5 Ways to Apologize For Making Mistakes at Work


An apology is worth its weight in gold because many times apologizing to someone is the first step toward rectifying the situation and making amends. When you make mistakes in the workplace, you need to place the same importance on apologies that you do in your personal life with your friends and family.

If you don’t apologize for your mistakes at work, you increase your chances of negative results occurring. You won’t continue to grow and develop as quickly as a professional as you would have if you take responsibility and apologize. Your manager and colleagues will know that you respect them and yourself if you take the initiative and apologize for your mistakes rather than ignoring the error or blaming someone else. Apologizing for your mistakes and working to rectify the situation can be the difference between you keeping your job and being let go. This article will address several ways that you can apologize for making mistakes at work.

See Also: How to Tell Your Boss You’ve Made a Big Mistake

1. The Face to Face Apology

The personal apology is pretty much the best way to apologize because you are summoning all your courage to face the issue head-on and express your regret for the mistake. If you made a mistake that is on the top ten list of the worst types of mistakes to make in the workplace—like missing an important deadline and losing a company client—you should not take any other road than apologizing in person.

You may get fired for the mistake, but you need to face your manager or boss and take full responsibility for your mistake in losing the client. Don’t pass off the blame to any else. When you apologize in person for this major mistake, rather than taking the easy way out and emailing or calling, you automatically gain more respect with your manager. This personal apology shows that you understand the severity of the situation that you caused, and you respect your manager and the company enough to own up to the mistake in person.

2. The Undercover Apology

If you are seriously too afraid to approach your manager to apologize in person, you can send an email apology. However, this way may not be as effective as a personal apology that you make face to face with your boss, manager or colleague. The undercover apology also covers any attempts to apologize via phone, text message, or through social media messaging. Basically, any time you don’t apologize in person, you are going undercover to get the job done.

The person you need to apologize to may see this as a cop out where you’re avoiding doing the right thing. Although, at least you made an effort and apologized for the mistake you made. Make sure that your words are carefully thought out and you don’t rush into a rash email where you end up saying things that you should not have said. That is another reason why it would be better to summon the courage to make an actual face to face apology. In the example of losing the client, you should be clear about the details of what happened, and what you plan to do to make the situation right.

3. The Immediate Apology

In addition to the face to face versus the undercover apology, timing also plays a factor in making effective apologies in the workplace. If you want to get the best bang for your buck, you should make an immediate apology. When you take too long to apologize for your mistake, you risk making an obligatory apology once everyone knows what happened. That forced confession makes you seem like you were not going to actually apologize until you got caught. However, if you apologize too quickly, you can sometimes be extremely emotional and react unprofessionally during the admission of the mistake. That is why you need to apologize immediately, with the caveat in mind that you gave yourself enough time to calm down, regroup and speak in a professional tone.

Of course, you may still get emotional and anxious during the conversation. However, an immediate apology goes a long way toward renewing the respect that you lost from your manager or colleague by making the mistake in the first place. With regard to the example of losing the client, the immediate apology is good because it gives you the opportunity to quickly try to fix the mistake of losing the client, rather than allowing the situation to sit and the conflict with the client to fester.

4. The Wingman Apology

If you’re extremely worried about apologizing for your mistake and feel nauseous even at the thought of speaking to your manager or colleague, consider using the wingman apology approach. As soon as you make the mistake step into action and assess the damage, and then seek out one of your fellow team members, workplace mentors or trusted colleagues. Explain the entire situation to this individual, admit your mistake and ask this person for support in going to your manager or the person that you need to apologize to.

This may be an unorthodox way to apologize; especially since most people generally say sorry without a wingman. However, if taking a wingman with you makes the process easier than going face to face alone, and you won’t have to settle for the undercover approach—then use the wingman apology. Even if this person basically walks with you to your boss’s office and then hangs around by the doorway within your view for encouragement, this may be your best option for making a genuine personal apology.

5. The Combination Apology

Sometimes you need to use a combination approach to making an apology. You may start out with the undercover approach and email or phone your boss or manager and then utilize the face to face approach after you have had time to settle down and calm your nerves. If you decide to make the personal apology and speak to your boss but feel that you were too nervous to get all of your points across, take the time to send an email apology afterwards. You would then have the chance to breathe, gather your thoughts and provide all the details in an email format. Maybe you feel more comfortable with the wingman approach and decide to combine that with the immediate apology to admit to the mistake right away so that you can work with your boss, manager or colleague to figure out an immediate solution to the issue.

See Also: How to Take the Blame for Your Mistakes at Work

As a mature professional, owning up to your mistakes and making the appropriate apology is vital toward the process of continuing to grow and develop as a person. Additionally, apologizing for your mistakes will help you restore the professional relationship with the person that you offended or the one who is negatively affected by your mistake. When you don’t apologize for your mistakes, you risk ruining positive and productive relationships in the workplace and your own job security. If you need to apologize for a mistake you made at work consider using one of the five ways discussed here to admit the error and seek restitution.

Have you ever needed to apologize for making a mistake in the workplace? How did you handle the situation and was the issue fixed and the workplace relationship restored?