It’s Mortification Week at Ask a Manager and all week long we’ll be revisiting ways we’ve mortified ourselves at work. Here are 12 more mortifying stories to enjoy.
1. The accidental overture
UGH back in the day, I had my work e-mail and home e-mail feed into the same e-mail client (yeah yeah, I know, I know, it was a different time). I (female) saw what looked like a cool show at a local venue, copied the link, popped it in an e-mail and said, “Hey, looks fun, we should go!” and typed in the first two letters of my (male) friend’s name and hit send.
Almost immediately, one of my students replied back that he didn’t think this was appropriate (college student, but still ick!) As my soul left my body, I replied that it was an autocomplete error and it OBVIOUSLY wasn’t meant for him. I am still dead and am typing this from beyond the grave.
2. The knock-out
My brother, who is 6’3″, was interviewing for a CEO position and was seated on a couch chatting with the chairman of the board and his top team, when a cabinet door above him swung open. When he stood up, he hit that thing with the force of a vigorous launch from a seated position and knocked himself out. Still got the offer.
3. The GIF
My coworker (higher ranking, but not my boss) and I were getting ready to work the early shift together – meaning we were both on our computers at home. He sent a quick greeting via Slack and I decided to send back a “good morning” GIF. (In Slack, this means you type in a “find me a GIF” command, followed by the topic. It shows you a bunch of GIFs for that topic, you pick one and click “send”.)
One of the GIFs suggested was shown in the preview as a cartoon sheep running up the hill with the sun rising over it and the words “Good morning” appearing in the sky. It seemed cheerful and friendly, so I clicked “send” – only to realize that I hadn’t watched the full GIF, and he received a GIF that didn’t just say “Good morning.” I watched and watched as the letters kept on coming, until the final message said: “Good morning, I love you.”
Fortunately, he’s an all-round good egg who thought it was hilarious. So while my mortification was intense, it was also short. Still, lesson learned – always watch a GIF to the end before you send!
4. Poor judgment
I sat on an interview panel once where I encountered a guy who, when answering a question about dealing with workplace conflict, went on a long, convoluted, extremely detailed story the upshot of which was: he’d started dating a colleague, it wasn’t going well, and he needed a new job so he could break up with her.
He did not get the job.
5. The name
I was up in the C-suite for the first time for a big meeting, very nervous. I was trying to find the conference room and bumped into someone who I knew of but hadn’t yet met. He said, “Hi, I’m John Hancock.” I meant to respond, “Oh, you’re John Hancock,” as in, nice to put the name to a face. But instead I blurted out, “I’m John Hancock” and honestly, I don’t know which of us was more confused. I turned every shade of red but managed to correct myself. Then luckily some other people walked up and I had a chance to show off that I do actually know my own name.
6. The underwear
During the summers, I often go to my seasonal pool after work before I head home. Every once in a while I’d just change in my office, put on swimsuit and a cover-up, so I could get right in the pool as soon as I arrived. One day last summer, I got into the office early in the morning, having gone to the pool straight from work the day before, and gave my regular friendly greeting to our cleaner. She wasn’t nearly as chatty or friendly as usual when we cross paths in the morning, but I didn’t think much of it until I got to my office. After opening my locked office door (which I always leave unlocked) I noticed something in the middle of my office floor. Reader, it was my panties! Somehow they haven’t made it into my pool bag with the rest of my work clothes and our cleaner had vacuumed around them (I’d been shredding paperwork and the floor was a bit of a mess) but left them in situ. Bless her heart, she’d obviously locked my door so no one else would witness what she must have assumed were shenanigans on my part.
We have never spoken of this, and now I always change at the pool.
7. The introduction
It was 22 years ago and finally at age 40! I got my long awaited breast reduction. I was thrilled with the results – 20-year-old old “new ones” on my middle-aged body. After I recovered and returned to work, we had our work Christmas party that featured multiple hospitals’ staff all combined at one venue. A coworker helped me find a great dress to highlight my new and improved silhouette. I was single at the time, and was hoping to meet someone special.
I had a wonderful time, and as the evening was winding down I was sitting at a cocktail table by myself. A guy came over and abruptly sat down across from me saying “I’ve been wanting to say hi to you all night!” Well, gee, of course you have, because I have these spectacular new and improved breasts, said my wine-addled brain to myself. So I coyly replied with a sultry look, “Hey, let’s just cut to the chase here — just who in the hell are you, anyway?”
He told me his name, and I thought for a moment, hmmm … that name sounds familiar, OMG, yikes! and I said, “I think that’s the name that signs my paycheck.” And he said, “Why yes it is.” Turns out he was the CEO of the group that paid my salary, and he was making a point to try to say hello to everyone personally that evening. Obviously not trying to hit on me.
The following year, I attended the party with my boyfriend/now-husband, and the CEO was in a receiving line to greet everyone as they entered the ballroom. As I was introducing my S.O. to him, I said, “I don’t know if you remember me” … and before I could say another word, he clasped my hand and said, “Of course! I remember you, Jackie.” Cringe…
8. The blowjobs
I was just an innocent cashier caught in the crossfire between my super sweet manager (Mormon mother of eleven kids, and yes that’s relevant here) and a customer she was chatting with while bagging his groceries. He had just gotten his hair cut at the salon next door and was mildly complaining about the price of a simple cut, and my manager just popped this gem right out with her sweet and bubbly voice: “I wonder how much she would have charged you for a blow job?”
He went damn near purple with embarrassment, the cashier behind me started this horrible laugh-cough, and her customer lost it right there. I was dumbfounded. Couldn’t say a word.
My friends, I had to explain it to her. After he left. She looked like she was going to faint as she had been telling her kids and everyone else for years that she was really good at blow jobs and that’s why her kids always had the best looking hair. Of course, she thought that blow jobs were the same thing as blow drying hair.
9. The Legos
My first year in the U.S., not yet familiar with all of the colloquial language, I was chatting with a coworker who had a son close in age to my oldest (mine was 4 and his was 3). He complained about how his son would never sit still and always kept him and his wife running around. I said, “Oh mine is very easy, he’s happy to just sit in a corner, playing with himself” and was then surprised when Coworker quickly ended the conversation and left. I MEANT LEGOS.
10. The strengths
At an interview ten years into my career: I’d prepped fairly well, including an answer to the “weaknesses” question, and instead I got asked what my strengths were. I totally blanked, stared at the interviewer for what feels like forever but was presumably only a few seconds, and eventually managed to stammer out, “I do have strengths, honest, I just can’t think of them right now.” We managed to finish the interview reasonably well after that, but I did not get a job offer.
11. The wink
While testifying before a legislative committee, I inadvertently winked at one of the committee members.
12. The Myers-Briggs types
At an all-hands meeting for a small company, we’re talking about Myers-Briggs types and the differences between some of the paired opposites like thinkers vs. feelings (shorthanded as T vs. F) and judgers vs. perceivers (shorthanded as J vs. P). Our deputy director is talking about how she is a judger (J) and her husband is a perceiver (P). She sums it up as, “My husband’s P-ness drives me crazy!” Never to be forgotten.