How to Write an Apology Letter to Your Boss

Making a mistake at work is an unpleasant experience. Whether you’ve made a minor faux pas or a major misstep, chances are you’re probably eager to move past it and forget it ever happened. However, there’s one necessary thing you need to do first: write an apology letter to your boss. 

We’ll explain when an apology letter is warranted and show you how to write one to help you recover gracefully and move forward after an on-the-job screw up. 

What is an apology letter?

An apology letter expresses your remorse for a mistake you made at work. It might follow a job-related mistake, like making a poor judgment call on a project, or a behavioral mistake, like getting into a disruptive argument with a coworker. 

An apology letter helps you save face, assuring your boss that the behavior was an isolated incident. It also helps clear the air, setting the stage for you to move forward without lingering bad feelings. 

Why it’s important to send an apology letter when you’ve made a mistake

Show you understand what went wrong

It’s important that you’re not just saying you’re sorry because your boss is upset; the ‘why’ behind the apology is critical. This shows that you’re cognizant of your error and empathetic with your manager’s feelings about it. It’s also a good idea to acknowledge any collateral damage your mistake caused, like hindering the work of others on your team. 

Take accountability for your actions

Being able to reflect on your mistakes and take responsibility for them is an essential quality regardless of your work line. It’s part of being a strong team player. Saying “I screwed up” goes a long way in healing hurt feelings and helping your boss to move past the mistake. 

Set a positive tone to move forward

A sincere apology letter helps your boss feel confident that the situation won’t happen again. Tell them specifically what you’re going to do to make sure that happens. 

When should you send an apology letter to your boss

Unprofessional behavior

Maybe you raised your voice at a coworker or made a comment that was in poor taste. We’re all human and can’t be expected to behave perfectly 100% of the time. Even if your behavior was provoked, it’s necessary to acknowledge when your actions were out of line with what’s acceptable in a professional setting. 

Poor job performance

This might include things like dropping the ball on a big assignment, disappointing a client, or allowing personal problems to detract from the quality of your work. An apology letter shows your boss you recognize you’ve let them down, which is an important step in ensuring the mistake doesn’t jeopardize your job.

Tardiness or absences

Are you one of those people who’s chronically late? Or maybe you’ve had to take an exorbitant number of sick days recently. Though these aren’t the most egregious workplace blunders, if they’ve become a pattern you need to correct, it’s worthy of a formal mea culpa. 

What to include in a letter apologizing to your manager

Your apology

Get right to it, using sincere language that speaks directly to what you did.

Acknowledgment of the damage

State your understanding of how your behavior hurt others, negatively impacted workflows, etc.

Your plan of action

This is key. What are you going to do differently moving forward? How will you make sure the mistake isn’t repeated?

Your commitment to making it right

At the end of the day, you want to keep your job. Thus, you want to convey that you’re willing to do what it takes to set things straight–then follow through on actually doing it.

What you should omit

Excuses. Don’t attempt to explain away the mistake or put the blame on someone else. Your letter should make it clear you recognize you were at fault.

Sample letter to apologize to your manager

Jeff,

I wanted to express my sincere apology for neglecting my duties on the Hawthorne project. I procrastinated working on important deliverables, and by the time I realized how much work had piled up, it was too late. As a result, the project’s timeline was compromised. 

I recognize that this has endangered our relationship with this client, and I take full responsibility. If you think it’s appropriate, I will also reach out to Johanna and Steven to apologize to them, as well. I want to do whatever is necessary to make it right. 

I have set up a time-tracking app that alerts me when tasks are due and blocks distracting apps like social media. I have been working overtime to catch up on the backlog and make sure all future deadlines are met. I am committed to changing my behavior and regaining the team’s trust with important assignments. 

Thank you for your time in reading this letter as well as any additional feedback you have to offer. 

Sincerely, 

Carla 

By citing your specific misstep, offering words of remorse, and showing the corrective action you’re taking, you’ll smooth over tensions with your boss and, with follow-through, prevent the same mistake from happening again.