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Why You Should Not Apologize Too Much At Work

Why You Should Not Apologize Too Much At Work

“I’m sorry” is the ultimate peacemaker. When something warrants an apology, it’s surprising the difference a single phrase can make.

But it can also be the smooth transition when feeling awkward stating a fact, the fallback qualifier when trying not to come across as too aggressive, or even an over-compensation for a generally uncomfortable situation.

There’s been a lot of talk lately around how much people, particularly women, apologize at work. A recent article in the New York Times talks about why women apologize and why they should stop. Another post by women’s career advice platform, Levo League, talks about how apologizing too much lessens co-workers’ respect for the apologizer.

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A lot of the arguments for women trimming our vocabularies of words such as “sorry”, “just”, and “like” make sense. If we tend to over-use these comfort phrases, it becomes difficult for others to grasp what we’re trying to say and believe that we mean it.

If there’s too much flirting around a statement, people start to wonder if we know what we’re talking about.

It’s also a matter of developing the skill of self-editing. Both in the written and spoken word, it’s important to say what you mean without muddying the message with unnecessary and distracting words. It makes the concept heavy, harder to grasp and can come across as just plain sloppy.

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Some people are offended by the assertion that women need to monitor their speech patterns, even seeing it as sexist in that women have to adjust their natural instinctive way of speaking to conform to what a male-driven society has laid out as acceptable.

While there may be some validity to this, from a psychological standpoint apologizing too much can make you come across as weak or insecure. Taking it even further, some researchers say over apologizing can come across as subtly insubordinate or even passive aggressive.

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Womans Hand Golding Pretty Spring Flowers

    At the very least it can dilute the phrase to a point where it becomes disingenuous. When an occurrence actually calls for a apology, say forgetting to send an important document that stalls a big project versus explaining how a program works to a new hire, the phrase will be so worn out and standard in your vocabulary, that it will be hard to take seriously. Crying wolf syndrome in the professional realm.

    Women do tend to over-apologize more than men due to their natural tendency to seek harmony and having a lower threshold for offensive behavior. Women also may be more socially attuned than men, to a point where they scrutinize their own innocuous actions into hurtful ones.

    Statistics aside, over-apologizing at work can breach the gender gap, as psychotherapist Beverly Engel notes, “Children of parents who teach them to take responsibility for any problems or issues that come up often become over-apologizers, as do children whose parents teach them that apologizing is a form of politeness.”

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    If you’re worried that not saying sorry will make you come across as mean, consider that some people will actually take incessant apologizing as a social cue of someone trying to elicit an apology from them. This can make them feel you’re trying to manipulate them. Or at the least it can make many situations more confusing and awkward than they needed to be.

    Whatever the ingrained reasons for apologizing too much, it’s a habit worth breaking in the workplace for both men and women. It fundamentally puts the speaker at a disadvantage in a conversation. Especially when an apology isn’t necessary, it can make you come across as a people-pleaser to a fault and a easy mark for someone to take advantage of.

    As over-apologizers tend to be over-analyzers in general, it’s important that you don’t stress yourself over this! Saying you’re sorry too much is often just a confidence issue, and confidence can be built up a little at a time.

    Try just standing up a little straighter, looking people in the eye when you speak, shaking hands with certainty, and, as the old adage goes, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” And try not to tag it with an apprehensive, “Sorry.”

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    Hannah Glenn

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    Last Updated on November 19, 2019

    Work Smarter, Not Harder: 12 Ways to Work Smart

    Work Smarter, Not Harder: 12 Ways to Work Smart

    I imagine that like me, you say that you never have enough time and that you just cannot cope with 60 dozen things all at once.

    How on earth do you get out of that spiral?

    Many people never sit down and look at how to work smarter, rather than harder and even longer hours. But not you, you’re smart enough to try to learn effective ways to work.

    So how to work smarter not harder? Here are 12 smart ways you should be following:

    1. Improve Your Time Management Skills

    Easier said than done? Well, no actually, because there are a few simple rules that can really help you to manage time better.

    For example, when setting up a top priority task, you need to switch off the phone and ignore your email first. Then you need to abandon any ideas of multitasking as that will slow you down and ruin your focus.

    Finally, set a reasonable deadline and do everything in your power to meet it.

    “When you’re born, you’re born with 30,000 days. That’s it. The best strategic planning I can give to you is to think about that.” — Sir Ray Avery

    2. Speed up Your Typing and Use Shortcuts

    These days we’re all keyboard slaves. So why not speed up your typing and try to get rid of the two finger syndrome. In fact, when you save 21 days per year just by typing fast!

    This is exactly what I am doing now, so I cannot honestly say I am practicing what I preach!

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    But help is at hand. Try some of these apps and games to help you type fast: 8 Most Effective Games and Apps to Learn to Type Fast

    Using shortcuts on the keyboard is another time saver and can speed up your work.

    For example, press F2 to rename a selected file, while CTRL + I will put selected text in italics.

    There are so many of these. If you make the effort to learn them, they really can be helpful.

    3. Learn How to Use Productivity Tools

    It is well worth downloading all the useful tools and apps that can highly boost your productivity. Take a look at these 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools and install whatever fits your needs.

    Now that is really a great way of working smarter, not harder.

    4. Use Your Phone Wisely

    Instead of writing emails, sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone and talk to the person responsible. It saves time, especially for important or urgent discussions.

    If that colleague works in the same office, it is even better to go and talk to him or her. It gives you a break, you get some exercise and you actually make human contact which is becoming quite rare in this electronic world.

    5. Keep a Tab on Your Tabs

    If you are like me, you might well find that you have a ton of tabs open at the top of your browser.

    In order to find the one you want, you have to search for them as they are off screen. Having all these tabs open slows down your browser too.

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    One solution is to use OneTab which can keep a neat list on the screen of all these tabs when you want to quickly get to one of them or you want to remind yourself which ones you have open.

    6. Use a “To Don’t” List

    We all know about to do lists and I find that they are generally great. They give me a great sense of achievement as I cross off the tasks done.

    But often, I find that we are doing non-essential tasks or ones that can easily be postponed. That is why many people recommend the to don’t list.[1]

    Some people prefer to savagely prune the to do list while others prefer to have two separate lists, to do and to don’t. You just have to work out what works best for you when you are trying to save precious time to become more productive.

    7. Expect Failure and Fight Paranoia

    When failure rears its ugly head, some people get a bit paranoid and fear that this may become a trend.

    Projects will go wrong and failure should be expected rather than feared. Learning lessons from failure and analyzing what went wrong is the best way forward.

    “Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.” — Richard Branson

    And here you can find 10 Great Lessons Highly Successful People Have Learned From Failure.

    8. Be Concise

    Rambling on at meetings, in emails and even when introducing yourself to new clients can waste a lot of people’s time.

    One way is to practice and sharpen your “elevator speech,”[2] which tells people in 30 seconds or less why they need your skills and how they can benefit from doing business with you.

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    Just think of the many situations where this could be useful:

    • Making new contacts
    • Talking about yourself at a job interview
    • Meeting people at conferences or parties
    • Phone calls to new clients

    9. Ask the Right Questions

    “You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” — Naguib Mahfouz

    How do you get feedback? The secret is to ask the right questions at the right time.

    When you do this, you are gathering the information you need to help in decision making. This will save you time and you will be able to cut meetings to a minimum.

    Forbes magazine reports on research that they carried out on asking the right questions.[3] When that happens, the positive effects are increased by 400%. There are also other benefits in staff motivation and a positive impact on the company’s bottom line.

    Lifehack’s CEO Leon has shared about how to ask for feedback to learn faster: How to Learn Quickly And Master Any Skill You Want

    10. Learn as Much as You Can

    You should always be on a steep learning curve. Look at your skills profile and determine where you need to fill a gap. Talk to important connections and network in your niche.

    Keep up to date on trends and developments. It is a fact-changing world. When an opportunity arises, you will be the best equipped to seize it because you have never stopped learning. Just another way of working smarter.

    “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi

    11. Look After Your Greatest Resource

    No, your greatest resource is not time. It is YOU.

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    If you do not get enough sleep, exercise and relaxation, you find that you become less and less productive. You begin to work longer and longer hours, which is the exact opposite of what you want.

    What you should be doing is making sure you are in the best shape. It is useful to remember that you need a break of 15 minutes after every one and a half hours of work.[4]

    Taking breaks and getting fresh air and exercise is one of the best ways of working smarter, not harder.

    12. Don’t Fall into the Trap of Working Smarter and Harder

    As a society, we are obsessed with doing everything smarter so we are more efficient and we save time all around.[5]

    But the most important thing to remember is to accept when we are ready to switch off that computer and not fill up the time with even more work!

    The Bottom Line

    The key to greater productivity is to work smarter, not harder. Working smarter saves precious time and energy for the things that really matter — your life goals, your personal growth, your health and your relationships.

    Stop working for more hours and start working smarter!

    More About Working Smart

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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