Explanation as Apology

One of the more interesting items to emerge from the “me too” movement is a piece written (actually, originally recorded as a podcast) by Dan Harmon, in response to a tweet from a former employee, Megan Ganz, that he sexually harassed her when she worked for him. A few years ago, Ms. Ganz was a writer for a show Mr. Harmon created.

Mr. Harmon delves into his thoughts at the time, recognizing how his “crush” on Ms. Ganz put her in a terrible position. “I crushed on her and resented her for not reciprocating it, and the entire time I was the one writing her paychecks and in control of whether she stayed or went and whether she felt good about herself or not, and said horrible things. Just treated her cruelly, pointedly.” His piece is a fascinating look into the mind of a boss who has “feelings” for an employee, how the boss justifies his behavior–how it makes sense to him to behave in a way that is, objectively, sexual harassment.

Mr. Harmon’s piece is not an apology, per se. As slate.com author Marissa Martinelli notes, it’s more of an explanation than an apology. Its audience is not Ms. Ganz, but rather other men who might develop “feelings” for a woman they supervise. But it’s humble, insightful, and honest, without a hint of blaming the victim or an attempt to save face himself. Those are all ingredients of a good apology.

The result is that Ms. Ganz called the piece “a masterclass in How to Apologize,” and forgave him.

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