386 billion. Listen, y’all tell me what you can do with 386 billion. That’s ten times better than just dealing with the same conflict. Often over and over and over again. We have to kind of dig into that relationship and break that cycle. That’s where forgiveness comes in.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:34:58.79] It’s that’s like revenue and sales that isn’t even like your mental health or absenteeism or any of those things. So. Wow. I mean, I think right now we’re all looking for a little extra money on our in the positive space. And if we could reduce conflict in our workplace by even a smidge, you could see a lot more profitability for your business. And just overall happiness for the person, too.

John Baldino: [00:35:27.22] And that’s where you asked about the power of an apology. I mean, that’s where I would say. And for me. And again, not to get too far into the weeds, but I use this sort of ash, ash, acronym when it comes to apology. And because what is an apology doing? It’s showing people authenticity, specificity, and humility. Those are the three things that it’s showing in an apology. So that if your apology is not in those three areas, it also is delivering a message to the other person to say they’re not ready, they’re not invested. I can’t make this person feel or be something more than where they sit right now. So yeah, I’m sorry, is that authentic? I don’t know, you may have to say it differently. You may have to back up that I’m sorry with the other piece. Specificity. What is it that you’re really sorry for? I’m sorry that you’re pissed. Well, you don’t have to apologize for me being pissed. That’s not your job. Let’s talk about the circumstance or the situation, or the way in which you added fuel to the fire. A fire that you didn’t start, but you helped to sort of grow bigger. Be specific. And I think there’s a dose of humility that’s good for all of us to remember, all of us. And I’m not excluding myself from any of these three steps. I have to be humble and with my tail between my legs at times and come back to someone and say, I am so sorry.

John Baldino: [00:36:58.48] I’m sorry because I jumped to a conclusion about something. Even though I thought I had all the facts, I was missing one huge piece that never even entered my mind. And that’s my fault. And I really own that. And I know, you know, I sit in a leadership position, but that doesn’t matter. I can still be wrong. And I want you to know that I am and I ask for your forgiveness. That’s huge. Have just a, a ton culturally with my organization. And you heard me say there at the end I asked for forgiveness. The trick about forgiveness is actually on both sides of the equation. I can forgive, you know, just if you wrong me and you never ask for forgiveness. I don’t have to wait for you to ask in order to free myself. I can offer forgiveness unasked so that I don’t have to stay encumbered by this muck. And it also lets me know I’m not giving you the power of even being in charge of the forgiveness. I own that, and so I’m going to exercise that. If I can sit in that space around authenticity, specificity, and humility. When it comes to the apology, forgiveness is so much easier for everyone to sort of lean into.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:38:12.58] I love it. Do you have any recommendations for training in these areas for HR professionals? Because I feel like we need this. We need more of it.

John Baldino: [00:38:22.27] Wait for, for 49.95. No, I mean I mean, the first thing I would say is, if you think a once-a-year conflict management training is going to do it, I’m sorry. It isn’t. It can’t just be A 1-2 hour workshop where everybody leaves with papers that they put into a drawer that they never look at again. It’s just not going to be what it is. It has to be something that’s activated and practiced a lot. The, the, the what I would say is, if you’re going to look for something that’s going to be helpful to your organization in, in a sort of a training module, it needs to lean into behavioral modification has to because the, the repetition of practice has to undo, you know, a lifetime up to that point of bad response, of bad behavior, of bad thinking or whatever you want to fill in, that’s behavioral. You’ve adopted a way of responding and reacting that has to be undone. So that’s why it’s got to be behaviorally based. Certainly, you’re still going to talk about things that are generally psychological, that are going to be process-oriented. Why do I do this before I do this? Yep. But that’s behavioral. It’s going to influence your behavior. So I look for that.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:39:37.83] I feel like if you’re going to have an annual training, which is better than nothing, but maybe like a book club or something that kind of presents or reinforces that, those things over and over and over again.

John Baldino: [00:39:52.61] Yes, that’s the trick. Over and over and over again, right? If you start with an initial training, fine, fine. But don’t just check the box to say we did it. Take that training now. And like you said, maybe have a cadence around it, whether it’s another book or people get together once a month and talk about how they’ve exercised in some of that process or, or the steps that were were offered in that training. Keep it alive and active conversationally.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:40:18.60] So it’s a big issue for organizations, but there’s not a one-hour solution is, is what we’re saying here. And it’s a it’s a lifetime learning these like you said behavioral learning things that have happened maybe are that you’ve been reinforced your entire life. It doesn’t just get done in one hour over lunch.

John Baldino: [00:40:39.72] It doesn’t. And, you know, I would say too, and this is hard. Um, so many of us deal with brokenness in our lives. And what might be brokenness for me might be different than someone else from a comparative standpoint. Maybe someone else’s is worse, let’s say, than mine. But for me, the brokenness that I sit in is very real and very taxing and has affected the way in which I respond and react. That’s true for every single individual, everyone, without exception. And so if we can just take a moment to be empathetic in that and understand that it really is an influencer as to why some people respond the way they do, or take charge the way they do, or don’t act the way that they don’t. And I think that compassion will really help us to kind of be willing to open the door for functional forgiveness in the workplace as a, as a place to start.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:41:37.59] Well, John, as always, I love chatting with you. I love talking with you. Um, I learn new things and I’m really excited about this topic because I’ve never heard it before in the space, and I think we need to hear more of it, um, so that we can all move forward to that place and better support ourselves, our families and our organization. So thank you so much for your time.

John Baldino: [00:42:01.50] Thank you as well. Love being here.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:42:04.11] Well, I am honored to, to know you and I hope others will take a listen and, and, and connect with John. He does a lot for the HR community. Connect with him on LinkedIn. I’ll put a whole host of links, our original interview from a million years ago when we were very young and had a lot of fun. Um, and I will put a couple of book recommendations also that, that I like in the show notes as well. So thank you again, John. I appreciate your time.

John Baldino: [00:42:36.69] Thank you.

Closing: [00:42:37.89] This topic is so important because HR leaders need to understand how conflict impacts an organization as a whole, as well as our job, like being better at conflict resolution. There’s so much more that we can do. We are really the Swiss Army knife of skills in HR, but resolving conflict is one of the most challenging, right? We all have it. I appreciate John sharing his experience and expertise with us on today’s podcast. I will say that I’m going to put a link in the resources, a bunch of links for some different book recommendations, including my favorite. It’s called Never Split the Difference and it is by Chris Voss. He is a hostage negotiator and so many things that he talks about in his book I use every single day. We’ll have links to John, Humareso, link to John and his original podcast interview. So a lot of goodness in the resources. So head back over to that.

Closing: [00:43:31.47] I want to thank you for taking time to listen to the Workology Podcast powered by Upskill HR and Ace The HR Exam. This podcast is truly for the disruptive workplace leader who’s tired of the status quo. Let’s let’s elevate and change HR together. My name is Jessica Miller-Merrell. I would love for you to let me know the kinds of guests, topics, and information that you would like to hear more of. You can text the word “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. Let me know what you want to hear. This is my community text number. We have so many episodes over at Workology.com. You can go take a listen. Listen to all the podcast episodes. A lot of great resources for the last ten years designed to elevate and disrupt the human resource industry. I will see you next time. Have a fabulous day!

Connect with John Baldino.


– John Baldino on LinkedIn

– Humareso

– Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It | Chris Voss

– Ep 88 – Workforce Planning Strategies That Will Change Your Business

– Episode 399: AI and the Future of HR With Kara Kelley, CEO Founder and CEO of Clinical HR

– Episode 400: Manager Training With Cornelia Gamlem And Barbara Mitchell, Authors Of The Big Book Of HR

– Episode 405: Writing Honest Job Postings To Attract The Right People With Katrina Kibben

– Episode 409: Using Data To Improve Work Effectiveness With Sarah Brock From Johnson & Johnson

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