I am a new employee who is supported by Reena’s SET job coach. I am have a summer job working from home due to Covid. I’m the data entry clerk and part of a team of 10 with co-workers from other related professions. Many of the employees are constantly apologizing.  “I am sorry” seems to be a common phrase. Maybe I too should be apologizing. Am I missing the cues? Please can you guide me with this communication issue.

Signed: Sorry is never too late

Dear SNL,

Apologizing is definitely one Canadian stereotype. Let’s explore 10 behaviours that would be important to apologize for at work based on Liz Ryan’s article

  1. If you are late to a meeting that has begun. Even if the meeting doesn’t start on time, I recommend being a bit early just like you do with a job interview, and especially when you are a new employee. The informal conversations (small talk) and learning that takes place at this time could be a great networking opportunity for you with your colleagues and even the manager(s) who are there early.
  2. If you are rude (inadvertently or not). Interrupting in small group or individual conversations, or talking for the sake of talking at the meeting. Remember, active listening is one of the most important communication skills and competencies that you bring to the workplace and to life in general. You can avoid this by being extra prepared for the meetings in advance by reviewing the agenda that has been circulated in advance. If not, ask for it.
  3. If you miss a scheduled meeting with a co-worker or manager, even if it’s on zoom or at a virtual meeting! Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you confirm an appointment, honour it. If you aren’t going to make it, let the co-worker or manager know in advance. I highly recommend that you learn how to use Outlook or google calendar to track your meetings and schedule with reminders. These are helpful time management and organization tools of the trade!
  4. If you take on another employee’s responsibilities or job description, even by accident   or make a decision that was not in your job  scope, you definitely need to apologize. Ryans recommends calling or talking in person to the employee and say: “I just found out I did something I shouldn’t have done. I’m sorry. I didn’t understand how that worked.” You can also discuss this situation with your boss before it becomes a problem!
  5. Inadvertently criticizing or appearing to criticize someone.
  6. Losing your temper. It’s so important to contain your negative emotions and behaviours at the workplace. This is unacceptable and could lead to losing your job. If you are angry or anxious or stressed, consult with your Reena job coach or a professional in your support group.
  7. Saying something negative behind your co-worker’s back, intentionally or not.
  8. Avoiding your responsibilities. For example, not reporting a problem when you didn’t understand one of the actions of the Excel spreadsheet and you entered the data incorrectly. Another example is before Covid when the photocopier didn’t work, if you were responsible for maintaining it.
  9. Missing a deadline. No apology will work if this happens. This could become a larger issue that you will have to face. This is dangerous territory. You are better of notifying your boss of this in advance and try to problem-solve together when you see that you are not going to make it on time with the deadline. .
  10. Spacing out and leaving your co-worker or a customer hanging. Being organized, prepared and not being afraid of asking for help or identifying problems can avoid this situation from happening.

Hope this helps. If you aren’t sure of whether or not to apologize, feel free to discuss the above with your Reena job coach.