Be wary of apologizing too much at workplace


Be wary of apologising too much at the workplace. PHOTO | POOL

In our workplaces, office settings, manufacturing facilities, shops, or conference rooms, as Kenya’s workforce, we undoubtedly come across people on either end of the extremes of utilising apologies.

We might remember interacting with a long-term boss who never apologised even in the face of glaring salient facts pointing to her complicity in certain scenarios.

Perhaps the whole team in an NGO worked tirelessly for 30 days to prepare a detailed proposal for an international donor who had released an expression of interest in implementing a grant-funded project.

But on the due date, your boss stays out for lunch too long and uploads all the numerous needed documents onto the donor’s virtual portal 10 minutes too late causing the NGO to get disqualified. Nonetheless, she neglects to utter regret or confess any admission of guilt.

On the other side of the coin, we might know a colleague who apologises for anything and everything throughout the day. He comes to ask you for a crucial report for the software technology firm you both work at but apologises for bothering you.

He arrives late at a meeting because the chief financial officer needed him urgently for a different matter, but enters your meeting meekly murmuring “sorry, sorry, sorry for being late” even though his tardiness was necessary and was entirely not his fault.

Christie Lawrence, Judy Friedrichs, and Christy Howard-Steele highlight that not all apologies carry the same weight, effect, and underlying cause.

People who over-apologise could be struggling with low self-esteem, guilt, attempts to avoid conflicts and low self-efficacy, among others.

Feeling unworthy, undeserving or inadequate often carries with it excessive politeness. An apology only needs to occur when someone has created distress. It does not need to happen when you get colleagues, bosses or teams to do their jobs or make reasonable normal adjustments customary in the normal course of business.

The more frequently you apologise, then the less effective it becomes.

If you tend to over-apologise, then attempt positive self-talk whereby you state your strengths to yourself. Keep a daily journal that includes what you are grateful for and what constructive characteristics you exhibited and the achievements you attained that day. Such actions help to reprogramme your brain’s negativity spiral.

ALSO READ: BELLOWS: Professional writing: Minding your audience and every crucial detail

Research by Karli Hahn highlights that women in particular can achieve much higher colleague perceptions by expressing gratitude rather than apologising. So, try stating appreciation for your colleagues waiting for you or thanking them for helping you with a required report, instead of saying sorry that you interacted with them at all. Do not apologise as your first response to most interactions.

Then, in actually providing an apology following a real violation of your colleague or team’s trust, when to apologise, and how you structure your words matter in having the desired effect of repairing trust and moving forward. Admitting one’s mistakes and seeking forgiveness hold key elements in rebuilding interpersonal trust.

But utilising apology, admission and forgiveness request should not be turned into a robotic automatic sounding response or else it loses its significance.

Look at the chaos occurring now in the social media technology firm Twitter. All the significant upheaval from mass terminations all without a heartfelt apology from the new ownership. Just continual blame on the market and revenue loss rather than coupled with sincere contrition.

The actions prove stunning even though crisis communications public relations has been in existence for decades and executives should know better. Shereen Chaudhry and George Loewenstein’s research shows that failure to apologise leads to conflicts in interpersonal relationships.

In closing, the Business Daily received a large number of inquiries about the previous Business Talk six-part miniseries on professional writing that concluded last week. Numerous readers wrote in requesting more engagement on the professional writing topic.

READ: BELLOWS: Professional writing: Inconsistency and other red flags you should avoid

Inasmuch, USIU-Africa will host a free virtual session for Business Daily readers to engage deeper about professional writing at noon on Thursday, December 8. Use this link to attend: Meeting ID: 935 5864 1420. Password: USIU-BD1. Please note that the 12pm time is a change, based on reader requests compared to what was shared last week.