The Alexa Problem

5 May 2021Career, Confidence, Inspiration, Job Search Skills • Susan Rietano Davey



Alexa doesn’t live at our house. When we installed our Sonos sound system, we purposefully decided we could handle the ‘inconvenience’ of having to select a playlist on our phones rather than barking at a smart speaker.

I’m so glad we did. Alexa, I’ve learned, is annoyingly contrite.

On a recent visit to my friend’s Covid-safe garage, her daughter Sophia played D.J. with help from Alexa. “Alexa, play “Let It Go” … “Alexa, play “Fireworks “. Hoping to expand my little friend’s music repertoire, I made a few of my own requests; songs that, regrettably, weren’t in Alexa’s library. How did she respond? She apologized!

Alexa apologizes a lot. From my limited exposure, “sorry” seems to be one of her more common responses. But why would she take the blame for not having The Go-Gos’ “We Got The Beat” in her library? It’s not her fault that the lame programmers at Amazon don’t appreciate one of the classic, rockingest female vocal performances of the 80’s!

Furthermore, why did those same lame programmers program Alexa to say “sorry” and not “I can’t help you with that today” or “let’s try another one” or anything less shameful than “sorry”?

It would bother me less if Alexa were Alexander. We women already have a well-established apologizing problem and with the next generation of us hearing a female ‘bot dole out a constant loop of “sorry,” things can only get worse!

Allow me to intervene.

Any woman who has taken our courses or sat in our audience has heard me talk about the Gratitude and Apology Trap. It’s ubiquitous among women, especially at work – women who feel exceedingly grateful for a seat at the table, and overly apologetic for the slightest misstep; women whose conversations are punctuated with “I’m sorry” and “thank you”; women who, in the process of thanking and apologizing their way through the day are showing that they lack the two most important qualities EVERY workplace in EVERY field and function demands: confidence and resilience.

You may already be deep in this trap – and you can make your way out of it by following my Gratitude and Apology Rule: From now on, you will allow yourself only ONE apology (and only for a legitimate mistake) and a max of TWO thank yous (one at the beginning and one at the end) per interaction. No more.

Your colleagues and clients are grateful to have you on their team – in a position you have earned and deserve. They need you. They’re lucky to have you. Know this. Believe it. And, for God’s sake, turn off Alexa when little girls are around!