Everyone makes mistakes – even bosses. If you admit to your faults and express your remorse, you might expect to be forgiven. However, according to a recent study, managers are rarely believed to be sorry.
The research found that when powerful figures apologize, it comes across as disingenuous. According to leadership coach Jack Skeen, co-author of "The Circle Blueprint" (Wiley, 2017), employees think bosses only apologize to avoid conflict.
This belief can be detrimental to your team. It's crucial for workers to be on the same page as managers, and even the smallest disconnect can cause tension and lead to poor results.
Want to ensure your employees trust your sincerity? Here are three tips to persuade your team that you really are sorry.
1. Develop strong company culture.
If you show your workers that you're interested in more than just their work and how it benefits the company, they'll begin to trust you.
"If employers want employees to believe them when they say 'I'm sorry,' we first need to work on changing the culture that makes employers and employees feel as though they are on different social stratospheres," said Skeen.
To do this, Skeen advised talking to your team about topics other than work, and finding ways to reverse the roles so you can cater to them for a change. This can be as simple as brewing coffee for your team or bringing bagels to work.
"If we can see our staff members as human beings and, most importantly, make them realize that we view them as worthy, unique and inherently valuable individuals, they won't struggle to believe we are sincere when we apologize," Skeen said.
Anyone can be a boss, but not everyone can be a leader. If you act like corporate robot, your employees won't trust your regret. Be considerate of your entire team, and they won't doubt your emotions for a second.
2. Only apologize if you mean it.
You can say sorry all you want, but if you don't genuinely feel bad about something, it will show.
"Crocodile tears don't work," said Skeen. "People spot insincerity from a mile away. If you aren't truly sorry, don't apologize. It will do more damage than good."
The same goes for repeated mistakes. A spoken apology only goes so far; if no change is made, your team will think you simply don't care. Express your sorrow by not only admitting to your faults, but also learning from them and making a change.
When workers believe that you're only apologizing because you think you should, they'll see where your intentions lie – with the company rather than its workers. This will position you in dangerous territory as a boss.
3. Take full ownership of your mistake.
When you screw up, don't point fingers at anyone but yourself. You want to set a good example for your workers by showing them that you hold yourself accountable.
"Express awareness of the implications of your mistake on others," said Skeen. "If what you did created more work or other problems for people on your team, list those implications. It helps when people see that you know what it feels like to walk in their shoes."
Most importantly, listen to your workers, he added. If they have any lingering concerns, treat them with respect. You've created the mess – it's your responsibility to clean it up.
"It means a lot to your people when they see you rolling up your sleeves and getting in the trenches with them," said Skeen. "The more my folks experience me to be one of them, the more they respect me and the more loyal they are."
Skeen also asks what he can do to restore a damaged relationship, should there be any. That way, there is no negative energy within the team.
"The interpersonal dynamics between you and your people are one of your most important levers for success," he said. "When people like you, believe in you and feel like they are in partnership with you, they tend to give you their very best."