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Transgressors with power don´t apologize easily

Lawyers and PR consultants handle this respect very differently





People with and in power are less apologetic than subordinates in case of a mistake. Why? Because transgressors with authority focus primarily on their own interest. Therefore these people – superiors vs. employees, instructors vs. students, physicians vs. patients or politicians vs. voters – do have difficulties to bring „Sorry“ let alone „I apologize“ over their lips.

The scientists recommend that leaders and experts of any kind try change their perspective and look at the situation with the eyes of the involved one(s). This facilitates taking responsibility for mistakes explicitly – a behavior most of us are waiting for in such a situation.

Guilfoyle/Struthers/van Monsjou/Shoikhedbrod/Eghbali/Kermani, „Sorry, not Sorry: The Effect of Social Power on Transgressors´ Apology and Nonapology“, in: Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied“, 06 Jan 2022, 28(4):883-897.


From the practice:


Very much true. And still I would like to add an aspect which I have encountered so often in my years as a professional coach: more often then many may expect there is sort of conflict when a top manager or politician has made a mistake between his/her advisers behind the scenes

Lawyers almost always recommend not to apologize since legal claims might be raised then more quickly. We as communication experts on the contrary suggest frequently the complete opposite: to apologize whenever appropriate because honest apologies create sympathies and understanding for the mistake which has been made. And even if there is a follow up at court, this newly built reputation and improved image pays off then and even there.

By the way: Authentic, concise and emotionally meaningful apologies can be elaborated on in one or two coaching sessions and can be trained pretty well.

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