We’re all human—which means we make mistakes in the office every now and then.

And, if you’re anything like most people, you usually brush aside your errors with a swift, “Whoops, sorry!” and then continue on with your day. But, let’s think for a minute about what that really means.

If you boil it down, it means that you’re regretful. You goofed something up, and you really wish you hadn’t. That’s a pretty honest and respectable sentiment, right? Well, only if you carry it off in the correct way.

If you address your slip-up with just a quick, offhand apology and then immediately turn away from your co-worker in order to continue what you’re doing, how remorseful can you really seem? Spoiler alert: You might be coming off as inconsiderate—or a jerk.

You don’t need me to tell you that genuine sentiment can go a long way. So, here are three phrases that hold way more power than those nonchalant words.


1. “It Won’t Happen Again”

If you’re truly apologetic about something, you’ll obviously want to make every effort to ensure that it doesn’t happen again down the road. So, why not reassure your colleague and explicitly say that?

This piece is often skipped in apologies, but it’s critical. These four words not only portray your remorse, but they also make a promise. Of course, while you can’t positively guarantee that you’ll be flawless from this point forward, assuring your co-worker that you’ll make every effort to avoid this mistake in the future gives your conversation a lot more impact and meaning.


2. “What Can I Do to Fix This?”

There’s a reason that your mom used to always tell you, “Actions speak louder than words!” Quite simply, she was right.

Apologies are great, but they only go so far—and they don’t actively solve anything. By asking what steps you can take to remedy your slip-up, you’re not only acknowledging your mistake, but also demonstrating that you’re willing to put in the legwork to patch things up.

Nobody likes to have to dedicate extra time and effort due to a co-worker’s total oversight. So, extend the offer to fix as much of your own problem as you can. Trust me, your colleagues will take notice of your genuine apology—and they’ll definitely appreciate you taking action!


3. “I Really Dropped the Ball”

Nobody’s perfect. And, your co-workers aren’t so unreasonable that they expect you to bow down and grovel for forgiveness every time you forget to reload the printer with paper.

Sometimes honest recognition of your mistake is really all it takes to smooth things over—particularly if your misstep was minor.

We all know that there’s nothing worse than someone who completely ignores his own errors, attempts to sweep them under the rug, and then goes on pretending as if he’s the perfect employee. In fact, it’s completely infuriating. So, stand tall and own up to your blunders. That acknowledgement makes you look like the honest and respectable team player you are.



Apologies are an inevitable part of life—unless you’re an insufferably stubborn know-it-all. But, muttering a quick and half-hearted, “I’m sorry” usually isn’t quite enough to portray your genuine regret. Swap out those overused words for one of these phrases, and your apology is sure to fit the bill—no matter how badly you screwed up!


Photo of upset woman courtesy of Shutterstock.