The Diminishing Value of Apology: Changing the Script of Conflict Resolution

March 18, 2010

“I am sorry. What I did is wrong. I take full responsibility.” These words have been echoing through the media as one public figure after another goes through the now-ritualized public apology, often for behavior that might, in a previous time, been deemed private. The statements more often than not lack authenticity, as though pulled from a grand script of remorse, as though the words somehow will move forgiveness forward, as though they are the formula to exoneration. The more these words are uttered, the more cliche they become, and the less value they are likely to have in bringing about true resolution of the problems being apologized for.

Workplace apologies are needed. In years past,people whose work life had been disrupted by the misconduct of others were often looking to regain what they’d had before the misconduct. “I just want things to go back the way they were,” was a familiar plea by those who’d been wronged by others. In those cases, the remedy was sometimes a facilitated dialogue and a sincere apology, and, with managerial fingers crossed, life could possibly go back to normal with proper monitoring and coaching. Read the rest of this entry »

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