Sorry, Not Sorry: Do You Apologize Too Much?

Of course you will admit when you’ve made a mistake at work. Or inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings.You will be accountable for your actions and own up to all you do and say, never minimizing harm or impact you may cause.But do you apologize too much? Are you over-apologizing?Fran Maier, CEO of BabyQuip, says refusing to apologize is life-changing. She tells CNBC that another entrepreneur, Margot Schmorak, CEO of Hostfully, told her to stop saying “I’m sorry.”“It’s really powerful to take that out of your vocabulary,” Maier says.Women refusing to apologize is getting to be a thing, really.[bctt tweet=“Do you apologize too much? Women refusing to apologize is getting to be a thing. #SorryNotSorry” username=“takeleadwomen”]In the new film, “A Simple Favor,” the complicated character played by Blake Lively says, “Never say sorry — it’s a (expletive) up female habit.”Lively explains how that scene is a recurring theme to USA Today: “I don’t think it’s a female-specific thing, although maybe females are encouraged to apologize more often for themselves, unfairly. But I actually really love that (the character) makes note of that: ‘Stop minimizing yourself, you don’t need to apologize.’ She sees a lot of value in Stephanie and is trying to say, ‘Step into your skin.’ She thinks this woman is awesome.“Award-winning author, journalist and professor Roxane Gay recently drew attention to the apology habit in a tweet to her more than 500,000 followers and one that has since received more than 20,000 likes: “Then during the signing line a white woman who asked me a question during the event said she wasn’t satisfied with my answer and I called upon all 43  years of life on this here earth and said, ‘It is not my job to satisfy you.’ I only mention this because it was one of the few times in person I’ve said what I wanted to say in the moment, where I didn’t contort myself and apologize for something I didn’t need to apologize for.”A new Chrome Gmail plug in, Just Not Sorry “warns you when you write emails using words which undermine your message.”

Created by Tami Reiss, Steve Brudz, Manish Kakwani, and Eric Tillberg of

Def Method

 the goal is simple. “Let’s build awareness of how we qualify our message and diminish our voice. Inspired by the writings of Tara Mohr and others, this Chrome Extension for Gmail and Inbox will warn you when you use words or phrases that undermine your message. Commonly used qualifying words and phrases are underlined for you to choose how you want to address them. Hover over the underline to see additional information about how using the phrase is perceived.”

I know that women I work with apologize for the weather if they are late to a meeting, apologize for someone bumping into them passing in the hall, apologize for someone misunderstanding what they say on a panel. All of it, not her fault, and not what you need to take responsibility for. Not all errors or events are your wrongdoing.[bctt tweet=“Not all errors or events are your wrongdoing. And you don’t have to apologize for them. #SorryNotSorry” username=“takeleadwomen”]“Unnecessary or avoidable apologizing can hurt your professional self. Why? Because apologizing when you’ve done nothing wrong isn’t fair to yourself, and apologizing too often can lessen the power of the words when you’ve actually made a mistake. If you apologize too much, your audience will no longer accept it as legitimate,” writes Nicolette Amarillas, founder of Expansive Voice, in Entrepreneur.A 2010 study from Stanford University shows, “women reported offering more apologies than men, but they also reported committing more offenses. There was no gender difference in the proportion of offenses that prompted apologies.”The authors conclude, “This finding suggests that men apologize less frequently than women because they have a higher threshold for what constitutes offensive behavior. In another study,  we tested this threshold hypothesis by asking participants to evaluate both imaginary and recalled offenses. As predicted, men rated the offenses as less severe than women did.”But doesn’t civil society dictate polite apologies?The answer is no, not in the workplace when you apologize for what you clearly did not cause. You can acknowledge of course, but make statements and declarations, don’t beat your chest with a “mea culpa.” And no, this does not make you look arrogant.[bctt tweet=“There’s no need to apologize for what you did not cause. No need for a mea culpa moment. And no, this does not make you look arrogant. #SorryNotSorry #WomenInTheWorkplace” username=“takeleadwomen”]For instance, instead of assuming mass transportation is your fault, saying, “I’m sorry I’m late, my train was delayed,” you can say, “My train was delayed, and I will do my best to catch up with what I missed.”Sydney Beveridge recently writes in HuffPost that she is back at work and will start swearing more and apologizing less.“My observations matched linguistics professor Deborah Tannen’s research into workplace conversations in which she, too, found that women were more likely to offer apologies. When we utter these kinds of apologies, we are participating in what Tannen calls a type of “conversation ritual.” While men want to maintain a power balance, women want to sympathize. I even considered apologizing just now for what might come off as a gender-based generalization, but I will resist again, dammit.”This is not to say that you never apologize. Apologize in moderation and only when it is something attributable to you.Of course when there is negative impact from what you have done or said, you need to own up to it and apologize. But only apologize for yourself.“Your worth is based on trust, and the way to earn trust is through honesty. Determine the stakeholders, admit your mistake and present your plan for correcting the mistake in order to put the organization in the position it was in prior to your mistake,” says Elaine Rosenblum, J.D.ProForm U®in  Forbes. “Honesty and results-oriented problem-solving skills are the qualities and skill sets that are most valuable and are often difficult to find.”Stacey Staaterman, founder of Stacey Staaterman Coaching & Consulting, also tells Forbes, “We all make mistakes. How you recover is a measure of your leadership and character. Sometimes, termination is a policy and might be the outcome. However, taking responsibility and apologizing can go a long way to fixing the gaffe.”