Sorry, You're Over-Apologising At Work

For most of us, saying “sorry”, especially when we’re not at fault, could be an involuntary reaction. Maybe it’s because of our aversion to conflict or our genuine desire to be polite that we’ve probably said it over 20 times this week. Or maybe it’s because our generation grew up with Super Junior’s ‘Sorry Sorry’ constantly ringing in our ears.

Everyone messes up at work sometimes. Maybe you made a glaring typo, missed a deadline or had a communication breakdown with your colleague. There are 101 mistakes that can happen in the workplace—and just as many ways to make things right.

Of course, there are times when apologies are absolutely necessary and it’s important to be polite at work, but apologising for every little thing is not just a bad habit, it could even undermine your confidence, authority and credibility. If you’re always sorry for everything, you’re never sorry about anything tbh 👀🤷

Here are some instances where apologies are unwarranted and how to reclaim your confidence with a better comeback:

When you made a typo

Spell check and Grammarly can’t catch all your errors. That’s why your team members are there - to triple check your work before it goes out for the world to see. Instead of apologising when they catch your little mistakes, try these alternatives:

  • “Great catch - I will make the changes/updates accordingly.”
  • “Thanks for flagging!”
  • “Many thanks for noticing the error!”
  • “Thanks for bringing this to my attention.”

When you can’t make it for team dinner

You know those days when you go for an early lunch, and everyone gets hungry again way before dinner? That’s when the impromptu dinner plans tend to happen. If you can’t attend last minute plans, don’t apologise for having prior engagements. It’s a cool casual after-work meal; your colleagues definitely understand. Ditch those superfluous "sorry!"s, and try these:

  • “It’s a pity, I would have loved to be there but I’ll have to take a rain check on this one.”
  • “I appreciate the invite but I can’t make it tonight. Thanks for understanding!”
  • “Sounds great! Unfortunately, I’ve already made plans for tonight, but I’ll definitely join you guys on the next one.”

When you disagree with an idea

Any good workplace would welcome open discussions and constructive feedback. At Wantedly, we practice radical honesty where we try to be completely honest with one another—no hard feelings! If you find yourself in disagreement, stand your ground and instead of starting your rebuttal with “sorry”, try these:

  • I understand where you are coming from but based on my research, …
  • I see what you’re saying but I believe ...
  • That’s a fair point, but I am confident that ...

A good rule of thumb would be to flip the script and turn your Sorrys into Thank Yous.

Sorry to bother you = Thanks for doing this!
Sorry, could you repeat? = Thanks for clarifying!
Sorry I’m a little late = Thank you for waiting.

Your apologies are sacred. So save those unnecessary regrets for your ‘true’ apologies to be meaningful. Ready to flex your confidence at work? First, find a job you’ll love right here 👉

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