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4 Times You Shouldn't Apologize at Work


There are a number of times when we find ourselves apologizing for no good reason, especially at work. It can be hard to differentiate when it’s appropriate to say “sorry” and when it’s not. Most of the time, we apologize as a way of being polite, like saying sorry instead of saying, “Pardon me for interrupting.” But being polite doesn’t mean we have to apologize all the time. So we’ve made this handy little guide with four work situations you should never feel the need to apologize for.

You should never apologize for…

1. Asking for what you want

Whether you’re asking for a raise or a promotion or any number of things, don’t apologize. Why should you? You’re taking the initiative to ask for what you want. So just ask. Chloe Castleberry, a senior at University of Missouri-Columbia, says “Sometimes women may not feel as comfortable as they should asking for a promotion or raise. In this type of situation, women should never apologize or feel like they are doing something wrong if they want to know what they have to do to get ahead in the workplace!” According to Business Keynote Speaker and Executive Career Strategist Cecilia Rose, saying sorry downplays our self-worth and makes us seem weaker than we really are. So be confident! You should never feel bad for asking for what you want and chasing after your dreams.

2. Choices you’ve made

In general, you should be confident about the decisions you make at work, even if they aren’t perfect. Reilly Tuccinard, a junior at University of South Carolina, says, “Be strong in your decisions. If you make a suggestion that might not be the best fit, don’t apologize for it; just work to make it more applicable…you will be much more respected if you are confident in your decisions.” By apologizing for decisions you’ve made, you don’t come from a place of strength, Rose says. Maybe the decisions you’ve made or ideas you have are different from your co-workers, but don’t apologize for that. Instead of apologizing, Rose says not to say, “Sorry, I have a better idea,” but rather, “I have a different idea.” “It’s now about difference, not apologizing,” she says. You’re voicing your opinion for a reason, so be confident in it.

Related: 4 Tips for Handling Disagreements at Work the Professional Way

3. Someone else’s mistake

“There’s no need to say I’m sorry (for someone else’s mistake),” Rose says. Why should you? It’s not your fault, nor your mistake when someone else drops the ball. “It not only makes you look weak, but you’re taking on a responsibility that’s not yours,” Rose says. Just as you wouldn’t have your coworkers apologize for you, don’t apologize for them, for whatever reason. Let them handle their own business.

4. Asking for help

Sometimes when we ask for help, we feel like we’re inconveniencing another person. Maybe we are, maybe we aren’t, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. Because when you need help, you should ask for it unapologetically. But make sure you have a relationship with that person first. Rose suggests the best way to ask for help is to “build weight” with others in the office. To do this, Rose says, start by offering to help coworkers around the office for a while. Then, when you have enough of a relationship with another person, ask if he or she can help you. When you’re asking for help, Rose says to be thoughtful of their time, and put a short list of three to five questions together to give them. This way they can look it over and be able to help you better, since you didn’t blindside them with too many questions. Rose stresses the importance of balancing give and take. “We always want an exchange of energy,” she says. So if you need help, just ask for it from someone you have a relationship with. If you never ask, you’ll never be able to grow and become a better employee. Rose says by not apologizing for needing help, you come from a place of strength, not weakness.   

The key to apologizing at work is to do it sparingly. “You’re not gonna stop apologizing overnight,” Rose says. “It’s a process not an event.” According to Rose, by becoming more self-aware, we can catch ourselves before we say something that doesn’t make us seem strong, like unnecessarily saying sorry. When you apologize for things such as asking for a raise or decisions you’ve made, the apology becomes meaningless and makes you seem unsure of yourself. Own the work you’re doing and what you’re asking for, and only say “sorry” when it’s truly necessary. 

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