The Whys and Hows of an organizational apology

4 min readOct 4, 2019


Mark Zuckerberg’s apology after the news published about the access of different applications to the saved images and the images in the expired stories inspired us to have some investigations on the conditions that may put the organizations in the apology position due to the accidents or damages that they have imposed on the environment, society, etc.

Over the past 14 years, Mark Zuckerberg has apologized several times for different problems, which has led to a negative viewpoint on him and FACEBOOK. Therefore, an apology at the organizational level requires a great deal of thought and risk since such problems are not settled and terminated merely by a manifesto and a simple apology, but the organization’s performance will be of special importance after publishing the manifesto.

The reasons and the manner of an organizational apology (the “why” and “how” of an organizational apology) are investigated below.

A difficult, but necessary, decision

From a psychological point of view, the human always avoids expressing repentance and apologizing, and such avoidance is due to the feeling of discomfort and also the risk of such action. The risk associated with such an action is that the acceptance of the mistakes and wrong deeds and announcing it would put the individual in a lower position and, thereby, the risk of power reduction will be increased. Therefore, when the time of accepting the mistakes reaches, the reaction is usually a defensive reaction and the individual attempts to justify the problem from his own point of view or to reproach others for that mistake.

Apology at the organizational level is much more difficult and making a decision about how to accept the mistake and express it always exposes the leaders to challenges; because, a mistake is made usually by a team or an individual and, thus, it might be very difficult for the CEO or the entire organization to undertake the responsibility of the mistake at such a level.

Moreover, the organizations are inclined to a large extent to investigate the occurred mistake legally. The legal team might believe that accepting and announcing the mistake will put the organization in front of the judge and will give rise to further problems for the organization.

After all, the organizations would better change their ways of thinking since many of the organizational apologies incur insignificant costs while a larger number of them yield fundamental values to the organization and, thereby, can facilitate resolving the conflicts. So, the fear of the judicial process is often baseless. For many years, medical and therapeutic organizations, which deal with people’s lives, were recommended to avoid apologizing in the case of any mistakes. However, studies have shown that the probability of being engaged in a judicial process has been reduced since the hospitals have permitted the physician to give apologies.

Sensitivity is not always bad

A crisis doesn’t mean failure. In the case of any crisis, do the job properly, and follow an explicit and truthful discipline, which is aimed at the modification and correction of the faults. As such, you will accomplish exhibiting the integrity and organizational values of your organization.

Once the decision is made to give an apology, be sensitive about evading the issue in your manifesto. When facing the questions from the news media, show promptness in your action and avoid hesitation (even if you don’t want to answer the question instantly, show that you are seeking for a solution to the problem) and promise for improved performance in the future.

The following section presents a profile of the dos and don’ts that should be taken into consideration when giving an apology.

Improper ways to give an apology

Reproaching others

One of the worst things that can be included in the manifesto is to shirk your responsibility for the fault and reproach others. Instead of trying to show the faulty, you can express your sorrow and give the necessary explanations to the damaged community.


Attempting to justify your performance in the manifesto will result in dissatisfaction and more frustration of the audience. However, a short while after the event, you can publish the causes of the event for making the staff and the community aware of the truth and learning lessons from it.


When you understate the performance and the consequent damages, in fact, you are showing that you don’t care about the impact of the consequences of your behavior on others. As such, you not only disrespect the damaged individuals but also seem to be attempting to brainwash the audience.

Proper ways to give an apology


Be transparent and confess your fault before the media begin to write about the feedback of the improper behavior of your organization. Don’t deny the truth and declare that your organization’s behavior has been unacceptable. This will help you to recatch the others’ trust and reconstruct your relations. Moreover, depending on the conditions, you can talk about the standards that you have considered to prevent the occurrence of adverse events in the future.


When you accept the organization’s fault and undertake its responsibility, you take the first step to calm down the audience and prevent further reproaches.


In your manifesto, exhibit your sorrowfulness for the event and don’t fear using the words and phrases that represent this sorrow. Besides, ask the damaged community to accept your expression of sorrow, and promise them that you will do your best to compensate for the damages and losses and will endeavor to prevent the recurrence of such events.

In the end, it should be noted that, in the case of the occurrence of any organizational fault or mistake, publishing a manifesto in the media is not the ending point and termination of your duty since you must learn lessons from your fault and try to show the community that you are decided to compensate for it in the future.




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