When you make a fool of yourself at work

A friend of mine humiliated herself horribly at work in front of her boss and colleagues. I won’t get into the details of the incident, but it was bad! She was besides herself with anguish and was even considering quitting her job because of it.

She has been beating herself up over it even though it happened three weeks ago. I have been trying to cheer her up and convince her it is really not that bad. I think pretty much everyone has suffered public humiliation.

Personally, I have several cringe-worthy stories of instances where I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Embarrassment is very difficult to overcome. We torment ourselves thinking that others will think less of us. We spend too much time trapped in that moment.

 Managing one’s image after a major public bungling is tricky, but with the following tips, you will be well on your way:

Don’t go into hiding

The first instinct after you publicly humiliate yourself is to run, hide and disappear completely. Understandably so.

When you spend all your time in the office building your identity to project a certain profile, then in a moment of weakness, you do something stupid and your identity takes a direct hit, it can be hard to look anyone in the eye again.

However, hiding will just worsen the situation. Own it and be prepared to deal with the consequences. You need to show people that the crisis has not destroyed you.

Fake it till you make it

The best way to counteract public embarrassment is to be composed. Even though you may feel like you are crumbling inside, appearing unaffected and composed after a particularly embarrassing episode minimises the severity of the mistake in the eyes of observers.

Plaster a huge smile on your face and act like you didn’t just make a complete fool of yourself.

People move on

Newsflash for you narcissistic being, people don’t spend a lot of their time and energy thinking about you. The sting of humiliation mostly comes from thinking that people are still talking about you behind your back.

Don’t get me wrong, they WILL talk about you, but the time they are devoting to your case is probably very little, and may only be immediately after the embarrassing incident.

After that, nobody really cares about your shenanigans.


Take responsibility and let it go

If you offended someone, don’t get defensive about it. Own up to your mistake and apologise. Accept responsibility for what you have done wrong.

After that, let go of feelings of shame and worthlessness. What’s done is done. You don’t get a do over. Make a conscious choice to put it behind you and move on.

If you start living in the constant loop of ‘why did I do that?’ or ‘If I’d just done this differently,’ you will get nowhere. Fixating on ‘what ifs’ is the hamster wheel of personal recovery.

You’ll just remain stuck in the same place.