Apology Research – How to do it Well !


Have you ever offered an apology that fell flat?  That made someone madder?  Well, it turns out there are specific components to an effective apology.  These are the findings of a recently published article on an “apology” research project in the journal Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, Vol. 9, No. 2 (May 2016). The result – there are six substantive elements to an apology with some more important than others.

Professor Emeritus Roy Lewicki (lead author) and Associate Professor Robert Lount of Management and Human Resources at The Ohio State University and Assistant Professor of Management Beth Polin of Eastern Kentucky University conducted two separate experiments of how people reacted to apologies made up of different elements. The study of 755 people found the following six elements of an effective apology:

1. Expression of regret
2. Explanation of what went wrong
3. Acknowledgement of responsibility
4. Declaration of repentance
5. Offer of repair
6. Request for forgiveness

According to Professor Lewicki – “Apologies really do work, but you should make sure you hit as many of the six key components as possible.” (The Ohio State University Newsroom)  The research also identified acknowledgment of responsibility as most important with offer of repair the next most significant.

Thus, the next time you apologize, try to include all six elements, but if you can’t fit them all in, make sure to acknowledge your responsibility and make an offer of repair.

Good luck with your next apology!

Marketing Plan – Communications Students Lead the Way

NC State is the “Think and Do” university (among other things) and for this semester I’ve been doing just that with four students in the Communications Department.  I was invited by Professor Jessica Jamison to work with students in her Public Relations class and for the NC State Faculty Ombuds Office to serve as a client organization for students to put together a marketing plan.   The marketing plan was presented late last month amid end of the year fanfare and it was a job well done!

Providing educational marketing is an important function for a new ombuds office and I was very interested to learn what new ideas the students could suggest. The marketing plan includes all that you might expect – background research on similar type offices, a digital audit of the current office, multiple meetings with the client (me!), and a final product chalk full of ideas.  If you want to take a look, I’ve posted the Report on the Resources page or click Public Relations Campaign – NC State Communications Student Proposal.

I now have many great ideas to consider and implement as part of the NC State Faculty Ombuds Office and my sincere thanks to my student team!

Canada Ombuds Promote the Fairness Triangle


As previously posted, I attended the International Ombudsman Association Annual meeting last month and wanted to share the Canadian understanding of Fairness. A panel of four Canadian Ombuds shared the stage and noted that as government ombuds, each had a mission to promote fairness for citizens served. As a result, the concept of the Fairness Triangle was developed to help people understand what being “fair” means.

Here’s some material from the Saskatchewan Ombudsman explaining how fairness is defined in terms of Substance, Procedure, and Relationships.  Based on the “satisfaction triangle” presented by Christopher Moore, The Mediation Process, the Canadian Fairness Triangle provides a tool for considering fairness.

While the NC State Faculty Ombuds Office is not a governmental agency like the Canadian Ombuds, nonetheless, fair process is important. I want to think more about the Fairness Triangle and determine how it can support the work of this office.

Fairness Triangle Screenshot