President Obama “takes responsibility” for the huge Democratic setbacks, he does not apologize for poorly communicating achievements, change, or progress during his first two years. Arizona politicians, like Ben Quayle, John McCain, and Jan Brewer, have talked about misspeaking, being misunderstood, and being taken out of context, but have not apologized for comments or actions and have recovered. Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan do not appear very apologetic for their behavior. “Never having to say you are sorry,” is an acceptable, even recommended, mode of operation in politics and entertainment. But, in the business world, apologies do have a place and can mitigate serious financial setbacks.
The apology can address global issues. For instance, in June, Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation, apologized to stockholders for the numerous recalls in an attempt to retain their support for one of the largest car manufacturers in the world. So far, probably due to its previous dependability and customer loyalty, Toyota has survived the past year’s mishaps. On the other hand, BP was blasted for not apologizing quick enough for its role in the Gulf oil spill disaster this year. Contriteness can sooth consumer anger when it comes to the sale of goods.
In the media, which is financially dependent on viewers, listeners, readers, and/or sponsors, apologies are useful in trying to avert the customers’ backlash in not watching or buying the product.
An apology can affect a national image. MSNBC is agonizing over the fate of Keith Olbemann, who is currently suspended for contributing to the campaign of Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, and being asked to apologize to the television audience.
On a local level, in 1988, Arizona executive Steve Kushni, of the 944 Magazine, had to issue an apology to Lydia Guzman of Somos America, an immigrant rights organization for anti-Hispanic rants and refusing to advertise in the Arizona Republic because “Mexicans read that newspaper.”
For the small business owner in Phoenix, the wisest move for anyone in the customer service department is to quickly apologize to a complainant to dispel anger and hopefully keep a customer. Investigative local television reports, Internet blogs, and other modern methods of spreading bad news can seriously damage credibility and economic viability of unrepentant businesses and businesspeople. The best advice is to “fess up,” correct the problem and hope for consumer forgiveness.