Since my arrival to Zimbabwe in 2015, I have found a quiet, but strong community in the pages of “The Daily News.”
The state of its citizens and its development as a nation is palpable.
Because of the varying beliefs and lifestyles among the citizenry, I have been asked a lot of time for a framework of how one should apologize when doing business in Zimbabwe.
I have also met and spoke with many businessmen in the United Kingdom who operate in Zimbabwe.
As I engaged these businessmen, I discovered that in Zimbabwe at least, they differed with the way apologies were received by different sectors of the society.
While some entrepreneurs understand the complexities of cultural norms, many dismiss apologies outright as it relates to doing business in Zimbabwe.
However, there is a middle ground between the two extremes
Particularly when it comes to the practice of apologizing in the context of business.
I am sure that we all know how it feels when we make an error in one’s life or business and are met with a wave of opposition for it.
Some will be quick to vilify, condemn and destroy you. In doing so, they do not feel remorse or realize the impact of their actions on others.
That is why in business, there is a fine line between using “sorry” and “apologize.”
There is no real “there” there.
When you ask someone if you did the right thing when apologizing in business, they will sometimes say, “Yes, you did, but I don’t think I will want to work with you after that.”
In my view, they are right.
In fact, what I will say is that you probably will not want to work with that person again. So why did you apologize?
A genuine apology should be made to restore the broken relationship between the two parties
For instance, if you made an order of goods and services and were charged a much higher price than expected, you may want to apologize to the person who made the order for that.
That person, in a genuine apology, will most likely appreciate your response and will change the price.
Most often, an apology should be made when a party is aware of the wrong he or she has committed and did not realize it at the time.
This is where you must allow the other person to become comfortable with you and your company and eventually give him or her the benefit of the doubt.
That way, you can gain the necessary trust from your “partner.”
Here is my rationale on why you might need to apologize, but not for the sake of apologizing.
As I said, business etiquette in general dictates that you should apologize when you have committed an act of dishonesty and unethical behavior.
So, if I do not actually intentionally do something wrong, such as steal from your business or if I do something that causes you to lose confidence in me, I may never have to apologize.
If I see an error and make it in an attempt to correct it, I can usually say “sorry” for my actions. So, if you accept my apology, then I do not need to offer another.
If you do, I will still want to apologize to you because I know you will expect me to.
But most important is how you go about apologizing. How do you feel?
How should you apologize?
I have said it before, but to me, an apology should be genuine. This means that you must believe the apology.
It should not be insincere, but heartfelt. Sincerity is important.
You need to know that it is heartfelt and not just an empty phrase.
For example, if you comment, “I am sorry I was wrong” and you just made the same mistake a few minutes later, it is of no value.
In my view, apologies that are filled with excuses or attempts to make the offended party feel better are not genuine.
I am not saying that people should tell you that they are sorry when they are not. In some cases, that may be the case, but please be prepared for the other person to say, “I am really not sorry.”
What I mean by that is they might have been “really” sorry, but they just did not want to say it.
An apology is often directed at the wronged party, so you have to speak to the wrong person.
I will admit that I have been very harsh with my apologies in business, even though I have only been wrong once.
Yes, it is always easy to say, “I am sorry,” but is it sincere? The answer is usually, “No.”
If I genuinely believe that I have done something wrong, then I will say “sorry” to the wrong person.
In fact, I always have to say it, even if I really did nothing wrong.