Sorry Not Sorry. Why Women Apologise Too Much.

Victoria McLean our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 23 February 2023

Many women in the workplace begin practically every sentence with the word 'sorry'. We say, ‘Sorry, is this a good time?’, ‘Sorry, can I come in?’, ‘Sorry, can I speak?’. The problem is ingrained. It has become our habitual way of communicating, and we urgently need to stop.


The word sorry might seem harmless, but constantly apologising affects your authority and credibility in the workplace, which can then hinder promotion prospects. Apologising for every little thing naturally undermines your own self-confidence too. Apologies that we sprinkle through our days make us appear less confident and competent.


Here are my top tips if you fear you are a chronic apologiser:


1. Be more aware of your own behaviour


Notice when you are about to apologise and decide if it is really necessary.


2. Work on making a confident response


Instead of saying ‘I’m sorry, I always mess up’, try ‘That didn’t go as well as planned, but I’ve got this now and I’ll know exactly what to do next time', which is a more rational and practical response.


3. Turn the apology into a positive request for feedback


Instead of saying sorry for something you feel you may not have done well, ask for constructive feedback. This will boost your self-awareness and confidence as well as demonstrating that you’re keen to develop and improve, turning the situation into a positive.


4. Consider a career coach


Coaching can help chronic over-apologisers to become more confident in expressing their professional abilities. Often, apologising is a reflex action, so clients need support to take a different approach. In our coaching sessions being able to talk confidently, and unapologetically, about your achievements in an interview is one of the most common challenges we address.


Clearly there are times when a genuine apology at work is in order, if you’ve made a mistake or caused harm to someone, for example. An apology is deserved and can be a great way to heal divisions and calm people down. The overarching advice is to save the ‘sorry' for situations that really warrant a sincere apology. Saying sorry shouldn’t be an everyday activity in our working lives and we have the power to change that.


Join us for our free-to-attend ’Sorry Not Sorry’ webinar on March 6th at 10am in celebration of International Women's Day. Amongst other things, I’ll be explaining the psychology of an apology and, of course, give you more practical advice to break the ‘sorry’ habit and to boost your career confidence. 

Plus, we are hosting this event in association with our charity of the year, Refuge, who support thousands of women & children every day, experiencing domestic and sexual violence. Although this is a free-to-attend event, we are asking to please consider a donation to this fantastic charity. Details to register (and donate) are all on the Hanover Events page.

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