Your biggest work mistakes

Readers get expert advice on handling their work mishaps

We've all had them — that moment at work that you wish could be erased with a delete button. Since that's not an option, we took some of the most embarrassing work moments shared by readers on Facebook and asked business experts for their advice. Here are some of the highlights:

Phil wrote: "One of my direct reports mistakenly copied a client on an email ranting about her. The client sent it back to me, letting me know that it clearly wasn't intended for her. Not a proud moment as a manager!"

Expert advice:

"Act immediately," said Dick Cross, a business consultant and author of "Just Run It." "Don't make excuses — take the punch. This shows responsibility. Ask how to make the other person feel better. It's all about them, not you. Then send a handwritten letter on good stationery. This shows sincerity."

"The employee should not be ranting about a client in email," said Susan Heathfield, a human resources expert for About.com. "Coaching is needed for the employee who needs a learning opportunity ... anything in writing develops a life of its own and lives forever. Anything in email potentially goes to the wrong places and the employee needs to lose this habit immediately. A stern talking to from the manager is in order."

Heather wrote: "I was walking into a boss' office once carrying a huge pile of folders and the elastic gave way in my skirt and it completely fell around my ankles. It's the truth."

Expert advice:

"The employee might return from fixing the problem and open the conversation with, 'Please pardon my wardrobe malfunction. I didn't mean to make myself look like an idiot, but my skirt didn't cooperate,' Heathfield said. "And then, move on. No further conversation necessary."

"A quick and affable wit is one of the most precious skills one can develop," said Darrell W.Gurney, founder of CareerGuy.com. "How about ... not flinching for a moment and simply and straight-forwardly stating 'I want to discuss a raise' or 'These files are very revealing. Let me share them with you.'"

Dan wrote: "I was frustrated with my boss, and I just lashed out in a meeting because I'd hit the wall. He never remembers people's names that are not in his immediate circle — yet they are key players to the big picture. This really bothers me. So at a meeting when he couldn't remember the names of the people who had JUST introduced themselves, I lost it. I yelled — 'That's Kim, and that's Steve, and they just told you this! Why is that so hard to remember?' How can I make sure he isn't holding any resentment toward me about this?"

Expert advice:

"You can apologize and offer to be his reminder in the future, because remembering a person's name is obviously a personal value and strength of yours," said J. Clint Anderson, a business consultant and president of the J. Clint Anderson Company. "Just choose a more subtle, supportive approach as you cover his weakness with your strength".

"You might ask your boss whether you should apologize to the others at the meeting, or if there is anything else you can do in the future, such as briefing your boss on who will be at the meeting ahead of time," said Ron Volper, author of "Up Your Sales in a Down Market." "And in the future, you need to take a deep breath before reacting to things that anger or frustrate you."

"Maybe this could be a 'Kumbaya' moment, if handled properly, where the boss can get an insight on themselves that could shift everything," Gurney said. "Yet, for the sake of your job, quit reading this and get in there now and first and foremost apologize. If you can come to a place of letting go of your frustrations and contribute to him in a way he can hear it, good for you. But that's the icing on the cake."

Margi wrote: "My mother and best friends from home sent me a singing man-chicken telegram to my first job in Boston for my 23rd birthday. I had only been working there for about a month. Memorably and awesomely mortifying!"

Expert advice: "Humor is the only way to deal with such extraordinary awkwardness," Gurney said. "When someone exposes the elephant of awkwardness in the room, then everyone can laugh and the situation can be easily dismissed. [You could say] 'I'm so glad nobody here is vegan' or 'This is way more conservative than what they sent to my sister for her bachelorette party.'"

"I would try to ignore this one, unless your colleagues bring it up," said Barbara Pachter of business etiquette consultants Pachter and Associates. "I would then laugh along with them and say something like, 'Mothers: You've got to love them!' I would then have a nice talk with my mother, encouraging her never to do anything like that again."

jweigel@tribune.com

Twitter: @jenweigel

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