Magazine article Workforce Management

Apology's Sorry State

Magazine article Workforce Management

Apology's Sorry State

Article excerpt

Why do so many people have such a hard time apologizing, especially when the act itself is such a powerful symbol of leadership and reconciliation?


WHEN I WAS A KID, my dad frequently made a point of telling me that confession was good for the soul.

Although it's easy to think he was passing on religious philosophy, I've come to understand over the years that Dad had something else in mind, and it's this: Owning up to your missteps in life, acknowledging what you've done wrong, apologizing and-most important-attempting to set things right can be a powerful tool when dealing with other people. And nowhere is that more true than in the world of business and people management.

I was thinking of this recently when dealing with a Web site that was using content from Workforce Management without getting our permission to do so. When I pointed this out to the site's operators, they stonewalled me and ignored me completely until I found another way to get their attention.

Even at that point, when they finally, grudgingly admitted their transgression, the "apology" I received was terribly shallow and totally insincere. I came away from the incident wondering how the company manages to keep any customers at all given such a ham-handed business philosophy. Who wants to deal with an organization that behaves like that?

The site also missed an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. People make mistakes, nobody's perfect, and sometimes things happen that shouldn't. I understand that completely. That's why a timely, personal and sincere apology could have turned me around and made me feel really positive toward the organization. Instead, I was left with the strong impression that it was a shoddy operation with bad business practicesan organization that would do the right thing only if somebody forced it to.

It doesn't have to be that way. I learned about the power of the apology earlier in my career when I was a new newspaper editor, working for an equally new publisher who was very passionate about her work. She was so passionate, in fact, that she would sometimes come into my office and yell at me while throwing a balled-up copy of that day's newspaper at my head. She wasn't happy about something and that was her way of letting me know.

Sounds terrible, right? Well, it was at the time, but to my publisher's credit, she also always came back after losing her cool and, in what I thought was a remarkable show of humility, made a very heartfelt apology. …

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