1. Ooooh, preach! Ladies, don’t EVER apologize for being “bossy.” Be the boss because you are the boss. I overuse a lot of gendered language too, but I’m trying to work on that. You don’t owe an apology unless you’ve seriously hurt someone, either. In fact, using this feminine language (and being a woman in general) has been shown to decrease your earning power over time.

    • Yes! I made such growth swapping “I’m sorry” with “thanks”. I used to always apologize for being unable to do something. Now, I’ve started reframing it with “I can’t, but thank you for the opportunity.”

  2. Interesting post! I find that many women are apologetic about being pregnant or successful. It seems like they think/know/believe that they’re bothering other people just for being who they are. I sympathize with them, but it’s also sad to hear things like that.

    • It’s so fascinating. Had I never received that (I’m bossy) parenthetical comment, I don’t think I would have given my initial emails a second thought!

  3. Emails are totally gendered. Did you see that article that went viral a few weeks ago about the man and woman who switched email signatures? He had a terrible time and she had two of the easiest weeks of her life. I haven’t noticed a difference in reactions when I send an email out v my male colleagues, but I do notice a difference in how my female executives talk in emails as opposed to non executives talk. It’s a very notable difference. I’m not surprised the lady apologized for being bossy 🙁

    • Yes. I saw a thread of it on Twitter! The Huff Po article that I linked in here (“Exclamation points are feminist as f*ck”) is really interesting. And I’m not sure I agree entirely. It’s so curious to me how we can speak so similarly or so differently.

  4. I think it’s totally reasonable to let people know you are expecting, and will be out. The reality is that there is a break from work, and two week is probably in the “if EVERYTHING goes as plan” hope. Where men, also need to let people know about their planned time off, but the reality is that they could make a work meeting the next day, if absolutely necessary after their wife gives birth. If you were having surgery or a big trip planned, you would let people know about that too.

    I recovered ok with my first baby (in my 20’s) this last one (in my 30’s) I barely left the house for a month. I was in tough shape. Mr. Mt could have made a meeting, I could barely walk down a flight of stairs. I might even add (2 weeks if everything goes as hoped).

    I never mention scary birth stories to pregnant friends, but sometimes even the best intentioned didn’t go back to work in 2 weeks.

    • Yes. This. I was waiting for the comment that I’m being very pie-in-the-sky with the two weeks. Most of the moms have responded the same way 😉 Thankfully, tutoring either happens in my dining room or the library that is a stone’s throw away. Still, I know I’m going to have to play it all by ear. As a result, I’ll be writing a lot of curriculum for them at the start of the summer, so they can keep working and we can just correspond online (or not at all!) as needed.

      But I’m glad you see how I am trying to be courteous!

  5. Ahh! I’ve been round and round and round on this issue.
    On one hand, apologies and preemptive explanations should NOT be necessary. On the other hand, perception is (other people’s) reality, so managing those perceptions is important, especially in the workplace. Even if it’s just to make life flow more smoothly or as a means to get what you want or need, sometimes playing the game is worthwhile. But it still makes me boil inside to acknowledge that the rules of this game vary depending on our chromosomal composition.

    • I really like your point about managing perceptions. That’s ultimately what I’m trying to do. I would feel so guilty if parents set up a tutoring schedule only to have my leave take them by surprise!

  6. kddomingue

    As to your email, I don’t think so. Male or female, I believe that it’s a courtesy to let clients know that you will be unavailable for a specified period of time due to illness, surgery, family obligations, childbirth or disaster of some kind . My husband, son and son-in-law would state the reason for being unavailable to clients were they to send such an email as would I or my daughter…..just a brief explanation. I definitely don’t think it’s a gendered email because the reason stated is childbirth as opposed to surgery for example.

    The second email however, makes me sad as I don’t think a man would have felt it necessary to apologize for sounding “bossy” whereas some women do.

    As to the email in another post that you made reference to, I’ve met people like that both male and female. It’s not a gender thing, it’s a jerk thing! Granted, there seem to be more males that are infected with jerkitis than women but not by a huge margin in my experience. Jeez! What an a**!

    • Thanks for putting my mind at ease a bit! I would want the same courtesy extended to me, male or female, whatever the reason!

      And you’re right. Jerks know no gender!

  7. Katelynne

    (If I sound bossy, I apologize, I’m bossy at work and it carries over!) <–I have typed a similar line. Because I manage projects at work (uggghhhh) I find it can seep into my personal or "side professional" emails – which is actually a good thing! But I have apologized for it multiple times. Never using the word bossy but usually along those lines

    From one of my emails:
    "Sorry if I'm coming off too intense, I can sometimes steamroll and it's a habit from work. Please let me know if I'm stepping on toes."

    From a baby shower organizing chain. That I was just delegating because I was asked to.

    And I apologized.


    • After I wrote this post, I was tempted to go back through my sent history. I’m glad I’ve refrained. It’s such an interesting struggle, especially when some people say it’s so true and others don’t feel that way. Maybe it also depends on the work and the email?

  8. This is so interesting and not something I’ve ever really thought of. I am definitely that girl who uses way too many exclamation marks and ‘just’ in emails or other writing. I don’t mind the gendered differences in writing or speaking styles though, sure it might aid women to be more assertive but I’ve found that it is often easier to diffuse a situation (hello angry client!) by using typically female styles.
    The word bossy does drive me crazy though! I’m an only child and with that comes a certain assumption that I’ll be bossy (justified or not) and I hate the negative connotation that goes along with it. I like my bossiness and respect the same assertiveness in others…whether they are male or female.

    • Only children unite! The word bossy also makes me cringe. I can delegate, and I’ve had my fair share of leadership roles at work. But I’m so far from the only child cliche (aren’t most of us?!) that I wonder if I don’t actively work to make that so.

  9. Ooo, I definitely think gendered emails exist (Also, bitch, please, WIP is a “business term”?? Yeah, no, my knitting box and all of Pinterest disagrees.)

    I edit my emails to reduce the use of words like “just,” and to remove unwarranted apologies. Oh, and while I love the use of exclamation points (loved that HuffPo article) and even the smile emoticon, I make sure to use them sparingly. I try to go for “enthusiastic” vs “pep-master general.”

    I’ll frequently ask questions that aren’t really questions, too. For example, “were you going to take care of this?” when I know full well they signed up for that task last week.

    It’s gendered, I know it is, but damn it, it works.

    I don’t use emoticons in blog posts, but my comment replies are riddled with them. ?

  10. There are many cultures where me being me would be penalized. I’ve spent half my career in them and they’re about as frat-bro as you could imagine.

    Now, professionally, I apologize when I’ve made a wrong call or a mistake or actually negatively affected people. In other words, when it’s warranted. That’s it. I don’t need to apologize for my state of being or existing like I’d have to in some industries to not be seen as a B!

    My male colleagues apologize on average 3.5 times more than I do and half the time with no reason I can fathom. One apologized for a “brusque tone” and another for making a careless error when it wasn’t even his mistake. These are otherwise standard cishet white males from what I know, but not all American, so it makes me wonder how much culture plays a role here too. It may also be because I outrank most of them and even the ones I don’t outrank can be verbally hipchecked into making an apology when they’ve made a mess and thus displeased me. So I’m bossy, yeah, because I’m mostly the boss and I know what’s best. I’ve never been described as bossy, though. Scary, yes. Bossy, no. Bet you there’s a good reason for that ?

    So I think that’s a qualified yes to your question.

    • Oh my gosh. Verbal hipchecking. Have I told you lately that you’re my favorite? Because you truly are.

      In other news, I hadn’t considered culture. That’s a really compelling idea!

  11. Your email was warranted. If there’s going to be a time you can’t provide a service, you have a duty to let a potential client know. The bossy email was unwarranted. No need to apologize for a no nonsense explanation of your needs or requirements. But don’t forget, many people find no nonsense or abrupt emails to be off-putting. Since the bossy emailer didn’t know you, she probably included the bossy mea culpa to mitigate any friction her terse email may have caused. Self-deprecating niceties, after all, are the lubricant of social interaction. Thanks for a very thoughtful post, Penny. I never considered gendered emails before.

    • I’m so glad you chimed in, Mr. G! You also made me chuckle. I received an email from a parent this year with the subject line: Mea Culpa. He was explaining how it was his fault that a project didn’t get completed (it wasn’t). There definitely has to be a balance between social protocols, pleasantries, and business I guess!

  12. It’s interesting you mentioned the exclamation point; I’m constantly urging Jeremy (Mr. Giant Dandelion) to use them to show more emotion when texting. A period at the end of a text just seems angry.

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