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How do you get to “apology accepted” with a boss, co-worker, or customer? The job-related social skill apologizing may need to be taught directly.

Consider the many opportunities throughout a typical work day that employees might be expected to use the job-related social skill apologizing:

  • The customer complains that the soup you just served is cold.
  • A co-worker is upset because you broke his favorite mug.
  • The boss asks why you did not call to tell her you were going to be late to work.
  • A truck driver is irritated that there are boxes stacked on the loading dock blocking his delivery to your company.
  • You give the customer the wrong change.
  • A team member is angry because you said his idea was “a dumb idea.”

As these examples show, sometimes the worker is at fault for the transgression. Other times, it might be another person’s fault, but since the worker is on the front line, he or she must react on behalf of the company. In some cases, the situation may have been caused by intentional action. In other cases, it may be an accident. In any case, the job-related social skill, apologizing, is critical to remedying the problem.

So, how do we get to “apology accepted”? Apologizing usually is considered a more difficult job-related social skill because the individual who is expected to apologize may need to initiate the interaction or dialogue, as well as participate in an actual conversation or discussion. Such conversations can be demanding because they often demand thinking skills to respond to the problem.

Moreover, apologizing can be uncomfortable for a variety of reasons, including:

  • You have to admit you were wrong.
  • You feel stupid because you don’t like to make mistakes.
  • The other person is angry.
  • You are upset.
  • You have to swallow your pride.

Learning the Job-Related Social Skill Apologizing

In Job-Related Social Skills: A Curriculum, 3rd Edition, apologizing is broken into the following steps that are explicitly taught and practiced:

  • Go to the person.
  • Greet the person by name, if you know it.
  • Ask to speak with the person, such as, “May I talk with you for a minute?”
  • Explain the situation and/or give the reason for the apology.
  • Apologize.
  • End the conversation with a positive statement.

As part of training, these steps may be broken down even more in terms of sub-steps or situational cues. For example, it is common in restaurants for a customer to “flag” a bus person if the server is not available. A bus person may be taught how to listen, apologize, and then end the conversation by saying that he or she will get right on it by finding the server. Or, as in the case of the blocked loading dock, if it was not the worker’s fault, he or she could be taught to state that it is not his job but that he will find his supervisor right away to fix the problem.

The same is true for the apologizing step. If a person is texting and utters, “I’m sorry,” it may not have the same reaction as if the person stopped what he or she was doing, looked at the person, waited to respond until the customer or co-worker was done speaking, repeated that he or she heard the problem, and then said, “I’m sorry.” An apology must be perceived as authentic. It also should be specific enough to let the recipient believe that the apology is specific to the transgression. “I am sorry I did not call to let you know I would be late,” may be received as more meaningful than a simple, “I’m sorry.”

Learn More About the Job-Related Social Skill Apologizing

Cover of Job-Related Social Skills, 3rd EditionJob-Related Social Skills: A Curriculum, 3rd Edition is designed to develop basic, foundational job-related social skills required across most employment areas. Instructors can use Job-Related Social Skills: A Curriculum to provide participants with these basics so that they have a step up in getting and keeping a job. Learn more.