Recently, one of my clients confided that he had made a huge mistake
with a member of his team. Yet, he just couldn’t muster the courage to
admit his wrongdoing, apologize, and attempt to make it right. I have
seen this many times in my career. False pride, embarrassment, and fear
of being seen in a less than favorable light often inhibit even our
purest intentions. A few thoughts on this:
Not apologizing makes the offense worse.
So, we need to ‘man up’ so to speak and just do it. Think about how we
feel when someone comes to us, hat in hand, and figuratively owns his
mea culpa. From my experience, the person who falls on his sword and
apologizes, their stock goes up in my mind – not down. And, in
particular, those individuals who admit to the ‘deep root’ mistake, are
the true heroes.
Consider this example: a manager forgets to include his employee in
an important meeting where much of the work being presented was
actually completed by the employee. (Sound familiar?) The manager was
taking credit for his employee’s efforts. The manager comes to realize
his mistake after the meeting is over. The first and only way this
manager can begin to re-build trust with that employee is to apologize,
and not just for excluding him from the meeting; for the ‘root mistake’
as well. The ‘root mistake’ was basically taking credit for work that
was not his own, and the disrespect shown to this employee. This
certainly may not cure all the ills caused from this specific example;
however, it will be the first step.
Never try to justify the mistake.
Simply put, by trying to rationalize or explain away the mistake,
we negate the apology. Take this example: “I am really sorry I didn’t
get the document to you on time; but you should have reminded me about
the deadline.” It does not matter who may have had a hand in the
ultimate mistake. Apologize. Then, try to make it right. That will take
us so much further than trying to explain why and how the mistake
How many of us have been the recipient of an ‘I’m sorry’ apology which
was cold and insincere? It would almost have been better if they had
not said anything! So, speak from the heart. Sending an email or
a gift is not nearly as effective as a personal phone call or face to
face meeting. It may feel easier at the time; yet, it will not
be received as well as meeting the person face to face.