Everyone makes mistakes. And almost everyone hates to admit their mistakes, which makes coming clean even harder.
Retaining good relationships in the workplace is crucial, so next time you stuff up in the office (and it happens to us all at some point), take a deep breath and consider the best way to respond. Here are some suggestions for effective apologies from two career experts, Alison Doyle and Tanya Tarr who are regular contributes to Forbes.
Apologise as soon as possible.
The longer you leave it, the more time you allow negative feelings to grow. However, depending on the level of your transgression, it might be better to leave your apology for a few hours or even a day to let things calm down.
Be sincere, direct and clear. Determine the best form of communication; face-to-face or phone is usually more appropriate than a less personal email.
Take ownership for your mistake.
Don’t focus on excuses, and avoid using words like “but” and “if”. Make it clear you are owning up to your mistake:
“I am sorry, I apologise”.
Offer a solution.
Also note what steps you are taking to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Use active listening to re-establish trust.
Use open-ended questions such as, “How can I make this right with you?” Try not to be defensive, which will defeat the sincerity of your apology. Sometimes the person may need a bit of time to recoup or prefer to respond to your olive branch in a different way, so be prepared to be flexible.
Consider a gift or a treat. A nice box of chocolates or gift certificate will usually be welcome and can help smooth the way to forgiveness in some situations. However, beware of looking like you are trying to buy someone’s good graces, which could make the situation worse.
Give them space.
Once you have made your apology, let the other person deal with the matter in their own way and time.
Focus on the future, not the past.
Feeling guilty about the problem won’t help anyone. Use your energy to focus on what you will do when faced with a similar situation in the future.