“Sorry to bother your…”, “sorry for not getting back to you sooner”, “sorry but I won’t have this done by tomorrow”, “sorry I’m booked this week”. Do any of these sound familiar? If you’re apologizing for these types of things on a daily or weekly basis, you are suffering from the sorry syndrome. Sorry to break it to you, but no more saying sorry!

Apologizing for every little thing, whether it’s warranted or not, can have an array of negative effects on your career.

It Hurts Your Career!

For starters, apologizing too frequently makes it look like you’re in the wrong even though you’re most likely not. Day-to-day mishaps happen and that’s totally okay. But, when you’re saying sorry all the time, you draw attention to things that probably would have gone unnoticed or not even perceived as a problem.

Additionally, apologizing when it’s unnecessary makes it difficult to deliver a sincere and meaningful apology when it’s actually needed. You don’t want the people around you to be immune from your apology and you definitely don’t want them to think you aren’t genuine. Think about the boy who cried wolf…this is pretty similar.

Even more importantly, saying sorry too much can deter your credibility and authority. Think about it-why would you say sorry for doing your job? It portrays weakness and a lack of confidence, which doesn’t look good for leadership roles or a potential promotion. This is especially true if you’re one of the only people at your job suffering from this bad habit. This can create a power imbalance which will hurt your self-esteem and confidence even more.

Why Do People Over-Apologize?

If we don’t need to apologize for having an opinion, needing help, or just being human, then what are we trying to accomplish through this behavior? The answer is NOTHING!

So what makes people grow accustomed to this counter-productive habit? Well, it might be due to performance anxiety, or stress. But some people may also feel the need to say sorry out of a desire to demonstrate respect. This becomes an issue when others’ opinions and reactions are held in too high of regard, as the well-intentioned act can later sabotage your career.

More often, though, over-apologizing is an unconscious habit that’s annoying at best, and at worst, sends one or more unwanted messages that can really work against us.

When you SHOULD Say Sorry

Obviously, there are times where saying sorry is 100% acceptable, and necessary. But it’s important to be able to recognize these situations. Some of these scenarios include when you lose your temper, arrive late to work or a meeting, or deliver sloppy work. In these cases, you should give an apology that goes beyond “I’m sorry”. A good way to do this is to use the apologize-acknowledge-explain-action method.

First, apologize for something specific to the person or people who were impacted. Next, acknowledge that you understand how your actions affected them and explain where you were coming from without it sounding like an excuse. Finally, state a plan for how you’ll solve any problems your actions may have created, and how you’ll act differently in the future.

Alternatives of saying “I’m Sorry”

In the case that you have NOT done anything wrong and no apology is necessary, there are some other things you can say to validate another individual’s feelings. Some examples are “that must be really stressful” or “you seem upset”.

Like every bad habit, it takes time to stop saying sorry so profusely. Once you break the habit, you’ll be able to focus on the value you bring to your career and company, as well as see your confidence flourish!