The Value of an Apology
Over the summer I made a major purchase at a home improvement retailer. To make a long story short, the vendor: lost my order data due to a computer power failure, delayed product delivery, ordered the wrong size product, forgot to collect payment from me while I was in the store (which meant I had to make an extra trip to the store), allowed the product installer to cancel several appointments that I’d rearranged my schedule to accommodate and ultimately sent me a product that was drastically different from the one I’d seen in the store and ordered.
Throughout this entire process, which went on for several months, no one from the store ever once apologized. In fact, during one of my visits to the store, after I learned from the representative that the product measurements were inaccurate, I became very exasperated and said something to the effect of "This entire process has been such a hassle. I don’t know if I can keep going like this." The rep simply stared back at me and offered no apology. At that point, that store should’ve lost my business, but I elected to keep going because I didn’t want to forfeit my deposit and start all over again with another retailer.
But it would’ve made a difference if someone had said just once that they were sorry. Since my experience was with a retailer, it was simply a hassle. But when facility managers make mistakes, there are often far greater consequences. Even though the stakes are higher, an apology can still make a difference. As Loretta G. LeBar, JD, CHC, writes in her September/October 2007 article "Saying You're Sorry," "Today's culture discourages apologizing to victims and their families for fear of it being seen as an admission of guilt. We need to change this."
If you’re concerned about the legal ramifications of an apology, ask your attorney for more information on how you can effectively communicate when something goes wrong. If nothing else, at least start a conversation about the value of an apology. If the "carefully planned apology can prevent litigation, restore trust and build stronger employee infrastructure centered on quality of care for the residents," as Le Bar writes, wouldn’t it be well worth it?