We’ve all had that haunting feeling of embarrassment when we realize that we’ve missed an important meeting.
So how do we apologize if this ever happened? Is there a proper way of doing it? We asked experts to share their insights.
Speaker | Trainer | Author | Body Language Expert
Communicate your apology as soon as possible
Waiting to let some time pass is a great strategy when you’re a gardener waiting for your seeds to grow, but delay allows weeds to grow larger in a garden and a bad situation to grow worse in our relationships.
You can say, “I apologize,” or “I am sorry.” Or my personal favorite, “I am sorry, I messed up.”
Keep the message clear of “buts” and excuses
In order to sound professional, you must keep your message clear and free of the “buts” so don’t say, “I’m sorry, but I had to take that phone call it was really important.”
Stay clear of the blame game. You might think, “But sometimes it’s not my fault.” It doesn’t matter who’s to blame; apologize anyway without giving an excuse.
In all your relationships, your willingness to be accountable will ensure that you are seen as a responsible, mature individual. If you start making excuses, you may start an argument. If you choose to be agreeable an argument is not possible.
If there is an excuse, use this magic phrasing. “I am sorry, I messed up, there is a reason but the most important thing for you to know now is that I am sorry.” If you absolutely must make an excuse right now for goodness sake, make the excuse briefer than your apology.
Empathize with your co-workers
Let the person know that you can identify with his feelings. For example, “I understand that you were worried and frustrated because I missed the call. I would be frustrated too.” This makes their feelings validated. You can also assure them that you did not mean them harm. For example, “I did not mean to upset you.”
Accept responsibility for the situation
You’re an adult. Be accountable. If you’re not going to be accountable, do not apologize just to say you did. Be willing to let the person know that you intend to do whatever it takes to make things right. You can’t help what has already happened, but you will come up with a solution to the problem.
Show your regrets
Some people will not fully accept an apology unless they know you have suffered too. I don’t mean that meanly, just know that pain for pain can make a conflict disappear. Come right out and say you are sorry or ashamed. “I feel really bad for forgetting”.
Repair the damage
To be complete, an apology must correct the injury. If you damaged someone’s property, offer to fix it. If the damage isn’t so obvious, ask “What can I do to make it up to you?”
There may be nothing concrete you can do, but the offer must be sincere. “I’ll be there on the call next time. In the meantime, I want to send you a Starbucks card to say I am sorry.”
Author | Career Coach
If it is valid, share the reason for missing the meeting
Be professional and take responsibility for missing a meeting. If the reason for missing a meeting was a tragedy, emergency or some other unavoidable circumstance that not only was the cause for missing the meeting but kept you from being able to let your meeting participants know in advance, then it is appropriate to share the reason for missing the meeting (with as much or little detail you are comfortable, but I recommend keeping the details to a minimum).
If you missed a meeting because you simply forgot, missed a calendar reminder, got distracted by a project, or some other non-emergency type of excuse, then do not share the reason with the others or offer an excuse.
Simply apologize for missing the meeting, inconveniencing them, and wasting their valuable time. Share also that missing the meeting is not representative of the professional standard you hold yourself to and assure them you will not let it happen again. Then make sure you don’t miss a meeting again.
Heather Z. Lyons, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist | Owner, Baltimore Therapy Group
Apologize immediately but keep the explanation brief
We’ve all had that consuming feeling of embarrassment when realizing we’ve missed an important meeting. Because it’s something everyone can relate to, own up to the mistake and keep your explanation brief so that you can signal to others that you’d like to hear their feedback.
Also, apologize to everyone who was in the meeting, not only any superiors who were in attendance.
When apologizing, don’t offer excuses but instead provide an explanation that helps the other people in your meeting understand what you’re prepared to do to ensure that it won’t happen again.
For example, if the explanation is “I didn’t account for traffic on the way in” or “I put this meeting on the wrong calendar” then let the other people at the meeting know that next time you’ll leave earlier than you think you need to or that you’ll put this meeting on all calendars. When people hear ownership in a mistake they build trust in you.
The reason to keep the apology short is to signal to those apologizing that there’s room for them to express their reactions to your mistake.
If you blather on and on about the apology the conversation becomes about how others can reassure you and makes it difficult for others to express their disappointment, frustration, or maybe even their forgiveness.
Related: Building Strong Work Relationships
Founder & Executive Director, Professionals In Transition ® Support Group, Inc.
Get to your boss quickly with an in-person explanation
With COVID 19, determine there preferred communication style (call/text/email) and have it to them as soon as possible and to them at the latest by end of the missed meeting.
If working from home, you better have a great reason for missing the meeting and hopefully, it was because of a customer need or being too sick to work.
Productivity Expert | Founder, inkWELL Press Productivity, Co.
How many times have you said “I’m sorry” for no reason at all? This is something women do frequently, often without even realizing it.
We apologize if we’re running late to work, or need to reschedule a meeting because we have a sick kid at home. We apologize for our feelings, emotions, even our success.
Instead of apologizing, try flipping “I’m sorry” on its head and saying “thank you”
You get the same sentiment across without having to apologize for something you likely had no control over.
Instead of “I’m sorry for missing the meeting” change it to:
- “Thank you for taking the lead at the meeting in my absence. I had an emergency at home.”
- “There were significant train delays this morning, which is why I’m late. Thank you for understanding and please let me know what I missed at the meeting so I can take care of my deliverables.”
There’s a whole lot of “I’m sorry’s” in our lives that don’t really need to be there. Let’s get rid of them.
Nance L. Schick
Mediator | Author | Attorney, The Law Studio of Nance L. Schick
Even the most reliable, organized people I know have missed Zoom meetings over the past couple of weeks. It’s not unusual for us to lose our focus and motivation when we are grieving the loss of our freedoms and the world as we thought we knew it.
Although most of us are willing to cut each other breaks, an effective apology will restore others’ faith in us and possibly give us a much-needed sense of normalcy. Here’s how to give one:
- Apologize for the specific error you made. In this case, apologize for missing the meeting.
- Acknowledge the importance of avoiding such errors. State that you know the meeting was important for the specific reason it was and why it was important you participated.
- State what you will do to make amends. Offer to do independent research, get someone to debrief you, or whatever it will take to ensure you are completely informed and ready to move forward without any additional work from the people affected by your absence.
If you’re not sure what will make amends, ask someone with authority to determine that
- Commit to taking action to avoid similar issues in the future. Ensure the organizers you will use a double-entry and reminder system or whatever it will take.
Don’t ask them to remind you. The goal is to show you are accountable for your own actions and can be relied upon in the future.
When I miss a meeting, I always do three things:
- Send an email or make a phone call to apologize for the missed meeting;
- Immediately reschedule a second meeting, making sure I put this second meeting on all my calendars and agendas;
- Offer tokens. I like to send an apology $10 Starbucks card with a note (coffee on me!) or make it a point to pay for foods or drinks if the subsequent meeting is held at a restaurant or a coffee shop.
Co-Founder and CEO, Choosing Therapy
Give options for rescheduling
If possible, try to let the person know in advance, so they are not waiting around or listening to on-hold music. Everyone has had important meetings that run over schedule, which causes us to miss the following meeting.
When you are aware that you will probably not make the next meeting, send an e-mail or text letting the other person know.
When you apologize, give the person a couple of options for rescheduling the meeting, this lets them know that you do want to spend time with them.
HR Professional, Choosing Therapy
Show gratitude, not ask for forgiveness.
I don’t recommend a traditional apology as it further insults the meeting host who’s been interrupted upon your arrival. After all, could you not have given advance notice that you would be late?
What the meeting host wants to know is why are you late and what are you going to do to prevent that in the future. They also want recognition for their patience and the disruption. Consider these alternatives to a traditional apology:
- “Thank you for waiting for me! That was rude of me. The line was longer than I expected at Starbucks. Next time, I’ll get my coffee earlier.”
- “Thank you for your patience as I had to answer the door for a FedEx delivery. Going forward, I’ll leave a do-not-disturb sign on the door.
- “I appreciate that you started the meeting without me. My last meeting ran over. Next time I ensure I leave in time to make your meeting.”
Owner and COO, AiLaw
Describe the circumstances
I think your response depends on the kind of meeting it was, how well you know the other person, how important they are, and where you are.
You should write a letter or email and begin with an honesty apology and use phrases like “I apologize for missing the meeting” or “I express regret over not being able to attend.” Do not make excuses or give an insincere explanation and ensure you communicate that you genuinely feel sorry.
You should own and admit the mistake and express that you understand the seriousness of your mistake and are willing to take responsibility for your actions. Keep this section short and do not deflect the blame on anyone or anything.
Explain what happened and describe the circumstances due to which you had to miss the meeting. Use phrases like “asking for your understanding’‘, “I am very disappointed that” or “was anxious to talk with you about.”
Assure the reader that the situation won’t arise again
Give assurance that you fully intend to prevent a similar situation in the future. Convey what steps you would take to keep the same case from happening.
Once you have apologized, it is only logical to ask for forgiveness. Demonstrate your understanding and show a little vulnerability to prove you mean what you say.
Senior Job Data Content Producer, Virtual Vocations
Missed meetings happen, especially when working remotely. Whether the result of a sudden bout of illness, a technical disruption, or outright forgetfulness, we’re all guaranteed to miss a meeting at some point in our careers.
What matters more is how we address it.
You can appropriately and effectively apologize for missing a meeting with this five-step approach:
- Admit your mistake upfront in a calm and timely manner;
- Acknowledge any workflow interruptions or perceived frustrations expressed by your team members and/or managers;
- Establish corrective action to mitigate any negative impacts from your absence;
- Self-evaluate why you missed the meeting and if/how it can be avoided in future;
- Move on and improve—dwelling on your mistake will only lead to further errors.
When it comes to missing meetings, sometimes it can be inevitable. Throughout the course of a day, many things can come up, whether we are working from home or when we are finally back to a more traditional office setting.
Get in touch before the meeting actually starts
Even if you are calling in 5 minutes before a Skype chat, it’s much better to apologize in advance than after the fact.
This way, you can go ahead and notify them that you’ll be unable to make the meeting and reschedule in the same call or email. This will make the person you’re to meet with feel as if they’re wasting less time.
This can be even more essential when there will be more than one party involved in the meeting. Nothing is worse than a group trying to make small chat when everyone is wanting to get down to business so they can get back to work or make it out to the garden to plant their new rose bushes.
If you look at it, this all boils down to consideration. Be sure to give your colleagues the same professional courtesies that you would expect from them.
Founder and Head Of Content Strategy, Hustle Life Media, Inc.
Provide a short and simple reason why you missed the meeting
There’s no way around it! You just have to be sincere and honest when you apologize. Own and admit your mistake. Tell them that you understand the gravity of what you did.
Be direct and concise with your explanation. Your assurance that it won’t happen again is essential in this situation. You also need to tell them how you’re going to make up for it and fix the issue.
Lastly, be humble and ask for forgiveness. Sometimes, you need to do this to show people that you absolutely regret what happened.
Offer to make up for it by putting in extra effort
Missing a meeting can really throw off and mess with a business’s plans and work production. Instead of just apologizing, try to make up for lost time and productivity by offering to work late, put in extra hours, or take on a new project if someone else is swamped.
Doing this not only makes your apology seem more sincere, but it also gives a good impression to your coworkers and managers and lets them know that even though you make mistakes, you’re able to overcome them by putting in extra effort and helping out others.
Plus, any good deed or accomplishment made after the fact helps to reaffirm and strengthen your reputation as a great employee.
Get in contact as soon as possible
Preferably before you miss the meeting if you can, and let everyone know what is happening. Apologizing comes after.
You need to let them know the situation, as people could be relying on you and waiting for an update. Then immediately apologize, even if it is caused by no fault of your own, as you don’t want to be seen as making excuses.
Also, add what you are going to do to try and avoid the situation in the future. If you can offer to help with something extra that doesn’t hurt either.
Social Media Consultant, TeacherOn
Missing an important meeting, whether it was a staff meeting or meeting with your boss or the client, frustrates the other person. Nonetheless, it is never intentional.
Still, considering the seriousness of the matter, it is always better to accept your mistake and ask for a sincere apology.
There should be an apology email sent to the concerned person
In the email one has to cover the following things:
Start with the apology straightaway. Accept your mistake, and do not blame others for it. You may start with, ‘I sincerely apologize for not attending the staff meeting this afternoon.’
Mention the reason why you missed the meeting. Understandably, it can be an unavoidable circumstance, but you could have informed the concerned person. Also, give a valid reason as to why you did not notify them.
For example: ‘As you know, I had a client meeting before our staff meeting, I stuck up there as the client was very frustrated because of the delay of their project. I should have informed you about being late. However, I was so overwhelmed by the gravity of that issue; it did not occur to me to call you. Missing today’s meeting was the last thing I wanted’.
Wrap up the email by telling what steps you have taken after missing the meeting and your plans for future meetings. You can mention, ‘I took all the details of the meeting from Julie, and I am already on the task. I ensure that this won’t happen in the future, and I am looking forward to our meeting tomorrow’.
Founder, Logical Dollar
I was once going for a job interview but got extremely sick the day before. It was clear that this wasn’t going to be a one-day bug so I called the company and asked for the meeting to be rescheduled to later in the week.
Unfortunately, this message wasn’t passed on to the interviewer who was less than happy when I called back a few days later to see when the rescheduled interview could be.
Related: How to Call out of Work
I learned very quickly from this, as well as from having seen other people miss meetings throughout my career, that if this happens, it’s important to take a few key steps to make sure your professional reputation is maintained:
It’s obvious that missing a meeting is a big deal. Your reason for why this happened doesn’t matter – even if it wasn’t your fault, the other participants will still think you should have let them know that you couldn’t attend ahead of time.
This means that your first step should always be a sincere apology without making excuses. The aim here is to emphasize that you understand that their time is very valuable. It can even be worth doing this by email, so the other people involved know that you’re serious enough about this to put it in writing.
Request a second chance at a time that suits everyone else
Your next step should always be to note that you’re still very eager to have this meeting and to request a time for this that suits the other participants. You’re going to have to be as flexible as possible in rescheduling this, so do everything you can to be available at the time they propose.
And safe to say, it’s beyond important for you to be on time and prepared for this meeting. After all, you’re lucky to get a second chance and there likely won’t be a third.
Get ready to work twice as hard
You’re going to have to put in the hard yards after an incident like this to wipe away the negative impression that the other meeting attendees may have of you. It can definitely be done, but it will take some serious commitment to your work and going the extra mile when you can.
But by doing this and proving that missing that one meeting was an exception to your strong work ethic, people will usually be more than willing to forgive and forget.
Senior Electrical & Software Engineer, Electrical Knowledge
When you miss a meeting, the last thing your colleague, potential employer, or other professional wants to hear is a drawn-out excuse. And we’ve all heard them all, right? There was traffic. The alarm didn’t go off. Your previous meeting ran late. No matter how you spin it, it all sums up to, “My dog ate my homework.”
Reach out as soon as you realize that you’re going to or have already missed the meeting
Provide your apologies, but skip those long excuses with way too many complicated details. Merely explain that you were unable to attend due to a very important, unforeseen circumstance.
Your main reason for calling or emailing should be to reschedule the meeting as soon as possible.
Remember to be flexible with the time and date. After all, he or she is accommodating you because you weren’t able to attend at the originally scheduled time.
Even though our meetings might be hosted online right now, via apps like Zoom or Skype, video chats are no exception. So, don’t take them more lightly than face-to-face.
Meeting participants are still getting together at a set time for a dedicated reason, and it’s important that you give these meetings the same level of importance – even if you are in your pajama pants!