A client commented to me that it was hard to find examples of good apologies these days. I set out to find some that worked, why, and why some are awful.
I use this as an example of an executive "blooper" in my training programs. Tony “I’d Like My Life Back” Hayward was chief executive of BP during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. His handling of the disaster was criticized because of his comment on this video, for avoiding answering questions during his testimony to Congress, and for attending a yacht race during the oil spill.
Hayward's super bad apology brought out the comics with some cringe-worthy results.
Two top execs turn to video to sort of apologize for jacking up the prices of their services and offer a confusing non-explanation for splitting the company in two.
SNL's Version of their Apology
Fred Armisen and Jason Sudeikis take Netflix to task for their clumsy communication and silly new name.
Reddit CEO Ellen Pao's Apology Backfired and Led to her Dismissal
Following the firing of a popular Reddit moderator, Pao's ambiguous apology cited "miscommunication" but no clear promises for improvement or explanation for the firing. It triggered a petition calling for her departure signed by over 200,000 people. A week later she was gone.
The Non-Apology Award of the Year Goes to Nobel Scientist Who Thinks Women Just Cry All the Time
Tim Hunt's apology for his public comments at a science conference when he advocated for single-sex labs because women are distracting included such gems as saying it was a stupid thing to say in a room full of journalists, that he stood by some of the remarks, such as that women "burst into tears" when you criticize them, and that he was sorry he "caused offense."
#DistractinglySex Twitter Campaign — Brings Down Tim Hunt?
Female scientists retaliated with a #distractingsexy Twitter campaign, both funny and pointed. Tim Hunt was released from his post at University College London. He complained he had been "hung out to dry."
— Apologizing immediately
Important Apology Components:
— Taking responsibility
— Explaining what happened
— Seeming genuinely sorry
Additional Apology Resources:
— Wikipedia "Non-Apology Apology"
— Are Apologies for Historical Events Worthwhile?