Teamwork: Making Apologies Worthy of Acceptance

The basis of teamwork is respect. When diverse people come together on a team, respect weaves the thread of positive interaction in good times and bad.

Sounds obvious and simple? It can be if all teammates act in ways before and during the bad times that will make apologies worthy of acceptance.

Here’s a professional workplace relationship checklist for self-improvement and team development.

Teamwork: Making Apologies Worthy of Acceptance Image licensed from

Image licensed from:

Respect. The sooner and more completely all embrace diversity by showing true respect for differences, the greater the chance that teammates can accept apologies when a problem between them occurs.

Any sense of disrespect, disregard, one-upmanship, verbal bullying, sarcastic digs, or passive aggressive manipulation will always be the context within which your words of apology will be viewed. Even after teammates have known each other awhile, never forget the daily dose of respect to keep the threads of teamwork strong.

Checklist step: What thoughts and feelings inside of you bring you to show even the littlest bit of disrespect for others? Need to control, insecurity, discomfort with ambiguity, self-deception, fear of the new, extreme individual views, ignorance of cultural, gender, educational or personality differences?

Appreciation. While respect keeps the threads of interaction strong, appreciation turns those threads into a vivid painting of warm positive context. Every time you express sincere appreciation for a teammate’s talents, strengths, behaviors, and uniqueness, you increase the chance that your apology in bad times will be accepted by the others.

Checklist step: In a quiet moment, list out the names of all your teammates. If possible, put his/her picture next to each name. Write down 2 positive traits and 1 unique trait for each. Share this information in natural conversation when you witness these traits. When people are both respected and appreciated for who they are, they can also hear your sincere apologies in tough times.

Ownership. The ultimate challenge for accepting an apology is to hear the sincerity over the pain. At the very early stages of pain, clear words of ownership of the mistake shout out the immediate pain and prevent additional pain. Respect and appreciation can then filter in as teammates realize you own the impact of your behavior.

Checklist step: Which of these phrases have you slipped and used?

  • I’m sorry IF I hurt you or IF you perceived my words that way.
  • I was trying to help you; you should be grateful I cared.
  • I’m sorry I used that phrase BUT I was … busy, overtired, etc…
  • I didn’t mean to hurt you.
  • You are not an easy person to deal with but I shouldn’t have lost my temper.

Replace all these sidestepping self-protecting detours with a simple straightforward apology. Related post: The Perfect Apology and the One Word that Destroys It.

Caring. When you show respect for diversity, express appreciation for individual uniqueness, offer ownership of your gaffes and mistakes, and share empathy for others’ pain, your apologies ooze caring and have the highest chance for acceptance.

You read over and over that apologies must be sincere else they will fail. When you defend or offer an apology only when cornered, it screams insincerity. However, when you consistently show respect, appreciation, ownership, and care, people can see any one moment as a human slip.

Checklist step: Start each day with a self-declaration of accountability and integrity. Build your own reputation of being full of class and the “real thing”. Why? Because accountability and integrity show deep inner strength and inner strength is a heck of a billboard!

Some struggle with apologizing because they think it publicizes their weakness and faults. They think it is humiliating and diminishes potential success. However it’s important not to confuse humility with humiliation. The straightforward apology and remedy when needed is the perfect chance to build trust in yourself and a reputation of true greatness.

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

Related Post:
Avoid the 7 Common Causes of People-Skills Mistakes
What’s So Hot About Humility Anyway?

©2012 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. If you want to re-post or republish this post, please email Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.

8 Responses to “Teamwork: Making Apologies Worthy of Acceptance”

  1. Jon Mertz says:

    Great post, Kate. This is a great idea – “Write down 2 positive traits and 1 unique trait for each…” This is something I am doing to do today. It is a great way to think about our team members and refresh our own appreciation for what they do and how they do it. It also can give them an uplift when we weave it into our conversations. Great practice to start! Thanks. Jon

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Jon, I am so glad when I can share tools, tips, and insights that are actionable right away. I have given that tip to many who have found it valuable and I appreciate your feedback here!


  2. Khalid says:

    You really made me wave dreaming through your writing Kate :)
    Thanks for the great insight and inspiration your bring to my life

    I now imagine how would the final product be after mixing your suggested team ingridents. Respect, appreciation, ownership and caring are the best mix for teams success. If I may add to caring, compassion is another powerful tool that goes inline with caring.

    “Compassion is the basis of morality. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer ”


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Nice quote Khalid. You always add dimension with even one quote! Tops in my book.
      Have a wonderful rest of the weekend. I know it’s already Sunday where you are.

  3. @dan_steer says:

    Great post, thanks Kate.

    I really like the concept of ownership. My wife always tells me that when I judge others or find them “annoying” (for example) its because they touch on some aspect of my own personality that I need to deal with.

    Personally, I use a little formula for apologies that is very similar to my feedback-formula. Inspired by your post, I blogged it today. Check it out (I referenced you as well):

    Keep up the good work :-)

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