How to Make a Meaningful Apology
The notorious Sony Pictures hacking news is still fresh in the minds of people. The gory details that unfolded after the hack included personal information, such as private email exchanges about internal company matters and opinions about the President of the United States, being leaked to the public. The hack and leak led to various Sony executives making public apologies. Issuing apologies is often deemed a natural gesture, but how should apologies be made so that they seem more meaningful?
In his book One Minute Apology, Ken Blanchard talks about a clear-headed to accept that we have made a wrong decision and focuses on how to correct it by making a meaningful apology. Very often we hear people say "I'm sorry," and it is followed by excuses and finger-pointing. The nature of apologies can be classified as meaningful or meaningless, and making an apology is a skill that can be polished and perfected.
Not so long so, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was in the midst of a controversy when his rather generic statement about a gender pay equality issue created a wave of negative publicity for him. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Nadella sent an email, part of which said:
Toward the end of the interview, Maria asked me what advice I would offer women who are not comfortable asking for pay raises. I answered that question completely wrong. Without a doubt I wholeheartedly support programs at Microsoft and in the industry that bring more women into technology and close the pay gap.
Learning from the way Nadella rendered an apology in this case, meaningful apologies: are timely and happen almost immediately; are clearly worded and address the problem with the necessary directness; and hold oneself accountable and do not pass part of the blame elsewhere.
After the recent crash of the Malaysian airline Air Asia's plane, CEO Tony Fernandes said, "I apologize profusely for what they are going through. I am the leader of this company and I have to take responsibility.”
Experts believe that Fernandes handled the situation credibly and with authenticity. He let empathy be the focus of his communication, which is what was needed in this catastrophic situation. Not only did his words show compassion, but he went a step further and changed the airline’s bright red logo online to a somber gray during this time. The intent of the apology was not centered around reputation repair like most other airlines when involved in similar situations, and it helped connect with the devastated families.
Apologizing, like any skill, is best learned if practiced the right way. Good apologies thrive on honesty about the feelings, show genuine concern, and demonstrate fitting behavior. Apologizing does not diminish one's respect; instead, it helps build self-respect.