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How To Overcome Embarrassing Moments At Work

New study reveals most embarrassing moments at work and offers tips on how to overcome them

No matter where you work with other people, sooner or later something embarrassing is going to happen. Some of these incidents can affect your career or your job and the severity of that impact can often depend on how you deal with it.

For example, too many incidents of falling asleep at meetings or just falling asleep at the wrong meeting could possibly cost you your job. On the other hand, if it happens just once and or twice, you could probably survive by letting your manager know you’re taking steps to prevent it from ever happening again.

As embarrassing as falling asleep at work is, it has nothing on the list of embarrassing moments the staffing service OfficeTeam has come up with in a new survey of executives from across the country.  


Here are some of their most embarrassing moments:

•"I screamed when I saw a lizard in my office."

•"While speaking at a business event, I fell off the stage."

•"I got locked in the office."

•"I fainted during a meeting with a client."

•"I went into the ladies' bathroom by mistake."

•"While interviewing a job candidate, I fell asleep."

•"I answered the phone using the wrong company name."

•"I sent an offer letter to the wrong candidate."

•"When I joined the organization, my colleagues told me to sing a song."

•"I laughed so hard at a joke the boss told that I started snorting."

•"A personal voice mail from my spouse went to my boss."

The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on telephone interviews with more than 1,300 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees in the U.S. and Canada. 

Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam, says, "Nearly everyone has had an embarrassing situation at work. Although these moments can be awkward, it's best not to dwell on them, or you risk drawing more negative attention to yourself." 

What (not) to wear

Wardrobe malfunctions were a top cause of discomfort for survey respondents.  Following are some examples:

•"I was late getting to the office and realized I wore my bathroom slippers to work."

•"I conducted a training session with my zipper down."

•"My skirt got stuck in my pantyhose."

•"I came to work with two different shoes on."

•"My trousers tore in front of my team members."

•"My shirt was on backward."

The boss saw it

Others polled found themselves red-faced in front of the very person they want most to impress: their manager. To wit:

•"On the first day of my job, I tripped on the stairs and fell down in front of my boss."

•"I called my boss 'my love' by complete accident."

•"I left the boss behind and went to a meeting without him."

•"I spilled coffee all over my boss."

•"I called my boss by the wrong name during a meeting."

•"I said something inappropriate about my boss and found out he was standing right behind me."

Boss moments

Unfortunately, these executives weren't "smooth operators" of office equipment:

•"I stapled one of my fingers with the stapler while I was assisting an employee."

•"I slammed my foot into the copy machine and had to be taken to the emergency room."

•"I fell off a chair while talking to my boss."

Hosking said that one of the best ways of diffusing an embarrassing moment is by using humor. He said another way to recover from uncomfortable situation is to show a little vulnerability. If you’re the manager, It can make you appear more accessible and approachable to colleagues.

Bouncing back

OfficeTeam offers four tips for rebounding from embarrassing work mishaps:

1.Remain calm. It's easy to lose your nerve after a slipup, but try to keep your composure. Take a deep breath and collect yourself.

2.Own up. Acknowledging a blunder before someone else does can alleviate any awkward tension that may arise. If appropriate, address the situation in a humorous way to make everyone feel more at ease. 

3.Make amends. If your accident affected another person, immediately apologize and take steps to ensure a similar mistake does not happen again.

4.Move on. Rather than dwell on a misstep, focus on getting back on track. The faster you recover, the less memorable the incident will be.

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