A drop of megalomania

October 29, 2014

downloadIt was unusual to see Bono in a most “un-rock” moment recently.  U2’s latest album was automatically added, free of charge, to all iTunes users’ libraries globally.  This sparked not gratitude but ire and complaints.  In a Facebook session to apologise for the presumptuousness, band frontman Bono said the move was a drop of megalomania, a touch of generosity and a dash of self-promotion and deep fear that these songs that we poured our life into mightn’t be heard.  Bono’s apology works because of its honesty, vulnerability and humanness (yes, rock stars can also get it wrong). 

Apologies are not magic bullets, however.  Just ask Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella.  During a recent onstage interview Nadella was asked to give women seeking a pay raise, advice.  His response was women should trust the system, and it’s good karma not to ask for a raise! This is in a context where Silicon Valley’s gender pay gap is one of the worst on record, with women earning 70% less than their male counterparts.

Thinking on her feet, Nadella’s interviewer, Maria Klawe, immediately stated that women should ask for a raise, but do their research first. But the damage had been done and Nadella’s comment received crushing universal condemnation.  He was quick to issue an apology on Twitter and then, realising he needed more than 140 characters to explain, issued a more detailed apology.  The honesty in this apology, where he simply states “I answered that question completely wrong”, is refreshing and powerful in its simplicity.  His apology goes some way to redeem the unfortunate word salad he served up earlier in the interview.

And finally, can an apology be used even when none is called for?  Apologies are so rare that they can make your message stand out.  Here is my favorite apology: a tongue in cheek ad by Tasmanian tourist authority.  Tasmania was the only Australian destination in Lonely Planet’s list of the top 10 regions to visit in 2015.  The ad presents itself as a message to fellow Australians from the people of Tasmania.  It looks like a correction and is intriguing enough to make you want to read more.

It outlines all the unique and wonderful things about Tasmania, and also notes: “But we do want to apologise that we weren’t higher up on the list: a decision that has left ourselves and our visitors baffled.”  And now to everything else we know about Tasmanians we can add a sense of humor.

How have you seen apologies done well or poorly?  Please share – I would love to hear from you.

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