For many years I worked various retails job and I thing I noticed was the avoidance of the word sorry. I don’t mean that it was never said, but it always seemed so carefully phrased to brush off any blame on the company’s part. At a few jobs, we were actively discouraged or outright told never to apologize to a customer, as it was seen as the company acknowledging a mistake. The only phrase that I clearly remember being solidly okay to say was something along the lines of, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but…”
That isn’t to say I never apologized to people, but I did get chewed out more than once for doing so. However, here in Japan, it is the total opposite. We are expected to say sorry a lot, actually.
What made me think of this is something a coworker said. She said that I spoke in a round about way, but hardly ever said the word “sorry”. She said I tended to say, “ok” instead. For example, if I was reprimanded for having done something incorrectly or not quickly enough, my answer would be “Ok, I’m on it,” or “Ok, I’ll do that next time,” when most people would expect me to say sorry.
I don’t think she meant it in a negative way, to be honest. I think she’s worried about my relationships with my coworkers, since these new coworkers I have may be the ones who decide what becomes of me in another three months.
So it got me thinking. I used to say sorry a ton to my friends and family, but it seems like in the business world, it has fallen out of my vocabulary. That said, I’m working on it.
Has anyone else noticed this trend in US corporate culture, especially in the retail segment? Maybe I just lucked out and worked for some black companies or something?