By Melodie Veldhuizen
Sometimes all of us make mistakes or do or say things that hurt, anger or upset other people, or cause damage. Apologising when you have inadvertently or intentionally offended somebody, is an essential life skill, also in the workplace. It’s not always easy, but often essential to repair or strengthen relationships with your colleagues.
When is this necessary?
The most important situations where a formal apology is necessary, is when you have made a mistake that you cannot rectify yourself and need help to do so. Also do it when you have made a promise to a client that you cannot keep. If, during a private conversation or at a meeting, you hurt a colleague through your words or the way you said something, apologise immediately. Sometimes an apology is necessary when you (usually a person in a management position) are the bearer of bad news, mostly about something out of your control (e.g. cancelled leave, or no bonus). In the last instance an apology is necessary when you failed to carry out an instruction before the target date.
Sometimes it feels unnecessary or needless or that it is a sign of weakness or failure. However, to acknowledge your mistake and suggest alternatives makes good work relationships easier and could open doors for you in future. Even if you don’t think your behaviour was wrong, at least think about what effect your behaviour has. Your apology proves your regret and sense of responsibility and is a sign of integrity, courage, empathy and caring. You admit that you have hurt the person or have harmed an individual or your employer. You open the lines for further communication and repair trust and relationships. It is to your own advantage, and also to the advantage of the other person, the team and the company.
How do I do it?
- Do it as soon as possible after the mistake or slip-up.
- Approach the person with an open mind and be willing to listen. Give him or her enough time to ponder and accept your apology. And when he or she reacts, listen without interrupting him or her or apologising for your behaviour. Be prepared for a possible negative reaction (reluctance to accept your apology).
- Be sincere and make sure that the person can see or sense that you are really sorry.
- Be empathetic. Put yourself in his or her shoes and try to think how you would have felt if a person acted in the same manner towards you.
- People want recognition that theit feelings have been hurt and that it was justified. Say that you realise that your words could have upset or even angered him or her.
- Be specific, but to the point. Do not babble pointlessly. A long, exaggerated apology can even be interpreted as sarcastic.
- Use the active instead of passive voice: “I am sorry that I hurt you” instead of “I’m sorry that you feel hurt.”
- Accept responsibility. This is probably the most difficult part because one instinctively wants to defend oneself or justify your actions. Do not apologise for your behaviour but do give a reason. There is a fine line between an aplogy and a reason. Try to explain your behaviour but if you cannot do so without making it sound like an apology, rather keep quiet.
- Avoid conditional apologies. Saying: “I’m sorry you took my words wrong” sounds as if you’re absolving yourself of all blame.
- It is going to be uncomfortable. Don’t make jokes or be flippant to hide your discomfort – it is usually not well received by the other party and can also be interpreted as insincerity. Rather be candid and grab the bull by the horns.
- Put forward proposals about how you could compensate for your faux-pas and do it immediately. However, do not make promises that you will not be able to keep.
- Learn from the situation and your mistakes. Work on your behaviour and learn to think twice before you speak or act in future.
- Make sure that your apology was well accepted so that you and the other party c an go on with your lives. Or will you have to offer your apology in a different manner in future?
- Think about different ways of apologising. Sometimes it is necessary to say it in person. However, if you feel uncomfortable or are afraid that you will become emotional or will not be able to formulate your thoughts logically, do it in writing by letter or email. If necessary or if the other person reacts, follow up with a personal conversation.
Business Newe Daily. https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/15110-how-to-apologize-at-work.html
The Balance Careers. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/when-and-how-to-apologize-at-work-2062679