Survey Reveals Managers' Most Embarrassing Moments at Work

MENLO PARK, CA -- Sitting in a dunk tank may be business as usual for a circus performer, but how about a corporate executive? Strange but true, some managers have made a splash – literally – in front of colleagues. In fact, in a recent survey, sitting in dunk tanks, performing in office skits and falling prey to clothing calamities were among survey respondents’ most embarrassing moments at work.

The survey was developed by OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of highly skilled administrative professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 150 senior executives at the nation’s 1,000 largest companies.

Executives were asked, “What was your most embarrassing moment at work?” Here are some of their responses:

  • “I inadvertently sent a personal e-mail to an entire distribution list.”
  • “Another manager and I had a conflict in front of the president of the company.”
  • “A personal voice mail from my spouse went to someone else instead.”
  • “I pretended to throw water on a colleague only to discover my cup wasn’t empty. Luckily, she had a good sense of humor.”

“No professional is immune to the occasional work mishap,” said Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Acknowledging an awkward situation, apologizing to the appropriate colleague, if necessary, and not dwelling on it are good ways to bounce back from even the most uncomfortable scenario.”

Think performances are limited to the stage or screen? Consider the following:

  • “For Employee Appreciation Week, executives perform a skit and I played Cher.”
  • “I sat in a dunk tank and was in my swimming trunks in front of employees.”
  • “My colleagues pressured me to sing my school song the day I started.”
  • “The marketing team did karaoke. We sang ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’”

Hopefully, these executives rebounded from these memory lapses:

  • “Calling the CEO by the wrong name” 
  • “Leaving the boss behind and going to a meeting without him”
  • “Showing up for work on a Sunday thinking it was Monday”

Ever wonder what it would be like working with the Three Stooges? Here are a few possible scenarios:

  • “I stumbled and fell on my face when I tripped over the carpet.”
  • “In a meeting, I spilled coffee all over myself.”
  • “While speaking at a business event, I fell off the stage.”

Controlling their emotions and staying focused at work challenged these respondents:

  • “I hugged the senior manager on my first day of work.”
  • “While interviewing a job candidate, I fell asleep.”
  • “I passed out in the front lobby after I cut my finger.”

And these wardrobe malfunctions are sure to raise some eyebrows at the office:

  • “Making a presentation with my zipper open”
  • “Coming into work with two different shoes on”
  • “Leaving the gym one morning only to discover I had left my business clothes at home”
  • “Showing up at work wearing a gray jacket and blue pants”

“Everyone has embarrassing incidents at work – it shows we’re all human,” added Domeyer. “The best way to handle awkward moments is to gracefully move on, and, if possible, try to find the humor in the situation.”

OfficeTeam has more than 300 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at

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