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The Apology Impulse

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The Apology Impulse

How the Business World Ruined Sorry and Why We Can't Stop Saying It

Kogan Page,

15 min read
9 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Businesses and leaders apologize more than in the past – but they’re not actually saying they’re sorry.

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Businesses and individuals make a lot more apologies than they did in the past. They might apologize, but often they do not actually say they’re sorry. Squeezed between demands from consumers for greater accountability and fear of litigation, businesses leaders view the act of making an apology with trepidation. Consultant Sean O’Meara and academician Cary Cooper explain how to apologize properly and offer a fascinating analysis of the factors that influence the practice of making apologies, with or – more often – without contrition.


A lot of organizations express regret, but few show genuine contrition.

In March 1951, on the morning of the Birmingham, England, wedding of R. M. Hosking, the groom found he did not have a morning suit. He had ordered one, but it had not arrived. He had to borrow his father-in-law’s trousers.

The previous year, the British government had modified its tax laws. It inadvertently provided a large incentive for couples who got married before the end of the British fiscal year. As a result, the number of weddings in March 1951 rose sharply, increasing by nearly 100%.

This put a strain on suppliers, including the company from which Hosking ordered his morning suit. A few weeks later, he received an abject apology from the supplier.

Harry Moss, head of Covent Garden’s Moss Bros & Co., sent a letter of apology, enclosing two checks. The company refunded Hosking’s payment for his suit, and Moss sent a letter of genuine apology and another check, this one from his personal account. The amount, adjusted for inflation, would have a value of a few hundred pounds today.

Moss did not...

About the Authors

Sean O’Meara set up the public relations and digital communication consultancy Essential Content. Cary Cooper is the 50th Anniversary Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Alliance Manchester Business School of the University of Manchester. They are also the co-authors of Detox Your Desk.

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    S. V. 4 years ago
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    F. C. 4 years ago
    This is true to the core. An interesting read, that made me think of apologies too.

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