In my experience, apologizing to a subordinate or customer is one of the most difficult things for a person to do. Matt Perman posts the following excerpt from Jeff Jarvis’s book What Would Google Do?:
We are ashamed to make mistakes — as well we should be, yes? It’s our job to get things right, right? So when we make mistakes our instinct is to shrink into a ball and wish them away. Correcting errors, though necessary, is embarrassing.
But the truth about truth itself is counterintuitive: Corrections do not diminish credibility. Corrections enhance credibility. Standing up and admitting your errors makes you more believable; it gives your audience faith that you will right your future wrongs.
When companies apologize for bad performance — as JetBlue did after keeping passengers on tarmacs for hours — that tells us that they know their performance wasn’t up to their standard, and we have a better idea of the standard we should expect.
What’s crucial here, I think, is the rationale: “Standing up and admitting your errors makes you more believable.” That’s point #1: It increases trust, because it is a demonstration of honesty, even a painful one. But it also “gives your audience faith that you will right your future wrongs.”
The book sounds fascinating.