Embarrassed at the Office

by Joe Lavelle on February 28, 2011

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All of us, I hope, want to make the best impression every day we are at work.  We dress in appropriate clothing, we offer a firm handshake and genuine smile to clients who enter the office, and we refrain from offending others with our words or actions.  Our image–the personal brand we create for ourselves–is one that others in our professional network will remember, whether it is positive or negative.  But, no matter how diligent you are about your behavior at work, you are bound to do something embarrassing eventually.  How you bounce back from these moments says a lot about your professionalism and your focus on success.

The staffing firm OfficeTeam recently completed a study in which it asked senior managers to share an embarrassing moment at work.  One person admitted to falling off the stage during a business presentation.  Another respondent said something bad about his boss, not knowing the target of the insults was standing right behind him.  My most embarrassing moment occurred when I showed up late for a 3rd party training class due to a late airplane and I was so off my game that I did not recognize that the person sitting next to me was a friend that I had worked on a project with for 2 years.  I even chatted with him a few times before he got mad and had to tell me who he was.  From something as trivial as wearing two different shoes to a gaffe of more consequence, like sending a job offer letter to the wrong person, accidents happen.

What do you do when one of these embarrassing moments strikes?  First, do not run away from the problem.  It is your responsibility to deal with what happened in an upfront and professional manner.  If others were affected, make sure you apologize.  If you just embarrassed yourself, say “I’m sorry” in the mirror that evening and go back to work the next day with your head held high (and your socks matching).

If is someone was hurt by your poor choice of words, oversight, or unavoidable error, I think the character with which you respond will go a long way to repairing any damage.

Have you ever experienced one of those embarrassing moments at work, or been witness to a co-worker’s less-than-stellar-moment?  Was it handled effectively?

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