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“No Worries If Not” and Other Things You Should Stop Saying to Your Male Boss

If religiously listening to “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton has taught me anything, it’s that the working woman is a breed close to God. The very existence of the pantsuit really cements that as fact for me. In terms of Ariana Grande’s hot 2018 pop hit, I would suggest that perhaps “God is a (Working) Woman.” Naturally, the world keeps shocking me time after time again when I hear my friends underselling themselves in the workplace.

Workplace insecurity is REAL. I’m no stranger to it. I operate my everyday life with a good dose of imposter syndrome (which sounds like a cool science fiction trope but I promise isn’t as fun). The “confidence gap” between men and women in the workplace is real and this is seen in everything from wage disparities to workplace etiquette to email tones. So how can we move past being “just a step on the boss man’s ladder” and advocate for what we deserve in the workplace? Gosh, that’s a really heavy systemic question that involves unhinging patriarchy and hegemonic functions. So let’s dilute that bad boy! I’ll start us off small with some verbiage changes you can use to put agency back in your emails and properly advocate for yourself in the workplace. Here is a quick list of things you need to stop saying to your male boss (or truly all of your colleagues):

1. “Sorry to bother you…”

Here’s the thing: your co-worker is LUCKY to be graced with your email presence. This poor cog in the machine is literally wading through “unprecedented times” sign-offs hourly and your sweet, humorous email is coming in like a bird song through a window.

Translation: I am a burden that takes up your time and annoys you.

The Reality: You don’t need to apologize for asking for what you need. Especially when you are asking for guidance, information, or confirmation for something related to your JOB – you know, the one that your boss is paying you to do.

Instead Say: “I hope your day is off to a good start!”

2. “I’m probably wrong but…”

I would put a wager on that fact that you aren’t wrong. In fact, I would double that wager to bet that you know you aren’t wrong but are simply using this phrase to cushion the blow so a man doesn’t feel like you are “being a bitch” when you correct him.

Translation: You are smarter than me and what I’m saying has no validity.

The Reality: You are incredibly smart and capable! Asking questions and correcting missteps is a part of your job and you are just as qualified to do those things as any of your coworkers.

Instead Say: “I noticed that… (you fucked up and now I have to clean it up)”

3. “I know you’re busy”.

We get it – office spaces are hectic and this modern digital world is a hamster wheel of emails and tasks. But your thoughts, opinions, and questions are worthy of someone’s time. You deserve to have your voice heard and concerns addressed!

Translation: I am making your life harder and taking up precious time.

The Reality: You are working in a team environment that needs in-office communication to thrive. And hot take: no one is ever really THAT busy. I bet your boss still found a cool 15 min to play Farmville or yell at his ex-wife. He has time for you.

Instead Say: “I appreciate us finding the time to have this conversation.”

4. “No worries if not!!”

There she is! The classic sign-off! This little stinker sneaks into everything from job interview emails to freelance contacts to co-worker requests. I’m very guilty of using this one and have forced myself to remove the phrase from my vocabulary like an edgy kindergarten teacher learning not to swear.

Translation: You are going to reject me so I’m cushioning the blow for myself and removing all guilt from you.

The Reality: You are worthy of success. You do not have to undercut yourself. The world is already working hard enough to undersell women. Be your own champion and advocate for what you deserve with confidence. Trust me, that’s what male-presenting people do and it works wonders for them.

Instead Say: “I look forward to working with you” or “I look forward to hearing from you.”


There you have it! Outspoken’s official banned email phrases list. A couple phrases won’t reshape our relationship with self-doubt. But I promise if you make the active choice to catch yourself when you use self-deprecating language (even if you still believe it), over time, you will slowly develop a sense of trust in yourself and a professional confidence. Fake it until you make it, bby!

I’ll let you in on a little secret: you are deserving of what you are owed, whether it’s money, references, or guidance. Don’t lead with an apology; lead with gratitude. Know what you offer and don’t sell yourself short. Challenges, rejections, and setbacks will always come. Self-compassion is our greatest tool both in the workplace and outside of it. Meet yourself with kindness and encouragement and you’ll be shocked with where it takes you. Be unapologetic and, as always, stay Outspoken!

–Emily Powers, Content Creator

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