Look… I understand how frustrating jobs can be and that sometimes it is so human to want to “stick it to the man.” But that’s where we need to take a breath and rely on our character guidelines. Unless Mr. Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant who berated a customer and then exited from his duty by sliding down an emergency chute with a couple of beers, was under the influence of a medical condition that caused his behavior, he acted poorly and wrongly. This is a high profile example of NOT being self accountable or respectful. If the accounts of this event are accurate, he blamed the passengers and the airline for his situation. He then went on to verbally abuse passengers and inconvenience many other flights and passengers with his behavior. Perhaps the comedian Jimmy Fallon best underscored this event with a sad yet somewhat comedic perspective, when he wondered aloud if this behavior got you suspended at Jet Blue, what you would have to do to get fired.
Perhaps the part of this story that is most bewildering is how some in the media and elsewhere are making Mr. Slater a folk hero. I find this simply incomprehensible and a disturbing example of how we’ve allowed outlandish behavior to take precedent over acting with Character. When pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed the plane on the Hudson and his brave team mates calmly helped passengers safely to rescue; we were appropriately introduced to folk heroes. They all acted with character.
We can be compassionate to Mr. Slater and certainly understanding if there are extenuating circumstances. If not, he should sincerely apologize (see my July 16 blog on apologizing), be hopeful to avoid jail time, and become re-employed somewhere. He would be served to act with character and “man up”; take personal responsibility for his actions.
In the meantime Jet Blue did the right thing by the way it respectfully handled the situation with its single blog post on the matter.
For all those flight attendants and passengers who act with character – thank you.
Remember my “Do we know how to apologize” blog? Well maybe the best reinforcement on the positives of power and forgiveness is captured in a recent major league baseball story.
There have been only 18 perfect games pitched since 1900. So you might imagine the huge disappointment and frustration for Detroit Tiger pitcher Armando Galarraga, when on June 2nd, one out away from perfection, the opportunity was lost due to a mistaken call by first base umpire Jim Joyce.
After the pandemonium of heckling and boos Joyce, retired to the umpire’s clubhouse to watch the replay. It was obvious from the video that Joyce was wrong. What did he do? He immediately sincerely apologized publicly and privately to all; most importantly to Galarraga, the pitcher. Joyce was grief stricken and one can only imagine how Armando felt.
And what did Galarraga do? Instead of righteous indignation and anger, he graciously accepted and embraced Joyce with understanding and forgiveness. He went to Joyce personally and embraced him.
Now that’s an example of self accountability, respect and abundant behavior in one replay of life.
Lesson for work and us? If we make a bad call… step up and apologize. If we get a bad call and someone acknowledges it… forgive and move on.
Thank you Joyce and Galarraga for acting with Character. You are the first twosome in the Character Hall of Fame.
Dr. Aaron Lazare, author of the book On Apology underscores the importance of genuinely apologizing as an important human act, allowing for those that are wrong to repent and for those that have been wronged to forgive. Management and leadership guru Tom Peters talks about sincerely saying “sorry” as one of top leaders’ most important attributes. But do we really know and understand this act of contrition or are some of us inclined to throw out the “S” word with a hope that we can make the issue go away. The data says that platitudes and “non–apology apologies” are worse than no apology at all. For example, one poll shows that only 54% of respondents felt that Tiger Woods apology was sincere.
Lisa Belkin wrote a great NYT Magazine article entitled Why Is It So Hard to Apologize Well. She refers to research by Jennifer Robbennolt, a professor of law and psychology at the University of Illinois.
“Dr. Robbennolt presented test subjects with a hypothetical situation — one in which a cyclist injures a pedestrian. She then attributed one of three statements to the cyclist and asked the subjects whether the injured party should accept a proffered settlement. When a full apology was offered (“I am so sorry that you were hurt. The accident was all my fault, I was going too fast and not watching where I was going”), 73 percent of the respondents said the pedestrian should be willing to accept the settlement. When no apology was offered, 52 percent said the pedestrian should settle. And when only a partial apology was offered (“I am so sorry that you were hurt, and I really hope that you feel better soon”), 35 percent opted for a settlement.”
Do you think Tony Hayward, the soon to be ex-CEO of BP was sincere in his apology?
So here are the essential self-accountable guidelines for apologizing at work (or anywhere):
1. Be honest enough to recognize when we screwed up and admit it.
2. Sincerely express our regret regarding our behavior and consequences.
3. Take full responsibility for our behavior/actions (even when we think there are extenuating circumstances).
4. State the learning and plan to act differently; outline how to prevent it from occurring again.
5. Ask for forgiveness.
I like the way Belkin concludes her article: when an apology fails, two things are lost — the victims are not asked for forgiveness, nor are they given a chance to grant it. Being asked to forgive restores dignity to the injured. Granting forgiveness is a step toward moving on. A botched apology not only taints the act of apology but the ability to accept an apology as well. And that is unforgivable.
Let’s be self accountable …apologize when you screw up …do it the right way and go forward.