Sorry seems to be the hardest word

February 18, 2011

I’m reading some of the academic literature on blame and apology at the moment and one particular paper (see reference below) caught my eye. ¬†Hargie et al. describe the four types of “discursive moves and strategies” employed to avoid giving a direct apology

  • Expressions of regret
  • Alignment with others affected by the crisis
  • Dissociation from the events
  • Statements of willingness to apologize and/or reference to past apologies

Now don’t all of those look familiar in the context of the economic meltdown? They’re of course all very familiar in the context of any business relationship. Saying ‘sorry’ appears to be the hardest word – associated with blame, responsibility, weakness etc…yet if more people were able and willing to say ‘I am sorry’ then perhaps working relationships mightn’t be as fraught as they sometimes are?

The reference for the paper cited above is:

HARGIE, O., STAPLETON, K. & TOURISH, D. 2010. Interpretations of CEO public apologies for the banking crisis: attributions of blame and avoidance of responsibility. Organization : the interdisciplinary journal of organization, theory and society, 17, 721-742.

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