There isn’t a right answer to this but I was thinking about this yesterday on the Jewish New Year.
Jews are asked to spend the next 10 days to reflect on the past year and ask those who they may have slighted in last year for forgiveness.
Call it prep work for Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement.
First, an acknowledgement (apology?) up front: This isn’t the firm time I’ve written about workplace apologies.
More recently, the blog authors recount the apologies of the Royal Canadian Mountain Police in settlement of a massive discrimination and workplace harassment claim a while back.
It’s a terrific and rare example of the power of an apology in the right circumstance. You can read the whole thing here, but here’s a brief cut from it:
Instead of succeeding and thriving in a supportive and inclusive workplace, many women have suffered careers scarred by gender and sexual discrimination, bullying and harassment. …
Harassment and the lack of effective systems and processes to have prevented it and eliminated it from our workplace is absolutely at odds with what the RCMP is supposed to be. It is at odds with what we all need the RCMP to be.
To the representative plaintiffs here today: Janet Merlo, who has so courageously taken the lead to represent so many women who have been adversely affected, and to Linda Davidson and all the women you represent; indeed to all the women who have been impacted by the Force’s failure to have protected your experience at work, and on behalf of every leader, supervisor or manager, every Commissioner: I stand humbly before you and solemnly offer our sincere apology.
You came to the RCMP wanting to personally contribute to your community and we failed you. We hurt you. For that, I am truly sorry. You can now take some comfort in knowing that you have made a difference. Because of you, your courage and your refusal to be silenced, the RCMP will never be the same.
I must also apologize to all Canadians. I know how disappointed you’ve been with the Force as you heard some of these very public and shameful examples of disgraceful conduct within our ranks.
The SorryWatch blog gives a big thumbs up to the apology because it meets their suggestions for a good apology. There are five steps to lay the foundation for a good apology:
- Say you’re sorry.
- Say the thing you are sorry for. (As an aside, this is notoriously hard for my kids.)
- Say you understand the import of what you did.
- Make amends.
- Figure out what steps to take so it doesn’t happen again.
It won’t work in all instances. But in some it will.
So have your employees say “I’m sorry” to one another when appropriate; it may just prevent your next discrimination case from happening.