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Apologies Given: More Common Among High Earners

This article was written by in People. 14 comments.


If you earn more than $100,000 a year, you are more likely to apologize for your own errors than you would be if you earn less. According to Fortune Magazine’s report of a Zogby survey:

More than nine out of ten (92%) of $100,000+ earners apologize when they believe they’re to blame, compared to 89% of people earning between $75,000 and $100,000, 84% of those who make $50,000 to $75,000, 72% of those earning between $35,000 and $50,000, and 76% of people earning between $25,000 and $35,000. Among survey respondents who make $25,000 or less, just 52% say they usually apologize when they know they’re at fault.

Should you practice apologizing if your goal is to earn a six-figure income? Well, correlation doesn’t imply causation, but some of the reasons one might be more willing to apologize may be the same reasons one is inclined towards a higher salary.

Why do you think those with higher income apologize more than others? I think the ability to admit fault is a strong management and interpersonal relationship trait, one that helps lead an individual to a position of responsibility in the workplace. Perhaps there are other reasons as well.

By the way, those earning over $100,000 are also more likely to say they’re sorry even when they know they are not at fault, as well.

Want a Higher Paycheck? Say You’re Sorry [Fortune Magazine]

Published or updated October 17, 2007. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Meg

It’s simple psychology. Human beings are more likely to take personal responsibility when their situation is good and more likely to defer responsibility (i.e. blame) to others when things are bad.

If I earn $100,000 a year, it’s because I work hard and deserve it. If I earn $50,000 a year, it’s because my boss/spouse/kids/the government is holding me back.

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avatar ryan

i think that the first comment is partly correct about the attitude, but not the root cause.

i think people who take personal accountability are more likely to get further b/c they take responsibilty and move to correct the problem/error.

someone who whines it wasn’t their fault will never get anywhere b/c they dont even have the initiative to own up to their own faults.

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avatar Jon Morrow

No simple answer to this one. Sure, it’s about responsibility, but it’s also about self-worth, self-awareness, and plain old good strategy.

If you have confidence in your value as a person, then it doesn’t endanger your self worth to apologize. In fact, it probably enhances it because of the honesty.

If you’re self-aware, then you’ve already realized that you’re not perfect, so why try to pretend you are? It’s better to admit the truth to yourself and others.

If you’re smart, you’ll also apologize because it increases people’s trust in you. It shows you can see a situation from their perspective.

I’m sure there are lots more reasons. Depending on how this study was performed, it might also be skewed. People that make more than $100,000 per year could be more apt to say they apologize, even when they don’t.

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avatar MS

I’m not sure if the willingness to apologize causes the increased income or vice versa. I can easily see two scenarios:

1 – The people willing to apologize tend to have stronger relationships, are more willing to address issues they control, etc. which leads to higher income.

2 – Those making higher incomes are more secure about their status, making them more willing to look “wrong” by apologizing.

My guess is that it’s a combination of both..

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avatar Esme

I agree with the comments. Also, I think a higher income implies the person has unique skills and knowledge that are in demand in the work force – a kind of job security. A lower income person may feel less secure and fear that admitting fault would lead to losing their jobs.

I encountered this when I was in working in a low cost center overseas. We wasted a whole day while people tried to figure out whose fault it was. The poor operators were all running scared because they didn’t want to lose their jobs. But really all I wanted is a solution so it doesn’t happen again.

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avatar Bryan

What would make this analysis more conclusive if is there was a figure that connected “believe they are wrong” to “are wrong.”

The results can be skewed by those who will apologize if they feel they are wrong rarely believe they are wrong. There are no figures on the number of apologies per person per group.

I have met some people in high income positions who believe themselves to right at all times unless proven otherwise – and it can take a lot of proof. Then they are likely to apologize, mind you.

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avatar dong

I’d very curious to see the actual survey. While I think there’s an element of personal responsibility at hand here, I think there’s also a lot of other things going. I mean going back to whole causation vs. correlation thing, I wonder how much of it is related to age? Statistics are really quite meaningless without a full context.

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