I was recently sitting in on a team meeting, and at the end of the presentation, my manager asked if anyone had any questions. I jumped in and said, “Sorry, I have a quick question,” and proceeded to ask my question. My question brought up an interesting point that led to an important team discussion.

So what’s wrong with that story? The problem is the fact that I felt the need to precede my question with an apology, even though my manager specifically asked for questions.

In another example, I stopped by my manager’s office for our scheduled weekly meeting. The first thing I said was, “Sorry, do you still want to meet?” What am I apologizing for here? I wasn’t interrupting a phone call or conversation; I had time scheduled on his calendar, and he was expecting me.

So my question is, why do women feel compelled to apologize for speaking up? Why do women feel like they need to be so small? Why am I saying sorry for existing? For having thoughts and opinions? For wanting to understand concepts better to help my team and the overall business?

Unnecessary Apologies Undermine Your Credibility

In a recent episode of the ITAM Review Podcast, Ivanti Director of Field Marketing Sarah Lewis mentioned her battle with her instinct to excessively apologize. Her mentor first pointed out the issue.

One of my favorite quotes from the podcast episode was about this habit. “Stop apologizing for being you. Be yourself and have confidence. Don’t apologize for who you are, what you have to say, and being a strong person,” Sarah said. PREACH, SISTER!

In my research for this blog, I took note every time anyone at work started their sentence with an apology. I found that women apologize much more than men in the workplace. I also found that women in director level or above positions apologize less than women in lower level positions.

Saying sorry so much at work has nothing to do with being polite. By excessively apologizing in the workplace, you are reinforcing self-doubt and a sense of powerlessness. You take away from the validity of what you say by prefacing it with an apology. This can hurt your personal brand. People might start seeing you as someone who either doesn’t have a backbone or doesn’t have relevant or valuable points to add.

Breaking the Habit of Excessive Apologizing

Women already have enough of an uphill battle in the workplace, so let's not make it any harder by conveying a lack of confidence and a weak brand. Here are some ideas to help you break your habit of apologizing too much in the workplace:

  1. Notice when and why it happens – For a couple of weeks, carry around a notebook with you. When you catch yourself apologizing for no reason, make a tally mark in your notebook and make a note about the context of the situation. Maybe you apologize more to certain people or in certain situations. As you are more aware of the problem, it will help you break the habit.
  2. Find another woman in the office to be accountable to – If there is another women in your meetings, hold each other accountable. The other woman may observe times you apologize that you don’t even notice.
  3. Replace it with something else – Some people use an apology as a transitional statement to get to their point or question. Find a new transitional statement that you like and try using that instead.
  4. Pump yourself up – Make yourself a “Girl Power” playlist and listen to it at the beginning of the day. If you’re feeling a little shaken, go to a private area and do a power stance. Seriously, studies show that people feel more confident after doing a power stance. Starting your day off with a shot of confidence will pump you up and give you the self-assurance to not feel the need to apologize. Here are a few of my personal favorite girl power song recommendations:
    • Run the World (Girls) – Beyonce
    • Roar and Firework – Katy Perry
    • Girl on Fire – Alicia Keys
    • Diamonds – Rihanna
    • Man! I Feel like a Woman – Shania Twain
    • Stronger – Kelly Clarkson
    • Shake it Off – Taylor Swift
    • The Climb – Miley Cyrus
    • Woman – Kesha
    • Sorry Not Sorry – Demi Lovato

You were hired for a reason. You matter. You have important things to say. Don’t minimize your opinions by apologizing for having them. Kick your “sorry reflex” to the curb and own your significance. And of course, follow @TheTechieGirls on Twitter for more advice on how to be a badass woman in the workplace.