Career & Recruitment > Professional Development

Women, Stop Apologizing in the Workplace

BY EMPLOYDIVERSITY

The outdated expectation that women are supposed to be nice, polite, and well-mannered has led to way too many women apologizing way too much. Excessive apologizing isn’t only unnecessary, it can negatively affect your professional image.

 

THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF APOLOGY

Apologizing should be reserved for when you make a genuine mistake. Preceding a request with “I’m sorry” puts you in a defensive and weak position. Stand behind your decisions and actions and don’t fall into the habit of apologizing unnecessarily.  Here are seven workplace situations where you may have said “I’m sorry” when the occasions actually didn’t require an apology:

  1. Asking a question: If you’re asking a question to follow-up or clarify something, don’t start it with “I’m sorry”.

  2. Answering a question: If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t apologize.

  3. Being sick: There’s no need to say “I’m sorry” for being sick. Your co-workers will thank you for not spreading germs throughout the office. The same goes for taking time off to care for an ill family member. There’s no need to apologize for your absence while caring for them.

  4. Making requests: If you’re relying on someone else’s materials or information to help you do your job, don’t apologize when you make a request for it or remind them you need it.

  5. Starting a conversation: Whether you’re making a call or leading a meeting, don’t lead with “I’m sorry to interrupt…”.

  6. Correcting someone: If someone is wrong and you have the correct information, don’t say “I’m sorry” before you correct them.

  7. Stopping by your manager’s office: If the door is open and you have something to share, don’t start with “I’m sorry to interrupt” or “I’m sorry, do you have a minute?”

 

BE ASSERTIVE, NOT APOLOGETIC

In all of these situations, there’s no need to say “sorry”. You should never apologize when you’re not at all sorry, and you shouldn’t apologize for expressing your opinions. If you find yourself often apologizing when it’s unnecessary, here are some ways to be more direct and authoritative in your messaging:

Stating your Knowledge or Opinion:

  • Don’t Say:  "Sorry, I may not have the facts right here, but I'm thinking..."

  • Instead Say: "To my knowledge the answer is…"

Disagreeing:

  • Don’t Say: "Sorry, but I don’t agree with you.”

  • Instead Say: “Thank you for sharing your opinion, but I have a different take.”

Asking a Question:

  • Don’t Say: "Sorry, but I have a question."

  • Instead Say: "Could I ask you about that?”

Not Knowing the Answer

  • Don’t Say: “I’m sorry, but I’m not sure.”

  • Instead Say: “I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll get back to you.”

Expressing Appreciation

  • Don’t Say: "Thank you for all your help. I’m sorry to bother you with everything."

  • Instead Say:  "I really appreciate what a great help you’ve been."

Joining a Meeting:

  • Don’t Say: "Sorry, is this seat taken?"

  • Instead Say: "Is anyone sitting here?"

If you’re prone to unnecessarily apologizing, making these changes will not only improve your confidence but will also give others the perception that you are assertive and confident.