Some People Avoid You Because They Owe You an Apology
There are a truckload of reasons people avoid leaders at times. When those we lead don’t want the feedback, don’t like the answer, or don’t want to be held accountable or responsible, they commonly avoid us. Another reason is when a team member owes the leader an apology.
Saving face by avoiding the people involved after an embarrassing or regrettable incident is normal behavior. Rather than offer an apology and admit they were wrong, it is much easier to avoid contact and wait until the incident is forgotten or no longer important.
When the apology is owed to a leader, the need to avoid them can become even more intense. Acknowledging to anyone with higher status that you have committed an error worthy of an apology exposes the power relationship in a raw way. Apologizing to a leader is akin to begging for forgiveness from an omnipotent ruler. People believe it shows weakness. That’s why leaders are in the business of giving apologies, but not in receiving them.
Leaders who are self-secure and understand the complex nature of relationships neither require nor demand apologies. The problem is that until time erases the issue, any contact with the other person becomes awkward. Attempts on their part to cut conversations short or to walk the other way magnify this discomfort. A lack of communication during this time is unacceptable to leaders who have a job to do and require the free flow of information to do it well.
So yet another thankless act of leadership is to smooth over the conflict without expecting an apology. The sooner the episode has closure, the faster communication will return to normal. The best leaders go out of their way to tell those who owe them an apology that everything is good and the incident is already behind them. Giving closure takes the pressure off and allows the other person to engage normally as they have in the past.
Great leadership often requires taking the high road, acting maturely, and swallowing self-pride. The idea of letting others “off the hook” for an apology they are due is not something most leaders are capable of. In the end, it all comes down to what is most important to you.
For mature leaders, what is best for the team far outweighs the need for personal satisfaction when it comes to receiving an apology. Have we told you we’re sorry about that?