The Power of an Apology

“I’m sorry.”

“I apologize.”

Those two phrases hold a great deal of power because they can repair a relationship and soothe hurt feelings. Sometimes, the lack of an apology can irretrievably hurt a work relationship.

This effect is compounded when the offender is someone we look up to in the organization. Perhaps it’s a favorite manager or someone with an excellent reputation.

To make it even worse, sometimes the apology we do get is a half apology like these:

  • I’m sorry if my choice of words offended you
  • I’m sorry you were offended by my actions

Those aren’t real apologies.

Be The Change

Organizations don’t have to be the rigid, soul sucking offices of the Office Space movie. In those places the higher you go, the less likely you are to see an apology. That’s a problem. We all make mistakes. We all make comments that anger or offend or are unfair.

Leaders demonstrate true leadership behaviors when they do what the Don Draper’s of the world find unthinkable: apologizing.

For those of us who want to change organizations for the better, an apology is another way we can demonstrate that we are serious about holding ourselves accountable.

Gandhi said to be the change we want to see in the world and that is just as applicable at work. We must demonstrate the behavior we want to see in our organizations. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

Set Aside Your Ego

It is easier said than done because our ego gets in the way:

“But to lead with dignity, composure, kindness, and self-awareness? That takes effort. That takes maturity. And it doesn’t come naturally to most of us.” Krister Ungerboeck, CEO Courageous Growth

Setting aside the ego and making a real apology looks like this:

  • I’m sorry I said
  • I’m sorry I did…

An effective apology is really that simple.


You Win With People


Originally published at HR reMix.

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