Apologise or Fix it? Which Matters More?

Posted by Gill:

Last week Kaye Adams invited Stuart on to her BBC radio show to debate Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell’s proposed ‘Apologies (Scotland) Bill’.  Stuart’s busy running around helping clients right now but he’s asked me to share this with you.

Margaret proposes that we enshrine in law that organisations can apologise without it equating to an admission of liability and that an apology would be inadmissable as evidence (except in criminal cases, fatal accident inquires or defamation proceedings).

However, leaving aside the fact that under the current law of Scotland just an apology by itself will not amount to an admission of liabiliy,  I believe this bill will just present a trap for the mind for organisations. “Follow the easy road” it whispers, “apologise and your duty is done, no need to make the effort and take the time to look at the systems and analyse the issues to ensure the problem is fixed so it doesn’t recurr, just say pretty words and it’ll all go away”. And if doesn’t you can always fire someone.

Now I’m not saying it is always like that and apologies are good but, like Stuart, I’d be concerned that this sort of legislation might encourage such a seductively simple and, on the surface of it, low cost solution.

That would be short sighted and very bad for business in the long run. Managers need to think smarter than this.

If you say sorry to the affected customers and then shout at the people in the section where the problem apparently occurred have you protected the reputation and costs of your business? No. You’ve just done an ostrich impression – stuck your head in the sand and hoped it will go away and not come back. Here’s a hint, it probably won’t work. Unaddressed recurring problems feature heavily in our analysis findings when we are called in to help failing organisations or departments. Their hidden consequences usually feature very heavily on the balance sheets too, they’re just not labelled as such. 

A recording of the relevant bit of the show is available here for you to listen to. 

(If your browser does not show the player above you can download the interview here).

I already know his opinion on this but I’m interested in yours: Do you think the bill will make a positive or negative difference? What do you think companies will end up doing? Please post your comments on the blog or send them in by email and I can post them up for you.



Apologise or Fix it? Which Matters More?

2 thoughts on “Apologise or Fix it? Which Matters More?

  • 25/06/2015 at 8:13 am

    What a total waste of govt. time. I can’t believe MSPs can’t find anything better to do than make up a law for this.
    And you’re right, this is exactly what companies will do with it. It already happens in mine, this will just calcify it.

  • 23/06/2015 at 9:51 am


    1. Issue occurs

    2. Comms Team: Send standard apologies script

    3. Nothing

    4. Repeat 1-3 until no customers left

    Note 1: customers & public already apathetic toward (what they see as) insincere, unauthentic and non-legally binding statements from people & companies far removed from public reality.

    Note 2: As this isn’t in the interests of any member of the public – who is Margaret Mitchell working for? And how much time and public money is being wasted on this!?

    These are my own views and not of my employer.

    Gary G.

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