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How to Survive Embarrassing Workplace Moments

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At some point in your professional career, you are likely to do something considered unprofessional -- and utterly embarrassing. Whether it's as minor as walking out of the office bathroom with toilet paper stuck to your shoe, or as major as accidentally sending a personal email to the entire company, embarrassing workplace moments will eventually blow over with the proper responses, and overcoming them can make you stronger.

Act Accordingly

According to ''Forbes'' magazine, Barbara Pachter, the author of "New Rules At Work," placed sources of workplace embarrassments into three types: those that should be ignored; those that lead to more communication; and those that teach you lessons to improve future actions. If you committed a minor faux pas, such as walking into the wrong restroom, it's best to just laugh it off and move on. Silly embarrassments that don't hurt anyone, such as addressing someone by the wrong name on the phone, can be used as an opportunity to warm up to co-workers because they can make you more approachable. However, for embarrassing moments serious enough to potentially jeopardize your professional reputation, such as that confidential email meant for your boss but sent to a competitor, you will have to do some damage control: apologizing for any wrong done, taking action to fix it, and ensuring you do not repeat it.

Laugh at Yourself

Having a sense of humor about your faux pas actually shows enough confidence that you can handle it if you make a mistake. If you can laugh along with your co-workers about what you did, it will be easier to get past it. Laughing at yourself also serves as a reminder that you're not perfect, but rather a human being who occasionally is subject to making embarrassing errors -- and that's OK. If you can get your co-workers to share their best embarrassing-moment stories, this will also give you a good laugh and help you remember you are not alone.

Put It Behind You

As horrifying as your embarrassing moment may have felt, it helps to remember that it has already passed. You can acknowledge the slip-up, but be sure to move on into the present moment and the future where it's no longer a reality. This means that you should also refrain from over-apologizing. One apology deals with it, but excessive apologies prolong your own embarrassment. You can also use your past to help you cope with your most recent humiliation, by remembering how you survived the ones long gone. This current humiliation can be viewed as a learning experience.

Show Your Face Again

Even if the office conference room is the scene of the crime where your off-color joke caused your boss and VPs to roll their eyes in disgust, dare to step right back into that conference room for the next meeting. If you show forgiveness for yourself, your co-workers will follow suit. If your embarrassing moment involved hurting someone's feelings, make an extra-special effort to go out of your way and make it up to your co-worker, such as buying him lunch or covering for him on his break. This helps build up a good rapport so your blunder can be sooner forgotten.


About the Author

Anna Windermere started her writing and editing career in 1993, upon graduating from the University of Florida's esteemed journalism school with a bachelor's in journalism. Ms. Windermere, a senior-level copy editor, has appeared in mastheads of newspapers and magazines as copy chief, writer and proofreader, including "Sun-Sentinel," "Miami Herald," "City Link," "New Times," "NewBeauty," "Luxe," "Florida Alligator," "Orange & Blue," and more.

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