How to Apologize: The Delicate Art of The Workplace Apology

Recognizing the mistake and apologizing is more active than you think. We are aware it is not an easy task. That's why we offer you the ...

Recognizing the mistake and apologizing is more active than you think. We are aware it is not an easy task. That's why we offer you the best techniques to turn an apology into a leadership tool.

1) From the boss to the employee

When the boss is wrong, it is important that he be able to apologize and acknowledge his mistake. In this case, there is no need to explain why the ruling has been committed since the boss is subject to a series of pressures that should not transcend, but we must accept that we have been wrong and do so as soon as possible. It is not a symptom of weakness or incompetence, if not a reinforcement of leadership. A good strategy is to follow these steps:

-  Value the other. 

The best thing to do before you apologize to an employee is to start by assessing their work: "Whenever I ask you for something, I know I can count on you"; "I know you are a key piece in my department."

-  Excuse me. 

It goes without explanation, but always in the singular without putting the other or the team in your mistake: "I do not know what happened to me this time." "I'm sorry you could have felt sick because of me." "I have not seen your effort." "I did not know how to value your opinions, and I was wrong on the strategy." "I have made a mistake, and this has made you work in vain."

-  Look for an arrangement. 

Expose the solution you have thought (if you have a situation) or the learning you have learned from the problem (if you do not have it). It is good to explain that we have understood the problem and that we are able to translate it into a plan of action. It reinforces that you are aware of what you have done wrong and that you will want to solve it. Phrases you can use: "This will not happen again." "Let's go back to the previous plan"; "I know that my mistake has been an overload of work, I will try to compensate you for it."

-  Find out. 

Leave a moment of silence for the other to explain, expose their opinion or their emotions. In some cases, conflict or error may be motivated by an employee's attitude that we did not like or because we see some change. It is good to ask if there is anything we can help, empathizing with him and without interrupting: 
"Is there anything I can do to improve this situation?" "Is there anything you want to talk about?"

2) From the employee to the boss

In the case of employees,  the fear of acknowledging error comes from fear of consequences, but we are not aware that they derive from the mistake of non-recognition, which, if we do not notify the judgment, will be more dangerous and the Loss of confidence, greater. 

If you quickly recognize the error is very possible that the one above will collaborate on the solution. In this case, please inform us as soon as possible and if it is possible to offer the solution, you have come up with or ask for the help you need. Phrases you can use: "I do not know how it could have happened, but I've been wrong with these calculations. I have made the forecasts again, and these are the correct numbers. I'm very sorry about the mistake. If you think I talk to the corresponding department and explain the problem. " 

Here it is important to explain why this situation has arrived: "Sorry for the way you reacted before. It has not been good, and it is not proper to a professional. I would like to explain to you the reasons that have led me to this situation. "

3) Equal

It is in these situations where the apologies are most ignored because the connotation of hierarchical dependence disappears and more is played to avoid responsibilities. But here is a small detail "it is the fact that professional life takes many turns and we do not know where we are going to be tomorrow or what role will play in our future that person with The one that we have been wrong or had a conflict." 

That is why it is important to always recognize the error we have made and to apologize, for whatever reason, because in some way we saw good predisposition for the future.

It is good to insist on how I feel and forget the "you who kill," as the expert Alicia Kauffman says. Better: "I felt bad because the delay in the data forced me to stay longer." "It was not my intention to provoke this problem, I really regret it, I feel terrible." And from there how do we solve it? But again from the self: "I am sure that if I had the data in time, I could write the report better."

4) Apologize to the customer

"Let him stretch. The first thing to do is let him download his emotion. Whether or not he is right, he feels he has it, and with emotions, we can not play. You have to let him turn his anger and try to appease him with phrases like "I imagine how you should feel."

- It assumes the responsibility of the company. 

Recognize your share of guilt or that of the enterprise. The customer wants to know that the business is aware of the problem that has caused it. In business crisis situations, all experts recommend as a first premise, recognize our mistake and assume the guilt. It's a bit like what happened with Toyota when the problem arose with the acceleration of its Lexus: they took the time to recognize it publicly, and when the president of the company did, the analysts considered that it had not bowed enough. He had to reappear and this time do the right inclination and assume all responsibilities.

"Analyze the problem in its proper measure.  It is important to examine the extent to which the complaint, the claim, the error is valid and whether it is necessary to make it see in which parts it has no reason to avoid future conflicts. Many clients go to failure and do not see the rest of the job well done. It is necessary to try to make him see so that the relationship will not deteriorate on our part.

Errors to Avoid

- Apologize for apologizing. 

If you do not feel it, it shows. Wait to do that previous reflection, try to see the problem from the other's point of view and, if you still can not understand your guilt, let it be because the effect is worse.

- Justify yourself.  

There is nothing worse than looking for excuses to our mistake or tone out. One thing is to be explained and quite another to be justified. Avoid phrases like "sorry for what I said, but I have a lot of work, I'm under a lot of pressure ...". Catchwords such as "but," "is that" or similar convey the feeling that responsibility is not assumed.

- Throw against the other.  

It's the fake apology. We can not look for excuses to our attitude in the behavior of the other or of others. Nothing "Besides you ...". "You would have done the same in my place." "You started first." "If you had given me the clearest report."

- Eternize in the apology. 

There must be an assumption of responsibility, a verbalization of the apology and a plan of action. But do not expect the other to react immediately.

- To ask for forgiveness continuously for the same thing. 

For the apology to be effective, it must be accompanied by a promise of change to avoid the problem that has caused the apology. If we repeat the mistake, we reflect that we are not sincere.

And if you do it in writing

An apology letter can be a very useful tool when faced with a problem with another department, someone who is not physically in the office or with a client. The fact of writing it involves a process of reflection that is valued by the recipient. You have to address it personally (put the name in the header) and start directly asking for forgiveness to continue with an explanation of the causes and end with a promise of settlement or with a proposed solution:

" Dear Mr. / Mrs. Xxxx:

We deeply regret the inconvenience posed by the delay in delivery of your order. We are aware of the seriousness of the problem and wish to convey our sincere apologies.

We have started an internal investigation to determine what has happened and as soon as we have the results we will send them without delay / After analyzing the facts, we have detected that there has been a supply problem that is already remedied ...

We want to compensate you for the inconvenience, offering you the 24-hour delivery service without any cost / guaranteeing in writing the correct operation of the service / refunding the amount of the service poorly ...

We reiterate our sincere apology and remain at your disposal for any clarification you may require.


Name and surname"

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