While we hope to avoid awkward situations at work, unfortunately this isn’t always possible. In fact, the latest research from CV-Library, the UK’s leading independent job site, reveals that nearly half (49%) of UK professionals have witnessed embarrassing incidents in the workplace, and a further 36.1% have been directly involved.
The survey of 1,200 workers sought to reveal the nation’s most embarrassing workplace moments and found that in the majority of cases (65.8%) these cringeworthy moments involved people’s co-workers. What’s more, a further 22.2% said that they even involved their boss.
Whether it’s saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, or getting drunk at a work function, professionals were asked how they felt as a result of these incidents, with respondents citing the following:
- Uncomfortable – 40.5%
- Awkward – 19.3%
- Embarrassed – 11.1%
- Upset – 6.2%
- Angry – 5.9%
Lee Biggins, founder and managing director of CV-Library, comments:
“Unfortunately, life is not always in our control and sometimes certain situations happen which leave us feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed. If you find yourself left red-faced in the workplace, the temptation can be to get away as quick as possible. But it’s important to remain calm and professional at all times, and remember you are still at work.”
In addition, the study asked professionals to share their most cringeworthy moments and CV-Library reveals 10 of the most awkward responses below:
- Greg from Cambridge said: I once had a customer email me saying that he was sorry to hear I had gone deaf and that he hoped I would make a speedy recovery. I had to explain to him that I was born deaf – he was so embarrassed!2.
- Emily from Bristol said: One of my colleagues had an affair with one of the senior managers. We all knew it was going on and it made everyone in the office feel very uncomfortable. They were eventually caught red-handed, but still continued to deny it!
- Sam from Cornwall said: During my lunch break, I was trying on some new underwear and decided to send a picture to my wife as a joke. It was only when I received a reply from my manager that I realised I’d hit the wrong number! It took a lot to go back to work that day.
- Amy from Oxford said: I was doing an impression of my very serious boss without realising that he was behind me. It’s safe to say he didn’t see the funny side and pulled me up about it in front of the whole office. I was humiliated and left the company soon after.
- David from Basingstoke: I accidently charged a customer for an item twice and didn’t realise until he came back for a refund a few days later – making a scene while he was at it. While I was processing the refund, I accidently charged him again! Safe to say he won’t be using our store anymore.
- Charlotte from Bournemouth: One day after work, I got caught in a conversation with an overly friendly work colleague. When I went to say goodbye, he moved forward to kiss me but I quickly stepped back. Several people in our office saw and thought we were secretly going out!
- Ollie from Cardiff: My manager went to the toilet during an important conference call and he forgot to turn his microphone off. He began complaining to a colleague about all the other managers. The entire room could hear, so I had to run in and tell him to turn it off!
- Sarah from Leeds: I did a silly dance in front of everyone in the office thinking it would never leave the room. But my colleague had filmed me on her phone, and I had a huge surprise when the clip appeared in our next company presentation for everyone to see.
- Eleanor from Essex: A few years ago I worked as a waitress and was rushing around during a busy shift. As a result I accidently spilt gravy down a woman’s new white dress. She was furious and left the restaurant after refusing to pay.
- Chris from South London: My boss got very drunk at our annual summer party and it got to the point where he couldn’t walk. Everyone was laughing at him so I ended up carrying him to a taxi and phoning his wife to tell her he was coming home. We haven’t spoken about the incident since.
“It’s understandable that embarrassing or cringeworthy moments can leave us with our heart in our throat, but it’s important to handle these situations correctly. Otherwise, you could cause further tension. If an awkward moment at work has left you feeling uncomfortable, even if you weren’t directly involved, you need to talk to your manager about what’s troubling you. They can then begin to work through this with you to prevent any further upset as a result of the incident.”