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« Shut the Damn Thing Off Or Else! Go to | Main | Leader's Apologies: Doing it the Right Way »


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You always find the most interesting articles! I'm honestly surprised that lawyers and doctors haven't gotten around to apologizing sooner. If there's one thing the service industry has mastered it's the power of the apology. Truly, there is little in the world that has the power to diffuse a heated situation quite like a well-timed "I'm sorry."

Andres V Acosta, SPHR

Last October Ann Fisher wrote an article for Fortune magazine titled, "Want a higher paycheck, say you're sorry". In it, she references a Zogby International poll that suggests there is a strong correlation between a persons propensity to apologize and their income level. It's a poll, not a behavioral study, but I found the results interesting nevertheless.

Timely and well said, Bob. Saying "I'm sorry", is right up there with "please" and "thank you"; one of those phrases that can make the difference between a welcoming work environment and a crappy one.

Bob Sutton


Thanks for adding this stuff, as you say, I wish it would happen more. Here is a link to a pdf of the article that Wally is quoting.

Bob Sutton

Wally Bock

Great post, Bob. Back on May 18 2004, the Wall Street Journal carried an article on this titled "Doctors' New Tool To Fight Lawsuits: Saying 'I'm Sorry'." Here's an excerpt.

"Since 2001, prominent institutions from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore have made it a policy to urge their doctors to own up to mistakes and apologize. Consultants are increasingly in demand for seminars on how best to deliver lawsuit-deflecting apologies. Two states, Colorado and Oregon, have passed laws specifically saying an apology can't be used against a doctor in court.

At some medical schools, including Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn., courses in communicating errors and apologizing are now mandatory for medical students and residents. Insurers across the nation, including General Electric Co.'s giant Medical Protective unit, are beginning to urge their clients to acknowledge errors and apologize."

The Times article references a VA hospital that has been encouraging apologies since the 1980s. The Journal article in 2004 references efforts at major institutions since 2001 as well as changes in medical school curricula. Supposedly insurance companies are on board as well.

Yet, in 2008, this is still news because it's still rare. If changing something that so many people agree on is virtually in the same place today as it was twenty years ago, what does that say about the reform of our disease-care system?

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