Embarrassment at Work – What Do We Do Now?

Abundance Personal leadership


Over my 40 plus years at work I have done some dumb-ass things. As an example, in my early days as a teacher, I froze giving an announcement over the school intercom. I can still hear the kids snickering. Much later in my career, I remember the feeling of nausea while walking 30 minutes late into a meeting with the Board of Directors of a Fortune 50 company. It was my first meeting with them after getting promoted. Geez! Aaaaaaargh!!

I remember when I was the COO of a public company and injured from a fall, and the wife of one of the directors a few levels down asked me how my scrotum was doing. She clearly referenced the wrong body part, she meant sternum, and turned a crimson I have yet to see replicated. I thought her husband was going to cardiac arrest. I have more examples ha ha. So what’s the most constructive way to handle this? Let me capture and paraphrase the advice of psychologist Therese J. Borchard, Associate Editor of The World of Psychology.

  1. Get to the present moment asap. The past is gone. Regardless of how hard you try, the moment is gone. You can’t get it back.
  2. If you need to apologize, do so once ONLY. It’s in the past. Apologizing continuously makes it worse. Stop it!
  3. You are who you are. When you’re genuine, you will likely do something that’s unique to you and perhaps embarrassing. That’s the way it is.
  4. Past embarrassments didn’t kill you. Neither will this one. People are concerned enough about their own world.
  5. Don’t lose a beat. Heads up eye contact and keep going.
  6. Laugh about it. Enjoy the craziness of it.
  7. Recognize and accept you’re not and never will be perfect.
  8. Recognize and welcome the fear associated with embarrassment.
  9. Do not try and guess what other people think. Most people have likely forgot about it long time ago.
  10. Ask others for embarrassing experiences they’ve had… this will make you feel better fast.

Character Move: we only trip when we’re moving. Don’t let embarrassing acts slow us down. Recognize, accept, learn, laugh and move on.

No dwelling on embarrassment in the triangle!!