Effective apologies clear the air and set the tone. They help build a new risk-taking climate as employees realize that mistakes—yours and theirs—are not the end.
But if you don’t make your apology the right way, it can go unnoticed or even backfire on you.
Here are some tips:
- Apologize face to face if at all possible. A personal apology comes across as more sincere than an email and stresses that you care about the person’s feelings.
- Never apologize while angry. Cool down first. Recover from your own chagrin. Otherwise you’ll sound insincere, and that is self-defeating.
- Be specific. Regrets couched in generalities make you come off as wimpy. Pinpoint the action you took—or didn’t—that you now regret.
- Don’t spread the blame to the whole department, company or group. That makes it too diffuse, even if you know that others were involved. Take responsibility for your part in the problem and apologize for that.
- Follow up an apology with a plan to avoid future misunderstanding. But don’t rush in with a quick fix. Show the other person that you’ve taken the problem and the trouble it caused seriously.
- Don’t overapologize. Overuse will weaken its effect.