Three Little Words to Avoid at Work

SO SORRY | Jacqueline Jun Ha

“I am sorry.”

“I am sorry”—or its conjunction-cousin, “I’m sorry”—is a phrase that should be seldom uttered at work.

Yes. Not the juicy words you were undoubtedly expecting, but they’re just as big of a “no-no.”

“I am sorry”--or its conjunction-cousin, “I’m sorry”--is a phrase that should be seldom uttered at work. Just like office gossip or complaining, saying “I am sorry” too often can give people a negative impression.

Take it from someone who apologizes far too often. Using the word “sorry” at all, especially over written communication, indicates a fault on the speaker whether there’s any actual fault present or not. If you’re not wrong or if a true upset didn’t even happen, make sure to keep “sorry” out of the conversation. Otherwise, it’ll draw attention to the situation and make it look like there was a big mishap on your end when it’s most likely not even a big deal.

If you’re truly in the wrong, the classiest and most professional thing is to acknowledge your mistake and move forward.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t apologize at all. In fact, there’s nothing more off-putting than a person who is very obviously wrong but flagrantly ignoring that fact, or worse, who blames someone else. If you’re truly in the wrong, the classiest and most professional thing is to acknowledge your mistake and move forward.  

Instead of using “sorry” in any of its forms for daily conversations, though, try using the following phrases:

  • Thanks for your input, I’ll look into it and circle back with any updates.

  • Good catch, thanks for pointing that out!

  • Thanks for noting that, let me look into it ASAP.

You’ll note how each acknowledges an issue and lets those in receipt know a decisive action is being made to attend to it. This is key: sometimes just saying “sorry” not only indicates a fault on your end, but shows a lack in any initiative to fix the issue at all. And if there’s anything that should be done in the workforce, it’s, you know, work.

This is key: sometimes just saying “sorry” not only indicates a fault on your end, but shows a lack in any initiative to fix the issue at all.

You’ll also realize that none of the phrases above are rude or dismissive. This is another important factor to keep in mind not just in this situation, but any situation that involves email or general communication. Nothing turns people off more than someone’s who impolite or condescending and, frankly, not many people will want to work well with you if that’s the kind of attitude you give off.

There you have it. People, especially women, have a tendency to say “sorry” way too much in general. Lessening it in the work space can help trickle this habit into other facets of your life. Now go forth, and keep making decisions that won’t make you sorry.