As they say, “pobody’s nerfect!” Everyone is bound to make mistakes – it’s one of the guarantees of being human. In some ways, what matters more than the mistake is how you choose to make amends. That might mean writing an apology email, which can feel awkward and leave you unsure of where to begin. Everything from the subject line to the sign-off might have you reeling with uncertainty.
Don’t worry! With these email templates and tips for identifying apology-worthy moments, you can craft meaningful apology emails in a pinch. So without further ado, here’s how to apologize professionally in an email and regain everyone’s trust.
- When should you apologize at work?
- When is email the best way to apologize?
- How to apologize professionally in an email
- How to structure your apology email
- Tips for apologizing professionally in an email
When should you apologize at work?
Apologizing at work can feel uncomfortable, and you might start to over-apologize – as in, saying sorry when it isn’t necessary. To avoid too many apology emails, here are the most common instances where you need to apologize.
- Professional errors
A professional error is a mistake related to your work performance. It could be anything from missing a deadline to forgetting about a task. When you apologize for these mistakes, you show accountability for your work and actions. You also show that you value your work and understand that your actions impact the team too.
- Personal blunders
A personal mistake is a blunder that occurs at work but in a more personal setting not exactly related to your job. For example, maybe you addressed someone by the wrong name or pronoun, or maybe you made an off-color joke in a meeting. Your apology should take the time to directly address the person or people you offended. This is key to keeping your work relationships respectful and professional.
- Technical difficulties
Technical issues are common at work – think about the last Zoom you were on where you couldn’t quite see the presentation. It’s always a good idea to apologize for these issues. This way, you show clients, customers, or team members that you care about their time and experience.
- Incorrect product or service
When a client or customer doesn’t receive the product or service they requested, be sure to apologize. That’s a pretty big mistake, one that could potentially cost you a customer, so don’t take this lightly. Apologize on behalf of your organization and find a solution as quickly as possible.
Run delightful meetings
Increase meeting engagement and productivity with a collaborative agenda that the whole team can contribute to. Try using a tool like Fellow!
When is email the best way to apologize?
An in-person apology is usually ideal for an effective apology. Making in-person time for an apology shows respect, and it makes people less likely to misinterpret your tone. However, there are some occasions when an email is better.
- You don’t have much time
- You have to apologize to more than one person
- You want to nail the sentiment
- You’re not free for a meeting
1You don’t have much time
If time is of the essence and you want to apologize ASAP, then don’t risk waiting for face-to-face interaction. When tensions are high, emailing a carefully worded apology can bring everyone back to a calmer headspace.
2You have to apologize to more than one person
If you’re apologizing to a group, an email apology can be a great way to quickly reach the entire team. A more personal approach, though, means skipping the group email and sending individual apologies. And in some cases, an especially severe mistake might mean calling a team meeting and apologizing to everyone in person.
3You want to nail the sentiment
Maybe you’re the type of person who likes to put pen to paper and make sure the words are just right. Sending an apology via email offers you the space you need here. It’s how you can be extra mindful with how you phrase an apology.
4You’re not free for a meeting
Let’s say you’re working remotely and can’t apologize in person. Let’s say you also don’t have room for a video chat in your schedule. In that case, an apology email works in a pinch. Just be sure to follow the structure and examples above for the best results.
How to apologize professionally in an email
Below are email templates for some common situations when you might need to apologize. You can use these easily adjustable apology letter samples whenever you need to make amends.
- How to apologize for addressing someone incorrectly
- How to apologize when both sides are wrong
- How to apologize on behalf of an organization
- How to apologize for a personal mistake
- How to apologize to a client
- How to apologize to a superior
- How to apologize for incorrect customer orders
- How to apologize to your team
1How to apologize for addressing someone incorrectly
Dear [team member’s first name],
I apologize for addressing you incorrectly in my last email. I appreciate you correcting me and offering me the chance to right this wrong. I understand why my mistake was offensive, and I promise you it won’t happen again – I hold you in high regard and value the role you play on our team.
As always, I’m here if you need anything. Please do not hesitate to contact me.
2How to apologize when both sides are wrong
Dear [team member’s first name],
Please accept my sincere apologies for today’s misunderstanding. I now see my part in the problem, too. I appreciate your willingness to work with me as we resolve this issue together.
I’ve checked your calendar to see your availability, and I’ve sent you an invite for some time when we can go over a potential resolution. I understand you have some ideas and concerns as well, and I would appreciate the opportunity to chat.
Of course, if that time doesn’t work for you, please let me know – we’ll figure something else out. I look forward to meeting with you.
3How to apologize on behalf of an organization
Dear [customer’s first name],
I would like to formally apologize on behalf of [organization’s name]. I understand that the service you received today was not helpful, and I assure you it does not reflect our standards. Thank you for allowing us the chance to make amends.
I’d like to offer you a coupon code, [insert coupon code], for any future purchases. You can respond directly to this email with any further questions or concerns. Additionally, here is the number of our customer service center: [insert phone number]. My extension is [insert extension number].
We’re working hard to ensure this does not happen again. We hope you will allow us the chance to regain your trust.
4How to apologize for a personal mistake
Dear [team member’s first name],
I’d like to personally apologize for not including you in today’s kick-off call. I take full responsibility for the mistake and would like to bring you up to speed on the project.
I’ve found an opening in both our calendars for a meeting – does [insert date and time] work for you? If not, let me know. I can work around your availability.
I’ve made sure to put you on the attendee list for all upcoming project meetings, so this will not happen again. Thank you for allowing me the chance to fix my mistake. I look forward to keeping on working with you.
5How to apologize to a client
Dear [client’s first name],
Please accept my apologies for the factual inaccuracies in today’s status call. I understand the importance of this data, and I take full responsibility for presenting you with incorrect numbers. Thank you for the correction and the opportunity to make sure this never happens again.
I’ve put several checkpoints in place and included [insert names and titles] in our workflows to ensure all of our numbers are up-to-date going forward. Cultivating a professional relationship with you – one with mutual trust – is of the utmost importance to me and my team.
Once again, I’m sorry, and I appreciate your patience on this matter.
6How to apologize to a superior
Dear [manager’s first name],
Please accept my personal apology for the recent delays in my work. I understand that deadlines are incredibly important in maintaining our reputation. I appreciate your continued support, and I will not take advantage of your patience.
After submitting my most recent work, I reexamined my schedule to ensure on-time submissions. I’m confident this will resolve any further issues.
Once again, I’m sorry, and I look forward to our continued working relationship.
7How to apologize for incorrect customer orders
Hi [customer’s first name],
I’m deeply sorry that you didn’t receive the product you ordered. As per our policy, I’ve issued you a full refund. I appreciate your patience with this matter, and I hope that we can rebuild your trust. Please know that this is not a reflection of the care we put into every order.
In addition to the refund, we’re sending you the correct item that you ordered. Please double-check that all of the order details below are correct.
[insert order details]
Thank you again for reaching out and for the chance to resolve the issue.
8How to apologize to your team
I understand the frustration after today’s meeting. Please know that I am very sorry for my failure to keep everyone in the loop. While it was never my intention to mislead the team, I understand how my actions negatively affected the project.
Going forward, I’ve implemented several strategies to make sure this does not happen again. I’ve scheduled a team meeting this week to review my plan. I’m also open to suggestions, questions, and concerns.
I know that together we can build a better operation. Thank you for the chance to right my wrongs.
How to structure your apology email
Now that you have some apology email examples, it’s time to look more closely at an apology email’s structure. This will give you the tools to write a great email when the above templates don’t quite fit.
To begin, start with a formal greeting. Stay away from “Hi” and “Hey” – instead, stick with “Dear.” Alternatively, write solely the person’s name, then a comma. If you don’t have names, use “Customer,” “Team,” or something similar. Staying formal is okay – it shows respect for the person or people to whom you’re apologizing.
The body of your email should open with a clear apology that leaves nobody guessing as to what you’re apologizing for. Getting straight to the point like this shows that you can own up to your mistakes. It makes it clear that you know what you did wrong.
Next, you can thank the person for the chance to make amends. Maybe they pointed out your mistake, or they’ve simply made the time to read your email. Either way, you should show that you value honesty and open dialogue when you admit to your mistakes.
An apology without a plan to avoid the problem in the future isn’t a way to make meaningful change. When you offer a solution, it shows that you genuinely care about what you did wrong and know how not to do it again. This will help the person to whom you’re apologizing to heal and regain trust.
It’s now time to wrap up your email. Try to end with a closing line that restates your apology or your appreciation for the person reading your message. Keep the ending short and sweet so you don’t overwhelm the other person.
Your greeting is formal, and your signature should be too. Examples include “Sincerely” or “Best,” followed by your signature or first and last name.
Tips for apologizing professionally in an email
These tips can help you send a meaningful apology email.
People can tell when you aren’t being authentic, and an effective apology is a genuine one. This might sound cheesy, but be yourself – don’t use language that you wouldn’t say. You can be formal and professional while speaking from the heart. That’s a great way to build trust and create a safe space for your team.
Kelly Rusk, Marketing Communications Consultant, has this to say on building trust with your team. “I’ve always done this through open conversations and relationship development,” she says. “The more you are invested in your team, the more they will trust you and open up about what they want.”
Don’t let pride get in the way of a meaningful apology. Being humble shows that you know you aren’t perfect, you’re always learning, and you view mistakes as a chance to grow. This way, the other person knows for sure that you regret what you’ve done.
3Don’t wallow in self-pity
Another way to show respect is to not make your apology about you. That means no groveling, begging for forgiveness, or self-pity. A genuine apology doesn’t put the responsibility on the other person to reassure you. It also doesn’t mean that the other person has to accept your apology.
A direct apology makes forgiveness more likely. It can also help you rebuild trust with your team. That’s why it’s so important to start with your apology and immediately state what you did wrong. Then, thank the other person for the chance to apologize and offer a solution. You’ll leave no questions unanswered and no stones unturned – a great apology.
Apologize when you make a mistake
It’s a pretty simple idea taught from a young age: Apologize when you mess up. But with so much going on at work, it can be easy to forget how a simple “I’m sorry” can make a big difference. It can also be tough to figure out that you should apologize for something. When you track employee feedback, that becomes easier. With Fellow, you can ask for employee feedback and monitor comments on meetings, projects, performance, and much more. If you see that a lot of people pointed out a big problem, you can use the above tips and templates to apologize quickly. Couple your apology with a great solution, and you might just solve the problem.