Whenever I’m watching my toddler-aged nieces, I make sure they mind their manners. They’re great at saying “please” and “thank you”. And even when they have to be reminded, they quickly insert it politely.
But there’s something about having to say “sorry” that makes their whole demeanor change. All of a sudden, they begin to hunch over, drag their feet, and in the lowest and softest voice possible, they say something that can be interpreted as, “I’m sorry”.
Apparently, not much changes for some adults. In the public and private sector, apologizing to the public still seems to be such a difficult task. It’s fun to brag about your organization’s accomplishments, but admitting fault? Not so much.
I’ve been in circumstances where a company apology had to be written; and although every circumstance will be different, the end result is usually better if it adheres to these three guidelines:
- Make the apology punctual.
From the Watergate scandal, we learned that it’s not the crime; it’s the cover up. When you find out about the issue, you need to start trying to rectify the situation. Hoping that the issue will get overlooked or eventually die down will only discredit your organization further down the road when the truth comes to light.
- Make the apology genuine.
We all make mistakes, and people know this. Be clear and specific about why you’re apologizing and mean it. Your public isn’t stupid — sounding a bit callous or pretentious isn’t going to work.
- Don’t Make Excuses.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” And he’s right! Don’t spend time trying to justify what happened. It’s time to ensure the public that you’re making strides to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
If it hasn’t occurred already, a situation is likely to arise where you will have to apologize for your organization in some capacity, but it’s how you handle it that will determine a successful outcome.