Friday, April 27, 2007


White Collar Pratfalls

Here is our offering for Casual Friday - which is based on some amusingly lame advice on how to handle embarrassing mistakes at the workplace. The various scenarios appear below, with my comments and annotations:

1) You're making a presentation and you find out you misspelled something. suggests that you confess your mistake. That's if they notice. I see ludicrous misspellings on the TV news all the time. Somehow they made it through the editors and ended up on the screen anyway. If CNN can screw up, so can you. In fact, if you are caught in a misspelling, just shrug and tell the assembled that you were a copy editor for Ted Turner in a former life.

2) You're in some hoity-toity meeting with a lot of super-self-serious executives, and your stomach grumbles. suggests you make a remark about going for lunch after the meeting. I say you ought to announce, "What can I say? I have fire in my belly." Who knows? It might net you a promotion. If the sounds you make with your digestive organs fall into an even more embarrassing category (e.g., the whining of one's bowels), you won't need to say anything, because there will always be some boss somewhere crass and cruel enough to say something for you. Allow them to do so. Even blush. It will mark you temporarily as a victim and may earn you a flicker of empathy from your colleagues, unconsiously or not. You shouldn't have to apologize just for being an animal anyway, even in a corporate boardroom.

3) You email a friend or colleague a "raunchy email", and it accidentally gets forwarded to some unintended recipients. at first suggests "Assign blame" - then inexplicably back-pedals from that and says you should apologize. I don't send raunchy emails to people, but I could conceivably be caught with anti-corporate propaganda. In that case, I would lie (see yesterday's post) - not grovel.

4) You dis the boss and he hears your remarks. says, "Start a dialogue." If you have that much chutzpah, you should be the boss. I say pretend it never happened. Many bosses are just this side of clinical paranoia to begin with, so if you make like the poor doofus has been hearing things, he might think so, too.

5) You dis some grand poobah just after you've been on a phone conference with him, and you assumed - incorrectly, as it turns out - that he'd hung up. essentially suggests, once again, that you should start a dialogue. I say you should immediately edit your remark in midstream to make it seem that you meant it in reference to somebody else - like, say, Jack or Michelle.

The five scenarios above fall into two categories. First, there is the crime of Human Imperfection, as represented by numbers 1 and 2. Second, there is the crime of Honesty, as represented by numbers 3, 4 and 5. Our humanity and our honesty are the two traits most likely to alienate the corporate system, so the message here is that you should suppress them whenever possible - or cravenly excuse them away once they raise their ugly heads.

"Five Embarrassing Work Gaffes" from

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