Will Google’s “Just Not Sorry” Email Plugin Impact The Way Women Communicate In The Workforce?


Sorry, not sorry. That’s basically the rally cry from Google’s “Just Not Sorry” new email plugin campaign. It is a new Chrome extension that is designed to help mainly women re-write their emails without language that portrays them as passive or apologetic in any way.

“We’re Just NOT Sorry! Let’s stop qualifying our message and diminishing our voice. Inspired by the writings of Tara Mohr and others, this Chrome Extension for Gmail will warn you when you use words or phrases that undermine your message.   Words will be underlined for correction with additional information about how using the phrase is perceived,” says a description about the plugin.

In case you aren’t already familiar with her, Tara Mohr is a brilliant author, amplifier of women’s voices and potential, and empower-er of women who are seeking and trying to step into their destiny.

This campaign based around the plugin has been getting a lot of attention in the media and it’s no surprise, given the increased focused on women in leadership, especially in the workforce. With the advent of Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” movement a few years ago, a whole generation of women were given new perspective on how to advance in the office without being held back by traditional gender barriers.

But like it or not, it’s hard to ignore that when we think of leadership, in any arena, it is still largely dominated and dictated by masculine perspective and method. Here is our question: was Sheryl asking us to “lean in” to the existing masculine boardroom culture and try to integrate as best we can? Or was she asking us to lean in with our feminine energy and skills in order to change the way we view leadership as a whole?


For so long we have heard phrases like “act like a lady, think like a man” being rolled around in corporate circles. Thankfully, we are awakening to the reality that leadership is not something exclusively reserved for men. In fact, the more diversity seen and included in the workplace, especially in positions of leadership, a company does far better on all accounts.

So is the epidemic of women saying “sorry” and “just” in their work emails the last frontier to giving them the extra push in their careers?

The Google plugin was created by New York-based consultancy company Cyrus Innovations, whose CEO is a woman. We mention this not to give any sort of gender-based gravitas to the plugin, but context to the whole project. Tami Reiss told Forbes in an interview how she became her own worst enemy in terms of how she communicated via email. In fear of being too forward (another reason why Sheryl Sandberg’s “Ban Bossy” campaign is important – so young girls grow up understanding assertiveness as a positive!), she found herself using the aforementioned words as a way to justify what she was trying to say.

“We put phrases in there with the intention of saying, ‘I want the other person to know I’m not a horrible, pushy person’. What people hear is, ‘This person talking to me or writing to me isn’t very confident’,” she said.

Being part of an organization called League for Extraordinary Woman, made up of female CEOs, managers, and entrepreneurs who regularly met as a support group, they would discuss this issue and that is how the idea for the Gmail plugin came about.


Tami mentions that they plan to expand the plugin to include other phrases and words, by asking users to submit their own ideas. Interestingly, they have had quite a positive reaction from men who say they too often struggle with the language they use in work emails, clearly showing this plugin is speaking to a sore point for many people.

They have received some negative criticism, however (of course, as any feminist issue does these days. Equality, what a horrible idea!) but that isn’t deterring them from advocating the important of communicating from a place of confidence in emails.

The only people who don’t like it haven’t used it, and they are mad at us because they think we are policing women’s languages,” she said, while adding the plugin is entirely optional, and is meant to help women.

In another interview with NPR, Tami points out that while we change our language in order to come across as likeable, it ends up developing a self-destructive trait.

“We edit ourselves out and we minimize ourselves. And these qualifiers we do because we’re afraid of coming off as too strong when in reality, by adding them, in we’re making ourselves come off as weak,” she said.

Drawing on the inspiration of Tara Mohr from her book ‘Playing Big’, the author says the need we have to appear more friendly and less confrontational is actually having the effect of making us seem less confident and less important. Phrases like “does that makes sense?” and “I’m no expert, but…” give power to the other person on the receiving end of the email, and these are the types of phrases the plugin will identify also.

However there are some who believe this plugin will not necessarily be as helpful as designed. Erin Sawyer at Fortune Magazine claims there are two flaws with the “Just Not Sorry” idea: 1. it shouldn’t just be aimed at women but at the workforce as a whole, and 2. the notion of using a plugin to overhaul the way we communicate can negate the need for female mentors who can impart valuable wisdom in a more interpersonal way.

“While the plug-in may have been well-intentioned by its founders, it simply cannot create a sense of energy and empowerment that many women are lacking in the workplace,” she wrote.

Another thoughtful criticism from Harriet Minter at the Guardian points out that the plugin likely teaches women to adapt to male traits of leadership in the workplace, and learn the language of masculine authority, rather than encouraging women to embrace their own unique traits.

“Here is my problem: when did being polite become a bad thing?…In accepting that a woman’s vocal and written characteristics are holding her back, what we’re really saying is that it’s still a man’s world and to win in it, you have to act, sound and write like a man. How depressing,” she wrote.


Her point of view is certainly valid, and doesn’t necessarily go against what the Google plugin is trying to create, rather pushing women to discuss this more and find a way where they can be assertive on their own terms.

“If being successful in a man’s world means emulating the worst traits of those men, then I’ll take middle of the road thanks. Rather than holding our hands up and apologizing for our choice of words, let’s stand up for them. Let’s stand up for taking people’s feelings into consideration when we speak, for not seeing arrogance as a virtue, for thanking people for their contributions and for being sorry for putting our work onto other people. Let’s stop apologizing for being women and instead demand that men behave differently,” continued Harriet.

Some interesting and challenging perspectives have been presented since the plugin was released, and we are interested to see how it will affect the way women communicate.

The fact that this is getting a lot of attention and causing discussion is important. There is still a huge lack of female representation in the boardrooms of corporations the world over. According to the Center for American Progress, although they hold almost 52% of all professional-level jobs, American women lag substantially behind men when it comes to their representation in leadership positions. They are only 14.6% of executive officers, 8.1% of top earners, and 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs. They hold just 16.9% of Fortune 500 board seats.

If the “Just Not Sorry” helps even one out of the many thousands who are already using it to effectively communicate in their jobs and help them appear more confident and assertive, it is a success. If you are one of the people using this Chrome extension, we would like to hear your thoughts and experience below.




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