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Apology Accepted

Apology Accepted

Leaders who apologize perceived as more trustworthy, influential

Despite what you might think, it might actually be better to apologize for that mistake you made in the business report, or the wrong way in which you handled a project. Contrary to the belief that leaders who apologize are seen as weak or incompetent, a study out of the Queen’s University School of Business in Kingston, Ont. found quite the opposite. Victims of mistakes made by leaders who apologized consistently perceived them to be more “transformational”, i.e., ethical, influential, trustworthy, caring and considerate.

In a field experiment, male referees who were perceived as having apologized for mistakes made while officiating hockey games were rated by male coaches as more transformational than when no apology was made.  

While the research, published in the Journal of Business Ethics, is drawn from coaches on a hockey field, it still underscores the powerful role that apologizing can play in the workplace, researchers say. “Leaders should re-consider current strategies of ignoring, denying their mistakes, or blaming others for their actions, and adopt instead a more proactive practice of taking responsibility for their actions and, when necessary, provide followers with sincere apologies,” the researchers concluded, adding that this also applies to a workplace setting. “We believe that apologies can play an important role in developing and repairing leadership perceptions in organizations. . . .”

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Karen Richardson

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