What Did You DO??

Just hearing those four words sends my dogs into a tail dropping, ear drooping, cowering position of wretched submission and shame.

Don’t you wish you could say that to some coworkers, vendors, customers or advisors periodically and get the same reaction? Why is it so hard for some people to admit they’ve made a mistake?

Is it fear of looking foolish? Worry about a possible lawsuit? Pigheaded obstinance and a humungous ego that will not allow any sign of capitulation? Maybe it will cost some money to admit an error? Perhaps he or she is just a jerk?

Please don’t let that stop you from apologizing if you were wrong, or, at the very least, acknowledging there might have been a problem.

How bad does it feel to be ill-treated by someone you work with, be they vendor, coworker or client? And, how much of a difference does it make to hear those beautiful words:

  • “I’m sorry.”
  • “That was my fault.”
  • “I overreacted.”
  • “I was wrong.”
  • “I feel like I’ve hurt you, but that was not my intention.”
  • “I can see why you might feel like that, and I’m sorry.”

Some companies spend tens of thousands of dollars training their employees to properly handle customer complaints. Often, a simple and honest apology will do what a full-page, scripted “mea culpa, but not really” will not do—assuage the feelings that somehow got hurt.

Are you someone that should apologize to a client, coworker or vendor?

Yea, I thought so.

What are you waiting for? GO DO IT NOW!

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  • Henry

    Harvard Bus Rev article: Large hospital had several departments in different locations performing same function. The best department had the highest number of non-conformances and other errors. Huh? Doesn’t make sense. Well, in that department, when something went wrong, it was treated as an opportunity to improve and employees were thanked for reporting errors.

    The other departments were managed in typical American style. When someone reported an error, they were chewed out and belittled.

    Now does it make sense?

  • Bill Harris

    I could not agree more with this. Years back, when I was still in Retail Management, I took over a store that was very nearly ready to close it’s doors because the previous manager had alienated not only his staff but his customers as well. He was loud, boisterous and, worst of all, completely without apparent compassion. It was a very slow and hard process to rebuild this store, but one key factor to getting it done was that when a customer would come in with any kind of problem or concern, we did our best to listen all the way through to what they needed to say and then we offered our sincerest apologies, took responsibility and, most importantly took accountability. We did not point fingers, blame things on the previous manager (even if some things were a direct result of his actions) nor try to shift potential blame onto the customer. I made a point of treating the employees in exactly the same manner – with respect, consideration and common courtesy. In two years with that store we took a failing store and turned it into the #3 store in the Region and I am a little proud to say that not only did we grow our loyal customer base but we did not have a single employee quit on us.

    Sorry for such a long ramble… :)