When you mess up, how do you handle it – do you fess up, try to cover up, or blame others?
The average ethically challenged person says to err is human, to forgive, divine. The ethically challenged politician says to err is human, to forgive, divine, but to repeat the error is stupid. The ethically challenged lawyer would say, to err is human, but to get even that is divine. The ethically challenged corporation, when it comes to the scope of environmental threats, to err is human, but to report the error is criminal and to make a profit out of it,t is obscene. In the computer world the principle is, to err is human; but to really foul things up requires a computer. The Peter principle version is, to err is human, to blame it on someone else, shows management potential.
Molly Fitzpatrick’s article follows on “How to apologize the right way.’ Did you know that an apology actually has three parts?
We aren’t robots with a 100% accuracy rate. We are humans. We are fallible. Even the most organized and efficient employee mess up from time to time and disrupts the workflow. Whether that mistake is ours as an individual, involves our team, or reflects on the whole company, an apology is in order.
Sometimes, the simple words “I’m sorry” are enough. But usually, we need something that goes a bit further. A real apology actually has three parts, and goes like this: “I’m sorry; this is what I did; and this is what I am doing to correct it.” Sounds like a no-brainer, right? It should be, but I’m often surprised by the people’s struggles with delivering apologies, and I don’t think I am the only one.
In the heat of conflict, an apology has a way of disarming the recipient. It breaks into the mental chatter of assumptions such as, “He doesn’t care!” or “They don’t value my business.”
A genuine and sincere apology doesn’t mean you are unintelligent or weak. In fact, it shows just the opposite. An apology proves that you are competent enough to see your error and strong enough to own up to it. It lets people know you care that you upset or inconvenienced them in some way, shape, or form.
Apologies also strengthen relationships. When a manager apologizes to an employee, it helps level the hierarchy for a moment, giving the employee a glimpse of the human side of their boss. When a company apologizes to a customer, it demonstrates honesty and trust, respect and value.
“This is what I did.”
As Benjamin Franklin said, “Do not ruin an apology with an excuse.” Own your fault. Avoid the “fluffy” apology and the defensive posture. Saying, “I’m sorry, but … but … but …!” is irritating to the recipient and gets you nowhere fast.
Don’t give people the run around. It is manipulative, disrespectful, and degrading. Make a clear and precise admission of where you were at fault, and accept responsibility for your shortcomings.
“This is what I am doing to correct it.”
The most important and often missed part of a real apology is the solution. The solution is where you should focus your energy! There is no point in dwelling on the past. Instead, ask yourself questions like “How can I fix this issue for the customer as quickly as possible and restore their faith in our work?” or “How can I improve on my skills to avoid this situation from happening again?”
Sometimes the solution is as simple as attaching a file you forgot in an email. Sometimes it is more complicated, such as readjusting or reevaluating business values or programs. Regardless, be proactive with an appropriate solution. Maybe at the moment your only solution is that you will look into the matter, but by all means, do not leave a customer, co-worker, or employee hanging. The solution enables you to close the situation to the best of your ability on a positive note.
Companies are continually presented with problems. Some are one-offs while others define negative patterns. In both cases, errors mean there is still room for growth. Growth is inevitable and we must not stay stagnant. Taking the right perspective and approach to a blunder on your or your company’s part will get you further with people than you think!
This concept is different in your personal life. In your personal, I was taught it was 1) What I did was wrong (and explain what you did), 2) I am sorry and 3) will you forgive me? “ I’m sorry” by itself is rather a knee-jerk reaction. When you put a little thought into it, it means so much more.