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Mea Culpa



Whilst Elton John thought it was the hardest word, I’ve never had a problem saying sorry. We’re quite big at sorry in our family, my brother and I would quite happily spend most of the day apologising to one another for something that was neither of our fault. It’s no biggie really is it? Just three words rolled into two.

But it seems not. Well clearly it is three words rolled into two…but it doesn’t seem that easy, not if my experiences are anything to go by. People really seem to struggle with the concept of apologising. And I’m really not sure why.

My organisation is not one that has a culture of accepting responsibility. Argument after argument will go on and people leave blaming one another for all sorts of things that are really of little importance. But the thing that amazes me is when you do apologise, the whole thing dissipates and no one remembers.

How do I know this? Well I do it. I walk into the CEO office and they are ranting and raving about some minutiae that I haven’t covered off. I hold my hands up say, “You’re right, I’ll get onto it” and we start talking about the big important things that I have done. No hard feelings.

On the other hand the I have seen the CEO and FD go hammer and tongs at one another (and not like that! – eww bad image) over who said what or did what when quite frankly it didn’t matter one iota. Both leaving the meeting frustrated and grumping about the other.

I’ll even apologise about things that aren’t my fault if I think it will move things on. It doesn’t worry me, I’m not scarred by it and I don’t think it makes me less of a person. If people need an apology to help them move on, then as far as I’m concerned that’s ok. If you think that makes me weak…….

I’m Sorry.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. 06/24/2010 08:40

    I totally agree… sorry!

  2. Mr E permalink
    06/24/2010 09:17

    Hmmm, got me thinking about how hard some people do find it to say the word. This is how bad it gets… my good lady had an affair and I found out. No anger, just shock and dissapointment. But she couldn’t bring herself to say sorry, and there’s a history here. She was proud that she’d never apologised – ever, period, her whole life. Probably a childhood thing. How did it end? Destroyed children, house lost to both of us, bitterness and anger, lost career both ends, local humiliation as it got more and more extreme as time went by to justify the unjustifiable position she had taken. ALL down to an inability to say one word which could so easily have set us back on the path to normality. For those that do not appreciate it’s power… take heed and be humble. You may not be able to predict the extremity of the outcome from not saying sorry every once in a while. Sorry I bothered you…

  3. Rick permalink
    06/24/2010 09:29

    I remember working in a company with a serious blame culture a few years ago. We got a new HRD who found the whole thing very frustrating.

    I made a bit of a cock up during the pay review and general hysteria followed. The HRD called me within minutes of the shit hitting the fan. The conversation went:

    “Rick, what happened?”

    “I fucked up! That’s it. I’ve apologised but there’s not much else I can do.”

    “Oh, OK, good…well I think some people need to calm down be a bit more adult about how they deal with this sort of thing.”

    It was unusual for someone to immediately admit responsibility in that organisation – which is why it took people by surprise.

    Anyway, I was off the hook and the focus had shifted onto the drama queens who were making all the fuss.

  4. Ministry of Truth permalink
    06/24/2010 10:57

    No, I’m sorry…

  5. 06/24/2010 12:03

    I’m sorry, but I don’t agree… oh wait. I do. Sorry…

    For years now I’ve been told that I’m not ‘hard’ enough and that I probably apologise too much, but from what I’ve seen it’s one of the most effective ways of moving things on. An apology immediately takes the wind out of an arguments sails and helps to calm everyone down a bit…

    I’m not going to apologise for apologising. If something is my fault, then I think I should take responsibility, and not taking responsibility is more cowardly than stepping up and facing the music.

    So, more Sorry’s please… just so long as Ronnie Corbett doesn’t make an appearance

  6. Corporate Daycare permalink
    06/24/2010 12:50

    As a Canadian, I’ve inherited a reputation for being overly-polite and over-apologetic. Hey, I’m good with that.

    And you are absolutely right, saying “I’m sorry” tends to diffuse a situation better than any arguement, because people just aren’t expecting it. However, like the boy who cried wolf, saying sorry to get out of everything is going to wear thin and become meaningless…there has to be an element of sincerity with it.

  7. g-dog permalink
    06/25/2010 01:56

    Please, thank you, and sorry go a long way…

  8. 06/25/2010 09:38

    @Mark – 🙂 Thanks for commenting and welcome!

    @Mr E – Wow. Therein lies the lesson. Thanks for taking the time to share that.

    @Rick – Brilliant example. How often do things like that happen in HR? Sometimes you just have to move on and think about recovery not blame.

    @Ministry of Truth – …….no…….I’m sorry….

    @HRBoy – Welcome and thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m intrigued to see what you do with that WordPress page….and no….no Ronnie Corbetts!

    @Corporate Daycare – You’re right of course (again) that there needs to be sincerity otherwise it tends to provoke anger even more!

    @g-dog – Three magic words. My kids live by them……along with “chocolate”….

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