MONEY Workplace

How to Recover from 8 Everyday Work Screwups

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Rule #1: don't despair.

Once a year, an organization I work with holds a daylong retreat to focus on strategic planning and big-picture goals. I marked the date on my calendar: November 10 at 9am. But that morning, I pulled up to the CEO’s house to find an empty driveway and dark windows. With a sinking feeling, I grabbed my phone and opened the reminder email for the meeting — that had taken place on November 9. I immediately called the CEO to apologize, and although she was very nice about it, I felt so unprofessional.

“The first thing to do when you make a mistake is to acknowledge it and apologize, then look at what went wrong so you can prevent it from happening again,” says Richie Frieman,Modern Manners Guy and author of Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career.

“After that, get over it. People often harp on their errors, which holds them back from success; remind yourself that one hiccup is not going to break your career” — especially if you follow these tips for bouncing back from these common on-the-job slipups.

You Missed a Meeting

We’re not gonna sugarcoat it: This is bad — but fixable. “Missing a meeting, even by accident, sends the unintended message: ‘You’re not important,’” says Jill Geisler, head of the leadership and management programs at The Poynter Institute and author ofWork Happy: What Great Bosses Know. “You owe every person you inconvenienced a sincere apology.”

Don’t make it about you, as in: “I’ve had a crazy week with so much work to do that I got mixed up.” Instead, emphasize that, one, you realize you put people out, and, two, you’ll take measures to make sure it won’t be a recurring issue. Try: “I am really sorry that I missed the meeting. I left you all hanging and set back the project because I forgot to write it on my calendar. I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

And by the way, if you’re the manager, it’s even more crucial to be on the ball. “Some bosses habitually miss their own appointments or arrive late,” says Geisler. “It frustrates employees, causes them to take meetings less seriously and gives you a reputation for disorganization and thoughtlessness.

Your Boss Found Out You’re Interviewing Elsewhere

Maybe a coworker clued her in or she overheard a telling phone conversation, but this pretty much guarantees workplace awkwardness. How to handle the situation depends on whether you’ve been deceptive during the process (like calling in sick in order to go to an interview or breaking a commitment to stay with the company for a certain amount of time, etc.) and whether you have a good relationship with your manager.

“If you haven’t been dishonest, then your conversation is more of an explanation than an abject apology,” says Geisler. “You might say, ‘I’m sorry you found out before I could tell you, but I wanted to see what options exist before I talked with you about my future.’ It could yield a surprisingly good outcome.”

On the other hand, if you’ve been less than forthright, “you owe your manager a genuine apology and a discussion about how to rebuild trust,” says Geisler. “Even if you end up accepting a job elsewhere, it’s never wise to burn a bridge.”

You Were Over-served at the Holiday Party

Your head is throbbing, your stomach is queasy and the last thing you want to do is face the music at the office. But no matter how tempted you are to spend the day in sweats watching TV, “Whatever you do, do not call in sick,” says Nicole Williams, career expert for LinkedIn. Fortify yourself with a large bottle of water, an egg sandwich, an Advil and suck it up.

If you were just a little tipsy, there’s no need to do major damage control. But if things got wild — dancing on tables, kissing the IT guy, spilling a drink on a colleague — schedule a meeting with your boss to apologize. “Face the issue head on, because the longer you avoid him, the more tense the situation will become,” says Williams. “Let him know this is not a reflection of who you are; you simply misjudged your alcohol intake.” (Or the effects it would have.) Assure him, or her, it will never happen again, and then hold up your end of the bargain by drinking minimally at office events going forward. As long as it’s not a repeat performance, people will eventually forget about it. Or at least stop talking about it.

Your Outfit Wasn’t Meeting-Appropriate

For a pitch meeting to a tech startup, you opted for a look that’s Silicon Valley cool — skinny jeans, Frye boots and a flowy top — but when you arrive, everyone else is in a suit. Yikes. “When your outfit is out of sync, you can come across as either aloof, like you didn’t care enough to dress up, or clueless — you don’t realize how out of place you are,” says Frieman. It’s important to acknowledge your misstep so people don’t get the wrong idea.

“Diffuse your fashion faux pas with a bit of humor,” suggests Williams. “Let them know the last time you met with a startup, the dress code consisted of shorts and flip-flops — on the CEO.” Then move past the blunder. “Chances are, whatever you put on is something you feel confident in — so own it,” adds Williams. “And next time, wow them in your best sheath dress and heels.”

Frieman also recommends stashing a spare blazer and scarf in your office or the trunk of your car in case you spill salad dressing on your top or want to spiff yourself up before a last-minute meeting with your boss.

You Took a “Sick Day” and Got Caught

Whether your friend scored Giants tickets or you wanted to get a head start on a romantic weekend getaway, it’s important to nip this slipup in the bud. “Two of the most important attributes an employer is looking for are loyalty and integrity,” says Williams. Since skipping out on work undermines both, you need to make reparations ASAP.

“Come clean to your boss before the office gossip train gets to her,” says Williams. “Tell her you feel terrible about the situation and offer to work over the weekend to make up the time lost.” Then commit to keeping your head down and pulling out your absolute best work over the next few weeks to prove how much you care about your performance and the company’s bottom line.

You Made a Serious Error That Could Require Lots of Time and Money to Fix

As soon as you realize you messed up, brainstorm a potential plan of action to deal with the crisis, then schedule a meeting with your boss. “Ask to see her somewhere unusual. Going to a one-off location subconsciously signals to her that this is a one-off conversation and therefore a one-off error,” explains Williams. So if you’d normally meet in her office, suggest getting a coffee down the street instead.

Once there, “explain everything, hide nothing and provide solutions,” says Williams. Mistakes happen; what your boss wants to hear at this point is that you’re taking responsibility and you’ve given thought to how to improve the blunder — you’re not simply expecting her to pick up the pieces.

You Accidentally Hit Reply All

So, you just fired off an email to your work BFF complaining about your annoying colleague — and then a second later, as the color drains from your face and your throat closes up, you realize you sent the snarky message to the entire office listserv. How can you recover? Apologize immediately, in person, and perhaps armed with an iced latte and cronut as a peace offering. “Not only does this show that you care about how she feels,” says Frieman, “But she’s also more likely to forgive you if she’s looking you in the face.”

In terms of what to say, focus on how terrible you feel to (hopefully) inspire a little sympathy. “Don’t downplay what happened or pretend you didn’t mean what you said,” says Frieman. “This is the time for groveling.” He suggests something along the lines of: “I am so sorry. I screwed up and I feel sick to my stomach about it. I wish there was something I could do to take it back.” Depending on how the conversation goes, you might offer to make it up to her by taking her out to lunch or helping her with an assignment. If she’s still angry, give her space. After a while, you can start rebuilding your relationship.

You Missed a Deadline

The main issue with not turning a project in on time: It inconveniences other people because they’ll have to scramble to finish their work under a crunch. “Give co-workers a heads up as soon as you realize you’re running behind so they won’t be needlessly waiting for you,” says Frieman. Explain why you’re late (chances are, they’ve been in your shoes in the past and will understand), tell them how much longer you need and then follow through no matter what — yes, even if it means cancelling dinner plans or pulling an all-nighter.

“Then, you have to play cleanup to help out everybody affected,” says Frieman. Ask if there are other assignments you can take off their plate while they’re tackling the project, or grab lunch for them so they can concentrate on the task at hand.

More From Daily Worth:

TIME advice

7 Holiday Office Party Sins You Didn’t Even Know You Were Committing (and How to Fix Them)

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Holding your drink in your right hand

It’s December, which means it is officially holiday office party time. For some people, this is a joyous time of relaxing with coworkers, eating good food, and adding a little extra sparkle to their outfits. But for others, the office holiday party is one big cesspool of awkward moments and screw ups that could potentially damage your career. We don’t want to scare you, but the office holiday party is not your run of a mill party. It’s intricate and full of politics–in addition to delicious crab cakes.

Now if you’ve been on the Internet in the last week, there are tons of articles stating the obvious advice i.e. don’t get wasted, wear a completely see-through dress, just eat cheese all night at the food table (it’s not good for you!), but we know you’re too smart for that. So we’ve come up with a list of more subtle mistakes you can make–with the help of Jacqueline Whitmore, an internationally-recognized etiquette expert–for some hacks.

1. Criticizing another coworker in front of a coworker or manager.

Commenting on someone’s dancing skills or choice of outfit may seem like just a little fun for you, but someone else could interpret it differently. Every office has a Dwight Schrute, but you don’t need to point it out. Even if the person is doing something totally stupid and absurd, keep your mouth shut. It makes you look like a bitter and angry person. You want everyone to think you’re super nice–kind of like Blaire Waldorf.

Easy fix: Follow your mom’s advice: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. And if someone is really bothering you, then go get another drink.

2. Giving a gag gift.

You may think a funny gift is hilarious, but not everyone shares your (possibly very dirty) sense of humor.

Easy fix: Play it safe and get a very PC gift, like a candle or a pair of socks.

3. Exiting early or staying too late.

You don’t pull an Irish exit at the office holiday party and you don’t leave after 10 minutes. This is your job people! Spend some time there, a little small talk won’t kill you. But you also don’t want to stay too late. When the crowds start leaving, you can head out.

Easy fix: Stay for at least two hours and then have a solid excuse, like you have an early morning spin class or something. Whitmore says, “When you make an effort to attend the office holiday party, even for just a half hour, you show interest in and support for your colleagues, organization, and supervisor. ”

(MORE: Your Guide to Dressing for the Holiday Office Party)

4. Only talking to the people you talk to every single day.

We get it. You’re BFFs with your coworker, but this is the time to mingle with other people in the company. Yes, it would be easy to just stick with your friends, but they most likely won’t lead to your next job.

Easy fix: Talk to at least two people you wouldn’t normally talk to at work. You never know what it could do for you on both a personal and professional basis. Whitmore says, “Reach out and introduce yourself to people you don’t know rather than sticking with only those you do know. An office party is a chance to shine and mingle with those you don’t see very often. Have some conversation starters available. Most people love to talk about travel, food, and hobbies.”

5. Not being totally present.

Yes, you can go for the whole party from start to finish, but are you actually being present? Be in the moment when you are there. Whitmore says, “A holiday party is a great time to get to know others on a personal level. Be engaged and don’t spend a majority of the evening texting, talking on your cell phone, or posting photos on Facebook. Put people first and put your phone on silent.”

Easy fix: Leave your phone in your coat pocket then you’ll be forced to talk to people.

6. Holding your drink in your right hand.

This is a rookie move. You may be right handed, but you have to keep that drink in your left hand (or whichever is your dominant hand), so you can keep the other strong hand free for some good handshakes. Whitmore says, “No one likes to shake a cold, wet hand. Avoid juggling your food and drink, and don’t talk with your mouth full of food.”

Easy fix: Whitmore suggests leaving your big bag that could comfortably hold a small litter of cats at home. It will just get in the way (and your coworkers most likely won’t rob you). Opt for a wristlet or a small cross body bag if you insist on having a purse.

7. Not showing your appreciation.

So it’s not like you received an actual present, but if you want to get some brownie points then be sure to thank whoever was responsible for the party. Not every company has a holiday party, so it is pretty nice if you get to attend one. Whitmore says, “Saying thank you is not only cordial behavior, but it’ll make you stand out from those who don’t express their gratitude.”

Easy fix: If you want some major extra credit, then send a thank-you note to key persons who helped organize the event and to those who made the event possible.

(MORE: How to Use the Holidays to Advance Your Career)

This article originally appeared on

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

4 Health Excuses To Stay Sober At Your Holiday Party

After the Party
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It's not always easy to explain why you're turning down a drink, finds a new study

Staying sober at a holiday party—whether it’s out of commitment to the 12 steps, your health or your tastebuds—certainly has its merits. But it’s not always easy to explain why you’re turning down a hot toddy, finds a new study in the Journal of Applied Communication Research.

Consider that 65% of adults who work full-time say they regularly drink alcohol, and drinking after work is an ingrained part of many companies’ culture. That after-hours socializing may come with other benefits, too. One study found that among full-time employees, men who drink alcohol earn 19% more than those who don’t, and women who drink make 23% more. Another found that drinking after work with colleagues eased job dissatisfaction.

To find out how non-drinkers handle boozy events, researchers from North Carolina State University interviewed full-time workers who don’t drink alcohol. After analyzing their responses, the authors report that most non-drinkers feel like an outsider and felt like by not drinking, it was their job to put drinkers at ease. Some even said that felt they actually had to be better at their jobs in order to make up for the social points they lost for abstaining. Many said they accepted drinks they never touched, just to save face. “I’ve held a beer bottle for hours, to the point where it’s warm,” said one man who works in sales.

About 40% of nondrinkers abstained for reasons associated with health or not liking the taste, and 38% did so because they were recovering alcoholics. But almost all of them, when asked by coworkers why they weren’t drinking, tended to cite their own health.

No one should have to explain why they don’t drink, but until that day comes, here are five health-related excuses, all from the study participants, to forgo that next drink.

1. “Not drinking is my secret to weight loss.”

Ken, a 41-year-old man, has to woo big donors for his job at a university. “Sometimes they’re really fired up about getting drunk at a football game or something,” he said. In order to not alienate them, Ken told donors he sheds pounds by not drinking. “I don’t want the first thing that somebody thinks of about me to be that I don’t drink,” he said.

2. “It’s that pesky toe fungus again.”

Most recovering alcoholics surveyed gave a health reason for abstaining—in order to skirt stigma. Marshall, a 41-year-old engineer, wanted a legitimate medical excuse that wouldn’t threaten his reputation, so he blamed his toe fungus medication, which is contraindicated with booze—even though the drug had expired and he’d stopped using it.

3. “Sorry, I’ve got a marathon.”

People respect long-term goals and physical challenges, so 43-year-old Donna, a professor, said she didn’t drink because it got in the way of her marathon training. “That goes over really easily,” she said.

4. “Ugh, migraines.”

Instead of revealing that she took anti-anxiety medication and didn’t want to drink alcohol, website designer Maddie, 31, said she took migraine medication. “I’ve spread that lie all over town,” she said.

MONEY Networking

Work the (Office Party) Room

If you're going to the company holiday festivities only for the food and drink, you're squandering a unique networking opportunity.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a friend at the top of the corporate ladder? Mark your calendar for the office holiday party, your annual chance at cocktail chatter with company brass.

“Take advantage of being in the same room as your CEO or division director,” says Miriam Salpeter, co-author of 100 Conversations for Career Success. Making nice with key executives can help you gain visibility you can leverage later for new projects or even promotions. Use these tricks to make no-stress small talk with the big shots.

Study your prey. Make a list of three execs you’d like to meet, focusing on those with influence to help you ascend. Research each one’s background online.

“Look for commonalities you can use as conversation starters,” says Salpeter. (Maybe you both attended a Big East college, for example.) Ply co-workers for more information. (Does the veep follow basketball?)

Make a calculated approach. The best way in: Ask your supervisor for an introduction. This establishes instant credibility, says Hallie Crawford, a career coach in Atlanta.

Boss not game? Approaching the target one-on-one is ideal but may not be possible. To join a group conversation, “simply ask if you can increase the size of the circle,” says Terri Griffith, a management professor at Santa Clara University. Introduce yourself by making what Diane Windingland, author of Small Talk Big Results, calls a “role pitch”: Sum up in a sentence what you’ve done for the company of late. So rather than “I’m a sales director,” add on “I developed the campaign for our new product line.”

Steer the conversation. Remember, this isn’t a meeting, but a party. “It’s about building relationships, not about making transactions,” says Ivan Misner, chairman of business networking organization BNI. So quickly shift away from shop talk; personal conversation makes for a more memorable connection.

Use your research to formulate an open-ended question like, “Do you think Marquette has a shot this year against Georgetown?”

Exit gracefully. Keep the conversation brief so you don’t monopolize the person’s time. Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk, recommends signaling that the chat is almost over. For example, “I must get another of these canapés, but before I do, I’d love to know which NCAA player you think is the one to watch this year.”

In January — when everyone’s back to business — follow up with an email recapping the meeting and offering a big idea or help on future projects. Says Windingland: “Never miss a chance to solidify a relationship with a decision-maker.”

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