I came across an article over the weekend that I thought might be interesting to the four or five women who read Going Concern. The basic premise – if you're too lazy to read it – is that women are more prone to issuing apologies than men. Sorry we need to ask a colleague a question, sorry we don't understand how to fix the printer, sorry we didn't hear it the first time someone explained it… constantly going through life apologizing for needing what we need and being an intrusion.
I’ve worked for a bunch of companies spanning from New York to the Bay Area, both large and small. I have noticed in all of these companies that women apologize in our everyday language–me included. I’ve had times where a woman will walk into my office with a pre-scheduled meeting, and sheepishly say, "Sorry, is now still a good time?" I cannot remember a single time when I had a scheduled meeting with a guy who did that.
In certain meetings, I have even found myself starting sentences like, "Sorry if we’ve covered this and I can’t remember…" or "Apologies, if I don’t understand. I’m not a tech head but…" Why do we feel the need to do this? Hell, I even apologized for a typo in one of my blog posts because someone called me out on it.
If it’s so easy for women to spew "sorrys" all day long, why can it be SO tough for men to apologize? I found an article online that said when women apologize, we’re just being polite, while men don’t apologize because it’s a sign of weakness. I had a man who worked for me who actually did apologize–just not for what he did. Instead, he apologized for how it made me feel. "I’m sorry you feel that way," just isn’t a substitute for "I’m sorry that I did that."
After reading it, I tried to think back to recent events in my own life where I felt compelled to apologize. Stubborn sort that I am, I can't say that any of them weren't warranted. "Excuse me" at the grocery store for cutting in front of a slow ass woman, a "sorry" to my boss for not answering an email on Saturday… wait… did I read that right? Did I apologize for not answering an email at a time when I'm not being paid to answer emails?
I'm not a fan of the broad "men do this and women do this" presumptions but is the author right? Do women cower when we have to ask colleagues for anything and apologize more than men? If so, why on Earth would we do this?
Apparently, studies confirm this author's assumption. Sorry for saying this but women are, by nature, just more apologetic.