How to Apologize to Your Boss for a Mistake in the Workplace

Did you miss work? Rude to your boss? Heres how to apologize at work (in person, and via email too).

We all make mistakes—it’s part of being human! But messing up at work can feel especially stressful. While your job may not be on the line, your reputation may be if you aren’t prepared to apologize professionally.

Despite the discomfort of saying “I’m sorry” to your boss, colleagues, or customers, it’s much better than the alternative. Avoiding an apology after making a mistake only makes matters worse. Instead, demonstrate your ability to communicate at work by owning up to your mistakes and acknowledging their effect on others.

Not sure how to get started crafting the perfect apology? Below are a few situations you may find yourself in, and some thoughts from supervisors in various industries about how to apologize like a professional.

How to apologize to your supervisor
  1. Open with your apology. …
  2. Use respectful and sincere language. …
  3. Explain how you are addressing the situation. …
  4. Remain professional and understanding. …
  5. Express a willingness to improve. …
  6. Acknowledge your manager’s feelings are valid. …
  7. Proofread the letter and send it to your supervisor.

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Why is knowing how to apologize to your boss important?

Understanding how to apologize effectively and be accountable for a mistake in the workplace is essential for solving problems and fostering open communication with your supervisor or manager. When you take responsibility for any misunderstandings or errors, you demonstrate your ability and initiative to approach challenges and provide solutions. Apologizing compassionately and effectively can also provide opportunities for growth and development through constructive feedback. For instance, some mistakes can lead to excellent learning opportunities, such as opportunities to develop new skills and strengthen your current talents.

How to apologize to your manager

In the event you make an error in the workplace, the following steps can help you approach the situation and communicate openly with your supervisor:

1. Communicate at the right time

Approach your team leader at an appropriate time when you both have nothing urgent to attend to in your work schedules. An excellent way to approach apologizing is to email a quick note to your supervisor letting them know that you are available to communicate at a convenient time for them. This lets your supervisor know that youre committed to your responsibilities and motivated to solve problems.

2. Express your sincerity

Remain sincere in your communication and show compassion and remorse for errors. Doing so shows your compassion and desire to correct your mistakes and helps build trust and understanding with your team leader and colleagues. Your sincerity also shows you care about your role on your team and that you want to improve your performance so you can continue to support your organizations development.

3. Accept accountability

Its important to understand your role when apologizing so you can discuss how you plan to improve. Accepting accountability is highly beneficial when apologizing for a mistake because it provides an opportunity to discuss approaches to improvement. For instance, if you make a mistake by overlooking an important data point in your work, accepting accountability for this error and apologizing to your supervisor can encourage constructive feedback and guidance for development.

4. Be empathetic to others

When apologizing for mistakes in the workplace, remain empathetic to others. Understand how challenging situations and your role can affect others. Remaining empathetic can also encourage collaboration for finding solutions and improving future outcomes. Additionally, your empathy when apologizing for mistakes shows you care about building trust and support with your managers and teammates.

5. Commit to solving challenges

When communicating with your manager about a mistake, reiterate your desire to solve problems and overcome challenges resulting from the error. Seek opportunities to discuss how you can apply your skills to improve and develop future outcomes. Your commitment to solve challenges in the workplace shows your manager that you accept accountability and make a plan to improve.

6. Be honest in your explanation

Explain honestly and openly why the mistake happened so your manager knows you understand the situation, what caused it and what steps you plan to take to prevent similar errors in the future. Doing so shows your manager they can still trust you to make important decisions and overcome setbacks. When apologizing for a mistake you made, remain open and honest by discussing the steps you took that led to the mistake and what you feel went wrong. Being honest in your explanation shows integrity, which is crucial for building healthy work relationships.

7. Help your manager find solutions

The next step is to come up with a plan to fix the problem and present that to your supervisor. It is one thing to say you are responsible, but here, action will show your manager you have truly taken responsibility. You may even offer to fix the mistake after work hours or on lunch so it doesnt interfere with your normal work duties. Fixing the issue as soon as you are aware of it minimizes the impact of your mistake and gives you plenty of time to help your manager come up with a solution.

8. Ask for forgiveness

Asking for forgiveness will show your manager that your relationship to them is important and that youre motivated to improve areas of your professional development. Asking for forgiveness also lets your supervisor know that you take initiative to perform self-reflections and are open to suggestions for improvement. Your apology also opens up opportunities for your supervisor to express their feelings about the situation, so you can better understand their point of view.

9. Ask for constructive feedback

When apologizing for mistakes in the workplace, part of asking for forgiveness is seeking ways to improve. Ask your supervisor for some feedback that can provide insight into how you might take action differently in the future. Constructive feedback is essential in learning fresh approaches to overcoming obstacles, applying an improvement plan and staying motivated to develop in your career.

10. Make a plan to improve

You can also ask your manager to help you organize and create an improvement plan to help you make adjustments and strengthen areas you feel need additional development. Taking action to not only correct mistakes but to apply feedback and set improvement goals shows that you value your position in your company. Your manager can help you outline several professional objectives that support you in your efforts to improve, solve problems and overcome setbacks.


How do you professionally apologize?

4 steps to the perfect work apology
  1. Acknowledge what happened. …
  2. Admit your mistake, but don’t focus on your initial intentions. …
  3. Concentrate on what you learned. …
  4. Suggest a plan or solution. …
  5. Apologizing too much. …
  6. Taking the blame for things that aren’t your responsibility.

Should I apologize to my boss for a mistake?

Learning how to apologize to your boss is difficult but totally necessary. Done right, an apology may not only save your job, but also convey an impressive degree of maturity and professionalism. This shows your boss you’re more than just the sum of your mistakes.

How do you say sorry in a formal way?

How to Apologize
  1. Apologize as soon as possible. By issuing an apology quickly, you are acknowledging that you made a mistake and truly regret it. …
  2. Don’t make excuses. …
  3. Take responsibility. …
  4. Explain how you will fix the mistake. …
  5. Keep your word. …
  6. Consider the method.

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