No one’s the perfect employee. From crying at work to unintentionally driving your coworkers crazy or accidentally falling asleep at your desk during the midday slump, we’ve all had a seriously embarrassing moment at the office. While your instinct might be to walk out the door and never come back (yes, that has totally happened), if you stay calm and handle things like the girlboss you are, you can totally salvage the situation. Here’s our advice on how to get through six of the most painfully awkward moments at the office.
1. Scenario: Sharing a private elevator ride with the boss from hell.
What to do: Plenty of people feel awkward enough riding an elevator with strangers. Toss your annoying boss into the mix, and it’s destined to be an uncomfortable trip. Even though your first instinct is to pull out your phone and hide, scanning your phone will signal to your boss that you’re ignoring them, which is the last thing you want them to think (they can make your life even worse). As much as it might pain you, here’s the time to put your small-talk skills to work. Ask them about the projects they’re working on, their most recent trip, or their favorite takeout place to grab lunch.
2. Scenario: You just got dumped by your boyfriend, who happens to work in your office.
What to do: We all know breakups are bad enough without having to see your ex eight hours a day or knowing your coworkers are whispering about the end of your office romance. It’s time to put on your game face and keep as silent on the subject as possible. While it could be a good idea to make it a non-issue by letting your closest work buddies know it’s over and that you’re both okay, never bad mouth your ex or give into office gossip. If coworkers bring up the subject, fight the urge to vent and change the topic. Spilling juicy secrets or details will only fuel gossip and possibly make your manager wonder if the situation will affect your work.
3. Scenario: You eavesdrop on a work convo only to discover the unflattering subject is you.
What to do: Your first instinct will be to get angry, deny you’ve contributed to the gossip, and take revenge. Instead, leave the office for a walk and call your BFF to vent. Take some time to cool off and then do your best to think about the meaning behind the comments. Could you possibly be guilty of these accusations? Are you a bit cliquey? Did you have one drink too many at the office happy hour? Perhaps you were at fault and this could be an opportunity to work on your behavior.
If it was malicious gossip from the office mean girls, address it. Ask your coworker to grab coffee at a spot down the block. In a calm manner, let them know you happened to overhear their comments about you and that you’d like to work out any issues. Listen to their response, acknowledge their feelings, and agree to move on. The point is to mend your relationship (and reputation). Whatever you do, don’t amplify the sitch by starting to spread more reverse gossip around the office.
4. Scenario: You’re totally zoned out during a meeting, until you hear your name.
What to do: You’re recapping last night’s Law and Order SVU or thinking about whether to text back your latest Bumble date when your boss’s voice startles you. Yikes. Know that everyone, even your boss, is guilty of letting their mind wander sometimes. Your best option is to try to backtrack by asking the person addressing you to restructure the question by saying, “Would you mind repeating the scenario? I want to make sure I’m understanding you correctly and addressing all of your points.” Nice save.
5. Scenario: You’re awwing over a video of baby sloths and then realize your boss is behind you.
What to do: We all want our bosses to assume we spend all eight (to 10…) hours at the office doing our work. Yet, for some reason, bosses have the uncanny ability to pass by our desks when we’re taking a quick internet break, not when we’re analyzing data or designing a PowerPoint. Unless you’re an expert BS artist that can spin watching a puppy take a bath into progress on your latest presentation, just apologize and get back to work. Depending on your relationship with your boss, you can even make light of it and offer to replay the funny vid.
6. Scenario: Your work BFF replies all via your private email thread.
What to do: While you’re internally freaking out, stay calm. Don’t glance at your coworker and give them a death stare or rely on a magic recall button to save you. Read the message a few times. How bad is it really? If it’s especially bad, don’t reply and apologize to the email thread. Instead, head to your boss’s desk and apologize directly. If you were singling out an employee, follow the same advice. In a few days, someone else will have made a different mistake, and the focus will shift to them.
Have you had a cringeworthy office moment? Tell us about it @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)