So, you made a mistake at work? Maybe fail to comply with a deadline or miscommunication with a co-worker. It’s common. Messing up at the workplace has endless ways. Luckily, to make things right after committing a mistake are as many.

Apologising after committing a mistake requires essential expertise, but what is the right way to apologies to your boss or co-workers?

Saying ”I’m sorry” isn’t enough. An effectual apology is one where a person accepts the circumstances and eventually works towards making things better. We all don’t possess this skill, it has to be learned through experience. Taking some time out of your busy schedule and learning the fundamentals of apologising can help smooth up the process.

Saying sorry in the workplace can be sensitive. But, it also depends on the gravity of your mistake (particularly if it involves legal or a public backlash), finding the resolve to apologise can be difficult. But not being apologetic can make things get out of control. 

So, what are the best ways to apologise effectively? Take into consideration these 8 steps before you attempt to smooth things:

Be Sincere

When you apologise, it has to be wholeheartedly, or else your apology is nothing but meaningless. Your colleagues will know if you aren’t sincere with your apology and an insincere apology is more than worthless: it is disrespectful.

Even if you don’t feel like apologising or you think you have done nothing wrong, consider the fact that a simple mistake has made other’s lives a bit harder. You can agree to disagree. One must always start from a sincere place.

Show empathy 

Always put yourself in other co-worker’s shoes and think about what you want them to do if the situation was reversed? Scrutinise the situation step by step to truly understand where they are coming from and what they might be feeling. Thinking through all of this and understanding the sentiments involved will make your apology much easier.

Take responsibility

It is always a good idea to own up to your mistakes. In my personal view, it is the hardest part. Most people hate being wrong. Owning up to a mistake expresses your intentions to other people of being sincere and compassionate with how they feel. It will signify that you are a courageous and confident person when it comes to accepting mistakes.

Recognise what others are feeling

Being a human means we have emotions and one’s actions can affect the people around us. Speak to your colleagues and try to show that you understand that your mistake or actions have greatly affected them. It will help with reconciliation. 

Offer your rational and not your excuses

When apologising one must not make excuses for the mistake. It is always better to provide them with a rationale that will make them understand why you had to commit such an action. It is important to note that if you can’t distinguish between making a mistake and giving an explanation, it is best not to say anything.

Be ok with the awkwardness of the situation

Apologizing and awkwardness go hand in hand. Be straightforward when apologising and try to be candid to help reduce some of the tension.

Offer ways to make it up to them

A great way to show that you are sorry to your co-workers is by suggesting ways on how you can make it up to them. Of course, it has to be realistic and will prevent any future mistakes from happening again. While it’s ok to make a mistake once, you need to make sure you don’t do it again. 

Learn from your mistake

Screwing up is part of life. If you did make a mistake, learn from it and try your best to avoid it in the future. Ask for help if you need to because it will show others that you are trying your best. 


Nobody’s perfect. Saying sorry can only make you a better person and subsequently, you’ll find yourself having to apologise at your workplace. Any form of apology is very uncomfortable and it emphasises that we should always be aware of how our actions and words affect others. Taking responsibility for our mistakes, recognising how our actions affected other people, learn to make amends and make things better.

Working in an office can often lead to sparks. Here are some tips on how to manage office relationships:
How to Win Your New Colleagues Over in Your New Job?
6 Tips to Working with People You Don’t Like
How to Reject a Colleague Who Wants to Date You

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43 replies on “8 Steps to Apologise Effectively at Work

  1. I couldn’t agree more with you.

    One of our family mottoes says if you did something wrong, apologize as much as you can. The more the better.

    Also the same with thank you. If someone did something to you, thank as much as possible the more the better.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. True, apolizing in some situations are usually sensitive and the thought of not knowing how to do it right always hinders us from saying just a simple sorry. Great pointers.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Kally, as usual your blog is spot on! Gary Chapman ( has a follow up to his famous “The 5 Love Languages,” called “The 5 Language of Apology.” Basically a book rendition of what you said in less than 1000 words! 😉

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Another Awesome one Kally.

    Here’s the deal: YOU know you messed up, and far more than likely, do your Boss and Co-workers. (Speaking from personal experience here)

    So IF you choose to pretend that your not responsible for the mess-up; your trying to fool yourself AND everyone one else.

    Permit Me, to share a personal story. (Which haunts ME, though long retied to this very day.

    I was Operations Manager for a Multi-Million $$$$$ company; and had therefore DIRECT responsibility for ALL of the Operational Departments, including our “Payroll” Department which was administered by our Human Rescues Manager. One week during the PEAK business period; she was OVER-Worked, and significantly missed the Payroll- Budget for the week.

    Our mutual BOSS (the BIG-Boss) freaked out, and “lost it” (the ONLY time I ever knew of “Mr. Always Professional to do so), and in a management meeting He asked “who was responsible “(HE OF COURSE KNEW) , but he was seeking a public “confession.”

    The SWAMPED PR manger “fessed up” (AND I FAILED TO COVER HER MISTAKE; EVEN THOUGH IT WAS MY RESPONSIBILITY TO OVER-SEE PR’s work. (I FAILED to give her the help and support she needed that week; not recognizing that the seasonal interviewing workload (needed; actually logically, demanded assistance.)

    That gutless mistake, forever changed my relationship with ALL of the companies managers. And I ended up leaving the company. PROVING that to “assume” it will work out always makes a “ASS/U/ME”), IS proven wisdom.

    If your a manager; PROTECT all those under your responsibility; and TAKE the heat of them.
    The problem may NOT “have been my fault”; BUT IT WAS MY RESPONSIBILITY.

    i Failed myself, by team, the company and ended up paying the ultimate price.

    Please learn from MY screwup!

    God Bless you,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate you sharing your experiences with us. Truly a great insight. And you are so great to have learned from your mistakes and your willingness to share so that nobody makes the same error. Kudos to you on that, Patrick.


  5. Thank you so much for these tips! I always dread that I’ll mess up an apology at work and make things worse. That does encourage me to do my best to avoid a situation where I would need to apologize, but it’s best to be prepared since it will happen to all of us someday. 😊


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