Is a Formal Apology Appropriate for the Intended Recipient?
Who are you apologizing to? Is a formal apology appropriate? Is the
recipient of the apology a co-worker, boss, partner, customer, vendor, a
company, or the community-at-large?
In the same way that we need to understand
what we are apologizing for we also need to understand who we are
apologizing to and whether a formal apology is necessary.
When dealing with apologies directed to other companies or to the community
at large, a formal approach should always be taken. Whether it be a public
apology or a through a business
apology letter, the formality underscores the sentiment, reinforces the
message, and conveys to the recipient that you are taking the situation
However, if the recipient of the apology is an individual then we need to
examine the connection we have with them.
Are they purely a business
contact? A co-worker? Our boss? Do we have any sort of personal relationship
with them? If so, how long has it been? Historically, have our exchanges
been more formal or friendly? What kind of personality do they have?
are the types of questions that will help you to decide how formal the
apology should be.
A rule of thumb to go by is the more distant the relationship the more
formal the approach. A formal apology is also warranted whenever hierarchy
is involved, for example, when apologizing to ones boss or to an employee.
What if the employee or boss is also a friend?
Then a two-tiered approach can be taken. This will help to define the
relationship as one of both business and friendship. So, a letter of apology
should be written to satisfy the business side of things while a follow-up
conversation will help to reestablish the friendship.
The personality of
the recipient of the apology is another thing to keep in mind. If the person
is normally shy or reserved and doesnt like confrontation, take that into
account. This type of individual would more likely appreciate receiving a
note or letter rather than a face-to-face apology.
Knowing who you are apologizing to and understanding what kind of
relationship you have will help determine the type of
business apology required, how formal an
apology it should be, and the manner
in which to deliver it.
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