'Reply All' Nightmares, Embarrassing Work Moments Make Us Human

BY Courtney Huckabay
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I swore after a phone call without realizing the other person was still on the line.” Ever happen to you at work? What about tripping on nothing while simply walking down the hall? We've all had embarrassing moments among co-​workers that we'd rather block out and pretend like they never happened, amirite? BUT, psychologists say we're better off remembering them, sharing them with others, and – you guessed it – learning from them.

"While embarrassment is typically thought of as a negative emotion, Susan David, psychologist at Harvard Medical School, told Fast Company embarrassing moments can be beneficial. People who express embarrassment are more likely to be trusted than those who don’t, she said."

Next time you witness a colleague gaffing, try chiming in with a silly story of your own. It will make that person feel better, it will ease tension and it might even start a funny discussion with everyone present. That's team building at its finest right there.

Melissa Wylie wrote about this phenomenon in Biz Journals. The staffing firm OfficeTeam, a division of Robert Half, collected embarrassing workplace stories from more than 600 managers across the U.S. and Canada. Some relatable responses include:

  • I turned to talk to someone and walked into the elevator door.”
  • I couldn’t find my car after happy hour."
  • I sent an email badmouthing someone to that individual.”

The best way to bounce back is to keep your cool, own up to mistakes and laugh along,” Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam, said. This can be tough, however. Admitting you are flawed is not easy for everyone. And, if you're the new kid on the block at work, you are working hard to prove yourself and embarrassing faux pas can seem devastating. Simply try not to take yourself too seriously and remember EVERYONE has blundered at some point.

"When working in a team, sharing an embarrassing story with colleagues can lead to greater creativity and collaboration, according to a study from the Harvard Business Review. The study found people tend to drop their inhibitions after talking about an awkward or embarrassing experience."