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The Importance of a Good Apology in Business

Posted on May 18, 2011 by Arianna

Have you ever made a giant mess of a situation at work? I have. I remember the first time I started working for Gordian Project, my boss asked me to complete a task by the end of the day, and I completely forgot. I felt so bad and didn’t even know what to say; I didn’t want my error to ruin the trust in our work relationship. I could have given an excuse, gotten offended because of how he reacted to my mistake, or apologized, but I took the coward way out, and provided an excuse. Come to think of it, our relationship as boss and employee could have been nurtured if only I had apologized and moved on. We often want to be forgiven without having to ask for it. The fact of the matter is that we did screw up and in order to make everything right an apology is necessary. But no ordinary apology will do, as I see it a good apology has three parts – “I’m sorry; it was my fault; and how do I make it right?”

Saying I’m sorry has more to do with attitude than with words. William James, and American philosopher, once said “Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.” The attitude you have when saying I’m sorry will display your sincerity.  Sincerity is the first step to rebuilding the trust that may have been lost.

Taking full responsibility for your mistakes is the hardest part of apologizing, especially in the business environment. However, putting yourself in the other party’s shoes will help you say the words: “It was my fault.” When we are wronged we expect someone to fess up and or need to know who to blame.  Though not taking responsibility can seem more appealing, doing so gives up your power to change. In order to learn from your mistakes, you must first acknowledge your mistakes.  Note, there is a big difference between admitting your mistake and beating yourself up about it. Once you have taken responsibility for your mistake, remember that you are doing the right thing by providing a good apology, no self pity will make your apology any better.

Fixing your mistakes is a step that many of us subconsciously chose to skip. Some mistakes are easy to fix while others have bad consequences. Saying sorry and even accepting fault are easy words to say, but as we all know, actions speak louder than words. Ask the person you have let down what they would like you to do in order to rebuild trust and be worthy of their forgiveness. In the business environment, making sure you complete this step will also help others to be lenient the next time you make a mistake, as they know you are not one to simply sweep it under the rug.

A good apology goes along way - Do it right and do it fast. Remember that a good apology is essential in any relationships. When you make a mistake at work and you apply the three parts of a good apology, your boss and coworkers will respect you for how you handle your mistakes.

We all can use a little help with dealing with apologies and mistakes, if you have any recommendations make sure you leave them in the comments.



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