Do artist’s apologize too much? Today’s question isn’t focused on creativity and art directly. The question of workplace apologies reminded me of an important point: artists apologize too much for their work.
It’s a process. Make something. Show it to clients and colleagues. Edit based on the feedback. Stand by your work where you need to. Love what you make at every step of the process. Many of these tips will give you confidence in presenting your work. As Tina Fey wrote:
“I feel like we put so much effort into writing and crafting everything, they need to speak for themselves. There’s a real culture of demanding apologies, and I’m opting out of that.”
How many artists, illustrators, and graphic designers have you met who have apologized their work? Are you sorry that you didn’t make the “right” design the first time with every bit of feedback?
Question: How do I know when I’m part of the problem?
How do I make amends with my boss when he threatens to suspend me over what he thinks is unprofessional behavior?
My boss knows I will be moving on to a new job in the summer. They have asked that I travel to sign the contract in person. My current boss got upset that I had to take a day off to do that and is threatening to suspend me … how do I make amends / apologize?
There are many types of apologies. In a workplace, focus on your future actions. The concern here is following the business’s procedure for taking days off. Mention how this impacts the business and that you know the expectations:
- “I know that ideally I’ll give more notice when I have a day off. I acknowledge the inconvenience this causes for the business. In the future, I’ll follow policy X, Y, and Z. I’d totally understand if you feel you need to take additional action. I really appreciate this opportunity and if there are any ways I can help ease the transition as I leave, I’m happy to discuss”
Do feelings matter?
Feelings are important! However, it’s helpful to keep those feelings in context. You are addressing only how this impacts the work. Only work that needs to be done within this time frame. Address availability only as necessary for your role. The expectations is to address to cause of his concern. It is reasonable to take a day off and for reasonable days off to require some coordination.
In business conversation, avoid using emotional language or focusing on feelings where possible. Relate those feelings directly to the business. For example: any mention that your manager is upset; or, that he thinks it’s unprofessional can be left out of the discussion.
Tone is important, speak with concern toward the business. This is counterintuitive. At the same time, arguing and acknowledging his point of view helps him see that you know you’re on the same side. He’ll be less likely to respond defensively.
Focus on the future
In the future, when you take a day off you do not need to inform a manager of your reason. Next time, telling your manager that you’re unable to work because you’re preparing for your new job is unnecessary. It is also fairly unusual. You’ll be set yourself up to not have to apologize by using this as a lesson. Your manager would rather not (or at least shouldn’t want to) be put in the position to be this involved in planning your personal time.
If you’re unable to figure out the policy or manager’s specific concern, then bring it up as a question:
- “Hey after the discussion the other day, I wanted to talk about your concerns. What is our policy on personal leave?”
If your reason is not related to the current job, then it’s personal:
- “Hey Mr./Ms Z, I will be taking a day off on Friday.”
- “I’ll need to take a day off within the next week. Is there a day that works for you?”
- “I’m unable to work tomorrow.”
If he or she asks why, repeat calmly as if personal days off are perfectly normal (which they are):
- “I’lI need the day off for personal reasons. I’’ll be unable to make it.”
- “I’m dealing with a private matter.”
- (Speak more formally than you normally would. This sets a different expectation.)
It’s also quite unusual and kind of you that you’ve given such long term notice. Two to four weeks is fair more common. Giving notice that you’ll be starting a new job in the summer is a risky move. For this very reason. It puts both you and your manager in an uncomfortable position. Expect things to be a little awkward for the duration of your employment.
Magic words are magic
“I’m sorry.” isn’t your only option for a smooth apology, there are other magic words! The Emily Post Institute reminds us that essential words are easy to say and powerful in conveying your positive intentions. Not just for children, but for adults as well. For more words that express your awareness of kindness, consideration, and respect for others as equals we have: “Please”, “Thank you,” You’re welcome”, “Pardon me” and “Excuse Me”.
Prepare to use the words “Thank you” a lot in a place of apologies. HR pros, psychologists and business experts have noted that over apologizing in the workplace is a common concern. Especially among women and minorities.
Men and women both apologize 81% of the time when they believe they were wrong. This is according to a set of small studies published in Psychological Science. However, women tended to apologize more frequently. This is because they believed more of their actions were offensive.
No need to apologize about your perfectly reasonable decision to make a career move that is right for you:
- “Thank you for understanding” (Even if he or she doesn’t.)
- “I appreciate you working with me to help figure out my work schedule.”
- “It’s been very helpful that you discuss and mentor me with your thoughts on professional behavior. I look forward to taking those lessons forward in my life and career.” (Even if you disagree with everything he said. It’s still honestly helpful to know different points of view exist)
Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.