Sorry is not a dirty word in business

In the immortal words of Elton John;

“It’s sad, so sad
Why can’t we talk it over?
Oh, it seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word.”

Never have truer words been spoken.

Why in business do we find it so hard to say sorry?

Is it because we fear looking weak?

Is it because we are programmed to disguise our failings?

When I train my team, I teach them the importance of the word Sorry. This one little word goes a long way with both internal and external customers. Admittance of fault is not a weakness, it actually shows strength. The strength to understand yourself; the strength to admit something hasn’t gone to plan and, most importantly, humility. You can turn a situation from one of anger to one of respect by saying one little word – Sorry. 

Say you’ve run out of time this week and those emails you said you’d write have unfortunately fallen by the wayside by the time Friday comes around? Which of these responses do you think is better?

Option 1 – 

I didn’t do them. Joe didn’t get the information to me this morning, and Steph didn’t follow up with me. I also got to X and you’ve not trained me on that part of the system.

Option 2 – 

I’m sorry, I didn’t finish those emails. A few other matters came up that took precedence. I’ll have written and sent them to you by close of business Monday.

I’m hoping the answer is obvious?

We can’t always control our own time. We have to learn to prioritise. Sometimes that means that something does not get done. Often this can affect whether or not colleague, or even a supplier, can complete their task.

As a manager, it is extremely frustrating when a member of your team hides behind the veneer of being busy when we’re all busy. Or they hide behind a colleague falling back in they time management.

If something needs completing, and by a certain time, it’s important to prioritise and see the bigger picture. I can guarantee that your boss only cares that a task gets done, not how it happens. They are putting their faith in you.  Taking something off their own to-do list. In their minds, that task is now taken care of. It is frustrating to discover that is not the case.

Instead of getting defensive and offering up a myriad of excuses, say Sorry. And offer a realistic timeframe for when the task will be completed. Providing a solution to the situation and ensuring the task does get done. Or if you get halfway through the task and are unsure how best to proceed with the rest, ask for training. Ask for a hand. Your manager won’t be annoyed. They’d rather know of a problem in advance, than find out from you when the deadline has already passed that the task is not complete.

The same principle applies for when dealing with an external customer.

Say a member of your team promised a customer that you would share their case study with your network, but forgot to mention it to you?

Option 1 –

Adam never told me. I can’t do it now.

Option 2 –

I apologise for the delay in releasing your case study. I will ensure that this is released on Monday, first thing. By way of apology, I will also share it again one week before our event to all attendees, in particular those who have registered interest in your session. Sorry. 

Again – obvious I hope.

Your customer will respect you more for owning up! That is good customer service – admitting fault, finding a solution, and going that extra mile.

Sorry is not a dirty word. Sorry is not a sign of weakness. The ability to say Sorry is priceless.

Diary of a Marketer in New York – entry 4.


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