Why you should cut “just” out of your emails

pomegranite logo jpeg.JPGBy Liz Fletcher of Pomegranite

Have you noticed how often you use the word “just” in a professional context, particularly emails? I’ve been thinking about why I use it so much in tricky situations and if it’s something that women use more than men.

I often find myself using it when I feel like I’m being annoying to a client (while I’m trying to do my job), for example, “I just wanted to check in with you about…” or “I’m just following up on…”. It makes the sentence feel like a smaller inconvenience, like what I’m really saying is “I’m sliding this tiny little thing it into your stack of to-dos but it’s not a big deal” while batting my eyelashes.

Using “just” helps to make me feel like I’m less of a nuisance. But I’m doing my job, so why should I want to feel like this? While it might seem like “just” smooths the path for requests, it also makes us appear small; it diminishes respect for our work and ourselves. Why shouldn’t we take up as much space in someone’s to-do list as anything else?

Compare the same phrases without “just”: “I’d like to check in with you about…” and “I’m following up on…”. Do you hear how much more clear and direct the requests are? It’s as if you’ve sat up straight while asking. That’s what a professional relationship should be.

Ellen Leanse, a former Google executive wrote a 2015 LinkedIn blog about the word “just”, when she noticed women (including herself) using it way more than men, and how she tackled it in her office. She began to notice that “just” wasn’t about being polite,

“it was a subtle message of subordination, of deference. Sometimes it was self-effacing. Sometimes even duplicitous. As I started really listening, I realized that striking it from a phrase almost always clarified and strengthened the message.”

Try this experiment, which we also did in our team. Search or read through your emails for the next couple of days and count the number of times “just” appears. Notice why you used it and how it changes the tone when you remove it. We were astounded by how often we use it and have committed to clarity and confidence by removing it.

IMG_8110Liz Fletcher is the co-owner of Pomegranite, a boutique online presence consultancy which she set up with her business partner Sarah Gurney, in 2013. The pair met studying English literature together at Rhodes University and grew the business through developing thoughtful storytelling on digital platforms.

The Pomegranite offices in Cape Town and Joburg service clients which are predominantly in the SME, NGO and education sectors.

Liz gets a kick out of bringing the magic out in her team and developing systems and plans that help the business run smoothly.


Imagine a feminist internet: online dialogue

feminist on the internet

Is a feminist internet possible? On April 13-17, APC is bringing together over 50 women’s rights, internet rights, and sexual rights activists to think critically about gender, sexuality, and the internet. We invite you to take part in our pre-meeting global conversation on the hashtag#imagineafeministinternet. Here are some of the key questions we seek your inputs on:

How has the internet shifted the way we understand power, politics, activism and agency? How can the internet strengthen and better facilitate feminist activism? What do you think are key issues we need to engage with and interrogate to realise its transformative potential?

How are we discussing the commodification of our bodies, behaviors, thoughts and data? How has the internet disrupted or reinforced capitalist frameworks? Is the internet enabling greater diversity of sexual expression or growing opportunities for the policing of sexuality?

Do we rely too much on the internet for our work? Does activism 2.0 simply satisfy our need to “do something” without truly effecting change?

Take part in the debate! Define and question what it takes to create a feminist internet.

Join the conversation this week on social media and in our mailing list.#imagineafeministinternet

Follow: @takebackthetech

First seen here 


Intergenerational politics women’s worst work enemy?

Kamogelo Rachel Modise
Kamogelo Rachel Modise

By Kamogelo Rachel Modise

Fresh out of varsity, I found myself in a working environment and soon discovered it’s not the actual work that causes rifts and misunderstandings between colleagues. I sometimes wonder if it’s perhaps my age, and being confined in a professional space with fellow women old enough to be my mother.

Personally I love women, and I look up to them. I was pleased to be around them because it meant I would learn from people who’ve also been young and in my position. I thought that they too could relate to me because they may have faced the same challenges every young career woman faces. Sadly I discovered this isn’t so – the reality is in fact the opposite.

It seems like no amount of hard work, great input, or professional conduct matters or is even respected by fellow women. In fact if there’s anything they are judging you on, your work is not part of it. It’s more likely to be your appearance or personal life. How can any of this be of great importance, in fact why should it be?

In my experience the actual work I’m expected to do is easy, but often it’s women who try to make it impossible for other women. I am so troubled by the lies career women spread about fellow women colleagues. We want to be known for our brains and work, and yet we are focused on each other’s private affairs, hair, nails and clothes. In fact we’d rather not acknowledge and applaud each other’s good work, but instead spread unnecessary harmful rumors about each other.

Why do women we look up to as young professionals sometimes attempt to make our working environment difficult? Why do women with great knowledge and experience sabotage younger women, rather than attempt to inspire them? Are we a threat to one another?


Do we deserve the way we are treated in the workplace

jahni cowley
Jahni Cowley

By Jahni Cowley

I’m a trade unionist and a single mother. As part of my job, I am confronted by people with problems in their workplace, on a daily basis. It continues to strike me how easily women accept the way they are treated at work: It seems we believe we deserve to be second class citizens.

I don’t mean to perpetuate the stereotype of nurturing woman versus hunter man. I accept that this isn’t always the case, but the difference between masculinity and femininity reaches a climax in the workplace. It’s almost like we retreat to our primal brain. Maybe it’s the desk, I don’t know.

Why is it that we are so apologetic about ourselves? I do believe in differences between people related to gender, we can probably argue whether this is nature or nurture, innate or learned behaviour, but the fact is we have certain qualities that make us women. Different from men. I do not have a problem with the fact that I am softer than my male colleagues, because different does not mean weak.

I have deep empathy with other people, and it’s a trait more naturally associated with women than men. It’s also a trait that will garner you ridicule, if you allow it. It’s seen as an undesirable, negative thing to develop an emotional bond with your colleagues or clients or people you are helping, because it makes you less productive, a little slower, a little more human, and we don’t do human anymore. We are here to do a job and to get out, that’s it.

Our reaction is often immediately apologetic.We change our ways, we surpress our caring. We will become artificially business-like.

Why do we believe that we are wrong? Why do we subscribe to the belief that there is only one right way, which is the way we perceive a male colleague would handle a situation?

We tolerate cultural differences in the workplace, but we do not tolerate gender differences. We do not accept the fact that a mother with a sick child cannot possibly concentrate fully on her work, no matter how good her childcare options are. We see her as weak. We would regard a father in the same situation as weak too, because caring and showing emotion are regarded as weak, feminine traits.

None of this is news, we know it. It’s ingrained. What bothers me is how women react to it: We accept the status quo, we don’t rock the boat. We try to change ourselves, creating so much inner conflict that we end up unable to do our work anyway, end up in trouble. In that case, I would argue that we deserve the treatment we get, we deserve to be less than, because we don’t stand up!

Wouldn’t it be revolutionary if we said no? Wouldn’t it be so wonderful if we used our voices instead of meekly accepting? We have come so far, we choose to have careers AND children AND love, but we are still so far behind in terms of acceptance of ourselves as equal.

I have stood up and rebelled. I am no longer apologising for the softer parts of me, I do have empathy, I do get involved, so be it. I challenge every working woman to do the same. Life is not about competition, it’s about balance: To balance the male and female, the hard and the soft, the masculine and the feminine, in order to reach a goal.

We are different, but we are not less than.


Jahni Cowley is an LLB graduate from NMMU, who fell in love with labour law and labour relations. She’s a trade unionist, single mom, social media addict and blogs in the little bit of spare time she has left (


On what we want at work

By Jen Thorpe

Last night I was reading a book written by my work supervisor and it encouraged me to complete this graph. The activity was called the ‘Wheel of Work’ and it involves dividing up a circle into 8 pieces, and labelling them with the various aspects of your work which you then rate.

The categories were:

  • Physical environment
  • Infrastructure
  • Relationship with colleagues
  • Organisational culture
  • Leadership
  • Career advancement prospects
  • Salary and benefits
  • Content of work
Making the centre of the circle 0/10, and the outer edge of the circle 10/10 you then needed to colour in each wedge according to how you felt about it.
So it looks like this:
The reason that I found this really interesting was because it is sometimes so easy to think that your problems at work are because of your work, or your work environment and you can feel trapped there or limited. It’s easy to make excuses for why you stay, or to make excuses for your own part in those issues.
If you look at this circle, and fill it in honestly, it might help you to evaluate if the problem is your work, or whether it is how you are at work. My supervisor, genious that she is, says that you essentially have two choices relating to working:
  • You choose if you are there; and
  • You choose how you are there.
When you’ve filled in the wheel of work, it can also be useful to identify what things are letting you down at work – if for example, your work colleagues are your lowest rating, think about whether you can do anything to improve that rating? It also helps you to see whether the low rungs are outweighed by the higher rated areas, and if not, it’s time to stop thinking.
I found the exercise really helpful, because I’m in a period of transition in my life. I moved to a new city a few months ago, and am missing some of the comforts that I’d got used to in my old office. This little wheel helped me to evaluate where I’m at, and where I need to be in the future. I think it’s totally worth it.