I’m sorry

25 February 2010
Well, I thought I would say it too, as everybody else seems to have done lately. There was Tiger Woods’s press conference of remorse at the end of last week, Toyota boss Akio Toyoda’s repeated apologies to the US congress concerning the problems of his company, and yesterday Gordon Brown said he was “truly sorry” to those children who were sent abroad by the British government. And of course there was the apology from the bankers for bringing the financial system to its knees and fouling up the economy for the rest of us for the foreseeable future. No, sorry, we haven’t had that one yet. So I guess generally, it isn’t really the hardest word (sorry Sir Elton). Australia even has National Sorry Day (it’s on 26 May if you want to mark it in your diary). Of course it’s not saying sorry that is difficult – it’s actually meaning it. If you Google “How do I apologise?” the top result that appears is “How can I apologise without saying sorry?” (Incidentally, “How do I apologise to my boyfriend?” has 2.83 million results.) In the corporate world both extremes exist. On the one hand some businesses don’t ever apologise, fearing an admission of guilt will come back to haunt them in a subsequent court appearance. On the other hand, you may regularly be treated to the sort of corporate apology that is completely meaningless – “We apologise for the inconvenience to your journey this morning”, for example. When people say: “I just want an apology”, they don’t really. If it’s a mistake that needs to be rectified or a product that requires fixing, they actually want things to be sorted out. So I’m starting a movement. Let’s try to bring back the credibility of the word sorry. It won’t be difficult. Just make sure you mean it, and do it right. Alternatively you could take a leaf out of Homer Simpson’s book: “I never apologise, Lisa. I'm sorry, but that's just the way I am.”
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