When something goes wrong in the workplace, going to your employer and apologizing for your part in the unfortunate event can seem as risky as getting too close to a guillotine -- those things chop off heads. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should sidestep apologies when they are necessary. Saying your sorry -- while it's hard to do -- can go a long way to endear you to your employer. Instead of allowing your fear of a figurative beheading to keep you from offering up your apology, becoming a masterful apologizer who can say she’s sorry without admitting wrongdoing.
Time Your Apology Right
When you apologize can be as important as what you say, says Frank Parnoy, author of the book “Wait.” If something less-than-wonderful has happened at work, your first instinct may be to offer up your apology and get it out of the way. In truth, allowing the dust to settle before speaking to your employer is often the best option. Allow time for your employer to calm down -- particularly if she is notoriously hot-headed. After a day or two, speak with her, offering your, “I’m sorry.” Be careful, however, not to let too much time pass; if you wait too long, you run the risk of your apology opening an old wound and doing more harm than good.
Focus on Feelings
Instead of focusing your apology on an action, center your sentiments around the feelings your boss is experiencing. Take some advice from apology expert Taram Chansky, Ph. D., who suggests that you offer up an apology along the lines of, “I am sorry you are experiencing so much stress right now.” By presenting this statement of regret to your employer, you show her that you are genuinely unhappy about her emotional discomfort without commenting on whether you are to blame for what has the boss stressed out.
Include an 'I’m Sorry'
It’s only two words, it shouldn’t be so hard to say. Instead of dancing around an apology, saying anything but this all-important phrase, make it clear that you are in fact apologizing by using an unmistakable apology statement, suggests Guy Winch, Ph.D., writing in "Psychology Today." Just spit it out, telling your employer “I’m sorry” or “I apologize” directly. By doing so, you can make it abundantly clear that what you are doing constitutes an apology. If you stop short of saying "I’m sorry," your apology, no matter how otherwise well-crafted, will likely be for nothing.
Include Future Planning
You don’t have to admit what you did to say what you won’t do in the future. Regardless of whether you are willing to admit to the wrong-doing for which you are apologizing, you can state future plans that specifically include not repeating this action. For example, if you are saying you are sorry that the company recently lost a client -- an unfortunate incident for which you may or may not be culpable -- you can amp up the believability of your apology by saying something along the lines of, “Moving forward, I will make maintaining clients a top priority.” This commitment on your part can assuage any concerns your employer may have as to your future performance.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.