Is Saying Sorry A Sign Of Weakness In A Manager?


As Elton John eloquently put it, “Sorry seems to be the hardest word”. Why is it difficult for some managers to admit mistakes, learn from them and move on?

Much of it has to do with how they think they will be viewed by others if the have to say ‘sorry’. With some other managers, it is how they will make themselves feel if they have to admit to an error. They don’t have the self-confidence or the security within themselves to own up to doing something wrong or erroneous.

So, what’s the best way of handling this kind of situation if you decide that the best and right thing to do is admit it and deal with it? Here’s a quick checklist that might help:

  1. Make any apology face-to-face. An email for something like this is cowardly and meaningless
  2. Take ownership of any mess that was directly caused by you.
  3. Don’t excuse yourself or try to rationalise your errors. There will be time for looking at reasons later. Not now.
  4. Don’t beat about the bush. Get straight to the point. Something like, “I owe everyone an apology. That behaviour wasn’t appropriate. I want to say how sorry I am for….”
  5. Keep to the point. No tangental remarks. No excuses. No blame. Just acceptance.
  6. Let others respond. Don’t defend yourself at this point. Defense can come later, if necessary. Accept the hurt or disappointment you caused for now. Humility isn’t easy; here’s a chance to show it.
  7. Discuss next steps. Actions you may need to take later can be sought at this point. The important thing is to set a standard of interaction that deepens working relationships.

Whatever the reasons for you having to say sorry, the stresses we are all under can push us too far sometimes. Accept responsibility, decide that you would like to clear the air and show humility, and you may lay the foundation for trust to be rebuilt.

p.s. Oh, and one last thing…learn from what you did and see if you can stop it happening again. Sorry, I missed that one out!

Many thanks

Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Training   | Image courtesy by Stuart Miles of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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Updated on: 20 June, 2012

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