March 2007
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Saying you're sorry | Workplace

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Saying you're sorry

by Karen L. Cates, Ph.D.
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Apologies often are not at the top of a leader's to-do list. However, faced with challenges such as weather, scheduling, labor and material availability, and workmanship, roofing contractors can make mistakes and become exposed to customer dissatisfaction in the form of complaints or even lawsuits. Justified or not, customers can go to great lengths to get your attention. How you respond to them can mean the difference between keeping a customer and visiting a courtroom.

Learning to apologize

Apologies are a means of communicating to customers that you hear them and care about their problems. During the past decade, the medical field has acknowledged the power of an apology to reduce liability claims associated with medical errors. The University of Michigan Health System instituted an apology program for mistakes in 2002. Since that time, annual attorneys fees have been cut to one-third of preprogram levels, and lawsuits and notices of intent to sue have been cut in half.

However, business leaders face special challenges when it comes to apologies. Apologies can be difficult, humiliating and risky. Leaders who are expected to appear strong and competent often believe their reputations are threatened when they make apologies. Apologies also can encourage legal action when taken as admissions of guilt. For these reasons, take apologies seriously and mete...



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