How To Stop Over-Apologising At Work (And What To Say Instead)

How To Stop Over-Apologising At Work (And What To Say Instead)


How many times have you said “I’m sorry”, “Oh I’m so sorry”, “I’m so so sorry” when you probably didn’t need to? If you haven’t actually offended someone or made a huge mistake, what are you actually apologising for?

It’s not that saying “sorry” is a bad thing. Being able to say “sorry” is a good thing, it shows a sign of humility and strength when you’ve actually caused an offence. In fact, not many people are able to utter the words “sorry” when they really need to – And as a result of that many relationships have broken down.

However, for many women in the workplace, “sorry” does not seem to be the hardest word after all. Women are known for over apologising at work which actually does more harm than good. It can undermine your authority and have a negative impact on your credibility.

If you have been making this mistake at work, it’s never too late to correct this.

Understand why you are saying sorry

A lot of times, we say sorry without thinking about it. It comes naturally to say “sorry just a quick question”, “sorry I can’t meet you on Thursday, “sorry, but I think we should go for this instead”. These are just some of the examples of why you do not need to say sorry – And it’s important to understand that. For example, you don’t need to say sorry for:

  • Asking someone a question
  • Sending an email
  • Saying no
  • Sharing your opinion
  • Asking for help

Although you might think that you’re ‘bothering’ someone, you’re most likely not and you have to stop apologising for it. Asking questions and sharing your ideas and opinion is not ‘bothering’ it’s part of your job.

Replace ‘sorry’ with ‘thank you’

As previously mentioned, sometimes, you’ve become so programmed to say sorry that you even say it without thinking about it. In order to stop one particular habit, you often need to replace it with something else. And ‘thank you’ often works as a great replacement. So instead of saying sorry find other ways to express what you truly want to say. However, make sure that you’re brief and direct.


When you can’t control something:

I’m really sorry I have to reschedule our meeting again.

  • I’m aware I’ve had to reschedule our meeting a couple of times. Thank you for understanding.

When working with tight deadlines:

I’m sorry I have to send you this so last minute.

  • Thank you for bearing with such a tight deadline.

When you need someone’s input:

Sorry to bother you with this.

  • Thank you for taking the time to look into this.

Sorry, can I just ask you a quick question?

  • Is now a good time to ask a question?

When you need to speak up:

Sorry, but I don’t agree with that.

  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts. However, let’s look at it from this angle.

When something is brought to your attention:

So sorry, I did not see/realise that.

  • Thank you for pointing that out.

When replying to an email

Sorry, it took me so long to reply.

Apologies for the delay in response.

  • Thank you for your patience or Thank you for being patient.

Recognise when you do need to say sorry

Lastly, it’s important to recognise that there will be times at work when you truly need to apologise and say sorry. For example, you might lose your temper or arrive extremely late for an important meeting. In those cases, you should definitely apologise and acknowledge how your actions might have affected the business, a client or your colleague.

Essentially, the key is to know when and how to apologise when you’ve done something wrong. This is crucial not only for the future in your job or career, but it also demonstrates true leadership skills.

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