You may have to say sorry, even in situations where you weren’t in the wrong
Oh snap, he’s stepped in it.
Internet wunderkind and Snap Inc chief executive Evan Spiegel is under fire after allegations recently emerged that he’d called India a “poor” country that the photo sharing company didn’t consider important. The claim was made in a lawsuit filed by an ex-employee, who added that Spiegel said in a 2015 meeting the app “is only for rich people.”
Snap has vehemently denied the claim, reportedly calling it “ridiculous.” It also notes that its flagship Snapchat app has long been available in India. Nonetheless, the app faced a deluge of one-star reviews from irate customers over the weekend. Spiegel’s fiancée, supermodel Miranda Kerr, also came under heavy fire on social media, with one representative comment calling her “sh—ty as f—k.”
Spiegel joins a host of famous people who have come under fire for allegedly saying something offensive. Kim Kardashian faced the brickbats in 2012 after calling Indian food “disgusting” on an episode of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” She later apologized, clarifying that she could distinguish between Indian food and Indian people. Even the erudite Oprah Winfrey came under fire in the 1990s when, during the mad cow disease scare, she exclaimed that claims made by a rancher on her show had “stopped me cold from eating another hamburger!” Winfrey was sued for defamation by the beef lobby, though she won.
Should you find yourself in a similar situation — having said something, or being accused of saying something, that might have offended your colleagues or others — here’s what to do.
In most cases, a quick sincere apology will suffice. “Say you misspoke or that you didn’t mean the words to come out as harshly as you did,” says Barbara Pachter, the workplace etiquette expert and author of “The Communications Clinic.” “We all misspeak [especially when] we get nervous.”
If your case is like Spiegel’s (he denies that he ever disparaged India) and you didn’t say something offending. “you really have anything to apologize for,” she says. “Maybe you apologize if it’s become a big issue, but also say that there’s no reality to my comments.”
Sometimes though, someone can be so offended that a quick fix won’t do. If that’s the case, the communications expert recommends taking the person aside and clarifying that this offense was not your intent. “Tell the person you value the relationship and that you’ll do better” next time, Pachter says.
You also may need to engage in other workplace activities that actually benefit others. Take a peg from Oprah’s much-touted charity work by helping a busy colleague out or doing a regular coffee run. “Oprah’s certainly recovered,” says Pachter, noting that almost no one recalls the beef scandal today. “But then she also a lot of good for the world and that turns the publicity around.”
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