Checklist for Overcoming Awkward Moments at Work

If You're Not Confused

(Photo credit: B Tal)

The average American spends 1,700 hours a year at work, and unfortunately for you and me that means it’s a statistical inevitability that something embarrassing or awkward will happen while you’re at work. I don’t know about you, but it always seems to happen to me at the most inconvenient time, like spilling coffee on yourself right before a big meeting.

Here’s a checklist of ways to deal:

Sending a confidential email to the wrong person – we’ve all experienced that moment of panic – you click send and then realize the email has gone to the wrong person. It’s often tempting, in this moment, to enlist the help of a friend and concoct an elaborate ruse to distract the recipient from their computer, while you delete the email for their inbox. Sadly this only works in sit-coms.

Fix: In reality the best thing to do is to have a candid conversation with the recipient face-to-face, listen to her response and try to move on.

When you can’t get the printer to work – Sometimes it seems like printing and copying is the secondary function of a printer and it’s primary purpose is to make you look bad. On a Friday afternoon, it’s not unusual for a printer to decide it’s had enough and start spitting out page after page of gibberish. When this happens, you know that it’s time to get a new one.

Fix: The best course of action is to turn the printer off at the wall and call tech support. This won’t stop your colleagues from laughing at you, but you can silently hope for them to be the victim of the printer’s next maniacal breakdown.

Trapped in conversations with co workers – Every office has someone who likes to tell long, unnecessary stories about their vacation/kids/unusual hobby. (If you can’t think of anyone it might be you!) This is a difficult situation because these people normally don’t have any malicious intent, they just don’t realize how much of a time suck they are.

Fix: Try telling them, “It’s nice talking to you, but I have to talk to so-and-so before they leave.” Remember that we all get over excited about something in our personal lives every now and again.

Dealing with a lazy co-worker – In high school there was always that kid who never pulled his weight on school projects, nowadays it seems he’s not only graduated, he’s your co-worker and you have to collaborate with him once again. Most of these people are serial responsibility dodgers who rely on you doing all the work instead of confronting them about it.

Fix: As tempting as it is to lay into them try to talk about your needs instead of their faults. Instead of saying, “I sent you several emails and you haven’t responded, but Facebook tells me you’ve been playing Candy Crush all afternoon,” say, “I need you to communicate more so we know we’re on the same page.”

Hope these suggestions lead to a more peaceful and productive day. What are some awkward moments that you’ve experienced at work?

1 reply
  1. Stefanie O'Connell
    Stefanie O'Connell says:

    My most awkward encounter was with a client who berated me for asking about their budget for a certain project (I guess they assumed I would do it for free?) – Anyway, they turned out to be sponsors for two events at which I was a keynote speaker. Kill ’em with kindness 🙂


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.