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For a Corporate Apology to Work, the CEO Should Look Sad

By Sarah Green Carmichael

Straight up, we made some mistakes,” Whole Foods co-CEOs John Mackey and Walter Robb said in a video apology in response to an overcharging scandal.

“We weren’t prepared for the crisis, and we dropped the ball,” wrote Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky on the Airbnb blog in 2011, after a guest trashed a host’s home.

“This should never have happened. It is simply unacceptable,” said Mary Barra, CEO of GM, in one of several public apologies in the wake of safety scandals at the automaker.

The corporate apology, once a relative rarity, has become a normal part of business discourse. Stuff happens, and then we say we’re sorry for it. But just because corporate apologies have ...

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