My sister-in-law from Denmark visited us last weekend. When we picked her up at the airport, she was waiting curbside with her small carry-on bag, and a courtesy overnight kit from the airline. Seems they had accidentally sent her checked baggage to Bombay, India. Although we were compassionate to her plight, we were not particularly surprised. The family I have married into tells extraordinary tales of the adventures their luggage has experienced while they have spent entire vacations with only their travel outfit and some borrowed dental floss.
What did surprise us was the response of the airline's Customer Service Department. They promptly took her claim, ascertained the location of her luggage (the scanning and tracking system they use is mind boggling!), and informed her that her bag would arrive in our city in approximately 48 hours. They then handed her a claim form and sent her on her way. It was only out at the curb when we picked her up that she looked closely at her paperwork. In bold letters at the top it said "Luggage Irregularity Form."
I beg your pardon? Luggage Irregularity? I suppose it is a bit irregular if you want to go to the United States and the airline (to whom you have paid thousands of dollars) ships your luggage the opposite direction. But whatever happened to the "Lost Luggage Form"? Clearly, the airlines, like many others, have gone the way of the over-worded, under-responsible apologies so prevalent in our modern culture. Remember Janet Jackson's infamous wardrobe malfunction and her use of the classic approach to the non-apology: "I'm sorry if anyone was offended..."? Or the young Harvard student who plagiarized half of her book from other popular authors then went on TV to say she apologized if readers felt mislead? Apparently it's become acceptable for wrongdoers in our society to skirt any form of responsibility for their own actions and to pass off blaming their victims for feeling abused as an "apology."
Folks, this "no accountability accepted here" approach may work for the rich and famous who can buy airtime and magazine covers; but for you and me in everyman's workplace, it just isn't going to fly. Everyone screws up at work at one time or another. The worst thing you can do when this happens is to avoid the truth. It's far better for you and your career if you learn how to apologize properly, and you do it often. It does a world of good to restore trust, build relationships with co-workers and customers, and improve your own outlook on your career. For more information on how to properly apologize at work, check out this great article on How to Apologize at Work from CareerBuilder.