Forgiveness in Work Relationships: Causes and Consequences

Wenrui Cao

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


Good and stable social relationships at work are essential for employees’ well-being and performance. However, the occurrence of workplace conflicts is inevitable. How can employees maintain a happy and healthy working life with good and stable work relationships in the face of workplace conflict? Forgiveness might be a way to address this challenge. The current dissertation presents four empirical chapters to better understand the causes and consequences of forgiveness in work relationships. We thereby focused on three questions: (1) Is forgiveness in work relationships associated with better work outcomes? (2) How does forgiveness develop in work relationships? And (3) What factors determine forgiveness in work relationships? The results revealed that forgiveness in work relationships was indeed associated with better work outcomes, such as higher levels of job satisfaction and lower levels of burnout. Moreover, the associations between forgiveness and work outcomes were more evident in work relationships of relatively high (but not low) quality. In addition, employees’ willingness to forgive an offending coworker appeared to remain stable over a four-week period. Finally, we found that organizational factors, such as a forgiving climate and a team’s social cohesion, as well as whether a leader is forgiving and gives forgiving instructions to employees, were positively associated with more forgiveness among employees. The results reported in this dissertation demonstrate that forgiveness is a highly successful and effective strategy for dealing constructively with conflicts. It may be the key to protecting and maintaining work relationships that are so important to our well-being at work.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Taris, Toon, Primary supervisor
  • van der Wal, Reine, Co-supervisor
Award date16 Nov 2022
Place of PublicationUtrecht
Electronic ISBNs978-90-393-7516-7
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2022


  • forgiveness
  • work relationships
  • well-being
  • workplace mistreatment
  • work outcomes


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