21st Century Apologies

AFTER A BIT OF SHMOOSING FOLLOWING A BRIEF BATTLE OVER TERRITORY, THE POLAR BEAR THAT IS SEATED SEEMED NOT TO BE TO CONCERNED WITH THE APOLOGY FROM THE OTHER GUY AS HE BIT A CHUNK OF HAIR FROM HIS BUDDY'S FACE. SCIENTIFIC: POLAR BEAR/URSUS MARITIMUS POLAR BEARS IN BATTLE ONE BEAR BITING OTHERAn interesting exchange occurred on Twitter last week. PRCog tweeted: “Dear Millenials – ‘OMG’ does not replace ‘I’m sorry’.” Debbie Lyons-Blythe followed up with “’my bad’ not enuf either!”

As a Millennial myself, I couldn’t agree more. You see it daily at the gym, the office and just about everywhere else: people have stopped apologizing. I’m not sure when apologizing stopped being the right, not to mention polite and professional, thing to do. There is nothing wrong with admitting a mistake. It’s the best way to learn.

Your boss and co-workers are more likely to respect you, if you own up to your mistakes. When I’ve royally messed up, I’ve walked into my boss’s office, apologized and told him what steps have been taken to ensure the same mistake won’t happen again. Then we discussed it and moved on.

Whether the lack of taking responsibility is a product of helicopter parenting, over-equality in school and sports or just a group mentality, it needs to end the second you step into a professional environment. At your job everything is not fair and every person doesn’t get a prize for just showing up.

So let’s review:
Don’t:

  • Blame others for your mistakes. Even if it wasn’t entirely your fault, you were a contributing factor. One the same point, you’ll go further if you don’t throw people under the bus.
  • E-mail the apology. This is a face-to-face interaction only. If you’ve harmed more than one person with your mistake, a face-to-face conversation with each of them is the best way to ask for forgiveness.
  • Delay. The sooner you can apologize the better. This is especially preferred if you are the first one to realize your mistake.
  • Defend yourself. You screwed up. Accept it without excuses.
  • Make it awkward. When all is said and done, you have to let it go. Dwelling on it and being sheepish around your colleagues will not help the situation. Things won’t go right back to the way they were, but you still have a job to do and people to interact with.

Do:

  • Be sincere. Say it like you mean it, not like you are apologizing to your little sister just because mom made you.
  • Offer to make a correction. What will fix this problem now?
  • Come up with an action plan. This forethought may help your team and boss see your dedication to the position and resolve to truly avoid this problem in the future.

Bottom line: Millennial or not, don’t underestimate an apology.

A 2005 graduate of the University of Missouri’s Journalism School, Aurora spent several years covering education-related issues in Missouri, Texas and Washington, D.C., before returning to Columbia, Mo.  The active Alpha Chi Omega alumna recently accepted a new position as the Online Communications Coordinator for the Missouri State Teachers Association. In this new capacity, Aurora serves as the voice of their online community and works directly with members on developing best practices for utilizing social media. Outside of the office, Aurora enjoys running, having completed a marathon and two half-marathons. Last year, she ran more than 500 miles, a goal she aims to replicate in 2010. Her two biggest fans are her husband and cat, but only one of them cheers her on at all the big races.  She maintains her own blog at www.aurorameyer.com

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