Recent public apologies from Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Tiger Woods made me wonder why we accept some apologies and denounce others.
Which components of a public apology show us that it is authentic and sincere and, therefore, that we can accept it? Is there a perfect public apology?
When Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein issued a public mea culpa, his goal was to convince the public that he accepted responsibility for and deeply regretted his firm’s role in the financial crisis. As a form of restitution, he offered to have Goldman invest $500 million over five years to help small businesses. Mr. Blankfein’s was the first official apology by an investment bank of that caliber, which is by itself a unique occurrence. And yet, Goldman’s apology caused a mixed reaction.
Some stakeholders gave the company credit for taking the initiative to apologize and for its willingness to help small businesses. Most others, including the general public, questioned the sincerity of the apology and its real value. The media called it a “faux apology”, a “non-apology”, a “hollow apology”, and an “unspecified apology.” The author of Mean Street blog (WSJ) Evan Newmark called it a “big PR exercise” that is “so sequenced and packaged that it’s bound to come across as disingenuous, even deeply cynical.”
The negative public reaction was caused mainly by the apparent disconnect between Goldman’s carefully calibrated message and real issues that the company still needs to fix if it is to restore public trust and earn forgiveness.
Tiger One Over Par
Tiger Woods’ attempts to apologize also caused a mixed public reaction.
On November 27, 2009 Woods crashed his car into a fire hydrant near his house. After the incident brought to light many affairs, Woods posted two separate apologies on his website, several days apart.
After the first apology mainstream media, bloggers, vendors, corporate sponsors, and the golf community expressed major disappointment and dismay at Woods’ behavior and did not accept his apology as sufficient. Woods’ story caused a lot of debate even among the apology experts. The only stakeholders who showed support were his fans. Most of them accepted his apology, demonstrating higher tolerance for his personal failings.
Woods’ second apology was more successful and resulted in mostly positive reviews among his fans, critics, media, the golf community etc. It could have been even more effective if the athlete had come clean earlier and had delivered the apology in person rather than on his website.
Why Didn’t the Apologies Work?
Why didn’t people believe Goldman Sachs CEO’s apology? Why did Woods’ first apology reach his fans but did not convince others? Why did his second apology result in more positive reaction among his stakeholders?
What type of public apology do people need to hear to be able to believe it and accept it?
The authors of “The Five Languages of Apology,” Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas, might have an answer. (more…)
A public apology is a good way to express remorse and offer reconciliation to an affected party. But the very act of apologizing can be daunting.
If delivered effectively, an apology can mend relationships and restore trust between two or more parties.
If delivered effectively, an apology can help maintain company’s competitive advantage, reduce litigation costs and minimize business disruptions.
If delivered effectively, an apology can create a perception of genuine regret on behalf of the offender and mend his or her reputation.
But here is a question:
Can an effective delivery distract the audience from an insufficient apology?
Can a weak delivery diminish a powerful message of a genuine apology?
I invite you to look at three recent apologies and share your opinion about the effectiveness of each apology is in terms of its message and its presentation.
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future. ” Paul Boese
A significant increase in public apologies over the past months could be seen as a positive trend.
We saw the most senior leader of this country apologizing to the American public: “I screwed up.” We watched two prominent athletes A-Rod and Michael Phelps issue painful apologies to their fans.
We saw four bosses of British banks saying sorry to the Treasury Select Committee, and watched Japan’s Finance Minister announce his resignation along with a formal mea culpa.
And finally, in the last couple of weeks we heard the words of regret from Rupert Murdoch and Bishop Richard Williamson.
And yet many of these highly visible apologies failed to earn public forgiveness. Some were criticized for being too shallow and insincere, others could be hardly recognized as apologies at all.
So, what does it take to make an effective apology that comes across as true and genuine? And what are some examples of ineffective apologies that failed to resolve conflicts or earn forgiveness?
When the U.S. economy sneezes, the rest of the world catches cold.
When the U.S. economy catches cold, the rest of the world faces an outbreak.
The credit crisis that started in the U.S. and traveled around the world had already made French, German and British economies suffer massive bailouts, forced the government of Iceland to seize its three largest banks, deepened economic deterioration in Hungary, Poland, Ukraine and questioned economic stability of emerging markets in China, Brazil, Russia and South Korea. (more…)
While many of us feel comfortable with Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, something like Pay Per Post (PPP) and Pay Per Vote blogging would probably make us feel quite uncomfortable and could disturb our sense of social media authenticity. Most of us have a blogroll we trust and turn to for wisdom on a regular basis. Could we still trust blog posts if Pay Per Post blogging could potentially corrupt social media?
Because blogs and social media web sites generate a lot of traffic, adopting social media tools has become a magic pill for increasing online rankings and amping up revenues.
But is adopting social media tools a magic pill or a red herring? And is a company that seeks lucrative deals in the black market of social media jeopardizing its reputation and creating mistrust among its stakeholders? (more…)