Apologizing Effectively: A Guide for Managers

If you make a mistake in the workplace, you should apologize to your employees. This acknowledges you’ve made an error and will take the necessary steps to fix it. You should know how to deliver an appropriate apology that helps build trust and a lasting relationship with your team. Learn how to properly apologize to your employees and review FAQs about apologizing effectively.

 

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Why is it important to apologize effectively? 

Apologizing to employees acknowledges that you made a mistake and will take the necessary actions to correct yourself. Accepting responsibility for a behavior that affected an employee is a great way to start a conversation with them. This helps you learn what you did and how to fix it. It also helps you understand what you can do in the future to avoid making this mistake again. 

 

Admitting you made a mistake shows employees that you’re willing to improve yourself and understand what you can do to be better. This motivates your employees to apologize to others as well and repeat the steps you took to acknowledge you were wrong. This motivates the entire office to understand how to improve themselves and practice communicating their feelings with one another, which builds a stronger company culture. 

 

Taking responsibility also helps the other person feel better by allowing them to gather their dignity and confidence. This makes it easier for them to heal after the situation, which allows you to remain respected and appreciated as a supervisor. 

Related: Cultivating Positive Workplace Behavior

 

How to apologize effectively to employees

Apologizing to employees is a great way to build strong dialogue between all your team members in the office. Follow the steps below to deliver an effective apology to your employees: 

 

1. Reflect on what you said or did 

Before apologizing to an employee, take time to think about your actions. Analyze the situation and ask yourself how you would have felt if you were the other person in this circumstance. Evaluate how you and the other person feel and what exactly you believe you did to cause it. 

 

2. Reach out to the employee to set up a meeting 

Once you know exactly what you’ll be apologizing for, contact the employee and set up a meeting with them. An apology is more professional if you complete it privately, in person. This helps both you and the employee feel more comfortable and confident to express feelings during the conversation. Try to reserve a meeting room, conference room or speak in your office to ensure privacy and confidentiality.  

 

3. Start the apology by expressing remorse 

Begin the apology by immediately stating, "I apologize" or "I’m sorry." By starting this way, you’re telling the employee what the meeting will be about. Hearing an apology at the beginning of the conversation helps them feel more comfortable and encouraged to engage in a professional conversation. 

 

4. Take responsibility for your actions 

After stating your remorse, admit that you are responsible for the behavior or actions you performed. Be specific about what you did and mention how that may have made them feel. This helps express that you’re aware of what your actions caused and makes them understand that you really are sorry about it.  

Related: Five Management Tips You Can Try Today

 

5. Make amends with the employee 

Once you have clearly explained what you may have done wrong, detail how you plan to correct the problem. Tell them ways you will avoid making the mistake again and what steps you will take if you do make it once again. This demonstrates your willingness to correct your problem and work to overcome it. This action encourages your employees to do the same. 

 

6. Give them time to provide an appropriate response 

After presenting your apology, allow the employee time to take in your information and curate a response. They may need time to process what happened in the conversation. This may cause them to simply accept your apology or tell you they need time to think. Accept the response they give you and allow them some time to process the situation. They may approach you later with their own apology, or they may express their feelings with a thought out speech. 

 

Apologizing effectively FAQs

Here are answers to several common questions regarding apologizing effectively: 

 

Can I apologize to an employee over email? 

Depending on the situation, it may be best to apologize via email. If you made a minor mistake like providing incorrect information or arriving late to a meeting, you can apologize through a well-written email. Take your time when you compose it and ensure the message holds you accountable for your actions. Proofread it carefully to make sure it sounds professional and is free of spelling or grammar errors. 

 

What’s an example of an apology over email?

If you’re planning to write an apology over email and are unsure of where to start, use this example to guide you: 

 

Dear team,
I would like to apologize for arriving late to our meeting on Friday, March 13th. I value and respect each of your ideas and your time, and appearing late gives the opposite impression. Next time, I will set more than one alert on my calendar to ensure I come to each meeting early. 

 

Thank you all for your time and effort.
Taylor Adams

Production Manager

 

What’s an example of an apology in person?

Here’s an example of professionally delivering your apology to employees in a face-to-face setting: 

 

"Thank you for meeting with me. I’m sorry for telling you your numbers were incorrect in front of the team during your presentation. I reviewed the numbers at my desk afterward and realized you calculated them correctly. I’m sure the situation made you feel embarrassed and frustrated with me, which is understandable. Next time, I will make sure to double check the numbers before jumping to conclusions. I hope you can accept my apology."

 

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