Are We Over Apologizing? Or Not Apologizing Enough?

As I was scrolling through Instagram, I came across this post from a brand called @prgirlmanifesto, an account geared towards women in the public relations profession, like myself.

One of their posts, here, struck a chord with me, as I do agree with the sentiment but disagree that it’s something we all have to do.

I’m talking about over apologizing.

The post implied that people over apologize and that we should stop apologizing so much.




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Let’s all continue to carry this into 2019!

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“Stop over apologizing at work”


Clearly, a lot of people feel that overapolgizing can be detrimental to confidence and authority in the workplace.

But is there ever a case for apologizing?

In what situations should we apologize in? And how do we do it without undermining our confidence, authority, and values?


Are we over apologizing? Or not apologizing enough? What are the right or wrong things to apologize for? Especially at work? Click through to the post to join this etiquette discussion and find out how you can stop over apologizing in your work today

When Things Are Out of Our Control

Like all arguments, there are two camps to the “things out of our control” category: Acts of God, weather, sudden births, deaths, illnesses, etc.

While most people agree that we are never at fault for these incidents. Some feel a responsibility to apologize regardless. Call it good customer service..

If we are late to work because of a sudden rainstorm – are we to apologize for out lateness or is it inexcusable? Obviously rain is out of our control – but could we have better prepared if we knew it was going to rain?

That’s just one of the situations where not apologizing or apologizing comes into question.

Bijou Tip: If you ever find yourself caught up in something not of your doing, it is OK to say you will be running late and briefly apologize when you make it in. Accidents and Acts of God happen. There is seldom anything we can do about it. But by briefly apologizing, we are being professional and courteous.

You can apologize for being late, but you don’t have to apologize that there is a storm.


When We Are Clearly In The Wrong

Just to use the post above as an example. Is saying “Many thanks for noticing the error” something we shouldn’t apologize for when it was indeed our mistake?

What do we say instead? “Yes, that’s an error and I’ll get to it when I get to it?”

I am torn here personally…does admitting our mistakes cost us our confidence and authority? Surely that is something we control internally. Mistakes are mistakes. They can be forgiven. They can be fixed.

Is humility now seen as a weakness? Especially in the workplace?

I am of the personal opinion that we should apologize, even as a formality. I know my apology is well meant and honest. It won’t make me feel less confident. To make mistakes is only human.

Bijou Tip: If something is of an error on your part, be diplomatic and acknowledge the mistake. Make a brief apology and fix it when you can. Apologizing in this manner is not a weakness.


When You Apologize For Others

It is in this respect i agree with the original sentiment. We should not apologize for the actions of others – even if it means our work was affected. You are responsible for your own work and not that of others. There is no need to apologize for someone else’s lack of manners, lack of work, or rudeness.

If you are working as a team and someone makes a mistake that makes the whole team look bad, briefly apologizing is ok to do. A standard apology (as a team) does not denote blame. This is something i learned from working with a lot of teams on client accounts. If one person is slacking, we all take the responsibility. That is why we need to set clear expectations first and foremost.

Bijou Tip: Stand your ground in the workplace. If a coworker makes a mistake individually, then it is not your responsibility to apologize. If someone on your team makes a mistakes, it is often the case of “all for one and one for all” but that doesn’t mean you need to take the blame. Apology doesn’t denote blame and visa versa.


Outside of Work

When i first started The Petite Bijou, I knew I wanted to include etiquette on my blog because of personal experiences with lack of etiquette from others.

People bumping into people, people ignoring others, rudeness during travel and during shopping. There’s a lot of people who don’t apologize anymore and it has lead to a circle of never ending aggression and violence.

I saw an incident which made me quite sad the other week: a man who accidentally bumped into another man. However he didn’t apologize and because he became quite rude (refusing to say sorry), they got into a physical altercation.

This situation might have been avoided with a quick and diplomatic apology. Perhaps it wouldn’t have, i’m not sure. But this is not the only incident where I’ve witnessed people not apologizing for their actions and in turn getting a rude reaction.

How much pleasanter we can all be if we simply issue a “sorry” or “excuse me” every now and then. I personally believe that there is humility and kindness in apologizing and that doesn’t mean we are any less respected or confident.


What do you think on this matter? Do people over apologize or not apologize enough? Leave your thoughts below



Behind The Blog

The Petite Bijou is an online destination featuring wholesome yet sophisticated living and styling tips for women. The site is run by the family and friends of survivor, lifestyle influencer, and writer Mariam, who passed away in the summer of 2020.  Mariam also hosted The Bijou Show, a self help podcast.

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  1. Sarah wrote:

    Very interesting post! I found in the workplace (customer service a huge part of it) that an apology when needed can quickly diffuse a situation and have a customer/client realize that you are on ‘their side’. Another thing I would note is that sometimes when people are upset or angry about a situation, if you just take the time to listen to what they have to say without thinking ahead about how you are going to fix the issue, you don’t always need to apologize. Usually they just want to be heard and understood, and when people take the time to listen it diffuses the situation to the point that we can move ahead with a solution. They feel heard and like you really do care about them, and that you’re not trying to just think of a quick fix to get rid of them and their problem. This is just what I personally found while working with people on a daily basis.

    Posted 1.4.19 Reply
  2. Kaitlyn wrote:

    Totally agree. This is something I really tried to work on a few years ago and it really changed my life.

    Posted 1.2.19 Reply
    • Mariam wrote:

      Hi Kaitlyn,

      That’s so great to hear! What tips do you find most helpful in helping you not over apologize? Would love to know!

      Many thanks for your comment and support,

      Posted 1.2.19 Reply
  3. This is such a crucial conversation. I do find that I over-apologize, but sometimes it is warranted. I think it’s about finding the balance!

    Posted 1.2.19 Reply
    • Mariam wrote:

      Hi Natalie,

      Thanks so much for the comment. You are right, it’s all about the balance. And especially when it comes to workplace conflict – it’s so hard for women especially to know when they should or should not feel responsible about something in their effort to make the best of things. Thanks for following along and thank you for your comment!

      Many thanks.

      Posted 1.2.19 Reply