Lost it at work? Here's how to find your way back again.
Let’s face it. Our jobs can make us crazy, sometimes leading us to behave in ways that we regret.
We lose our cool at a meeting, say. We have one too many drinks at a company event. We become so upset with a co-worker that we throw a stapler across the room, use bad language or collapse into tears.
You may fear you will never live this incident down, or even that you have ruined your prospects for succeeding or advancing in your career. You can already feel people smirking behind your back, and worry that no one will respect you ever again.
Fear not. We all eventually act in ways we come to regret. What’s important here is what we do afterward. Try this:
First, acknowledge the transgression. You may want to believe that the best thing to do is just to forget about the incident and hope everyone else does, too. This fools no one, however, and is even a bit cowardly. So, whatever you did, own it. Don’t pretend it never happened or, worse, blame it on someone else.
Apologize if apologies are in order. The secret to good apologizing is to do it right away. Sincerely and immediately is the gold standard here. If you’ve allowed an interval to pass, you may need to make your mea culpa a bit more elaborate, as bad feelings often set in with time. Just remember: apologizing is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of integrity, strength and maturity.
Mitigate the consequences. If that stapler you threw hit a cup of coffee that then splashed on someone’s clothes, offer to pay for cleaning. If whatever you did caused more work for others, volunteer to help them with it.
Meanwhile, take steps to show your worth. Now’s the time to be extra punctual, to put in more hours and to volunteer for unpopular assignments. Remind people why you are an asset to the work community. Demonstrate your commitment to your job and your colleagues.
Finally, take heart. All you’ve really done is show you’re human. No one on the planet keeps it together 100 percent of the time. One unfortunate incident is just that — one incident. Someday you’ll be able to laugh about it. Promise.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use and of the novel “The Paris Effect.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.