We spend about half our waking lives working, so we all rack up a few uncomfortable professional moments. Some stem from genuine mistakes, others from ignoring office etiquette. Here’s a look at five awkward situations and how to steer clear of them.
1. Your cell phone goes off at an inappropriate moment. No matter how lax your employer’s cell phone policy, it’s still bad news if your phone blares during a meeting. It gets worse if you then fumble for it while the loud, possibly annoying, ringtone fills the room. To avoid this, practice good office etiquette and silence your phone. If you forget and the phone rings, work fast to turn it off, then apologize.
2. You send the wrong email. We’ve all emailed the wrong person, sent a message meant for one person to the entire office, or accidentally sent a personal email to a colleague. Since it’s so easy to prematurely hit “send,” do yourself a favor and only enter the recipient’s email address once you’ve finished drafting a message. Also, remember to always proofread your emails. If you do mess up, send a prompt, but brief, apology.
3. Your presentation isn’t going well. Presentations circle the drain for a number of reasons – technical difficulties, public speaking anxiety, to name a few – and little is worse than staring at a roomful of blank or pained faces. Planning and preparation are the best ways to avoid such a scenario. Once you’ve put a presentation together, run through it, tech aspects included, at least once before delivering it to your audience. While you’re presenting, you can buy a little time and calm your nerves by taking a sip of water.
4. You start dating a coworker. Turning work relationships into romantic ones creates plenty of opportunities for discomfort. Office romances can even cause disturbances in workplace dynamics. To preempt awkwardness, be discreet, but don’t sneak around. Avoid public displays of affection, fights or discussions of your relationship at work. In the office, act as you did before you and your partner began dating.
5. You get noticeably drunk at a work function. Walking into work after your colleagues have seen you sloshed and sloppy is painful. No matter how relaxed your company’s culture and workplace dynamics are, it’s still unprofessional to imbibe too much at an office party or business dinner. So, don’t do it. Pace yourself and know your limit when you drink. If you have already made the mistake, be sure to apologize for any inappropriateness ASAP.
Don’t let poor judgement or indiscretion threaten your position in workplace dynamics. A little office etiquette and common sense can help you prevent uncomfortable moments and keep your work relationships healthy.