The Legal Department Says We Cannot Apologize
Back in January I wrote a post here and here commenteing about companies failing to admit a mistake and apologize. According to the Fortune magazine article, “Saying sorry: Why so few companies do it” by Becky Quick, she points out some obvious examples:
“A respected medical journal chronicled the case of an 84-year-old patient whose Boston Scientific defibrillator accidentally sent an unnecessary shock to his heart. Instead of admitting there could be a problem with the device or even apologizing to the patient, who’d obviously been through a traumatic experience, Boston Scientific wrote a scathing letter questioning the doctor’s observations and criticizing the journal for printing the article. Welcome to accountability, corporate-style.”
But what is so wrong with a company simply defending itself of an accusation? Or is the rule book different for captains of industry:
“Most of us learn in kindergarten that when you hurt someone, you say you’re sorry. But captains of industry seem to have forgotten the rules of common decency. Instead of manning up and admitting their mistakes, far too often corporations and CEOs choose to deny, deflect, or deceive.”
Why is an apology so difficult? Do we just blame it on the lawyers?
“So why do corporate execs seem to have such a hard time making apologies? Maybe because admitting a mistake can be expensive when you head a major corporation. Plaintiffs’ lawyers would have a field day with an apology, and recalling a product is expensive. Levick, a crisis-communications firm that has helped companies recall more than 100 products, estimates that it costs twice as much to recall a product as it does to litigate claims related to faulty goods.”