Your dumbest moment at work?
Everybody makes mistakes at the office, and sometimes they're bad enough - or just embarrassing enough - that slinking away to a different company where nobody knows you can seem like the only real option, writes Fortune's Anne Fisher in her January 23 Ask Annie column. But there are ways to overcome even a giant career goof. What was your dumbest moment at work? Were you able to recover? How? And what blunders have you seen co-workers or bosses make?
This wasn't my biggest blunder, but certainly my most embarrassing. At this time in my life, I've enjoyed a successful career as a corporate executive and also write a popular blog for 50-plus (www.GenPlus.blogspot.com)
But to get to this point, I certainly paid my dues.
While working as an assistant stage manager early on in my career, my stage manager called on the headset mid-show. She had forgotten to set an important prop -- a set of wings -- a clothing prop for one of the actors who was performing solo on stage in front of an audience of about 600 people. She needed me to run backstage, find the wings in the props room and run with them to the stage right entrance so that the actor would see me holding his wings. In my panic, I ran to the right of the stage...from the back...which meant I was on the stage left.
The poor actor stopped dead in his tracks, mid-monologue, seeing no wings on stage. He made his excuses to the audience and ran off...with me on the opposite end of the stage holding his wings and stage manager having a heart attack over the headset. I ended up walking on stage and handing them to him when he came huffing back, wingless and sweating, to the stage.
It was a disaster. I certainly would have ended my career that night, but for the graciousness of the actors and the honesty of the stage manager.
Just as described in your article, I had established great relationships and had a supervisor who was not afraid to take her share of the responsibility. Big lesson. Enjoyed the article very much.
I was show up to work early to set up for an experiment and have a coworker meet me at a prediscussed time to run the experiment.
However, after the person was 30 minutes late, I sent an e-mail to her expressing how disrespectful of my time it was for her to be late, which was a regular occurance. I'll admit the tone of the mail was agressive and sent in haste.
However the person finally showed up 45 minutes late and gave the regular excuse of traffick, which is somewhat common in San Diego. Except that I was taking the public transportation and made it in to work that same day early.
Well, the e-mail got forwarded to one person who forwarded it to another, until it finally reached the mailbox of the boss. The person made a complaint against me to the HR department and made me apologize for the message.
I hadn't had the time to develop strong business relationships in that job because I had only worked there for 5 months, so I decided to begin looking for other options at the company. I ended up leaving the company to join another, but overall wish I had just taken a deep breath instead of pressing send.
A client once sent me an email that I was going to forward to my boss. I included very harsh comments & opinions that only my boss should read. I pushed reply instead of forward and of course the email went back to the client. I had only been at my job for about three months. I quickly told my boss and apologized in every way I could to him and the client. I always feel you should "Act...not be acted upon". My boss did agree with my comments, but told me to never put them in writing again! The client laughed and said she agreed with some of the complaints herself, we have a good relationship now.
I once sent an email newsletter to 12,000 customers with settings that allowed every out of office comment to be circulated to all 12,000 and every reponse telling me to stop sent to all 12,000. I had about 65,000 emails in my inbox the next day as did many customers. Somehow I managed to keep my job.
I was new on the job as a call center manager, staffed by 26 women (I am male). I sent an email to my entire staff asking them to change some process (I can't recall now what it was). To add a little understanding that what I was asking them was an addition to their workload, I added a line that said "I know how busy you all are...". But in my haste, I wrote "busty" instead of "busy". I wasn't aware of my mistake until one of the older, very reserved ladies came to see me. For most, it was just a good laugh, but it made the rounds in the company, and I was hearing about it years later.
I was working for an online medical records internet startup and was demonstrating the process for restoring a database with the owner of the company on the conference room projector and nervously clicked too fast and deleted the entire active database.
Luckily it was restored moments after but needless to say my boss�s confidence in my abilities went up in smoke and I moved on shortly thereafter.
To this day that moment pains me to even think about and it can keep me up at night.
The company recently was purchased for tens of millions of dollars and the only thing I regret is that moment.
I have never lost a piece of data since.
Here is my dumb moment.
I was a furniture store assistant manager with a team of people. We had our big semi-annual 23 hour sale that was always a flop and took 80 hours of constant prep preparing for it. We were tired and overworked. Had clients in store until 10 minutes before close at the 23rd hour. Everyone thought they were casing the store. So we called cops for a drive by. Cops don't just drive by, They investigate. They ask questions. This family of three talking on cell phones as they walked around our store was questioned by police for shopping while "we were open and advertised for them". In the end, the cops laughed at me, fined us for wasting their time, the customers got flowers from our staff and a $500 gift card. I got a write-up in my file for not controlling the negative group think. 1 year later, the store was out of business and I was promoted to the parent company where I worked for three years with great success. Take resposibility for your errors and move on. That was two careers and 10 years ago.
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