12 times you shouldn't say 'I'm sorry' at work

There are people in every workplace who fail to apologise for their mistakes — which can be seriously detrimental to their careers. But there are also those who are overly apologetic when there’s actually nothing to be sorry for … and that isn’t great, either.

When you overuse the phrase “I’m sorry” or use it unnecessarily, it gets diluted and loses its sincerity. Plus, it’s pretty annoying when someone prefaces everything with, “I’m sorry, but…”

“Some people just use ‘I’m sorry’ as a filler phrase, like ‘so,’ or ‘um,’ or they may use it because they think it makes them seem more polite,” explains Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of “The Humour Advantage.” “Others say ‘I’m sorry’ to convey a sense of deference to their superiors — and many use a well-placed ‘I’m sorry’ as a preemptive strike to avoid taking responsibility for their actions (‘I’m really sorry but there’s just no way I can get this report done by Monday’),” Kerr explains.

Whatever the reason, the biggest danger of severely overusing the phrase, he says, “is that it can make you look too passive or indecisive — and might eventually create the sense that you lack confidence.”

You should apologise, of course, when you have inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings on the job, or made mistakes that affect others (your company, clients, boss, or colleagues), “but don’t apologise for things that are clearly out of your control, unless you are in ultimately in charge of the situation, such as being in charge of a department where there is a massive error,” suggests Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job.”

“In addition, when you do apologise, don’t have expectations of the other person. Don’t expect them, for instance, to say, ‘no problem at all,’ or, ‘no worries, it’s fine!’ Instead, do it with the intention of getting your point across,” she says.

Here are 12 specific times you shouldn’t say “I’m sorry” at work:

2. When you have absolutely nothing to be sorry for.

Martin Haas/shutterstock

If you're one of those people who just says 'I'm sorry' as a filler phrase or to come off as polite, think carefully about whether what you're about to say is something you'd actually need to apologise for.

For instance, 'I'm sorry but I have to use the restroom' is not the best way to say that. Instead, you should go with: 'Excuse me while I use the restroom.'

7. When you are quitting your job.

YouTube/Marina Shifrin

'I'm sorry, but I've received a better job offer.'

It may sound like you are just being polite because you may feel as though you are letting people down, 'but the reality, with any situation comparable to this, is that you're not sorry -- you're likely ecstatic that you've received a better job offer,' Kerr explains. 'Apologizing in these situations also sets up the possibility for people to play the guilt card on you. 'Well, if you're really sorry then you can start by …''

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