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Here’s How the Best Bosses Apologize When They Make a Mistake

By | Jaclyn Westlake |

Being a great boss doesn’t mean you have to be perfect (even managers are human, after all), but it does mean you should own up to your mistakes and apologize when you’re in the wrong—even if it’s hard or embarrassing, or the mistake seems insignificant.

Whether you’ve called out an employee for missing a deadline that isn’t actually until next week, miscalculated a sales quote, or were uncharacteristically snappy during the weekly team call, a genuine “I’m sorry” will mean a lot to your employees. It’ll also make you a better, more respected leader in the process.

So it’s worth getting your apology right. An effective one will be sincere, direct, and free of justification—that means no making excuses! But the delivery may vary based on what you did and who was affected. Here’s how the best bosses apologize, depending on the severity of their mistakes.

When You Make a Minor Mistake: Send an Email

If you’ve given an employee inaccurate information, overlooked an important email, or failed to approve their vacation request on time, a brief acknowledgment of your error via email or Slack should suffice.

While the mistake may seem super minor—and you may be tempted to merely brush it off or ignore it—showing your employee that you care about getting things right (even the really small stuff) will mean a lot in building trust with them. It’ll also help to establish a larger culture of accountability. If the boss doesn’t have a problem saying “I’m sorry,” neither should the rest of the team.

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