If you work, you have guilt. Whether it’s deadlines, time with family or shutting off email, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing we owe our whole lives to our employers and, as a result, apologizing all the time.
We can even end up apologizing for things we’re good at. What about that time you finished a project early and your co-worker gave you some side-eye, so you apologize for being ahead of the curve?
Or when you got a promotion and someone at your same level was passed over — did you drop that ‘sorry’ bomb then, too?
While being mindful and grateful are always important qualities of any successful’s person’s career path, it is also important to be confident and bold with your abilities and responsibilities. Being self-assured is an attractive career quality. False humility can be cloying and will make people dislike you.
“Confidence should be your greatest tool for your career— assuming of course that you are in a job that fits your skills. Without confidence your employer would not have found you. Everything about the job search, and being promoted in your career is supported by confidence,” executive career coach Tina Mertel explains. “Confidence allows you to state what you deserve, what’s not working, and what you want. Confidence helps you build relationships with those you manage, your peers, your customers, and your vendors. Without confidence you may be hoping to be noticed or wondering why your work isn’t recognized.”
Here are things you should never (ever!) apologize for at work:
Things That Are Out Of Your Control
As a hard-working professional, there are certain parts of your career that you should take ownership of: meeting deadlines, being an active participant in meetings and following directions. But regardless of industry, there are certain experiences and outcomes that frankly, you just can’t control, no matter how well you do your job. A lot of those things are related to how other people, or other teams, behave.
“Take for example if a client misinterprets you, and you thought you were very clear,” Mertel says. “You should go to the facts, relay them to your manager, and ask or suggest what should be done next. Skip the apology.”
While it can be an unfortunate situation that puts your company or manager in a bad light, if you did everything you could to do your job, you shouldn’t apologize for a reaction that you couldn’t predict.
For Working Faster Than Others
So your bestie likes to spend a lot of time catching up on the Facebook interwebs and on G-chat, but when it comes to her deadlines at work, she’ll wait until the last, hottest, second to submit her work. We all have different working styles, and while neither are right or wrong, neither warrant an apology, either.
“Sometimes, people feel uncomfortable if they hand in their portion of an assignment early. It’s good to be prompt and responsible,” explains Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D., an industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert. “Submitting work early shows that you’ve planned your time well and that you are organized and on top of things.”
For Standing Up When Something Doesn’t Sit Right
Though it’s true that no one likes a tattle-tale, it’s also true that your gut is the smartest source you have at your disposal. If you do see something that you know could pose a threat to an employee or the company as a whole, you have to follow that Spidey-sense and say something.
“If you state your truth, it may be uncomfortable but needed,” Mertel says. “If you witness an act against company policy, you should report it to human resources. It doesn’t make sense to apologize to another for reporting them. You are simply prioritizing company policy – and most likely your job – in front of a friendship or relationship.”
For Being Vocal in a Meeting
It’s sometimes simpler to nod along instead of engaging your brain in every long meeting. But, if you’re not engaged, then you’re not a productive member of the team.
However, as business psychologist, career coach and content director, Kate Sullivan explains, if you do have a useful opinion in a meeting, you should never apologize for sharing it with the group. Dive right into your point.
“Meetings are meant for an exchange of ideas—if everything was completely decided and no input was needed, you’d probably get a memo instead. So don’t feel guilty for giving your input—that’s what the meeting is for,” she notes. “Instead of apologizing for speaking—the dreaded ‘I’m sorry, but…’ or ‘Excuse me, but…’ interjection—just speak up when there’s a break in the dialogue.
This is important: If you really need to give yourself a lead-in, link it to what someone else is saying instead of apologizing for speaking.
Try saying ‘to build on what Dan just said…’ or ‘An interesting thing: Jill, if you look at the figures, I think you’ll see that…’”
Just make sure you’re not talking so much that other people are shutting down.
For Focusing on Your Work
Though water-cooler chit-chat can be engaging and ripe with gossip, it’s not a productive way to spend your workday, when really, you’d probably rather get home to your partner or out to happy hour with your friends earlier than later. If one of your co-workers tries to loop you into a conversation, don’t apologize for needing to ‘get back to work.’ As Hakim says, you’re there for a purpose and it doesn’t need an explanation. “Politely and directly, share that you have a deadline and look forward to chatting another time. But, never say that you are sorry for doing so.”
For Taking a Vacation or Personal Days
Repeat after us: vacations are necessary. Did you say it out loud? No? Say it now. As Sullivan reminds us, breaks are not only needed but they’re healthy for our mental health and happiness. Our careers can’t flourish unless we take time for self-care, and lounging on a beach or gallivanting about Europe will help you disconnect.
“Rather than skipping your vacation or apologizing for requesting time off, think about it as a financial transaction. How many vacation days do you have in the bank? Two weeks? How much is your average biweekly paycheck? Now think about giving up a full paycheck and working for free for two weeks. Doesn’t feel great, huh?,” Sullivan asks. “That’s what giving up your vacation is—giving up compensation that you’re owed.
Apologizing for asking for part of your compensation doesn’t make sense; it’s like saying you’re sorry for asking for your paycheck. Take your vacation with no guilt and no apologies. You’ve literally earned it!
For Setting Boundaries on Your Own Time
You never need to say you’re ‘sorry’ for logging off, taking off or removing yourself from situations that make you uncomfortable as an employee.
“You work a certain set of hours in the day and it’s perfectly okay to not be available at midnight or on a Sunday. Be clear about when you will and won’t work and stick to that without apologizing. It’s your right to have personal time—and it’ll set a good example for other people on your team to start dialing back their availability and putting some boundaries on their life balance,” Sullivan says. “That will help everyone on your team perform better, because they’ll be able to recharge outside the office instead of constantly checking in.”