Apologising at work

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21st June, 2022 No Comments

Is apologising in the workplace really the faux pas it’s made out to be?

There’s plenty of research out there telling women to apologise less at work. And it makes a lot of sense of course, because why should we apologise simply for calling out an interruption, contributing an idea, or for sharing contrasting feedback.

We all know these daily interactions don’t need an apology… but many of us make them anyway. And you don’t have to look far to read an empowering piece on why we shouldn’t be doing that. And there’s merit to these pieces of course, they can be helpful and offer useful stock phrases to replace ‘sorry’ with.

But it’s not always easy to cull that safety line, it’s often an ingrained behaviour. I agree, we shouldn’t worry about softening our entrance into the debate when it comes to making ourselves heard, but when we’re talking about getting rid of habits, and asking someone to change how they communicate in an ongoing capacity, it’s not as easy as simply ‘not saying it anymore’.

As you might be able to tell, I myself am a chronic apologiser.

I know… I’m sorry.

And  I won’t pretend it’s a trait we should aim for, if you’ve graduated from the school of sorry then I salute you, I’m still working on it. I hope one day I’ll be the sort of person who can assertively interject in a senior meeting without occasionally using sorry as a stepping stone. I’m always impressed with women who do it, and it is inspiring – so if that’s you, keep on keeping on and show us how it’s done.

But if you’re looking to get your voice heard a little more, and you’re starting from a much quieter position, I personally don’t see any harm in starting off with a ‘sorry’. If it plays the role of verbal support, which helps you make a point in a meeting, raise a concern to your boss, or call out poor behaviour, well frankly I’d much rather see women be ‘sorry’ than silent.

Don’t let a fear of apologising stop you from starting to speak up, and speak out a little more.

I like to think of it as stabilisers on a bike. We all know you don’t want them on there forever, but if it gets you moving in the right direction there’s no harm in having them on for a while. 

And when it’s time to break free? Well you’ve got plenty of literature to help you shake the ‘sorry’ off.

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