The ‘S’ Word – missing through inaction
Have you noticed how the ‘S’ word – sorry – seems to be increasingly missing from daily life? There are fewer apologies around – not because we are necessarily better at things but because the whole axis seems to have shifted around responsibility. About accepting that we made a promise and didn’t keep it and, therefore, we need to acknowledge that appropriately.
Now I haven’t made an exhaustive study of this, but a couple of recent examples have left me reflecting on the subject. Both involve providers of public transport and in both cases we are talking about inconvenient delays and late arrivals at destination.
Based on these the new normal seems to be a positioning around the heroic efforts put in to turn the service around/limit the damage for customers. And that may be true but wouldn’t prefacing this with a simple ‘sorry’ be more palatable than the ‘triumphalism’ (my experience) and a seeming refusal to accept they got it wrong and have inconvenienced or let others down?
Of course, the staff using this approach are likely reflecting the culture of their organisation. So what does that say about the culture? We can only surmise but there may be a lack of respect for and valuing of people. It may be a sign of intolerance of failure (blame culture?), and a fear of showing vulnerability.
Whatever happens at the interface with our customers leaders are responsible for what plays out. If we aren’t prepared to show vulnerability, to admit when we’ve got it wrong and apologise this attitude eventually infiltrates the organisation, setting the cultural tone, signifying a disinterest in the needs and value of others. The people in our team take their lead from us, their team from them and so on. It becomes a way more effective cascade than any formal process we may set up.
Far from being a sign of weakness being able to show vulnerability is a sign of strength, of courage, of empathy and our emotional intelligence. Sorry may be a small word yet a sincere apology says much about our character.