An apology is a mode through which we express regret over our actions and acknowledge the pain our actions have caused to someone. When you have done something wrong, an apology is a good option to rebuild the relationship with the other party. In this article, we explain the rationale behind an apology letter and explain how to write one with examples of some successful apology letters.
What is an apology letter?
An apology letter is a written statement in the form of a physical document or email that acknowledges wrongdoing, mistake, misunderstanding or misbehaviour and asks for forgiveness or tolerance. Writing an apology letter is necessary as it betters any strained relationship and mistrust between two people. An apology could be necessary in any relationship, including between employers and employees, employees and bosses, companies and clients, or two colleagues.
In the workplace, apology letters are all the more important, as they are documentary evidence of your attempts to correct a mistake or failure. To say sorry and apologise for a mistake is sometimes not easy, but employees who own responsibility and show eagerness to correct their mistakes earn trust and respect and are valuable assets to any professional team.
Tips for writing an effective apology letter
Writing an effective apology letter can help you rebuild your relationships when you've done something wrong or made a mistake. When the time comes to write an apology letter you might wonder how to start, what to say and how long it should be. Here are some tips to help you write an effective apology letter:
- Show honesty and don't hesitate to apologise. Honesty is the key to apology, so ensure that your apology letter conveys a genuine emotion of regret. If your letter comes across as impersonal, the reader may not appreciate the gesture. Keep in mind the difficulty caused to the other person and their feelings and respond accordingly. A prompt apology creates the impression that you have acknowledged the mistake and truly regret it. Apologies for minor mistakes, such as hurting someone unintentionally, are often accepted quickly, but for major incidents, you might need to wait for some time for everyone to cool down so that they can accept your apology and forgive you.
- Don't make excuses. Don't give explanations for your fault. Explanations can be construed as excuses, and these can go against you. Excuses create the impression that you are not accepting your fault. Ensure that you wholeheartedly say the words “I am sorry” or “I apologise” and your body language should convey the message that you are really sorry for your act.
- Be unselfish. One of the major temptations while writing an apology letter is to try to redirect blame onto others. Note that it is important to take full responsibility for your actions, even if it may mar your reputation or hurt your ego. Additionally, make it clear that you are willing to make personal sacrifices if necessary to make things right.
- Take responsibility. Say sorry and promptly admit that you were wrong. For example, you can say “Since I was late, the project team could not achieve the daily targets in the given period.”
- Ensure that the mistake will not be repeated. Explain how you plan to fix the problem to avoid repetition. For example, if the team has missed a deadline due to your late arrival, make it clear to your team members that you have re-scheduled your time-table in a way that, starting next time, you will be there well in advance. You might also seek the opinion of the person to whom you are apologising if there is anything else you can do to remedy the situation.
- Stand by your word. If you are committing that you will complete the task at a particular time, then stand by your word and complete it to show others that your apology is real. In this way, you can also prove that you can be trusted.
- Think over the mode of apology. In some cases, based on the gravity of the matter and your relationship with the affected person, you might choose to send the apology letter by post or email. In other cases, you may want to deliver it in person. For example, if your mistake was minor and if you and the affected parties are equals in the workplace, a simple email would probably be sufficient. However, if your mistake affects your boss or your entire team, it would be better to print the letter and deliver it in person to the boss. You can also opt for a middle path, in which you apologise via email and ask the affected persons if they want to meet in person to discuss the matter further. Irrespective of the situation, the most important thing to focus on is honesty, sincerity and humility.
- Be conscious of the legal ramifications. Keep in mind that the law in some countries and regions may interpret the apology as an admission of guilt or liability. So, if required, consult a legal professional before you extend an apology, but don't use this as an excuse to not apologise unless significant risk is involved.
- Don't expect instant pardon. Keep in mind that the affected person may not so easily forget the situation and forgive you for what happened. Give that person some time to cool down. For example, after an apology, you could say, "I can understand your situation and I know that it is not so easy to forgive me. I simply wanted to say how sorry I am. You will see that I'm changing my behaviour."
Related: Business Letter Format and Example
Examples of apology letters
Here are a few examples of effective apology letters:
Example 1: An apology letter to a coworker
I sincerely apologise for not including you in the company holiday party I organised last week. I forgot to update my directory. As a result, many of the new employees, including you, were all left out. The exclusion was not intentional and I am feeling terrible for my blunder.
Being a team player, team spirit is of paramount importance to me at the workplace, and I usually make it a point to reach out to new employees and make them feel comfortable. I sincerely apologise for the disappointment caused to you. I have added your contact details to my address book and I assure you that such a mistake will not happen again.
I sincerely ask for your pardon. I hope this incident has not spoiled our relationship and I look forward to knowing you better at the next company gathering.
All the best,
Example 2: An apology letter to a customer
Please accept my sincere apology on behalf of Lalchandwani. We are sorry to know that the auto parts we delivered fell short of the specifications you sent us. I must admit that our design and manufacturing teams should have examined your request and sought your approval before shipping the final product.
We accept the fault and would like to replace the wrong parts plus offer you a company gift card for Rs. 5000, usable in any of our 20 locations and through our online store. We hope you will accept our gesture of apology. Our technical team will contact you soon to ensure that the replacement parts meet your specifications.
I want to clarify that customer satisfaction is our top priority and we want to assure you that this type of issue will not arise again. We have taken up the concern with our manufacturing team to make sure that more care is taken in case of special orders. We cherish your business relationship with us and we want to carry our professional relationship forward.
If you have any queries, please contact me directly or any member of our Customer Service team.
Example 3: An apology letter for misbehavior
I am very sorry for my unprofessional behavior in the team meeting this evening. I interrupted you many times and cast aspersions on your commitment in front of other employees. This was simply rude and disrespectful.
I have always insisted on the free flow of ideas and prefer two-way communication at the workplace. When I cast aspersions on your commitment and criticized you for a minor mistake, I spoiled the team's collaborative environment.
I am working on ways to control my stress level so that such a situation does not arise in the future. I have no doubt about your capabilities and sincerity as you have many times completed the projects on time. I would, therefore, request you not to take it seriously.
I express regret once again. If you would like to discuss this matter, feel free to contact me.