Managers Confess Their Most Embarrasing Moments

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job interview No matter how they'd like to be perceived, even executives feel like crawling under their desks sometimes. Business staffing service OfficeTeam recently conducted a survey in which executives were asked to recount their most embarrassing moments at work.

Here are some of their responses:
  • "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."
  • "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."

Wardrobe malfunctions were a top cause of discomfort for survey respondents. The 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."
Others polled found themselves red-faced in front of the very person they want most to impress: their boss:
  • "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."
Some executives weren't "smooth operators" when it came to 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."
The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and based on telephone interviews with more than 1,300 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees in the United States and Canada.

"Nearly everyone has had an embarrassing situation at work," said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of highly skilled administrative professionals. "Although these moments can be awkward, it's best not to dwell on them, or you risk drawing more negative attention to yourself."

Hosking added, "Using humor can help you recover from uncomfortable situations. Occasionally showing a little vulnerability on the job also can make you appear more accessible and approachable to colleagues."

OfficeTeam offers four tips for rebounding from embarrassing work mishaps:

  1. Remain calm. It's easy to lose your nerves after a slip up, 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 some of the 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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