I started searching for my first career change a little more than five years ago.
I had successfully developed a solid PR career but I was burning out fast. The long hours, demanding clients and increase in social drinking was not only bad for my mental health, but I knew I couldn’t survive at the same pace physically for my entire career. And nor did I want to.
After the birth of my first son in 2011, I took the year off work as an opportunity to apply for jobs outside the PR industry and was thrilled when I landed a gig as a Sponsorship Advisor in a national organisation.
It was a plum role and one I knew I had to do well in, in order to shake off my PR Girl heritage and be taken seriously as a Marketing and Sponsorship professional. (Side note: think of it like a football player jumping from Rugby League to Rugby Union. While the Union players might respect him and are glad he’s playing with their team, he’ll still always be seen as a NRL player.)
The only issue was, because I so desperately wanted to fit in and show I could achieve more in my career, I was sabotaging my own accomplishments in the office with pointless apologises.
In hindsight, I realise I used the word ‘sorry’ as punctuation.
Sorry, did you need that?
Sorry, can I get past?
I’m sorry I don’t think I got your email. Sorry.
Sorry, where did you say I could find it?
Not only was I apologising for unintentional everyday things, I was claiming responsibility for errors that I had nothing to do with in order to be liked and accepted in the team.
Later on I discovered my need to maintain a standard modus operandi was causing more damage to my reputation than good.
My boss assumed I lacked confidence and my colleagues got away with errors in their work because I would always assume fault. Eek! I would never have let that happen in my PR days.
Today, not apologising as the first response is something I work on everyday (as is my need to be a people pleaser but that’s a blog post for another day), because now I’m aware of it and save my apologises for when they are truly needed.
If you believe you might be apologising unnecessarily either in the office, among your social circles or at home, here are three tips to help you turn those situations around:
1. Be a problem solver
Before responding with ‘sorry’ stop and think about the situation first, then try to come up with a way to solve the problem instead. One objective way to reply could be, “Based on the information I had, I wasn’t aware of those expectations. I’m more than happy to make revisions.” Of course, if you do make a legitimate big-time mistake you can say sorry, but how often does that actually happen?
2. Don’t assume a position of weakness
In other words approach you colleagues and boss as an equal. While they may be in charge of a project or be in a better position up the food chain, it doesn’t mean they are better than you. By seeing others as equals you’ll also approach a situation more objectively.
3. Minimise your words
If you do make a mistake, own it, apologise and move on. You don’t need to harp on about it for three days. Accept responsibility and keep going. It’s professional, respectful and dignified.
Has there been a time in your career when you’ve over apologised? Is this something you believe you need to work on? Let me know in the comments below.