3 Things HR Pros Need To Stop Apologizing For

Fast Company has an article called – “3 Things Professional Women Should Stop Apologizing For,” which were:

  1. Their Financial Expectations (i.e., pay us the same!)
  2. Their Physical Appearance (i.e., Sorry we aren’t club ready–I was up with a sick kid all night!)
  3. Their Professional Accomplishments (i.e., Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I can’t brag about what I do great!)

It’s a great article–check it out.  This got me thinking about all things we apologize for in HR (that we should stop apologizing for), so here’s my top 3 things HR pros should stop apologizing for:

1. You getting fired!  Oh, boy this could be #1, #2 and #3!  I can’t tell you how many HR folks I’ve trained over the past 20 years that I’ve specifically said “When you let this person go–don’t apologize!”  I mean, truly, what are you saying?! “I’m sorry you are terrible at your job, or made the decision to sexually harass your co-worker–you’re fired!”  When you really think about it, it sounds funny.

2. You not getting promoted.  This is almost the same as apologizing for getting fired.  Instead of apologizing to someone for not getting promoted, how about you give them a great development plan so they can actually get promoted!  Organizations can be big hairy breathing things–sometimes decisions are made and you won’t know the reasons.  HR pros shouldn’t apologize for you not getting promoted, but they should help you navigate the political and organizational landscape.

3. You not liking your boss, your job, or your pay.  Ugh!  We tend to apologize for all these personal “happy” choices a person makes.  The last time I checked, I never forced anyone to take a job, or forced them to accept the pay I was offering them, or forced them to work in the occupation or career they chose.  These are their own personal choices. If you don’t like it–LEAVE!  Go be happy somewhere else.  I hope that you’ll be happy here, but I can’t force you to be happy. I’ll try and give you a solid leader, with good pay and challenging work but sometimes what I see as solid, good and challenging might not meet your expectations.  That’s when you need to make a happiness decision!

So, what should you apologize for as a HR pro?  I can think of two things that I apologize for on a regular basis:

1. Things I can control. If I control it, and I screw it up, I need to offer you an apology)

2. Surprises!  I might not be able to control surprises, but they suck when it comes to business and your livelihood. I apologize for surprises because in HR it’s my job to make sure those don’t happen to you as an employee.

FOT Background Check

Tim Sackett
Tim Sackett SPHR, is the ultimate Mama’s Boy!  After 15+ years of successfully leading HR and Talent Acquisition departments for Fortune 500s and smaller technical firms, Tim took over running the contingent staffing firm HRU Technical Resources in Lansing, MI. Serving as the Executive Vice President, Tim runs the company his mother started over 30 years ago, and don’t tell Mom, but he thinks he does a better job at it than she did!  Check out his blog at www.timsackett.com. Because he's got A LOT to say, and FOT just isn't enough for him.


  1. Tarik Taman says:

    Tim, I like it! HR needs to shift to the front-foot and stop apologizing is a good first step. The next step for me – getting others to apologize. I’d like HR to get others to apologize for workplace bullying and substandard management. What would be on your list of things HR should demand an apology for?

    • Tim Sackett says:


      I think the apology demands come from the things we should apologize for. I want an apology from leadership when they feel it’s okay to drop surprises on us (HR) and make us clean up the carnage. There is no need for most corporate surprises, get your HR partners in on the front side and find a better way to manage what’s about to come.


      • Tarik Taman says:

        Tim, I like your point about “There is no need for most corporate surprises”. Absolutely! HR should be a vital business partner in helping get rid of surprises and ensuring the organization is fit to deal with its challenges, not a dumping ground for unpleasant issues!

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