Flourishing Work LLC recently shared a request for guest bloggers and is excited to publish this first guest blog by Karen Norris. If you’d like to be considered for a guest blog, please send your topic idea to info@flourishingworkLLC.com.

I once worked for a small company that was staffed by all women. The owner, also a woman, was adamant that “We don’t do apologies here.” She believed that apologizing made women look weak. So, regardless of the offense, no apologies were allowed.

In a way, she was right. Some of us go through our day apologizing without realizing it. Have you ever interrupted a conversation for something important or urgent and began your request with “Sorry, can you…?” or, “Sorry for making you hold the elevator,” followed by “Thanks.” Do you say you’re sorry when having to step aside for another in a hallway? These little apologies are often really meant as an empathetic acknowledgment of annoyance — a short way of saying “I know this interruption is annoying,” or “I know you went out of your way, but…”

The truth is, instead of being seen as smart and competent, constant apologies can diminish how we are seen in the workplace and detract from our ability to be seen for who we are. It may make us seem insignificant and tells others that we think we are not important enough to interrupt, or worthy of holding the elevator door.

The good news is that you can boost your confidence and other’s perception of you by reducing unnecessary apologies. You’ll find yourself gaining confidence and growing your leadership qualities when you do! That isn’t to say don’t ever apologize; we are human, after all, and sometimes we need to own a mistake.

Below are three different occasions we use apologies and when to (or not to) use them:

  • The “Sorry I’m Here” apology: when we apologize when we really shouldn’t, like interrupting a social conversation for work-related business.
  • The Taking Responsibility apology: “I used the wrong numbers in the report and that’s on me. I’m sorry.” This one should be used with discretion so as not to overdo it all the time.
  • The I’ve Offended or Hurt Someone apology: a one-on-one apology that recognizes feelings and makes amends. Often, the offense is unintentional but with big consequences, so an apology is definitely helpful here.

So what can we do? Here are some tips:


  • Ask yourself if you really need to apologize for your actions. Often, it’s unnecessary. When we apologize less frequently, it becomes that much more powerful when we do.
  • Take responsibility for mistakes that affect others, and apologize when needed, e.g., “I wrote down the wrong date, and that’s on me. I’m sorry.”
  • Apologize one-on-one if you hurt or offended someone. Acknowledge the offense and the hurt it caused, and offer a heartfelt apology. When we are genuine enough to speak directly to others about the hurt we caused, it shows our vulnerability (in a good way), and increases respect among all workers.


  • Apologize for small, normal actions like someone having to wait. A simple “Thank you for your patience” will suffice. This graphic has some great ideas for wording.
  • Apologize for something that needed to be done. Say “Excuse me” when interrupting instead of “Sorry.”
  • Apologize for your work. Instead, add that you are open to someone’s thoughts, and that you put forth your best effort.

Awareness and intention of what you say in the office are key to becoming a respected leader. Hopefully, these tips can be a springboard for building your confidence in the office. Do you have other ideas about apologies in the workspace? Share them in the comments below.

About the author: Karen Norris is a content writer, public relations specialist, and public speaker in the Atlanta area. She lives with her husband Stephen, and son Zach. She enjoys camping and getting outdoors with her family.

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