Allergic to Accountability?

Are you Allergic to Accountability?

In a recent article called A Nonapologist’s Apology in the New York Times, Laura Zigman explores how challenging it is to apologize.  She opens her piece reminding us of former NBC Nightly News anchor Brian William’s infamous inability to say I’m sorry for embellishing news reports, and aligns herself with him as a terrible “nonapologizer”.

how to say sorry

As I continued to read the article and its mention of fake apologies, humblebraggy hashtags (#sorrynotsorry), and even reference to a tribe of “fauxpoligists” who try to escape discomfort of sincere apologies at all costs, I wondered why many of us seem allergic to accountability and admitting that we need to change.

These ideas came up again yesterday in my live online session called Craft Your Conversations which highlights everyday communication tools. One of the tools that seemed to stick for participants was the 4-Step Apology Model which gives us a simple, thorough way to communicate regret, be accountable, and take responsibility for what we did wrong.

We talked about what warrants an apology at work (being late to a meeting, not finishing a project on time, dismissing someone’s idea in a meeting), then the discussion dovetailed into an exploration of what makes apologizing so hard (possible loss of credibility, discomfort, conflict, lack of self-awareness).

Once we started practicing, it made the whole prospect of apologizing in a professional context a lot easier.

 How to Step Up, Take Stock and Apologize

  1. Say the words.
    • I’m sorry.how to apologize at work
  2. Admit to and describe what you did.
    • Keep it specific, clear and short.
  3. Describe how what you did impacted them.
    • This is where we are accountable for our actions and how our actions negatively impacted someone else.
  4. How will it be different next time?
    • Behavior is a choice. Describe what we will do differently so the negative event doesn’t occur again.

So, for all of the “non-apologizers” out there, I encourage you to remember that we build relationships one conversation at a time—initiating a respectful, well-thought out apology sends the message that the relationship is important, that we are brave enough to notice where we can grow, evolve and ultimately take accountability for our behavior.


Jennifer Albrecht, Vice President of Professional Development, has been teaching and consulting with Learn iT! since 1997. Since joining Learn iT!, Jennifer has built and facilitated all of Learn iT!’s Professional Development classes including Communication, Leadership, Negotiating and Decision Making.

Jennifer strongly believes in Learn iT!’s 8 Step Model for Learning and applies it in all of the classes she builds and facilitates. Further information on the 8 Step Model can be found here.