don’t employees deserve apologies too?

February 24, 2010

in communication,culture

whether or not it directly affects us or we are right to do so, we demand apologies.

we demand apologies from those who wrong us: tiger woods.

we demand apologies from those who shame us: olympic officials.

and we demand apologies from those who endanger us: toyota.

and, generally speaking, we get those apologies. because apologizing is the first step toward recovery. to getting things off the skids and back on track. to returning to business as usual—or better than usual.

in toyota’s case, toyoda makes his statement to the committee on house oversight and government reform today, an extension of the apology he first uttered back in october. his planned remarks reflect on where toyota’s gone wrong and how their errors and miscalculations have affected their customers. shareholders, while not overtly mentioned, are surely in the back of his mind.

but what about toyota’s employees?

while apologies are issued externally, employees are taking an obvious hit to their lives, livelihood, and their view of their employer. employees’ own reputations are tarnished, whether or not they were directly involved in the decisions or processes that led to the safety issues. in return, employees are receiving scant communication, other than the expected communications asking them to buck up and help toyota gain back customer trust and market share.

explain something to me because i just don’t get it. don’t employees deserve apologies too?


Leave a Comment

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Roche February 24, 2010 at 9:50 am

Employees do deserve apologies. Management failed them at Toyota…and horribly at Lehman Bros, Enron, etc. Peoples’ livlihoods are gone…and I’ll bet not a one of them heard so much as a peep.

Great thought…


Paul Smith February 24, 2010 at 10:46 am

I don’t get it either. Why is it when people walk into their workplace, they become “employees”, and no longer “people”? Is vernacular the simple reason for dehumanizing employees?
If people are not thought of as people, it’s easier to not treat them like people. Thus, a sorry becomes unnecessary in the company’s eyes.
But “employees” are “people” and they do deserve apologies.


fran February 24, 2010 at 4:51 pm

when we see stories like toyota, enron, etc alongside all of the articles on how to engage employees…

things that make you go hmmm.



Adrian Swinscoe February 26, 2010 at 8:55 am

Don’t you think there is something amiss when sometimes we have to ask for an apology? Surely, that’s the first thing and the least we can expect from our officials, suppliers, employers, leaders, employees etc when a mistake is made.



fran February 27, 2010 at 3:10 pm

adrian, we’d like to think so, wouldn’t we?


Rob March 4, 2010 at 6:11 am

Valid question. The answer might depend on whether there is an US versus THEM mentality within the company. ie/ was it a truly shared mistake (an overall company culture led to the errors) or was it isolated to certain parts of the organisation (eg top management)?

The latter to my mind would requires a deeper and different sort of apology.


fran March 4, 2010 at 9:14 am

rob, that’s a great distinction. since leaders set the culture and employees follow in order to keep their jobs, get ahead, get recognized and rewarded, i still believe that ultimate accountability falls squarely on the shoulders of leaders. and that means that leaders are also fully accountable for apologizing when the culture they create is harmful to all.



Previous post:

Next post: