Responsible Behavior

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    Doing the right thing helps the bottom line

    It happens from time to time – organizations mess up. Whether it’s problems with new technology, lack of disaster preparedness, or just sending the wrong message, it’s how they recover that distinguishes the cream of the crop.

    While there are multiple steps to a good apology, one that is both crucial and oft overlooked was pointed out in a recent post on the Yes That Jill Communications blog:

    Accept blame.
    Look, no one wants to be wrong. But everyone is wrong at least once in their lives. Your time is now and this is going to be easier if you admit it.

    Great example: We’re sorry our actions offended our customers. We greatly value your opinions.

    Bad example: We’re sorry you feel that way.*

    *Tip! You can’t apologize for other people’s feelings. You need to apologize for your role in causing those feelings.

    Awful, terrible, no good example: If you didn’t like the ad, you’re obviously not our target demographic. You just don’t understand our art.**

    **This response is even more offensive than the original problem. If you say something like this, expect the incident to get much, much worse. Even if the objecting group isn’t your target demographic, you won’t win friends stomping on other groups.

    Reality is, you can completely resolve the crisis itself, but without accepting blame the public is highly unlikely to move forward. If they can’t move forward, then your organization won’t be either, so suck it up, take responsibility, and get on with your lives.

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    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management
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    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc. , an international crisis management consultancy, and author of Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training.]