As a young professional it is critical that we stay mindful of how we portray ourselves within the workplace. Your projection is often times what people will receive, not just how you dress, or the way you wear your hair but the words you speak and how you engage with others as well.
As a young professional woman, I struggle with my workplace identity or feel insecure about how my peers and superiors view me. As a millennial, we’re already the stereotypical labels of entitled, lazy and untraditional so understanding proper workplace etiquette can either make you or break you; as it defines the longevity of your career as well as help shape it. It feels as though our self-confidence, skillset, and capabilities or working knowledge and college education are constantly being analyzed, evaluated and questioned. We’re being tested on every level that makes us extremely fearful of making mistakes or apologizing for having an office presence.
One of these mistakes, in particular, is apologizing for being capable and the struggle of suppressing the apology reflex. I say sorry a lot. Sorry if I’m running late to a meeting, sorry if I forgot to respond to an email, sorry for interrupting; and the list goes on.
I struggle with understanding how I fit as a young professional early in her career still finding her voice, but I recognize now, how devaluing that can be as it sets the tone for my career.
New York Times writes about the need to suppress apologizing, “having a perpetually apologetic stance didn’t necessarily represent true humility.” Being modest or humble in theory sounds appealing but we often begin to discredit our own accomplishments or strides for sake of practicing humility leading to the self-denial of one’s worth. Self-abnegation should not mean self-preservation at the office; therefore we must begin to change our narrative.
Just like the apology reflex, there’s another auto-response we regurgitate whenever someone asks us to do a favor, cover a shift or complete a task; the overuse of no problem replacing the traditional you’re welcome.
The differences of saying you’re welcome vs. no problem, pose the question if they are equally appropriate answers that are interchangeable. Philosopher at University of California, Berkeley, Alva Noë presents, a case against no problem via NPR, “by saying ‘no problem,’ it always seems to me as if what you are really saying is: ‘It is a problem and I forgive you for it…as if ‘no problem’ has simply come to mean, ‘you’re welcome.’” He adds, ‘to me, it feels like a culturally significant obliteration of the difference between giving and demanding, expressing gratitude and saying sorry.’” It appears that no problem is taken out of its innocent context and perceived as less professional, informal and just rude, in the eyes of our superiors.
Saying you’re welcome acknowledges that you have done something for someone else, it shows you’re a valuable asset at work. ‘No problem’ suggests the other. I’m guilty of this too. It downplays the actual tasks at hand and denies any accountability or effort. Saying, no problem minimizes your worth and the tasks asked of you.
“Hey, thank you for taking notes during the staff meeting.”
“Sure, no problem.”
Actually let’s start effectively using, “you’re welcome.” The issue with no problem is that it is perceived as a graceful way of letting someone know you’ve clearly gone our of your way to be of service or helpful and to not feel obligated. As millennial women, we should stop saying sorry or no problem, and take ownership of our hard work by being more confident and less nonchalant about our strong work ethics.
Here are both the problems with saying, “sorry” and saying, “no problem.” When we are sorry, we are acknowledging that we have done a disservice to someone else, or made a mistake, or created another problem or issue for someone else. Saying sorry only works for cases like, “Oops. I’m sorry I just stepped on your foot.” or “Oops, sorry I didn’t mean to bump into you, please excuse me.” As a young woman in the workplace, there’s a certain accountability insinuated when you say sorry. “Sorry to interrupt you but…” Saying sorry is a polite way to communicate to someone else you were mistaken, but it shouldn’t be a formalized way to contribute to work.
According to Time, “women are more likely than men to face negative consequences for being perceived as pushy, aggressive, or assertive in the workplace.” We’re saying sorry out of fear of being too qualified or worthy of an opinion. Men speak confidently in the workplace, oftentimes leading by example by vocalizing their opinions and their ideas. As young women, we need to learn to be more unapologetic and forget about gender bias.
It’s empowering to claim what’s yours and be unapologetic about it, just remember you are worthy of making career strides and not being sorry for them. Sure, humility does procure favor, however, when it comes to advancing in your career or proving your worth, we’re better off by saying you’re welcome and not feeling sorry. So stay humble but always remain confident.