When Nick Clegg tried to apologise for an about turn on tuition fees, he ended up ridiculed on YouTube. But when Tesco used poems to cover its embarrassment over horsemeat, critics were charmed. How should you go about saying sorry?
Know What You Are Doing
“I define an apology as a willingness to value the relationship more than the need to be right,” says John Kador, author of Effective Apology. In other words, sometimes we have to say sorry because it is the more pragmatic option.
However, apologise at the drop of a hat and your words carry to little weight. Where you apologise also matters: too formal a setting draws too much attention, but a casual word in the office seems insincere.
Be Clear With Wording
Acknowledge what you are apologising for, and the damage it caused. Say sorry for actions, not offence. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO, was castigated for saying “people feel…we have reasons to apologise.”
Bill Clinton did it best (eventually), “I made a big mistake. It’s indefensible and I’m sorry.”
Do Not Make Light of It
Having apologised, do not turn it into a joke or follow it up with actions that undermine you. Remember Tony Hayward, CEO, of BP issuing a Mea Culpa then tweeting that he “wanted his life back.”
- Why has Tesco been apologising in poems? (bbc.co.uk)
- Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein Says Gay Marriage Is Business Issue; Knocks FRC (ontopmag.com)