In a professional environment, it’s easy to slip and do something embarrassing. Here are some of the most common episodes of awkwardness to occur in the office…
1. Sending emails or texts to the wrong person
A lot of us are guilty of this one. It’s very easy to write a message bemoaning or gossiping about your colleague or boss, and then send it to your colleague or boss! At best, you’ve embarrassed yourself, insulted your colleague and have some serious making up to do. At worst, you’ve lost your job.
The moral of this story? You could gossip less (though admittedly that’s not possible for many of us). Alternatively, while it is very easy to make this mistake, it’s also very easy to avoid it:
- Always check your recipient before you send a message.
- A lot of email systems have the option for a 1-minute grace period before the email actually leaves, avoiding those “OH &%£!” moments!
- Get into the habit of using your work phone and email for non-controversial work conversations, and your personal phone and email for when you need to have a moan or discuss the latest rumours.
- Finally, try and make sure you write the message and type the recipient’s name last, which makes it more unlikely that you’ll send it to the wrong person.
2. Wardrobe malfunctions
Hideous jumpers can be forgiven as questionable personal tastes, but a ladder in the tights, missing shirt buttons, ties not done up properly or flies accidentally left open are another story. These can lead to some embarrassing moments for both you and the colleague that notices, so make sure you are get fully acquainted with the mirror before you leave the house. Periodically recheck your appearance throughout the day, make sure your tie is staying in place and have a spare pair of tights to hand should you need them.
3. The remnants of lunch
Linking in with the aforementioned wardrobe malfunctions, checking your appearance each time you eat is also very important. Otherwise, if you’ve poured half your lunch down you, or half of it is stuck in your teeth, new levels of awkwardness and embarrassment will ensue. The moral of the story for both wardrobe malfunctions and food spillage mishaps is that your most helpful friend throughout your work day is the mirror. It might mean that you have to rush home and get another blouse, shirt, pair of trousers or skirt (another tip: always have a spare change of clothes in the car). But this is better than giving a presentation to your colleagues, who spend the entire time speculating about what the stains on your clothes might be.
Spilling coffee on yourself is one thing, but spilling it all over your computer is another. Admittedly some of us are clumsier than others, but in an office environment, you need to keep a lid on the clumsy as much as you feasibly can if you want to avoid an awkward confession to your boss. If you know you’re likely to spill something, knock something over, step on something or break something, take all possible steps to remove the obstacle. Thereby you minimise the risk of your clumsy ways landing you in hot water.
5. Forgetting people’s names
While we’ve all done it at one time or another, it’s extremely awkward to call someone by the wrong name. Try to become familiar with people’s names in the office as soon as possible, and if you’re unsure, ask a colleague you can trust not to reveal your slip in memory. You might also try a couple of memory tricks, such as repeating it over and over in your head as they introduce themselves, or perhaps by saying it out loud as you shake their hand: “Pleased to meet you, ‘so-and-so’.”
6. Tripping, slipping and falling
We’ve all seen You’ve Been Framed. Sometimes tripping up and falling over is unavoidable. If there is an unusually high or partly hidden step, your colleagues will probably make you aware of it when you start the job (and employers have to be aware of any safety hazards, too). However, we all have moments when we misplace or misjudge our footing and go down like a stack of bricks. The best things to do to avoid these are to be mindful of our surroundings at all times, avoid uncomfortable or difficult shoes and six inch heels, and if it does happen, laugh it off.
7. Bathroom mishaps
Similarly with wardrobe malfunctions, bathroom clumsiness coupled with a lack of awareness can lead to embarrassing situations that many of us have encountered. Examples include flies left open, skirts inadvertently tucked into tights, scraps of toilet paper stuck to shoes, and water splashed on trousers so it looks like you’ve had an accident. Remember that your most helpful friend is the mirror. Splashing water on yourself is a bit more difficult to fix (and you don’t want someone to walk in while you’re trying to dry your crotch with the hand drier). Therefore always avoid this by standing at a distance from the sink and using your hands to deflect stray spray.
There is a saying: to “assume” makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me”. And it’s true. Assuming anything in the workplace can lead to all kinds of awkward situations for both you and your co-workers. Never assume that your colleague is pregnant and tell her congratulations. If no announcement is made, stay silent. It might simply be that she has put on a bit of weight, which is the last thing she wants her colleagues drawing attention to. Don’t make assumptions about your colleagues’ families either. If you see a photograph of your colleague and his daughter on the desk, don’t say, “Your daughter’s very pretty.” She might actually be his wife or, for all you know, his son. If a male colleague talks about his partner, don’t ask, “What’s her name?” It might turn out that his name is George.