Should You Apologize as a Project Manager?

I'm SorryHere’s the scenario. To the best of your knowledge and ability, all deliverables are on track. You’ve followed up with the functional manager, touched base with the appropriate resource, and everything is a go. You come in the next morning and find out 15 minutes before the status update with the client that the date is going to be missed. As the Project Manager, should you apologize for the ‘miss’ of someone else?

We all understand that in a perfect world, the project manager is responsible for everything that goes on with their project. However, it’s not a perfect world in which we work. No matter how hard we try, as project managers we can’t know every detail of every activity that is going on. To a great extent we must rely upon what people tell us.

We all understand that last minute emergencies and issues come up, circumstances change and that deliverables and dates may be missed. If we have to go into a meeting and apologize for each one of these unknown or unforeseen events, the result is you become increasingly weak and ineffective in your role as a project manager.

So, if it is not directly your fault, I say there is no need to apologize. Rather, you come in with an objective assessment of the situation as well as the solution or next steps to get things back on track. If it is directly your fault, then add an apology to this list.

One caveat…if you find yourself frequently in the above scenario, you will need to determine why this is a common occurrence and make the necessary changes to prevent misses on your project.

What are your thoughts on when it is appropriate and/or necessary to apologize as a Project Manager?


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