SURVEY SAYS: Embarrassing Moments at Work

We recently covered a survey in which senior managers shared their most embarrassing moments at work.

Last week, I asked NewsDash readers, “Have you had an embarrassing moment at work?” I also asked them to share their MOST embarrassing moment with us.


Nearly all (90.9%) of responding readers have had an embarrassing moment at work, while 9.1% reported they haven’t.


MOST embarrassing moments at work respondents chose to share include:

  • It was actually my co-worker …REALLY! She’s had a few, but this one is epic. One of our co-workers was eating a tootsie roll pop and she didn’t have hair due to a health condition. She said, “Who loves you baby!” to her (reference to Kojak for those who don’t remember the show). Talk about LOL!
  • My very first day working for a TPA, I tried to heat up a sandwich from Arby’s in the microwave. I didn’t realize that the sandwich wrapper contained metal in it so I was surprised when it burst into flames inside the microwave. I was able to put out the fire but had to spend the rest of the day jokingly telling everyone, “Hi, I’m the new guy that tried to burn the place down.”
  • I had a tampon come flying out of my pocketbook and land on my co-worker’s desk. Of course he was sitting there when it happened.
  • This will not even gain a chuckle from you but I was mortified that I had misspelled the name of a company with whom we worked on a report sent out to the industry. It was a total oversight, but it was pointed out to me by the “stern” President of a very large supplier. This was in the early 80’s. See, I told you it wasn’t funny. (I didn’t keep a low profile, but I tried to never mess up too much.)
  • My chair got a little too far away from me and when I went to sit down it was not in range, I landed on the floor, in a dress…..paper clips went flying everywhere.
  • While raising 3 sons we had a joke of sorts – when some guy would turn any of us down for something, we would say, “Well, that’s okay. I’ve been turned down by better looking women than you before.” That always got a laugh. My moment was when I said that to a female client – jokingly, of course. But, she was not amused.
  • I had my bowling ball at work for an after-hours bowling party. My colleague convinced me to roll it down the hall to him. He said, “Too fast!” and stepped out of the way. The ball slammed quite loudly into the wall next to my boss’s office. I grabbed the ball and hid under my desk. There was a reminder dent in that wall for years.
  • I was working at my desk when a large centipede dropped from the ceiling into my hair. I screamed like a little girl, loudly enough, the whole department was startled. I’m a man lol.
  • Talking to a co-worker about how a contractor didn’t know what he was doing only to find said contractor was standing right behind me
  • This goes back to the early years of my career: My in-laws gave us the opportunity to visit them in Norway while he was assigned there with Conoco. We decided to make it a two week trip and I was feverishly working to leave my work caught-up and with tasks done in advance where possible. I worked through lunch day after day, having sandwiches at my desk. It wasn’t until we were aboard our flight to Heathrow – above the Altlantic, in fact – that I realized I’d left that last sandwich in my desk drawer half eaten. It was tuna. You can imagine the rest.
  • Unfortunately I tried to stick out the day having a migraine and ended up getting violently ill in the men’s room. The entire floor heard it and when the building was renovated it was mentioned to make the men’s room sound-proof.
  • I didn’t realize I had left the bathroom with part of my dress tucked into my panty hose. I had to walk through the break room to get back to my desk. Fortunately, a kind coworker reached out and pulled my dress down before I got any further.
  • I had had a baby and returned to work 3 months later. Four to five months after my child had been born, I was in another office and a colleague I didn’t see often asked me when I was due (in front of everyone in our open plan office). I said I just had a baby. Instead of just trying to brush it off (because he was thinking I was pregnant when I was just fat from having the baby) he doubled down and insisted I must be due soon. To this day, I cannot understand it – every man around us slowly backed away or made excuses to ‘get a coffee’ or ‘had a meeting’.
  • Wow, so many. This one not technically at work, but at work holiday party. I was on the dance floor and decided to kick off my shoes. As I was running back to my date I slipped, sliding on my back and stopping at his feet. I was even more mortified when he swung his arms and said, “Safe!”.
  • I was working in Germany and catching up on work emails late at night. I inadvertently hit reply all when replying to my payroll specialist about something I had forgotten to do and “wrote bad “my name” and adding a postscript “How’s the love life” as she was single and dating. Apparently when everyone in the home office read the email my boss could hear the whole building laughing. IT spent hours trying to retrack it.
  • When I was younger and a pensions consultant, my manager and I went out for lunch with a client. It was one of those hip (back then) pizza places with unusual toppings, and I was much younger and hungrier back then. I finished my pizza and my manager asked I would like some of hers, and I said yes. Of course it was a spinach topped pizza, and I walked around for the rest of the day – including a visit to the client – with spinach on my teeth. I remember smiling at everyone, and everyone *really* smiling back. Terrible day, really embarrassed but still remember it all these years later.
  • We were in a Benefits Committee Meeting when I realized I had been drinking from the same bottle of water as my Director. I quietly tapped her on the shoulder and told her not to drink from the bottle as I had accidentally drank from the same bottle she had been drinking from. Without warning, she announced it to the entire room. Everyone laughed. In response, without thinking, I asked if anyone knew where I could get a tetanus shot! The laughter continued, but I will never forget which bottle is mine from now on!
  • I don’t even know where to start!
  • Years ago, had too much refreshment at a company party and told the senior partner exactly what I thought of him and the other partners in the firm. Fortunately they found it amusing. Have never overindulged at a company party since then.


In verbatim comments, there were some tips about how to handle or think about embarrassing moments. Almost all noted that embarrassing moments are a fact of life, and one said they provide “learning opportunities.” Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “Guys, never ever ask a woman when she’s due.”


Thank you to all who participated in the survey!



They happen and it’s always good if you can laugh it off.

He did his best to pretend not to see it.

I have found that embarrassing moments at work usually provide years of reminiscent laughs…eventually.

I am blissfully unaware if I have had an embarrassing moment at work. The responses might be better if it were possible to reach out to the “popular group”, as I am sure that they would be aware of moments where we might be embarrassed if we knew what they were saying!

It certainly creates memories!

We all have embarrassing moments in life but somehow the ones at work tend to stick with you forever.

Guys, never ever ask a woman when she’s due.

We all have embarrassing moments; it’s the recovery that counts.

It’s good to have embarrassing moments at work since they provide “learning opportunities”.

Everyone needs embarrassing moments. They give you a story to tell later, bring you down a notch on the ego scale, and make life richer.

Two thoughts, one is we’re human and all do things we regret. The second is, that work places have become more informal. It’s important to remember that work is work, friends and family are for blowing off steam.



NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Strategic Insight or its affiliates.