Development Team Membership : Part 2 – Apologies

A lot of people struggle with apologising.  It can be difficult, particularly in the workplace, but apologising even for little things can make a big difference to those around you.  Couple of really obvious examples:

Sorry, I broke the build

Sorry, I’m not going to meet this deadline

Now, it’s not likely you will need to apologise very often; in fact, if you are, it’s probably indicative of a wider issue. In the above examples, maybe you need some coaching on TDD from peers, or maybe you need to be empowered to push back on an imposed deadline.  There will be occasion, however, when things don’t quite go to plan and you just have to hold your hands up and say “Sorry”.

Apologising shows ownership and responsibility for your actions, which for me have always been key qualities with respect to choosing who I want to work with.  Those with “Teflon Shoulders” tend not to last very long.  It also shows a respect for your peers, they will know you dropped the ball, denying it will do you no favours in the long run and a prompt apology can make all the difference in getting people on side to help with a resolution if needs be.

What is an apology?

To me, an apology has very little to do with what it is being apologised for.

What’s done is done, no point crying over spilled milk, and so on.

In fact, in my head, I’ve probably already moved on…

Time Travel
Time Travel

So, what is it?

To me, an apology is:

  • a contract of intent not to make the same mistake again;
  • a display of ownership of your actions;
  • respect.

Not apologising, is the opposite:

  • a contract of intent to make the same mistake again;
  • shirking ownership of your actions;
  • disrespectful.


An insincere apology is worse than no apology, if you don’t mean it, don’t say it.

Closing Thoughts

It’s rarely too late to apologise, (especially if you still have a job!).  Apologising can help you get something off your chest and also have a profound impact on those around you and the way they act towards you.

Is there anything you’ve done and shrugged off into the Ether?

Next time you do something a little bit questionable, at work or outside (we all do, don’t deny it), apologise and see where it gets you.