Executive coaching

The Risky Business Of Apologies


As humans, we are all prone to making missteps, errors and sometimes behaving badly.  We’ve all done it, some more publicly than others.

The tendency is often to lay blame on others or justify our actions, as if we can somehow shift the spotlight from our own behavior, we’ll be in the clear.

We see this all too frequently with public figures, within the corporate realm and sometimes in our own teams.  The problem with this strategy is that it doesn’t work.

Failure to apologise not only doesn’t help the problem, it makes it more likely that the offended party or parties becomes even more offended.

Think about it….have the people that caused the financial crisis fully apologised?

As my colleague Mark Goulston says, “To err is human. To take full responsibility, face it and pay all the consequence is divine.”  So if apologies are so good, why don’t we offer them more often?

Simply put, because we feel that apologies are risky.  We may worry that if we apologise, we’ll lose face, lose credibility, jeopardise our job or even be sued…..therefore it may somehow feel safer to point the finger toward someone or something else.


Here’s a case study…the most impactful apology I’ve ever received.

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