Why You Should Apologize to an Ex-Employer

apologizeI'm sorry ... so sorry ...

Often, those are the last words you ever want to say when you get laid off. Why should you apologize? It's your boss who owes you one, right?

But as a recent article in the Wall Street Journal points out, these days people are more anxious than ever to get past misdeeds off their chests, whether that means admitting to stealing a box of crayons from a neighbor kid when you were 10 or apologizing to your former employer for writing a tell-all about the company.

Even famous folks are 'fessing up to their faults. Serena Williams apologized twice for her controversial U.S. Open outburst. Posh and Becks' former nanny apologized for revealing confidential information about the family to the press. And Congressman Joe Wilson apologized to President Obama after shouting "You Lie!" during an address to a joint session of Congress. (See more famous apologies here.)

But why would a regular person like you or me even want to say sorry, especially, say, to an employer who spurned us? According to Lauren Bloom, author of The Art of the Apology-How to Apologize Effectively to Practically Anyone, "Being able to apologize effectively is an essential business skill whether you're an entry-level employee or a seasoned executive. Apologizing can heal rifts in business relationships, restore trust and, if done correctly, head off lawsuits before they're filed."

That's right, while you might be afraid to apologize because you think it will be used as an admission of guilt or end up in a lawsuit, your apology may be the thing that staves off further action in the first place. "Customers and employees file lawsuits because they're angry about a mistake or because they don't know why something went wrong and think they have to sue to find out," says Bloom. "People who make effective business apologies usually come out even better than before the mistake was made, gaining the respect and confidence of the person who receives the apology."

So, if you apologize, you might actually get your job back? "If the infraction was relatively minor and the employee previously had a good track record, apologizing might be enough for the employee to be rehired," says Bloom. For more serious mistakes, an apology would likely not constitute rehiring, "but could pave the way to a letter of reference or other help finding a new job."

In any case, saying sorry can help you gain closure if you're harboring any guilt over your actions. And if you apologize before you get fired, it could very well save your job.

Bloom's Six Steps to an Effective Apology:

1. Say you're sorry-sincerely! No "ifs" or corporatespeak.

2. Take responsibility for what you did wrong. You can explain, but don't make excuses.

3. Make amends.

4. Express appreciation to the other person for whatever they give you-in this case, your job, an opportunity to excel, terrific work as an employee, etc. (People often forget this step, but it's what seals the deal in terms of emotional closure.)

5. Listen as the other person tells you how he or she felt as a result of what you did wrong.

6. Tell the other person you'll do better next time-then do it.

Now, does all this mean I'm saying sorry to my former employer? Mmmm, not just yet. But I'll think about it.

Have you ever said you're sorry ... or has a boss ever apologized to you? Tell us your story!

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I have never had a job that I would apoligize to a company or boss. There has never been one honest company that I have worked for in my life... Oh wait! Me! I am the best boss I have ever had. I know me and what I expect. I am gracious and kind and hard working. I give myself what I deserved and was in no way bias or condesending. I have had one employee and she thanked me for being a Good boss. I did have to apoligize to her when I closed the doors to the business. When you treat employees right, neither have to apoligize to the other. This article ticked me off too!!!

May 03 2010 at 9:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

U r so right JME did piss me off...who thinks this stuff up?

April 18 2010 at 3:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There is no adult person in their right mind that has worked in corporate America in the past 30 years that would agree with one single data point in this piece.
This rambling pointless vapid crap passing as 'information', has nothing of value to convey & wouldn't have made it past my High school English Lit & Composition teacher. How is this article even printed, it follows no logical premise or sensible conclusion. Is it for shock-value because its so wrong people will just get angry & depressed reading it because its so poorly written ?...Completely worthless waste of time.

April 17 2010 at 7:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hey Arli...you got me rolling over here...oh my. Some people are to scared to speak, ask or loose their job if they ask what is owe to them. I never have any problem saying what I need to say. She got away from paying over time no telling for how long so she thought it was ok to continue doing so until the right brave person came around and did the right thing. I hope the rest of the people gets what is owe to them. Good for you Arli!!

April 17 2010 at 6:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I worked for the biggest bitch ever. She never had a nice word to say to anyone. She worked people 6,7,8,9,10 days in a row without paying them overtime, and has been getting away with it for years! Not me I refused after one 7 day week and no overtime, on my check. I just got a class action form against the comapany..yeah, finally someone wants to be paid for their hard work. Count me in, I will be contacting the lawyers with my proof! I might call her and tell her how sorry I am that someone finally said enough bitch.

April 17 2010 at 3:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Who writes thisd Pollyanna crap?

We should apologize to employers? Thjey freaking owe US for what they did to us, not the other way around! The only way I will ever apologize to my former employer is if my lawsuit against him for wrongful termination succeeds! Then I might apologize.

January 16 2010 at 7:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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