September 30, 2011
Red-faced at work: Embarrassing office moments and how to avoid them
Cringing through another awkward-moment-filled episode of “The Office,” you might think, “These things could never happen.” Well, according to a recent Salary.com survey of embarrassing moments at work, they do.
Out of hundreds of great stories submitted to the site, here are a few examples of common office gaffes:
Cling-ons. Dryer sheets, socks and pantyhose have a way of clinging to your clothes and hiding until you’re in a very public situation.
In a meeting with my boss and another co-worker, both men (I’m a woman), I notice that there’s a small bulge under my sleeve and I reach in. As I’m thinking out loud, “What the heck is this?” I pull out a cute pair of polka-dot undies. I was mortified!
False assumptions. Everyone knows what happens when you assume.
I was a new hire and had to deliver something to one of the leaders in the organization. He was having lunch with his wife, who looked like she was about seven months pregnant. I congratulated her. She was not pregnant.
Wardrobe malfunctions. Inside-out shirts, ripped and unzipped pants and slipping slips all made the list.
I stood up to present the award for employee of the quarter and my skirt fell down.
How not to be that person
- Get dressed in plenty of light
- Inspect yourself before you leave the house
- Keep a mirror at your desk — and use it
- Never assume someone’s pregnant
- Think twice about using “reply all”
- Don’t gossip about co-workers
- Don’t wear tight pants
- Always lock the bathroom door
- Check yourself in the restroom mirror
Mismatched couples. Wearing mismatched pairs of shoes was the most common response to the survey.
I was busy all day with meetings and finally took a quick break with several co-workers. As we sat on benches outside of our office, one of our VPs said, “Why are you wearing two different shoes?” I was horrified to see that not only were they different colors, but they were two entirely different styles.
Presentations. Before you laugh at the guy with spinach in his teeth, check a mirror.
I was presenting to a room full of people who seemed slightly taken aback by what I was saying. After the meeting, I realized I had cut myself shaving that morning and had dried blood all over my neck.
A case of the clumsies. People falling and spilling things are classic embarrassing office moments. Funny, as long as it isn’t you.
My district manager suggested we have lunch to discuss audit results. I was so excited showing him how we’ve turned around the sales that I hit a glass of water and it fell on him. After we cleaned him up, I became excited again and spilled coffee on him.
First impressions. You get a fresh haircut, dress impeccably and carry a brand-new notebook. What could go wrong on your first day?
I was coming into work at my new job when the SUV in front of me cut me off. I laid on the horn, yelled at the driver and gave him the finger. He pulled into my workplace parking lot. Fifteen minutes later I learned he was my new boss.
Foot in mouth/email snafus. Getting caught complaining about a co-worker or, even worse, a boss is the type of faux pas that had the most negative results.
I bad-mouthed a senior exec to two co-workers and he walked up behind me and heard every word.
The good news: 79 percent of the respondents said the embarrassing incident had no significant effect on their job, and 15 percent said it had a positive effect. Only 6 percent reported a negative consequence.
What was your most embarrassing office moment? Tell us in the comments section.
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