Are You Guilty of Over Apologizing At Work? Stop Apologizing

An apology is a sign of strength but not in the corporate world. Your habit of over apologizing at work might be costing you your success.

What is it with women over apologizing at work out of sheer politeness? If you’re like me, then you probably utter those words for every little thing – whether or not it’s acceptable. I’m sorry to say that this might be undermining your career success.

When you constantly apologize at work, you relinquish power and instantly put yourself at the mercy of your colleague who may or may not credit the apology. Worst of all, it can undermine your authority, portray you in subservient light, and even damage your credibility.

Stop Apologizing

stop apologizing in the workplace

Like chocolate, too much “I’m sorry” is bad for you.

In her book, “The Power of an Apology,” psychotherapist Beverly Engel says over-apologizing isn’t any different from over-complimenting: You may think it’s a positive trait, but you’re actually sending the message that you lack confidence and are incompetent.


Do these apologies sound familiar?

“Sorry, did you want a pen?”

“Sorry, I’m not really an expert, but maybe I can help?”

“I might be wrong, but don’t you think we should use this graph here?”

It’s time to fix this problem.


Not so long ago Amy Schumer did a sketch about female thought leaders at a conference who were so busy apologizing on stage that they never got the opportunity to share their expertise.

So what causes women to be prone to apologize? Juliana Brienes, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Rhode Island, says the need to constantly apologize may stem from unnecessary self-criticism. We as women dwell on inadequacies rather than our strengths. Learn to recognize that everyone makes mistakes and no one expects you to be perfect.

Maintain a journal of accomplishments to remind you of all the incredible things you do at work. This might also come in handy when you update your resume.


Flip the script. If your colleague catches you committing a minor faux pas, like making a spelling error in one of your emails say “Thanks for the catch!” If you arrive 5 minutes late for a meeting, say “Thank you for waiting.” In both cases, you appreciate your colleague for their kindness, and at the same time, maintain your power.

It takes time and self-discipline to flip the script but it’s worth it. It’s also empowering to people on both sides.


We over apologize in the workplace to defuse or avoid conflicts. It can be terrifying to commit to an idea, comment, or statement that others might not approve of. You must learn to be comfortable with disagreements at work. This would also help you be more resilient to criticism in the long run.


Could you be over apologizing in the workplace because you can’t seem to say no? If you’re swamped with tasks and a colleague asks for help, you don’t need to apologize for being unable to lend a helping hand. If you can’t make it to a colleague’s party because you made prior plans, says “I can’t make it. Maybe next time!” There is no need to go overboard because you feel bad for saying no.


Sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it. If you stop apologizing to your colleague but look like you’re getting nervous tics for minor infractions then you might earn the reputation as someone far from assertive and confident. Next time you find yourself inclined to say sorry, take a deep breath, and compose yourself.

Studies show that withholding apologizes can be overpowering. It’s not easy to change your behavior overnight. Don’t beat yourself up for failing to stick to the new habit. It’s possible to be polite without being apologetic about little things in the workplace. Stop apologizing at work!

Whether you want to stay up-to-date on HR news, read in-depth insights on HR trends or find new ideas on strategy, innovation, and leadership, The HR Digest Magazine is here to suit your needs and help you stay more informed.

Priyansha Mistry
Currently editor at The HR Digest Magazine. She helps HR professionals identify issues with their talent management and employment law. | Priyansha tweets at @PriyanshaMistry

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