2 Words Every CEO Hates to Say

Last Updated Jun 13, 2011 3:31 PM EDT

  • 2 Words Every CEO Hates to Say

    By Kimberly Weisul

    Why is it so hard for the rich and powerful to apologize? Because the corporate apology is no ordinary apology. Upset your customers badly enough, and they'll demand not just a mea culpa, but some kind of restitution. Which can get awfully expensive.

    So executives are loath to say anything that implies legal responsibility, and taking responsibility for one's actions is, well, the key to a real apology. "I deeply regret that the loss of life" is not the same as saying "I'm sorry that my company caused the deaths of 5,000." Tokyo Electric Power Company, facing a failing and dangerous nuclear power plant, was  left issuing expressions of sympathy that only sound like apologies. Such as this from Tepco CEO Masataka Shimizu: "We believed we had built nuclear plants that could withstand natural disasters, but in the end this situation arose, and for that I am truly sorry."

    Of course, some other executives have done far worse.
     
    Here's are the CEOs who know how to apologize—and the chieftains who would have been better off keeping mum.
     
    Photo by Getty
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    Kimberly Weisul is the co-founder of One Thing New, the free email newsletter for smart, busy women. She was previously Senior Editor at BusinessWeek, responsible for all coverage of entrepreneurship and for launching BusinessWeek SmallBiz, a bimonthly magazine. She is also a freelance writer, editor and editorial consultant.