I apologize, I am sorry, my mistake, my bad, oops… Part of being human is making mistakes. Many times when we make a mistake it causes harm to others either physically or emotionally, and as a result, we find our selves in a situation where we must apologize for those mistakes.

As an HR consultant, I am frequently faced with situations where a disgruntled employee feels that the company has wronged him or her in some way, shape, or form. If the emotional impact is great, then the employee may seek legal action against the company, but in many cases, the employee just wants a simple, heart felt, “I’m sorry”. At my Texas based PEO, I often find that employers do not really know how or when to apologize to their staff.

The following are some tips that I offer these individuals.

When to apologize

If you loose your temper

As business leaders we are expected to always keep our cool. As human beings faced with deadlines, personal issues, and other frustrations, this can be a daunting task. However, there is no excuse for taking our frustrations on our employees or coworkers. A person’s temper is their own; no one can “make” you lose it. As business leaders, we know that attacking employees achieves absolutely nothing positive. If you feel your temper begin to flare, do everyone a favor and step away, breathe deep. A quick break from frustration can do wonders.

If you undermine another employee

We should always try to remember that other people have feelings and that we need to exercise consideration. Moreover, people experience different levels of vulnerability. As leaders and professionals, it is very important to treat our subordinates and co-workers with dignity and respect, even if they make a mistake. Think before you speak! There are ways to get your point across and spare the feelings of others.

If you “drop the ball”

Today’s business world is built on teamwork environments and therefore people spend a great deal of time working in teams, or in collaboration with other individuals. As a result of working with others, our actions can have many effects on many different individuals. People are counting on us to do what we say we are going to do, when we say we are going to do it. Be accountable!

When NOT to apologize

For mistakes you did not make

When you give someone an apology, what you are actually doing is admitting that you made a mistake. Therefore, apologizing for a mistake you did not make is the same as an admission of guilt. Companies, in particular, can find themselves in hot water if they start apologizing when they are not at fault. Conversely, you may apologize on behalf of someone else, in which case, you are not speaking for the person who made the mistake, but you are apologizing for the affect of the mistake.

During a write up or termination

Apologizing during a termination is inadvisable. At the time of termination is not the place for conversation. If you find yourself in a situation where you must write up or terminate an employee, you must remember that you are acting in the best interest of the business and that the action is not personal. On the contrary, if you feel that you owe this individual an apology, maybe you should reconsider the action you are about to take.

Learning when and when not to apologize is merely way to fine-tune our effective communication skills. As business leaders, it is critical that we are confident in all of our actions and interactions. Even so, apologizing when we make mistakes shows others that we are humble, a very humanistic quality. All people make mistakes, even business leaders, top executives and Human Resource Consultants!

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