Apologize To My Boss?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about apology:

My boss is a wonderful person whom I both respect and admire. Recently I hurt her feelings and I am devastated. I want so badly to apologize but I don’t know what to say. I’ve never liked a boss this much before and I don’t want things to be bad between us. I pushed her away because I was being harassed by my coworkers about how close we were. What should I do to remedy the situation? I thought at the time that I was doing the right thing. Now, I miss our relationship.

Signed, Want To Make It Right

Dear Want To Make It Right:

I considered starting with a warning about you and your boss making your friendship so obvious that others resent it and talk about it. I still think that is a good warning, but I’m hoping when you apologize and explain the situation to your boss, she will realize the problem and will correct it. If not, you will need to do your part to correct it so she is not the subject of criticism and neither are you. You don’t say what your respective age and genders are, and that may contribute to it.

Apparently you did or said something to your boss in an effort to show that you weren’t as close to her as your coworkers kept saying you were. You don’t clarify if others knew about it what you said or did or if they witnessed it. Your boss’s feelings were hurt, your close relationship was damaged and now you feel terrible about it. You’re wanting to let her know you didn’t mean it and are sorry. You also say that you’d like your former relationship back. As I mentioned at the beginning, I think it would be best for you to have a respectful and admiring working relationship but with more moderate behavior or conversation about it.

I’m sure after you tell your boss why you acted as you did she will think so too. Either talk directly to your boss or write an email to her, in which you apologize and explain honestly what happened and how you feel. You don’t say what the thing was that you did, but for example purposes I’ll write as though you made some remark to her.Deb, I’ve felt terrible since I made that rude and obnoxious remark to you last Monday and I want to apologize for it. I admire and respect you more than any other manager I’ve ever had, so the way I acted doesn’t reflect the regard I have for you. I want you to know how sorry I am and how much I regret it. You walked up right after a couple of people had made snide remarks to me about my obvious admiration for you. I’ve had comments made before about me trying to get on your good side or trying to be your favorite in the office and I wrongly decided that the best way to stop the comments was by acting just the opposite of how I usually do. So, I made that rude and unprofessional remark and immediately regretted it. Nothing should have led me to say something like that. Since then I’ve worried about how my remarks might have made you feel and also worried that it would destroy our good relationship at work. I wish I could re-do everything about that situation, but since I can’t, I at least want to sincerely apologize to you. I intend to make sure that my behavior and performance in the future show my true respect for you and your leadership. I hope over time that you will once again think of me as a strong member of your team and will believe that you can count on me in any situation. However, if my actions have made it impossible for you to work with me in the same way as before, I want you to know that my loyalty and support for you will continue. Sincerely, XXN one of that may be the way you would write, but you can see the idea.

Explain what happened briefly; say how sorry you are; put the focus on how much you admire and respect her and hope she will continue to think well of you.If others heard or saw what happened, there is something else I think you should add to that basic letter; and it will be a true indicator of how badly you feel about what happened.I once was in a similar situation. In my case, I was the boss who was treated badly by an employee for whom I once had tremendous liking and respect. For several reasons, none of which were reason enough, he did a terribly disloyal thing that caused me to be investigated by a higher level and that hurt me as much as if he had stabbed me in the heart.

I dealt with the issue and came through it OK, but told him how very, very disappointed I was. I never mentioned it again and never retaliated about it in any way. But, I also never again felt I could trust him. It took the pleasure out of many aspects of my work. Over two years later he was in my office talking about a project and suddenly blurted out how sorry he was for what he had done and that he would give anything if he could live that day over. He told me his motives at the time and asked me to forgive him and to know that I could trust him still. He said he had lost sleep many, many nights, thinking about what a jerk he had been and how he wished he could get my forgiveness. I said I appreciated him telling me that and I agreed with him that I would like us to have a better working relationship. I said what would really help me feel better would be if he would contact the people he had talked to about me in the incident and tell them that he hadn’t told the truth about the situation.

As I explained to him, people at higher levels would always have doubts about me unless he told them the truth. I suggested that he could say he had misunderstood the event and when he realized his error he had hesitated to tell them, but now knew he had to correct the injustice. He clearly didn’t want to do that and talked around about it for awhile but finally said he would contact the higher office. He never did.

I didn’t mention it again and I never respected him again. He just wanted me to make HIM feel better, he didn’t really want to make ME feel better! So, if you want to make it right with your boss, do your best to make it completely right, whatever that involves.

Consider adding this to your letter, wording it to fit the situation as it happened and to fit what actions you take: “Before I wrote this I talked to everyone who witnessed what I said to you or who knows about it. I told each of them that I had been disloyal to you, that you didn’t deserve it because you’ve been a great leader, mentor and support for me. I told them I regret it and that I intended to apologize.”

In your case it may be that no one else was aware of what happened, so that won’t be necessary. If they were, it IS necessary. If you can also truthfully add something positive your coworkers said in response, that would be doubly good. It will take courage to do the right thing but you will feel better than you’ve felt ever since it happened; and you’ll be very relieved (and so will she.) I hope then, that you (and/or your boss)will modify anything that might have contributed to the situation. You may also need to develop a strategy for dealing with the remarks of coworkers. According to what they say and how problematic it is, you may need to go to HR about it. Usually, simply not acknowledging it is the best approach. Best wishes to you about this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what you did and what were the results.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.