3 causes of botched corporate apologies

Dithering and denial always make the problem worse, yet corporations just can’t seem to help themselves.

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They say you only get one shot at making a good first impression. That’s true for corporate apologies, too.

When a company is forced to apologize multiple times for the same incident, it’s already blown it.

Think of this playground scenario: When a rambunctious child knocks another little one over, the parent of the rowdy tot generally intervenes and demands that the child apologize. If the apology comes off as insincere, a parent intent on teaching a lesson might say, “Apologize like you mean it, or we’re going home right now.”

Kids usually recognize the severity of the matter and offer a proper apology. Adult-run corporations, unfortunately, tend to be worse at apologizing than your average 7-year-old.

Why do businesses so frequently mangle mea culpas? Here are three reasons:

1. Lawyers see an apology as an admission of guilt. Attorneys are loath to cop to anything, lest it be used against the apologizer in a court of law. This hesitancy leads to vague non-apologies that frequently cause more outrage, which creates the need to apologize again. This time, with feeling— or we’re leaving the playground right now.

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