(Un)professional: A roundup of awkward, embarrassing, human moments at work

Embarrased sculptureProfessional embarrassments. Everyone's been there—some of us more than others. Spilling printer toner all over the office. Wiping out in front of a hallway full of people and a security camera. Having the CEO see your computer screen in passing and exclaim, "What a nice picture of the governor!" then come closer only to see that you were in the middle of a Photoshop teeth whitening session.  

These are just the stories I'm willing to admit.

I posted on social media and handed out business cards with a verbal prompt during Professional Polish (ironic, I know). Then I sat back and watched the stories roll in. You didn't hold back.

Here's a selection of your working and networking blunders, republished anonymously but with the profanity intact. 

Close Reading

I once called to thank a foundation for their gift, and upon talking to the program officer, realized they denied us. I had just scanned the letter and assumed they'd funded my proposal. It was the first month at my new job, and the first time I called a donor to thank them too. 

Misstep of the Dark

When I was working at Knott's as a makeup artist, we did a promo gig with Elvira. One of the makeup artists in the crew was tasked to make an actress look like an older, aged Elvira. Later that evening outside the crew's nest I saw my boss chatting with the person I assumed to be the actress. I went up to compliment her on her "old Elvira" makeup. 

Not the actress — Real Elvira.


Years ago, I was trying to set up a password for Lotus Notes. None of the passwords I could invent were accepted, and I got super annoyed, so finally I put in "Fuck The Password" and it accepted it. Then one day, my boss called and said, "IT needs your password." Things got awkward. 

The Meet Cute

WomenWinning house party. I tripped over my slacks—still not sure how that happened—and [former Minnesota Secretary of State] Joan Growe literally caught me. 

Pursuit of Mute

Terrible morning: running late for a standing meeting that I scheduled, with a client, to dial in to the conference call on my office phone. I didn't realize the speakers and microphone were live when I got so frustrated with the automated call-in system I slammed down the phone and screamed, "Well fuck me then!" Everyone on the call (client, vendors, colleagues) heard me. My boss was standing in front of me making the finger slitting the throat motion. 

The Man Who Loved Too Much

One time when I was greeting a bunch of people and in a moment of complete cultural competency failure, I went to give an observant Muslim woman a hug. She was very nice about it, and I felt like an ass. Sorry! 

Too Early for This

It was an early Monday morning and I needed coffee, but it hadn’t been made. I have never made coffee before and was a bit nervous. As I was scooping the coffee and pouring it into the machine, I had one of those moments when your brain is slowly realizing what you are doing, but then it's too late. A coworker walked in and witnessed me dumping a big scoop of coffee into where the water is supposed to go. I made a huge mess, but my coworker helped me clean up and made coffee the right way. 

She Later Clarified They Were Khaki Linen Pants

One week into the Whole30, I didn't feel like cooking dinner, so I had three bananas with sunflower seed butter for dinner. I sharted my pants in a classroom full of sixth graders at 8:00 a.m. the next day (while my coworker was teaching). I waddled to the bathroom and was stuck there for 45 minutes wearing a button up and dress shoes while waiting for my boyfriend to bring me a change of clothes. Made a bullseye on the back of my pants. The worst. 

Just Take the Plaque

Major donor event. Everyone got plaques at the end. Elderly major donor asks what he's supposed to do with the plaque. With zero forethought, I pointed out it would be good for squishing bugs. He hmphed and took it.

Eye Candy

Got "caught" looking at nude male torsos on iStock by my boss and my boss's boss. It was for a legit medical-related project though. Both asked: "What are you doing?" which induced red-faced flustered stuttering of "T-this is for w-work, I swear!" 

Bees, Butts

It was the first meeting of a year-long Emerging Leaders program. People were introducing themselves with a bit of personal trivia. One guy said he was into bees, and friends would call him when they had an unwanted colony, and he'd re-home these bees. Somebody asked if he got rid of wasps' nests too and he said, "Oh, no way. Wasps are evil."

That week, this infographic was making the rounds, so I asked him if he'd posted the bee vs. wasp thing on Facebook, but he didn't know what I was talking about. So I start to describe it to everyone. People I've known for zero minutes. I realized I cannot use the word "asshole" in a professional setting…so I replace "ass" with the totally family-friendly "butt." What I didn't realize until one nanosecond after saying it is that BUTTHOLE sounds a thousand times grosser than ASSHOLE. You say asshole and people think, "jerk." But you say BUTTHOLE and people think of an actual anus.


She Could've Gotten Away With It Too

I have a friend who worked in an office and while on the phone rolled over her skirt. She stood up to go to the copier and BAM down went the skirt. She screamed so everyone looked right at her…love that story.

Feeling bold and confessional? Contribute some of your own situations in the comments. 

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