Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => All In A Day's Work => Topic started by: BeagleMommy on January 31, 2013, 11:00:01 AM

Title: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: BeagleMommy on January 31, 2013, 11:00:01 AM
One of my professors, who I'll call Deb, apologizes for everything.  She is a very accomplished woman (she holds two masters degrees and a Ph.D.) and her students love her classes.  However, some of her coworkers laugh behind her back because of her necessity to apologize.  This conversation happened yesterday, between me and her.

Deb:  I'm sorry to disturb you, BeagleMommy.  Would you be able to make 100 copies of this?
Me:  You're not disturbing me.  I'll have to send it to the print shop to have that many copies made.  When do you need them?
Deb:  I'm sorry.  Do I have to fill out the form?
Me:  No, I have the form here.  I'll fill it out.  Do you need it single sided or double sided?
Deb:  I'm sorry.  Double sided.
Me:  No problem.  Do you want them stapled or clipped?
Deb:  I'm sorry.  Stapled, please.
Me:  Not a problem.  When do you need them?
Deb:  I'm sorry.  Is Friday, okay?
Me:  Sure, that's doable.  I'll take it over in a few minutes.
Deb:  Thanks.  I'm sorry I had to ask.
Me:   :-\

I was always told that, in business, you shouldn't apologize for asking for something.  That it makes you sound disingenous and ineffectual.  I know people think this of Deb.  Is there a polite way to tell her how this sounds?  She's not my supervisor; she's one of the professor I support as a secretary.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: Hmmmmm on January 31, 2013, 11:26:24 AM
It sounds like it's a bad habit she has gotten into and may not even realize it. Would you be willing to draw her attention to it next time? 

Deb:  I'm sorry, but can you make these copies?
You: No need to apoligize, it's my job and what I get paid for.

Or you could go even more direct route.  Go to her office and say you'd like to mention something to her.  "Deb, when you ask me to do things, you consistently start off my apologizing. It makes me a little uncomfortable because apologizing means you have done or are doing something you shouldn't. What your asking me to do is my job and completely appropriate."  And of course her response is going to be "I'm sorry" which you are then free to laugh with her about.  And hopefully she'll them become more aware of this habit.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: oopsie on January 31, 2013, 11:35:56 AM

Deb:  I'm sorry to disturb you, BeagleMommy.  Would you be able to make 100 copies of this?
Me:  You're not disturbing me.  I'll have to send it to the print shop to have that many copies made.  When do you need them?
Deb:  I'm sorry.   Do I have to fill out the form?
Me:  No, I have the form here.  I'll fill it out.  Do you need it single sided or double sided?
Deb: I'm sorry.  Double sided.
Me:  No problem.  Do you want them stapled or clipped?
Deb:  I'm sorry.  Stapled, please.
Me:  Not a problem.  When do you need them?
Deb:  I'm sorry.   Is Friday, okay?
Me:  Sure, that's doable.  I'll take it over in a few minutes.
Deb:  Thanks.  I'm sorry I had to ask.
Me:   :-\


It sounds like a nervous tic or something...?
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: ScubaGirl on January 31, 2013, 11:40:03 AM
Maybe pause each time and then ask, "for what?"  This may bring the frequency to her attention.

My DH sometimes throws in "you know" excessively.  I just don't think he is aware of the frequency.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: MrTango on January 31, 2013, 11:44:08 AM

Deb:  I'm sorry to disturb you, BeagleMommy.  Would you be able to make 100 copies of this?
Me:  You're not disturbing me.  I'll have to send it to the print shop to have that many copies made.  When do you need them?
Deb:  I'm sorry.   Do I have to fill out the form?
Me:  No, I have the form here.  I'll fill it out.  Do you need it single sided or double sided?
Deb: I'm sorry.  Double sided.
Me:  No problem.  Do you want them stapled or clipped?
Deb:  I'm sorry.  Stapled, please.
Me:  Not a problem.  When do you need them?
Deb:  I'm sorry.   Is Friday, okay?
Me:  Sure, that's doable.  I'll take it over in a few minutes.
Deb:  Thanks.  I'm sorry I had to ask.
Me:   :-\


It sounds like a nervous tic or something...?

That's what I was thinking as well.

Years ago, I had a tendancy to say "um" at the start of an answer if I have to think about my response.  I didn't realize it until my boss pointed it out.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: Tabby Uprising on January 31, 2013, 12:04:32 PM
I don't think I'd say anything.  Like you said, she's got 2 master's degrees, a PhD and she's gainfully employed as a professor and well loved by her students.  Her apology quirk hasn't slowed her down yet!  A few colleagues may laugh about it behind her back, but that doesn't mean they actively dislike her or think she's ineffective. 

I do think it's okay to use the tactic recommended by another poster of saying "for what?" or "you don't need to apologize" when she goes into sorry-mode.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: DavidH on January 31, 2013, 12:14:19 PM
If she's well established, I wouldn't say anything, or at most say, no need to apologize, it's what I'm here for or something along those lines.

If she's relatively new, it might be helpful of you to mention it to her on the side in her office, along the lines of there's no need to apologize for asking me to do something, that's my job.  As one makes the transition from grad student to a job, you go quickly from being the one who is asked to do things to having much more seniority.  There isn't much in school that prepares you for this, so it can be difficult to make the mental transition sometimes. 

In my first job, I was asked to develop a presentation for a meeting.  I was very reluctant to reuse slides from someone else since it felt like plagiarism or copying until my boss said that now reusing a slide is called efficient and they are all the company's slides, not an individuals.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: AngelicGamer on January 31, 2013, 02:02:51 PM
Maybe pause each time and then ask, "for what?"  This may bring the frequency to her attention.

My DH sometimes throws in "you know" excessively.  I just don't think he is aware of the frequency.

The bolded - ScubaGirl is wise.  This is how I was broken of my habit of saying "sorry".  It made me stop and think what I was doing.  Yes, I still slide back into saying it from time to time for no good reason, but my friends and family go "for what?" and we all laugh. 
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: CrazyDaffodilLady on January 31, 2013, 02:08:43 PM
I had a friend who was a compulsive apologizer, which drove me nuts.  I finally did point it out to her gently, but it didn't help.  Eventually, whenever she apologized, I belted out the Brenda Lee I'm Sorry song.  That worked.

Link to song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGLR25EJtfE (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGLR25EJtfE)

You probably can't do that at work, so I suggest the ehell-approved ploy of saying the exact same thing every time she apologizes . . . something just a bit OTT, like "Oh my goodness, why are you sorry?"
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: oceanus on January 31, 2013, 09:29:57 PM
Frown, mild smile, then "What are you sorry for?"
Her reply, then:
"It's my job."
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: AnnaJ on February 01, 2013, 12:43:04 AM
I don't think I'd say anything.  Like you said, she's got 2 master's degrees, a PhD and she's gainfully employed as a professor and well loved by her students.  Her apology quirk hasn't slowed her down yet!  A few colleagues may laugh about it behind her back, but that doesn't mean they actively dislike her or think she's ineffective. 

I do think it's okay to use the tactic recommended by another poster of saying "for what?" or "you don't need to apologize" when she goes into sorry-mode.

This ^^^  She's obviously not ineffectual - ineffectual people do not get three advanced degrees and keep a professorship.  Contrary to popular belief, an uncertain demeanor can be useful in many positions and this is one.  If she enjoys her job (sounds like it given her students' affection) and has no intention of trying to get into administration, she may have either consciously or unconsciously developed habits that endear her to the most important people in her job...which is a pretty savvy thing to do. 
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: NyaChan on February 01, 2013, 07:27:05 AM
I will be honest and admit that I do this with certain people.  For example, the secretary at my pro bono place is much older than most of us students, and has worked there longer than I've been alive.  Is it her job to go make me a copy or bring me a pen or refill the tea bag drawer? Yes, but I apologize so that she doesn't feel like some kid can just walk in and demand she get up from her desk and go do their bidding.  Could I do that? Yes, and some other students do, but she likes me better :)
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: oceanus on February 01, 2013, 09:28:06 AM
But how is nicely asking someone to do tasks which are part of their job "demanding them to do one's bidding"?  ???  Why is an apology (or in this case multiple apologies) necessary?

I also don't see where age is a factor.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: MrTango on February 01, 2013, 10:16:34 AM
I agree with Oceanus.

A manager/supervisor/employer should not apologize for asking an employee to do a routine part of their job.  Asking politely (please) and acknowledging the completion of the job (thank you) are, of course, important.

I can see a situation where an employee is given a task that is unusual or of much larger scope than usual, where an apology makes sense.  For example, I had a job where I was responsible for pulling client files for use and putting them away after we were done using them.  That was usually 15-20 per day, so not a big deal.  One day, I came in to work and my manager told me that she needed about 500 files pulled that day for an audit.  She apologized for the fact that I'd be spending my entire day in the stacks.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: LadyL on February 01, 2013, 10:37:51 AM
As someone in academia, I will say that getting an advanced degree does not necessitate having the greatest social or professional skills. Since the OP feels uncomfortable and awkward interacting with this professor and others are gossiping about her, the behavior is having professional consequences. That can lead, down the line, to having issues getting promotions or tenure. I think it would be a kindness to point out this habit, gently. I don't think this sort of thing is "endearing" as someone suggested either - I don't know anyone who likes it when others act this meek and subservient.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: CakeBeret on February 01, 2013, 10:47:33 AM
If you have a good relationship with her, I would insert a lighthearted "Deb, honey, stop apologizing." into your conversation.

Otherwise I think you could say "You really don't need to apologize for asking me to do my job."

Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: nrb80 on February 01, 2013, 11:04:57 AM
I will be honest and admit that I do this with certain people.  For example, the secretary at my pro bono place is much older than most of us students, and has worked there longer than I've been alive.  Is it her job to go make me a copy or bring me a pen or refill the tea bag drawer? Yes, but I apologize so that she doesn't feel like some kid can just walk in and demand she get up from her desk and go do their bidding.  Could I do that? Yes, and some other students do, but she likes me better :)

As an aside, I'm a lawyer, and this is the single biggest mistake I made in my career.  The age thing is overwhelming, and I do think this is an issue for most women, particularly young women who have been raised to be polite and give great respect to their elders.  It took years to build my backbone, remember that I was the lawyer and the manager, and to assert authority.  It's hard.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: nrb80 on February 01, 2013, 11:07:00 AM
One of my professors, who I'll call Deb, apologizes for everything.  She is a very accomplished woman (she holds two masters degrees and a Ph.D.) and her students love her classes.  However, some of her coworkers laugh behind her back because of her necessity to apologize.  This conversation happened yesterday, between me and her.

Deb:  I'm sorry to disturb you, BeagleMommy.  Would you be able to make 100 copies of this?
Me:  You're not disturbing me.  I'll have to send it to the print shop to have that many copies made.  When do you need them?
Deb:  I'm sorry.  Do I have to fill out the form?
Me:  No, I have the form here.  I'll fill it out.  Do you need it single sided or double sided?
Deb:  I'm sorry.  Double sided.
Me:  No problem.  Do you want them stapled or clipped?
Deb:  I'm sorry.  Stapled, please.
Me:  Not a problem.  When do you need them?
Deb:  I'm sorry.  Is Friday, okay?
Me:  Sure, that's doable.  I'll take it over in a few minutes.
Deb:  Thanks.  I'm sorry I had to ask.
Me:   :-\

I was always told that, in business, you shouldn't apologize for asking for something.  That it makes you sound disingenous and ineffectual.  I know people think this of Deb.  Is there a polite way to tell her how this sounds?  She's not my supervisor; she's one of the professor I support as a secretary.

I don't think that I would directly counsel her as there is a power difference. 

I would do one of two things: (1) either reply in the moment that it is no trouble at all, and you're glad to help; or (2) bring it up directly and privately with her, saying that you noticed this habit when speaking to her, and you just wanted to make sure she knew that you were there to assist, and wanted to make sure she knows how happy you are to assist her when needed.

Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: Auntie Mame on February 01, 2013, 11:18:18 AM
Compulsive apologizers drive me around the bend, especially at work.  Do not apologize for asking me to do my job. Do not say "I'm sorry" when you want a glass of water, I am the hostess, I invited you to my home and I want you to be comfortable. 

Honestly, I don't respect compulsive apologizers, it says to the world "hey I have no confidence or self esteem!  Please come push me around and walk all over me while I apologize".  I know that is not the case, that is my perception.

A please will get you very far when asking for something, a sorry will only lose my respect.

Also, when compulsive do actually want to make a sincere apology for something, I don't take it seriously since I've heard I'm sorry from them so often it has now become meaningless when they say it.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: mmswm on February 01, 2013, 11:31:07 AM
I will be honest and admit that I do this with certain people.  For example, the secretary at my pro bono place is much older than most of us students, and has worked there longer than I've been alive.  Is it her job to go make me a copy or bring me a pen or refill the tea bag drawer? Yes, but I apologize so that she doesn't feel like some kid can just walk in and demand she get up from her desk and go do their bidding.  Could I do that? Yes, and some other students do, but she likes me better :)

See, in this case I might be inclined to overuse "please and thank you", but not an apology.  I think if one spends so much time apologizing needlessly, or over trivial things, then any apology from that person might be seen as insignificant or overlooked.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: CrazyDaffodilLady on February 01, 2013, 02:05:05 PM
While I think the compulsive apologizer is unaware of how often they apologize, it feels manipulative.  For example, Friend jiggles against something, causing no damage, and says, "I'm sorry.  I'm such a klutz".  Then there's an awkward lull in which I'm supposed to say, "It's okay, you're not a klutz".   After the thousandth such incident, it feels like the friend is simply fishing for attention and reassurance.

My apologizing friend had major surgery, and when she first woke up in her hospital bed, her first words were an apology to the people present.  "I'm sorry, I hope you weren't waiting around a long time".  And, of course, everyone had to effuse how it was no problem, we're all so concerned about you, etc. 

I truly appreciate it when someone gently draws attention to my annoying habits.  Few people want to be annoying. 
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: Auntie Mame on February 01, 2013, 02:38:43 PM
While I think the compulsive apologizer is unaware of how often they apologize, it feels manipulative.  For example, Friend jiggles against something, causing no damage, and says, "I'm sorry.  I'm such a klutz".  Then there's an awkward lull in which I'm supposed to say, "It's okay, you're not a klutz".   After the thousandth such incident, it feels like the friend is simply fishing for attention and reassurance.

My apologizing friend had major surgery, and when she first woke up in her hospital bed, her first words were an apology to the people present.  "I'm sorry, I hope you weren't waiting around a long time".  And, of course, everyone had to effuse how it was no problem, we're all so concerned about you, etc. 


Oh my Great Good Goddess, that is such an excellent point!  My (s)Mother apologizes for every little goshdarn thing, nonstop.  Why?  because she needs to be the center of attention all.the.time.  We have to constantly constantly   reassure her and it's exhausting to be around.  That's one of the major reasons I see her as little as possible.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: JeanFromBNA on February 01, 2013, 03:01:05 PM
I was always told that, in business, you shouldn't apologize for asking for something.  That it makes you sound disingenous and ineffectual.

I think it's okay to apologize if you are really inconveniencing somebody.  For instance, if you had returned with the copies, and I realized that I forgot to tell you that they needed to be double sided, I would apologize.  People should own up to mistakes. 

Asking you to do your job is not a mistake nor an inconvenience.  The word she wants is "please."
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: oceanus on February 01, 2013, 03:30:50 PM
If you have a good relationship with her, I would insert a lighthearted "Deb, honey, stop apologizing." into your conversation.

Otherwise I think you could say "You really don't need to apologize for asking me to do my job."

I'd leave out the "honey".  Totally inappropriate.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: CrazyDaffodilLady on February 01, 2013, 05:03:59 PM
I wanted to add something about Apologizing Friend in the Hospital.  We were there because we cared about her.  When someone you care about is seriously ill, you disrupt your life to be there for them because it's the right thing to do.  Somehow the apologizing, with the expectation of programmed responses, made it seem like we weren't doing enough or weren't doing the right thing.  It's strange to be deeply concerned about a friend and annoyed at the same time. 
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: Mental Magpie on February 01, 2013, 07:41:34 PM
One of my professors, who I'll call Deb, apologizes for everything.  She is a very accomplished woman (she holds two masters degrees and a Ph.D.) and her students love her classes.  However, some of her coworkers laugh behind her back because of her necessity to apologize.  This conversation happened yesterday, between me and her.

Deb:  I'm sorry to disturb you, BeagleMommy.  Would you be able to make 100 copies of this?
Me:  You're not disturbing me.  I'll have to send it to the print shop to have that many copies made.  When do you need them?
Deb:  I'm sorry.  Do I have to fill out the form?
Me:  No, I have the form here.  I'll fill it out.  Do you need it single sided or double sided?
Deb:  I'm sorry.  Double sided.
Me:  No problem.  Do you want them stapled or clipped?
Deb:  I'm sorry.  Stapled, please.
Me:  Not a problem.  When do you need them?
Deb:  I'm sorry.  Is Friday, okay?
Me:  Sure, that's doable.  I'll take it over in a few minutes.
Deb:  Thanks.  I'm sorry I had to ask.
Me:   :-\

I was always told that, in business, you shouldn't apologize for asking for something.  That it makes you sound disingenous and ineffectual.  I know people think this of Deb.  Is there a polite way to tell her how this sounds?  She's not my supervisor; she's one of the professor I support as a secretary.

I don't think that I would directly counsel her as there is a power difference. 

I would do one of two things: (1) either reply in the moment that it is no trouble at all, and you're glad to help; or (2) bring it up directly and privately with her, saying that you noticed this habit when speaking to her, and you just wanted to make sure she knew that you were there to assist, and wanted to make sure she knows how happy you are to assist her when needed.

I think this is the best advice.  You may insult her or hurt her feelings if you outright tell her she is over apologizing.  By going at this directly (saying something directly to her) and indirectly (not telling her she over apologizes), you may dodge hurt feelings.  Make this about you, not her.  "I am here to assist.  It's my job to help you.  Please don't feel the need to apologize every time you ask me for something.  I enjoy helping you."
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: TootsNYC on February 01, 2013, 08:24:34 PM
I think you can even say, "It makes me uncomfortable when you apologize. I'm worried--do I come across as unfriendly, or unwilling to help?"
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: Hillia on February 01, 2013, 10:56:44 PM
I will be honest and admit that I do this with certain people.  For example, the secretary at my pro bono place is much older than most of us students, and has worked there longer than I've been alive.  Is it her job to go make me a copy or bring me a pen or refill the tea bag drawer? Yes, but I apologize so that she doesn't feel like some kid can just walk in and demand she get up from her desk and go do their bidding.  Could I do that? Yes, and some other students do, but she likes me better :)

As an aside, I'm a lawyer, and this is the single biggest mistake I made in my career.  The age thing is overwhelming, and I do think this is an issue for most women, particularly young women who have been raised to be polite and give great respect to their elders.  It took years to build my backbone, remember that I was the lawyer and the manager, and to assert authority.  It's hard.

I've recently recognized that I phrase every interaction with my employees as a request, and many of them aren't.  I've been working on breaking myself of the habit.  So instead of 'Could you please run the TPS reports?' I'm working on 'Please run the TPS reports...thank  you'.  They really don't have the option of whether or not to perform the task, so I don't need to ask them, just tell them, politely and respectfully of course.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: jaxsue on February 02, 2013, 09:03:18 AM
I don't apologize as much as the co-worker in the OP, but I may say "sorry" more than some people like. It's cultural. If you were to spend a day with my extended family, you'd lose count of the number of times you heard the word.
They live in Ontario (English-Canadian), and it's a word that covers a lot of ground. If you don't hear what someone said, you say "sorry?", an in "pardon?" You bump into someone, and sorry is the first response. The last time I was in Ontario I bumped into a man in a grocery store; we both said, "Sorry!" at the same time, and we both said it more than once.
It is true that the word's being way overused in the situation in the OP, but not all of us are using the word to get attention or to brow-beat ourselves or others.

Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: Mental Magpie on February 02, 2013, 03:45:54 PM
I don't apologize as much as the co-worker in the OP, but I may say "sorry" more than some people like. It's cultural. If you were to spend a day with my extended family, you'd lose count of the number of times you heard the word.
They live in Ontario (English-Canadian), and it's a word that covers a lot of ground. If you don't hear what someone said, you say "sorry?", an in "pardon?" You bump into someone, and sorry is the first response. The last time I was in Ontario I bumped into a man in a grocery store; we both said, "Sorry!" at the same time. Compare that to NYC (I live near the city), where you are not likely to hear that, and probably something more colorful.
It is true that the word's being way overused in the situation in the OP, but not all of us are using the word to get attention or to brow-beat ourselves or others.

I don't know about that. I say sorry when I bump into someone, accidentally get in their way, etcetera. That is not over apologizing. Over apologizing is saying it multiple times when it isn't necessary.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: DottyG on February 02, 2013, 04:08:19 PM
I think you can even say, "It makes me uncomfortable when you apologize. I'm worried--do I come across as unfriendly, or unwilling to help?"

Actually, that was my first thought. I'd wonder if maybe I was giving off some kind of vibe - be it body language or a look - that made it appear that asking me to do something was an imposition needing an apology.

Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: WillyNilly on February 02, 2013, 04:36:05 PM
I don't apologize as much as the co-worker in the OP, but I may say "sorry" more than some people like. It's cultural. If you were to spend a day with my extended family, you'd lose count of the number of times you heard the word.
They live in Ontario (English-Canadian), and it's a word that covers a lot of ground. If you don't hear what someone said, you say "sorry?", an in "pardon?" You bump into someone, and sorry is the first response. The last time I was in Ontario I bumped into a man in a grocery store; we both said, "Sorry!" at the same time. Compare that to NYC (I live near the city), where you are not likely to hear that, and probably something more colorful.
It is true that the word's being way overused in the situation in the OP, but not all of us are using the word to get attention or to brow-beat ourselves or others.

Wow the bolded is so far from true its downright insulting.  I have lived and worked and gone to school and socialized in NYC my whole life and 95% of the time if someone bumps into someone else the first words they say are either "sorry" or "excuse me", or at worst "whoa".  Are there nasty responses, sure, but I bet occasionally someone in Ontario has a bad day too.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: Hmmmmm on February 02, 2013, 04:47:46 PM
I will be honest and admit that I do this with certain people.  For example, the secretary at my pro bono place is much older than most of us students, and has worked there longer than I've been alive.  Is it her job to go make me a copy or bring me a pen or refill the tea bag drawer? Yes, but I apologize so that she doesn't feel like some kid can just walk in and demand she get up from her desk and go do their bidding.  Could I do that? Yes, and some other students do, but she likes me better :)

As an aside, I'm a lawyer, and this is the single biggest mistake I made in my career.  The age thing is overwhelming, and I do think this is an issue for most women, particularly young women who have been raised to be polite and give great respect to their elders.  It took years to build my backbone, remember that I was the lawyer and the manager, and to assert authority.  It's hard.

I've recently recognized that I phrase every interaction with my employees as a request, and many of them aren't.  I've been working on breaking myself of the habit.  So instead of 'Could you please run the TPS reports?' I'm working on 'Please run the TPS reports...thank  you'.  They really don't have the option of whether or not to perform the task, so I don't need to ask them, just tell them, politely and respectfully of course.

Hilla, I do the same about 80% of the time.  I personally prefer a boss say would you do X, I need itby Friday versus do X by Friday. I've never been confused about it being a question and I don't believe my employees are. It's sort of like saying "would you excuse me" when your leaving the table to go to the restroom. Your dining companions aren't going to really think they have the option.

I'm curious why you are trying to change. Where you counciled that it seemed ineffectual?
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: Mental Magpie on February 02, 2013, 05:13:56 PM
I will be honest and admit that I do this with certain people.  For example, the secretary at my pro bono place is much older than most of us students, and has worked there longer than I've been alive.  Is it her job to go make me a copy or bring me a pen or refill the tea bag drawer? Yes, but I apologize so that she doesn't feel like some kid can just walk in and demand she get up from her desk and go do their bidding.  Could I do that? Yes, and some other students do, but she likes me better :)

As an aside, I'm a lawyer, and this is the single biggest mistake I made in my career.  The age thing is overwhelming, and I do think this is an issue for most women, particularly young women who have been raised to be polite and give great respect to their elders.  It took years to build my backbone, remember that I was the lawyer and the manager, and to assert authority.  It's hard.

I've recently recognized that I phrase every interaction with my employees as a request, and many of them aren't.  I've been working on breaking myself of the habit.  So instead of 'Could you please run the TPS reports?' I'm working on 'Please run the TPS reports...thank  you'.  They really don't have the option of whether or not to perform the task, so I don't need to ask them, just tell them, politely and respectfully of course.

Hilla, I do the same about 80% of the time.  I personally prefer a boss say would you do X, I need itby Friday versus do X by Friday. I've never been confused about it being a question and I don't believe my employees are. It's sort of like saying "would you excuse me" when your leaving the table to go to the restroom. Your dining companions aren't going to really think they have the option.

I'm curious why you are trying to change. Where you counciled that it seemed ineffectual?

I think the difference between what you're saying and what Hillia was saying is "could" versus "would".  I would be irritated to hear "could" but "would" wouldn't even register.  It is a direct request whereas "could" is a question of whether I am capable and/or want to.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: Auntie Mame on February 02, 2013, 06:15:59 PM
I've recently recognized that I phrase every interaction with my employees as a request, and many of them aren't.  I've been working on breaking myself of the habit.  So instead of 'Could you please run the TPS reports?' I'm working on 'Please run the TPS reports...thank  you'.  They really don't have the option of whether or not to perform the task, so I don't need to ask them, just tell them, politely and respectfully of course.

Hillia, I like that approach when people ask me to do something at work.  A very direct "please have this task done by this date".  It's my job, it's what they pay me to do, so I am going to do it or I would lose my job.  Please and thank you are big in my office, which I appreciate and being given a deadline helps me prioritize my tasks.

I can't really put my finger on why, but telling me to do something (in a polite, straight forward way) just feels more professional and respectful to me.  I am fully capable and willing to do the task so just tell me what you need.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: jaxsue on February 02, 2013, 10:26:01 PM
WillyNilly, I can't copy and paste because I am on an iPad, but yes, I do see big differences between the 2 places. General differences that add up. But this thread is not about this, and I don't want to derail it.

There was no offense intended, but I removed the offending part from my post. Sorry (habits die hard)!  :)

Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: Giggity on February 03, 2013, 07:39:07 AM
Why not just ask her why she begins every sentence by apologizing?
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: Hmmmmm on February 03, 2013, 10:01:31 AM
I will be honest and admit that I do this with certain people.  For example, the secretary at my pro bono place is much older than most of us students, and has worked there longer than I've been alive.  Is it her job to go make me a copy or bring me a pen or refill the tea bag drawer? Yes, but I apologize so that she doesn't feel like some kid can just walk in and demand she get up from her desk and go do their bidding.  Could I do that? Yes, and some other students do, but she likes me better :)

As an aside, I'm a lawyer, and this is the single biggest mistake I made in my career.  The age thing is overwhelming, and I do think this is an issue for most women, particularly young women who have been raised to be polite and give great respect to their elders.  It took years to build my backbone, remember that I was the lawyer and the manager, and to assert authority.  It's hard.

I've recently recognized that I phrase every interaction with my employees as a request, and many of them aren't.  I've been working on breaking myself of the habit.  So instead of 'Could you please run the TPS reports?' I'm working on 'Please run the TPS reports...thank  you'.  They really don't have the option of whether or not to perform the task, so I don't need to ask them, just tell them, politely and respectfully of course.

Hilla, I do the same about 80% of the time.  I personally prefer a boss say would you do X, I need itby Friday versus do X by Friday. I've never been confused about it being a question and I don't believe my employees are. It's sort of like saying "would you excuse me" when your leaving the table to go to the restroom. Your dining companions aren't going to really think they have the option.

I'm curious why you are trying to change. Where you counciled that it seemed ineffectual?

I think the difference between what you're saying and what Hillia was saying is "could" versus "would".  I would be irritated to hear "could" but "would" wouldn't even register.  It is a direct request whereas "could" is a question of whether I am capable and/or want to.

Thanks.  I wasn't picking up on that. I do avoid could unless I'm really asking if something is possible.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: Auntie Mame on February 03, 2013, 12:17:57 PM
I think the difference between what you're saying and what Hillia was saying is "could" versus "would".  I would be irritated to hear "could" but "would" wouldn't even register.  It is a direct request whereas "could" is a question of whether I am capable and/or want to.

Yes, thank you!  That's what I was trying to articulate.  I am perfectly capable of doing my job, otherwise I wouldn't be there.  Would I do this for you?  of course I will.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: travestine on February 11, 2013, 03:29:10 PM
Being Canadian, where we speak English, French and 'apologize", 'sorry' is pretty much a way of life. BUT - the prof is excessive. To me, it sounds like a lack of self-esteem - degrees and advanced education don't guarantee confidence. She may genuinely feel that she is troubling anyone she asks for assistance.  I think the OP would be doing her a service to take her aside and have a quiet discussion about her excessive use of the word "sorry". I think just trying to 'correct' her behaviour by saying 'what for' or 'I'm just doing my job' is a trifle PA and may even embarass her and make the situation worse, from her perspective.
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: FlyingBaconMouse on February 12, 2013, 07:18:11 AM
Maybe say, every time she does it, "Hey. [pause] You don't have to apologize—I'm happy to do it." Act concerned.

I used to have this habit in my personal life; it was basically cured by one of my friends giving me a look whenever I slipped up (after which, for about two months, I would inevitably say, "Did I apologize again? Sorry!," but eventually it worked).  ;D
Title: Re: Is There a Polite Way to Tell Her She Sounds Ineffectual?
Post by: Cami on February 15, 2013, 11:59:47 AM
Being Canadian, where we speak English, French and 'apologize", 'sorry' is pretty much a way of life. BUT - the prof is excessive. To me, it sounds like a lack of self-esteem - degrees and advanced education don't guarantee confidence. She may genuinely feel that she is troubling anyone she asks for assistance.  I think the OP would be doing her a service to take her aside and have a quiet discussion about her excessive use of the word "sorry". I think just trying to 'correct' her behaviour by saying 'what for' or 'I'm just doing my job' is a trifle PA and may even embarass her and make the situation worse, from her perspective.
I agree with the bolded. I have a co-worker right now who sounds remarkably like this prof.And like this prof, her behavior makes her ineffectual and people view her as less than competent as a direct result of this habit.

Every time she comes into my office -- which is when I've asked her to come in to do necessary work -- she starts out with an "I'm sorry." Every time she needs to ask me a question, it's "I'm sorry." To make it worse, she also changes her voice to a very babyish, little girly, high-pitched tone. She has self esteem issues and was emotionally and physically abused by her late husband and I view her behavior as a leftover from those days when she had to kowtow and fear that if she spoke "wrong" she'd get a punch in the face.

We've brought it to her attention and response was... to apologize for doing it. So now, she starts out with, "I'm sorry and-- Oh, I'm sorry for saying I'm sorry!" All in that same voice.

I have so much sympathy for her, but it can get reallllly hard to take when she's saying it fifteen times in five minutes. I just view my patience as time off from purgatory.