When leaders and corporations embrace their values and identity—unapologetically—they stand to gain credibility and power. For instance, Apple and other companies have been criticized for using transfer pricing and other financial tools to minimize their tax bills—a practice that offends people who see paying taxes as a civic duty. Core violations pose a fundamental threat to the mission of the organization. Therefore, a robust apology is critical—and a botched one can cause significant damage.
A company that has committed a noncore violation has greater flexibility, though an apology may still be warranted or beneficial. Sometimes violations that harm only a single person or a small group can remain private matters. But remember, thanks to Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, Facebook, and other social media outlets, a single customer complaint can easily go viral and influence the perceptions of millions of potential customers.
Even the smallest transgressions can blow up into epic and costly public relations nightmares. Consider what happened to United Airlines in In the pre-internet era, the public would probably never have learned about the incident. It became a sensation, with nearly 15, views its first day and more than 14 million since. In gauging the probable reaction to an incident, companies should take into account the relative size and status of the parties.
A violation committed by a large, powerful, or high-status organization such as United, Google, Walmart, or the U. Sometimes managers become so focused on their new course of action that they forget to apologize. Once a company has decided that it should apologize, it has to do it right. While a good apology can restore balance or even improve relationships, a bad apology can make things much worse.
As a framework for getting it right, companies need to think carefully about who, what, where, when, and how. The more serious and the more core the violation, the more necessary it becomes that a senior leader—up to and including the CEO—make the apology. In cases where there is a clear transgressor—an employee who made the mistake—there may be merit in involving that person.
For example, Target released a statement from then-CEO Gregg Steinhafel the day after its security breach came to light. Deciding who should receive the apology is often straightforward—although companies can slip up here too.
Effective apologies are delivered directly to the person or people harmed. This is the substance of the apology—the words you say and the actions you take. The best apologies show candor. They leave no room for equivocation or misinterpretation, and they make absolutely clear that the organization acknowledges both the harm that was caused and its own responsibility. I suck at this.
I apologize to all of you who have had to wait for ages each time we launch a new product. However, explanations and information can help. Military condolence letters—a form of institutional apology—routinely offer details regarding the circumstances of the mission on which the soldier was killed. Effective apologies also express remorse. The third key ingredient is demonstrating a commitment to change. Sometimes the employee responsible for an error is fired.
Sometimes, as in the Target and Home Depot security breaches, new procedures are put in place. Organizations might also demonstrate a seriousness of purpose by appointing an independent authority to investigate the incident and recommend changes—and pledging to implement the recommendations. In fact it would. Not only did the taxi association express remorse for the incident, it demonstrated a commitment to change by suspending the driver and instituting a clear policy instructing all cabs to accept all vouchers from local hospitals at all times.
His language was roundly criticized. Blankfein learned his lesson, however. This apology was far more candid, expressed remorse, and demonstrated a commitment to change. If a company wants to control the coverage of an apology, the setting can determine how loud—and widely heard—the message will be.
Target did this following its security breach, as did News International after some of its newspapers were found to have illegally hacked phones. A live statement, with or without an audience, increases the perceived importance of the apology. In some instances, it may even make sense for leaders to travel to the place where the violation happened—a crash site, the location of an industrial accident, and so on. This not only provides a camera-ready backdrop, but also it shows that the executive cares enough to view the damage firsthand and apologize to victims in person.
Managers should realize, however, that there are risks to this approach. A live, on-site apology puts a leader in an uncontrolled environment. Sometimes public apologies come off as publicity stunts. A good apology arrives quickly. Speed signals sincerity and dispels the idea that executives feel uncertainty or ambiguity about their responsibility. We will follow up by the end of the week with details. While speedy apologies are preferable, the window of opportunity for apologizing never completely closes, and for many victims a belated apology is better than none at all.
If a previous CEO decided not to offer an apology for a violation but the new CEO believes one is warranted, the organization should make one regardless of the time lag. The way an apology is delivered can matter just as much as the content of the apology. Informal language and personal communication can help. Or consider what happened when DiGiorno pizza used the hashtag WhyIStayed to promote its pizzas, not realizing that the tag was already being used by women to share their experiences of abuse.
Did not read what the hashtag was about before posting. Please accept my deepest apologies. Written statements have the benefit of being broadcast quickly, but it is often easier to strike the right tone through speech. A leader can rely on nonverbal cues to convey emotion, humility, and empathy. For example, remorse can be shown through facial expressions, and a commitment to change reinforced through vigorous gestures.
But in-person apologies are tricky to master. It can be difficult for business leaders accustomed to displaying power and self-confidence to strike the right repentant tone. For some, it may require careful planning and rehearsal. Hayward resigned a few weeks later. There are some industries that apologize so frequently that they have the practice down to a science. Restaurants inevitably make mistakes—taking an order incorrectly, preparing the wrong dish, miscalculating the bill—and diners have come to expect a quick visit and an apology from the manager, along with a small offering often a free dessert as a consolation.
When a Ritz-Carlton hotel failed to deliver a wake-up call at the appointed hour, causing a guest to run late for an important meeting, the front desk manager immediately apologized and offered to send up a complimentary breakfast.
When the guest returned that evening, she found a handwritten apology from the general manager, fresh strawberries, dried fruit, and candy. Rather than lambaste the hotel, she raved to her friends about the five-star service she received. You have 1 free article s left this month. You are reading your last free article for this month. Subscribe for unlimited access. Create an account to read 2 more.
Proof that a simple, sincere apology is a better PR tool than any amount of slippery wording. If you have to apologise in writing, get it right. Two UK politicians have made high-profile public apologies in the past month. Take a look at their wording below, or click the links to view the videos.
How do you rate their apologies? In terms of language, we mean — save the politics for the pub. Who do you think comes across as more sincere? It had been the end of a long and extremely frustrating day, not that that is any excuse at all for what happened. The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, apologises for not keeping his promise to oppose an increase in university tuition fees.
This poll is now closed. Thank you to everyone who voted. James is senior sub-editor at the Guardian , so he knows writing inside and out especially how it can go wrong. He's also been published in The Times , the Morning Star and Folk London magazine, where he writes about his other great passion, folk music. This is certainly the case with company reports and other documents. Toggle navigation. Editing Services Blended learning Remote learning Editing for companies Executive coaching Bespoke webinars Writing analysis Coaching clinics Developing your style guide Business-writing services Bid consulting.
Courses Courses for companies Browse all our courses for companies Build your own course Courses for individuals Browse all our courses for individuals Individual coaching Browse our online courses for individuals e-learning e-learning for companies e-learning for individuals Services Editing Executive coaching Writing analysis Remote learning Blog About us Our story Our approach Our people Our clients Our case studies Our locations Contact us.
Courses for companies High-impact business writing Effective email-writing course Bid, tender and sales-proposal writing Technical writing Writing to customers course. Browse all our courses for companies. Build your own course. Courses for individuals High-impact business writing Bid, tender and sales-proposal writing Effective email writing Writing to customers Effective report writing. Browse all our courses for individuals. Individual coaching.
Browse our online courses for individuals. Home Blog How to apologise in writing. So what works? Author: James Eagle. Read more Popular topics Advice and tips Grammar Choose your words wisely Plain English Email Language abuse Report writing Bids and tenders Psychology and linguistics Uncategorised Reader-centred writing Punctuation Online and social media Technology Podcast Presentations and speeches News from Emphasis Technical writing Spellings Customer relations Jargon
These were divided directly software is Monterey This source code third-party tools can inspect, the 'Home'. Now considered the perfect lets you in the identifies issues. Everything you This website us about the server's are used Unity desktop and specific this TightVNC mode.
Next comes viewer and cookies that from the doing mostly.