Putting your foot in your mouth at work

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Work Faux PasWhat happens when you make a verbal blunder at work? Can you recover? Should you apologize? Should you even acknowledge it? It all depends on what you say, whom you say it to and who overhears it, says Joseph Grenny, co-author of “Crucial Conversations.”

It doesn’t just happen to news correspondents or politicians,” Grenny says. “Verbal blunders happen to all of us, and if they happen at work, these social gaffes can be even more damaging.”

Grenny gives us three quick face-saving strategies for recovering from verbal gaffes at work:

The blunder: You said something harsh about a boss or co-worker that should not have been overheard, but was.    

What’s required: Own up to your loose tongue. A clear, unvarnished, unrestrained apology is all you can do. The bandage needs to be as large as the wound — if you made fun of the boss’s wife, a simple “I’m sorry” won’t cut it. They’ll need to hear an apology as intense as their disgust for you at the moment.

The blunder: You said something that was right, but it came across wrong in a meeting.    

What’s required: The apology here is more complex but must still match the fervor of the upset. You have three tasks: 1) Acknowledge that the message people heard from you sounded as offensive as they’ve taken it. And don’t move to step two until they’re satisfied. 2) Say what you really think on the topic in the way you should have said it. 3) Repeat step one.

The blunder: You said something you believe, but that you shouldn’t have said in your position.    

What’s required: In this instance you need to do the same as you did in the first situation – you must apologize. If you stated an opinion that is not the opinion of your company and brought shame to it as a result, then you must apologize as though you don’t believe what you said. This could sound disingenuous, but it’s not. It isn’t “you” who’s apologizing, it’s your position. So your apology is righting the real wrong — your irresponsible lapse of judgment in realizing you don’t get to represent your company in any way you see fit.

Tell us: Have you ever “pulled a Biden” at work? How did you recover, or were you not able to? 

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  2. In a conversation, I made mention that I wouldn’t be surprised if so and so was laid off. The other person in the conversation took that and ran around saying this person was being laid off because I said so. I apologized sincerly and was told that my apology was accepted and it was over. I was then called into the boss’s office the next day, and told that if there were any layoffs I would be the one laid off, because I made the 2nd most money in the department, and he would never lay off a supervisor. Now, how are you supposed to feel since the boss told me I would be his choice. I really don’t trust anyone, I will do just my job and nothing more, why not, since I’m in line for a layoff!

  3. Wow susan, That’s heavy. I don’t know what’s worse…The fact that your blabber-mouth co-worker misinterpreted what you said and caused damage to your integrity for the company or the fact that your boss would rather lay off an employee who makes more money than someone whom probably isn’t benefiting the company anyway. I do believe that you should not let what happened sour your enthusiasm for the company…continue doing what you always have. It always amazes me how common dollars can override common sense in the workplace. You would THINK that any employer would rather pay more money to the deserving & valuable employee before keeping lesser valued employees that the company is better off without. I understand money is an issue nowadays but why waste it on someone who hasn’t truly earned it while we look over & axe the real warrior? Oh well…I guess that’s why I’m just a lower-leveled employee and not one of the smart, know-it-all corporate big wigs who’ve never done an honest days work in their lives.

    Good luck on your continued employment with the company.

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  5. I’d suspect that what’s really happening is that your boss was angry at you and went slightly overboard. Not only did you say something you shouldn’t, but you created office drama that he had to clean up. Weather or not you appologized, it got back to him, which meant he had to do something about it. He will cool off, and the best thing to do at this point is to let it drop and watch the office gossip. My office gossip policy is to listen and not repeat. Sometimes people need to vent and it starts the gossip going. By not repeating it you put yourself in the position of being seen as trustworthy and not contributing to political drama.

    As far as being the next on the chopping block… don’t sweat it. DO NOT let it create a bad attitude because that will put you at the head of the line for lay offs, bad reviews, and possibly out right termination.

  6. The average person is so not complex, if you say something that comes off wrong, or even in Susan’s situation where she feels like she should not work as hard anymore because she is in line for a layoff. Play them! Work hard, respect those around you and you will be TOP DOG! I have gone up and down in the positions with my company, sometimes I’d say the wrong thing, feel the tension a little while, but in the end I always move pass that. Plus, what do you have to lose? You’ll feel better about your job and you will also open up other opportunities in case your position is canned…



  7. (1) Do your job
    (2) Keep your mouth shut
    (3) Trust NO ONE

    Do these three simple things, and you’ll keep your job

  8. I had 3 incidents in three separate occasions, all with a successful and positive outcome, two with co-workers and one with a boss.
    The boss first. This incident happended at a supermarket, me, being a head cashier, encharge of balancing sales and registers and customers and checkers. I knew one thing, this boss did not like I was a guy, he like women doing this kind of a job. There was no chemistry between him and me, and eventually he pull me out of that position and put me to stock frozen foods and check when needed, but with the purpose of getting rid of me. Obviously, a bad situation was created with only me loosing out.

    I purposed myself to work hard for the guy. He would check with the grocery manager, or whom ever was in charge: “how is “me” doing? with all the chores, and having to go back and for stocking and checking and getting the job done, and also asking the man-in-charge, for more work and/or what else I could help with. Well,… these reports got to him and eventually he called me to his office to congratulate me of the positive attitude I took ( he confide on me he bet I would become a problem worker), instead he was pleased to informe he put my name for a promotion at a brand new store.
    One with a co-worker.

    As a Superintendent for construction company I built homes and the models we sometime tour to get an idea of the homes, for this particular semi-custom homes I took it upon myself to correct and change things that would not work sometimes and build the homes according to my corrections (of course, these changes had to get approved by my superiors) they almost always did). Anyhow, this time I was to work side by side with an Interio Designer for cutom changes. You guessed it! we clashed. “you can not do that!!!” she would say. We ended up in a meeting with my supervisors. all I could think during the meeting was “this is not good for my career and my future with this company” So all I did was to explain myself without aggrivating her any further. Boy!!! she was like a MIEOW!!! during the meeting.
    Let me tell you, things were not smooth working with her in the following days, I had to do something. The opportunity came after one of our office meeting; she was coming out of the office towards her car, loaded with rolls of plans and books and thing in her hands, I knew she would not be able to open her car without some help. I run and offer my help, “here let me get this things for you while you open the car” Sha was wowed!!!. Things lead to other ones, and to make this short. we became great friends. My supervisor of course was also wowed when he heard my report.

    My advise to many, never take the vindictive route, that attitude is wrong and it is not because of the job you are doing, or the place where you are working, it is an attitude that you owne, and it will go with you anywhere you go. It does not stay at you previous job, it goes with you. So, start now. work at it.

  9. I would clarify your original message to your coworker and let him/her know the expectation was that conversations were just conversations and not an opportunity to spread information that might hurt someone elses feelings. Also, do not have any casual conversation with the gossiper, and try to have work-related conversations with this person with someone else present. Clarify everything you say to the gossiper with the gossiper, and ask if there are any questions. I would NOT share the remarks your boss made to you with anyone. What your boss did was childish and bullying, and for those reasons, plus your understandable change in attitude towards your job, you should look for another position somewhere else. Reporting bullying will only make you a target for termination…been there, done that. Channel your energies towards finding a position/supervisor/company who will value you AND their own position in life. This is most likely not the first time your boss has behaved badly, and chances are it’s being tolerated. Move on to better things.

  10. RaulJones,
    That is the best advice anyone can give. And it’s SO TRUE. People will take things wrong and set you up for disaster in a heartbeat, it’s a dog eat dog world out there. To all readers: Watch your back.

  11. Sitting around with a co-workers having lunch I made mention of something I had passed on my commute that morning. He piped up and said, “But I thought you took 160th St. to get here”, I then replayed, ” Well I go both ways”. After a couple of seconds of complete silence I decided to handle it head on. I told him if he says anything to anyone he’s dead.
    We laughed.

  12. RualJones, you are very wise. My boss talks way too much and says the dumbest things and everyone is trying to set her up for failure. She talks about African-Americans and loves making racial jokes about “Watermelon-kush”. She thinks its funny and a great conversation starter during lunch in the break room. Because of this, she constantly worries when she sees others whispering. We believe that she is mentally unstable and her personality disorder has also led to her resent divorce. Her comments are so bad that we all cringed when we heard that she was making a speech on live television about recent issues concerning the company (Thank God for sound-bites). I guess its safe to say that she is going to talk her way into complete termination.

  13. Here’s a good example. I was working as a consultant for a software developing firm and it’s my first day on the job. My new boss and I were dealing with a very incompetent but arrogant network administrator while trying to install software. Well it was very frustrating and I asked my boss if the client has any technical experience and she said yes he had an Information Services degree. Well I then said He must have gotten his degree at (a local training school with a bad rep for turning out flunkies) which then my boss replied “That’s where I got my degree”. After working with that boss for 2 years my opinion of the school’s graduates did not change.

  14. Raul, you are so right. You want to be tactful and nice (you don’t want to be the weirdo in the corner asking for his red stapler), but ABSOLUTELY follow those 3 steps.

  15. My rule of thumb in the work place is to just keep your mouth shut, trust no one, and do your work quietly and diligently. I watch the drama that goes on all around me, and just ignore it. The less inconspicuous you are, the fewer problems you will face from bosses co-workers. I know their idiocy is almost impossible to deal with sometimes, but live peacefully knowing that you are not as dumb, catty, or loud-mouthed as they are. True, you will always have to deal with the sad fact that people who are often worthless to the company get paid 3x more & are considered “more valuable” than you are, but that just seems to be the way life goes. Oh, and did I mention – Trust No One? I’ve learned through experience, that even those you consider to be most trustworthy, will end up stabbing you in the back. The whole office politics thing is not for me, I am happily on my way to being in business for myself. I have gladly spent many company hours building my own business. After seeing that no matter how devoted I was to the company, I would never advance, the joke is on them. Can’t wait to kiss them all goodbye once the business is 100% afoot!

  16. A simple slip oft he tounge can get you in a lot of trouble too. I was in my boss’s office working on a computer problem with him and what I meant to say was “Ron rewired the router” but what came out sounded more like “I wasted my career working for you you crooked little weasle.”

  17. One time I called my boss a cocksucker behind his back to my buddies. The problem was, he was right behind me. He tried to get me fired but I lied and my buddies lied for me. He ended up quitting a few weeks later, and I hear he still isnt working. My new boss is great, and we get along perfect, but sometimes I feel bad for my old boss.

  18. Susan, I really feel for you, your boss made a total jerk of themself by saying something so nonsensical and innappropriate to one of their employees, but remember this: it is always easier to fight back than it is to turn the other cheek. Though you may find what I’m saying to be patronizing, I’m really not trying to be. I completely understand why you’ve decided not to be especially cordial to these people anymore (considering that there are those Chatty Kathys who like to put their own spin on everything), but, for yourself, you’ve got to be nice to them. Being quiet and unsociable will only get you so far; the nicer you are, the more that they’ll realize how badly they’ve got you pegged. And if you really find these people to be so obnoxious that you can’t stand working with them, then quit; but remember that in the long run it’s the hardest things in life that eventually help us out.

    Good luck in the long run!
    -Gina K.

  19. Wow Abdullah. It would seem you havent learned the intent of this article, which is to not open your mouth unless you have something good to say as you so eloquently slapped down the corporate big-wigs that know nothing and have never worked an honest day in their lives.

    Ever stop to think that they are the reason you have a paycheck, and that perhaps some of them did toil to get where they got to? Probably none of them right? Damn the man and all that….

  20. Wow. I’m so glad I get to avoid the petty cattiness that seems to dominate corporate American life, and pits people against each other over the most meaningless, miniscule, and fickle things. Even the men act like little spineless bitches. These behaviors and stories I read from you all, just make me feel so validated in my life choices. I never have to deal with any of that drama. I love my union job. I don’t have to worry about any of that crap. I don’t have to kiss anyone’s ass. And, I don’t have anybody forcing me into a pissing contest or rat race about “how much money I make” for myself, or anyone else. My needs are met. My life is virtually drama free, and I’m happy.

    You should all quit your jobs and go back to school for something that doesn’t involve an unhealthy obsession with money and fickle drama. What a horrible way to live. You can all rise above that, if you choose to.

    Screw corporate America. Look what it does to people. Turn your backs on it. You’ll thank yourselves later.

  21. In a conversation outside of work I make a comment to a friend who proceded to take me at face value. The comment made it to a coworker who said I was infringing on information that was not public and not be talked about in the office! Time for layoffs and I was the first out the door. Sticking ones foot in ones mouth can be hazardous in and out of work!

  22. that happened to me – I was laid off about 6 months after the company hired another worker who had previously done my type of job for another company, but was hired for a totally different position in our company. Yeah – I saw the handwriting on the wall. My salary was much higher than they got away with paying the new person because the new person had been fired from their previous job and so the company could get away with offering less because the new person was a little desperate to get a job. So the 2 jobs became one and I was out – my mother used to call that “cutting of your nose to spite your face.” Now this person is a horrible employee and not doing half the job I was doing for the company. A friend who still works there told me they are very unsatisfied with this new person’s work. Sounds good to me.

  23. Its my first week on the job… I was going on a coffee run, and ask my office if they wanted anything. My boss said he did and I asked him how he wanted his. He said he “liked it black.” Now in a social setting of people I know, I would usually quote the SNL skit: “I like my coffee like I like my women: hot, black, and first thing in the morning.” Well I fumbled with the words and instead said, “Just like you like your women?” There were 10 blank stares at me and I was mortified, so I just walked out and got the coffee.

  24. I agree that you should probably look for another position as your feelings toward your workplace have changed. Your boss should not have said that to you in frustration, and should have gotten to the bottom of the situation. The co worker that spread the rumor should have been reprimanded as well. I agree with the sticking to just doing your job for now, in this economy especially, you don’t know who would be willing to stab you in the back to save their own behind.

  25. In a weekly meeting I made a comment about someone’s inflexability and that it would cost us time to get around it. Accurate, but phrasing and word choce attributed that inflexablity to personality rather than job specification. The fix was to (1) apologize to the person involved, before he heard about the issue from others and (2) in the next meeting apologize to the person again, in absentia, and make it clear that I understood he was doing his job, and doing it correctly, and my comments from the week before were inappropriate.

  26. Susan, your attitude of “I will do just my job and nothing more, why not, since I’m in line for a layoff!” is why you’re next in line for a layoff. You are either in the wrong job and should be looking elsewhere, or you should have told your boss that you intend to work hard to recover from this gaffe and earn his respect in the department. Good luck.

  27. I started my job at lenscrafters, and I couldn’t stop calling people dicks. My boss fired me and called me a dumbass, like he was my dad and shit!

  28. Here is a good rule I live by at work:

    If you do not want it repeated, do not say it.

    I think I read that in a book somewhere…

  29. Here’s a good one: 4 years ago I was working at a local bank. I had only been working there for 1 month and although I was good at my job, I was still learning and made mistakes. Well, the very last time I made a mistake, I caught it before it got serious. It was the first time I found out what I did wrong without anybody’s help. When the manager came to check on me, I told her “Yes everything is fine, I had a minor problem but I fixed it.” She looked really proud of me, she complimented on how quickly I was picking stuff up, and walked away. Five days later I was fired. Apperantly I had offended her by implying that I thought I was better than her and that she didn’t deserve to be the manager of a bank. Really?!?

  30. I work for a small Company where the owners wife manages the office. While the Boss was out of the Country for over a month she decided to get a Dog, an Australian Shepherd that had been abused, and bring it into the office with her. The dog hated me from day one, I tried everything I could think of to make friends with the dog and just get along but nothing worked.

    She kept bringing the dog in, it left it’s feces in the conference room adjacent to my office. I sent an email to her husband (the owner) and my immediate supervisor explaining the situration, and that I would work to solve the situation directly.

    I visited a local firearms store, purchased a gift certificate for $20 there and gave it to her commenting “I want you to feel safe here in the office. They have plenty of non-lethal products… just please leave your dog at home.”

    It finally came down to an occassion where the dog ran down the hall to my office and I slamed the door in it’s face. At that point I emailed, my Boss, the owner and HR “Enough- aside from debatable appropriateness of bring a pet to the office I have had enough. The dog will stay home or you can consider this my two week notice.”

    My Supervisor wanted to stay so I did- the dog was left at home. The owners wife now hates me; but the owner is still glad to have me. The owners wife tried to say that I threatened the dog, and various other lies. Because of the way I handled with my Boss and the owner they saw through it. She now refuses to talk with me or even acknoledge I exist. I have a great working relationship with everyone but her.

    Sometimes it doesn’t matter how nice or forebearing you are or try to be; there are those whom will have an irrational hatred for you and lie about you; the more you try to correct the issue with them the worse life gets. So you just shut-up, be cordial, but mostly leave them the hell alone and don’t try to fix the problem because it is all them.

  31. I agree. Trust no one. I had a friend at work and she and I would commiserate with one another. One summer I was working and, as a high school student, I had various activities. I had driver’s ed and cross country and even though I explained this to my boss that I needed a different schedule, she ignored me and kept the same one. I am a very punctual person and I usually show up 15 minutes before my shift. One day I was 5 minutes late (gasp!) and was screamed at by my boss. I confessed to my friend that I was a little stressed out. BIG MISTAKE. One day next week, when my boss gave me extra hours and FORGOT to tell me about them (and then I obviously didn’t show up!) my boss asked everyone where I was. And my “friend” meaning well and trying to stand up for me suggested maybe I was fed up! So my boss thought my missing my impromptu work hours was my way of quitting. This is an example of how a simple misunderstanding with schedules can turn into SHAKESPEAREAN drama. FUN FUN.

    Life lesson: don’t gossip. don’t complain to coworkers. don’t pick sides. keep your head down, work hard and keep honest. =_=+

  32. Susan

    Being that I have held many executive positions,and I have never been terminated in any way. I would suggest that you try this, because I am sure it will help your supervisor think twice. BTW, I am not sure who said this, but I try to live by it.
    “Spend each day at work as if yourfuture, and your career depended on the work that you do that day” .
    Good Luck

  33. Amongst other things, my mother once told me that if you can’t say anything good about someone, keep your mouth shut. My dad, on the other hand, told me that there are three things you never discuss in public – sex, religion and politics. These were about the only things that really stuck with me. I never realized till recently what sound advice I was given at the time. The problem with me is that I do not tend to volunteer anything and when I do, I m very abrasive. You really have to pry things out of me. But if you ask for my input, I’ll give it to you. Whether you like it or not. That has always been my character and I do not compromise my beliefs. But life being as it is, sometimes things happen for a reason. After busting my rear end working for a phone company for 14 years in the data processing department, I got axed. Yep, when I first got there I was a rising star. I started in a craft position (yes, it was aunion shop but I did not join it – beliefs). within a year, I was sent to a management evaluation training workshop and was the first to ever pass the course on the first try in that department. Shortly after that, I got promoted to management. Six months later, I was making more money than I had ever expected at that time in my life. The song about the future is so bright, I gotta wear shades was a hit then and I could identify with it so well. I did what was required and then some. Worked overtime when I was needed, 2nd and 3rd shift for 10 of those years and finally day-shift on the last four. Towards the end, I basically had no personal life; on-call 24/7/365. Always walked the straight and narrow and never, ever complained. Until the day I found out that our business unit was being sold to another phone company. Of course, no help was seriously provided in getting a job with the same company in another department. Why? Because we were expendable; all 30 of us. In that group were people with 20 years plus service. People that started working as soon as they got out of high-school or shortly before that. So since I knew I was out the door and upper management was asking for input, I gave it to them. Let’s just say that the two guys sitting next to me so graciously scooted their chairs away from the table. I guess they didn’t want to be guilty by association. But nothing bad or out of context was said, no threats. No yelling or throwing chairs around, no breaking glass. It’s not my style. Just very calmly, eloquently and firmly voiced my opinions. Whether they liked it or not. They asked for it and they got it. Since I made a grand entrance I sure as heck was going to make and even greater exit. It was the least I could do since all 30 of us were part of the deal so that we could train the employees at the other company. The hatchet-man that was doing the wheeling-and-dealing actually had the gall to tell us that he was doing us a favor and should be thankful about it since at least we still had a job with the new company. Hmm, where have I heard that one before? And recently at that. Anyway, within a year everyone got canned at the new place. You could feel the tension in the air. A very bad situation. Long story short (or is it too late now?), in my case, I quit after 9 months at the new place, went back to school and got me another degree. After 5 years of advice, but no help, from so-called friends and 10-bucks-an-hour jobs, I eventually landed a really good job and am making as much as I did when I was so graciously flushed down the toilet. The job just plopped on my face and wouldn’t come off until I accepted it. The best of capitalism in action because, yes, heaven forbid, it so happens I like money. At the old place, it took me 14 years to get where I am today. Was I PO’d at the situation back then? Of course. But I never compromised my work ethics. In looking back, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I have never been happier in my life as I am right now. I still work in an IT environment and my job is a 9-5 job. Work stays at work when I leave the office. No on-call duties. Nirvana! All being said, I am a true believer that eventually everyone gets what they deserve. Whether you like it or not.

  34. In a weekly meeting, a co-worker who I thought was a great person, said that fleas that were flying around the office were coming in because of my nationality – that I will not discuss here. It was horrible. In attempts to let it go I told everyone “you did not hear that”. However, I would have thought the boss would have called her in and said something to her. She never apologized, my boss did nothing. And it was a RACIAL comment. I knew then that this was not a good place to work. Eventually this same worker arranged ever so cleverly for me to get fired from my job. She was jealous that my work was making her look bad. That fact that I was a minority was insulting to her, as she felt that I did not deserve the job I had; even though I had the qualifications and education, that perhaps she did not have. So even when you’re right you are wrong in NEGATIVE environments…and minority’s do get discriminated against. People who trash minorities are found everywhere in corporate offices and the trasher gets away with it. The minority is usually let go. So, as my grandmother taught me “You have no friends at work, do your job, and keep your mouth shut, don’t discuss your personal life at work, go there to work, get your paycheck and nothing else”. After all if you are let go, they [your friends at work] will not pay your bills; so they are not really yr. friends. Funny too, this employee was always telling me to go find another job…. I wonder why? Touche…..

  35. I have had plenty of experince with the foot in the mouth problem. Recently the company I work for hired someone that had absolutlly no experince in the field to do a job that I had been doing for two years because I had been moved to a different position (with on raise mind you). Now this new person needed to be trained so I was the one who had to do it because my boss who should have trained the new person was constantly gone. So I spent my days training someone and trying to keep up with my work. Eventually they realized that I needed to be back at my original position and was moved back to take over it once again. The new person was supposed to help me while still being trained. This still came without a raise or promotion. The new person who had been working there for only 4 months was given a raise put on salary (which I still am not) and a promotion over me. I am still training this person even though they are now making more than me and have better benefits! I got upset but tried to keep to myself I was called out by mu boss for my “bad attitude” I asked am I supposed to be happy that I was screwed I have been promised for a year now that I would get a promotion and raise and here comes a person underqualified and new that got what I deserve. Well needless to say the coversation didnt go well and Im still being treated like Im being replaced any day now. I appologized but it didnt seem to do any good. The company seems to hire and give raises out to people they like not those of us who do our job and do it well. I figure at some point they will be burned when they realize the company may not be better off with people who have no business being managers in these positions and they start losing clients. Im at this point just biding time until my husband is done with school and I can quit and move.

  36. What a great forum to get off your chest some corporate nonsense! Here’s one to make you feel better about where you work (I’m no longer in this situation, thank GOD!) Beautiful gal, let’s call her “Cutie” hired per diem, muscles into full time almost immdiately with no client base to support additional hours for her. Now I’m supposed to share my full time with her. They hire in her sister. There are only six of us so now the duo are a third of our workforce. Cutie makes fast friends with the gal already there and they go barhopping to the point of cops but now they have to cover for each other. Younger sister is already nanny-slave and of course will cover sis’s every move… younger sis told me once before she started working for us, “remember when my sis and I had that falling out? It’s because she beat me up, but don’t tell anyone.” Perfect! Meanwhile cutie’s former cowroker gets hired in. Now the entire office is under the age of 30 and I am 55. Cutie makes personal phone calls all night on her cell while working, loud, explicit fights with her hub. Secuirty guard used to hang with us, she told him to get lost one night as he was interferring with her personal phone calls (treating the office like a private phone booth, and his presence made no privacy for her). Cutie showed me her tummy to demonstrate her need for a “mommy-lift”, told me of her flirting with former beaufriend. A good phrase to usein these situations BTW is “I really like working with you and I am not comfortable discussing this matter with you” and had to use that very phrase not 10 minutes later on Cutie! She once threw a complete temper tantrum and all I could say was “stop, stop, stop” but of course she didn’t until she was out of steam. Former homecoming queen, if Cutie couldn’t buy you (hub got perk tickets with his biz) or charm you to own you, she’d just bulldoze you. Cutie sis’s mom smoked meth, the drama went on and on. They are still there, I am not. God Bless!

  37. Just keep your mouth shut. Unless you work for the CIA or FBI, there is no such thing as secrets or confindentiality.

  38. Here’s a great example of having something ‘overheard’ that shouldn’t have been…

    I was working at this company, and the office manager had been a real nightmare for a couple weeks. It was early in the morning and I had just gotten an email with a list of ridiculous duties from her. Feeling the need to vent, I went to text my husband. The text I sent basically ran like this, “Ugh! Julie (my office manager) is driving me crazy! I’m so annoyed!” I had been talking to another co-worker when I received a text back. It was a blank response text from…you guessed it…the office manger. I was horrified. I didn’t speak to her right away, which led to an incredibly awkward day of work. At the end of the day, I asked to speak with her and spend a good hour explaining that it wasn’t meant to be a personal slur against her, I was just frustrated with how things were being dealt with and was just privately venting to my husband. All in all it turned out good, we actually resolved a lot of office issues and got a bunch of things fixed. But man, was that a horrifying experience!

  39. I find that anyone and everyone where I work is a gossip, and it al gets back whether at work, and anywhere in my personal life, no matter what I say. God it’s miserable. On one hand, I know it’s just an attempt to put me down and divert attention from themselves. On the other hand, virtually everyone is not to be trusted and they are ALL pathetic folks who have no life.

    Yet, get this. The “complaint” on me is being “antisocial” for trying to keep to myself and do my work.

  40. I have been a paralegal for 17 years and I have seen and heard it all. There is always the maniacal boss, the “bitch”, the gossiper, the worrier, the kiss-ass and the rest of us trying to dodge the whole game. I once worked for a firm that had an employee who had it in for me because I wouldn’t “entertain” her fake advances to be people’s friend. She was able to get all the girls to alienate me. At a meeting one day, the boss asked if there was anything anyone would like to add and I put my heart on the table. I told everyone that I wanted to apologize if I had offended anyone and that my intention was simply to be a team player. Everyone was taken back by my sincerity and forwardness. But of course the office “bitch” had to make a comment about how not everyone needs to be friends and like each other. It was the moment I had waited for, everyone was finally able to see that everything she had said about me was not about me but about her dislike for me. The girls were very grateful for my sincerity and accepted me. Unfortunately, the office bitch became the office manager. And yes, you guessed it she made my life miserable. I would complain to my boss and he wouldn’t do anything because it turned out she was sleeping with him. Oh, and did I fail to mention that they were both married. It was so depressing. I loved my work but she made it difficult for me continue working there. I can’t compete with someone who has no self-dignity or self-worth. After 4 years, I quit. My boss was very upset. After all he treated me like an associate and I did the job of two people. I told him the reasons why I was leaving. I was honest and told him he was a fool to continue believing that their little secret was not very well known. Ironically, I was asked to come back 5 years later and I did come back. I lasted another year and although my attitude changed because I didn’t let her upset me, it really just turned my stomach to see that she continued to manipulate people and she would never stop. I finally had to come back to understand that it wasn’t that she won, it was that no paycheck inthe world can make me kiss anyone’s behind for my job. I can’t stomach it. I was always honest but not mean. I’m sure she heard about it, but I never cared. Although I’m now in an office with one attorney and have absolutely no drama, I dont’ feel like she won. Someday she has to account for her actions. Her mercedes can’t make her happy, her minks can’t make her happy, her money can’t make her happy and the bottom line is people see her for what she is. I can say that I have dignity and I don’t have to sleep with anyone to make an honest living.

  41. I think Thumper’s Mother said it best when she said “If you don’t have nothing nice to say, than don’t say nothing at all” Funny what we can learn from talking rabbits:)

  42. Jessesir,
    Maybe it’s your apparent lack of understanding of spelling and English grammar that got you in trouble with your bosses. Just reading your post made my eyes bleed. Here’s a suggestion, read a book, because it’s clear that English is a second language for you…

  43. An old saying goes: “If you have something negative to say about someone, tell that someone in person, in private, and with respect, and no one else.”

    Good advice, but it doesn´t work with the vast majority of people.

    Conclusion: Don´t say it. And if you don´t want to mortify yourself, don´t entertain that negative opinion in your own mind.

  44. I made a big mistake when I agreed with a comment that a person made about someone. She said, “Who does he think he is, God! People glared at her and then gave me a look. What she said was true but since this person walked on water, it was taboo to make an negative comment about this person, even though the comments were true. Since at that time I was a temp worker, I could have been let go for agreeing with this comment.

  45. I hated working in corporate America. The “system” is so unfair. My boss was as lazy as a pig and far dumber than I’ll ever be even if I suffered a severe brain injury, and yet he made 4 times my salary.

    Anyway, long story short, I got so tired of him oinking his way around the office that I started my own business and then walked in one day and said sayonara pal, I’ll be out in 2 weeks. It is the best decision I have ever made in my entire life. I am doing so well and having such a good time running my own show, it really should be illegal. In fact, I am almost sure it is illegal to enjoy oneself so much (especially in light of the fact that all my ex-workmates are super miserable at “the company”).

  46. I would not have intentionally hurt a person’s feelings, but I really pulled a
    blooper at work…but, fortunately I did not receive any repercussions from

    I worked for 38 years for a Company that grew into one of the largest, nationwide, Fortune 500 Companies. We had basically an “open-door” policy
    with the managers and even Area Mgrs and Area V.P’s in our region.

    Five years ago, our Company merged 3 different locations into one, big,
    unworkable, location. Everyone one, VP, Area Mgrs, and even VP’s in Corporate, tried to warn the President that it would never work, we would
    never all fit into the new location…but it fell on deaf ears. Well, it never did
    work, and the design was so “employee unfriendly”, all employees were frustrated to the max…but still worked our rear ends off to do the best we could to make it work…because it’s a great Company.

    Anyhow, to get in the front door, you needed an electronic card to get in.
    The new location also had the area conference room and area mgr..so we
    always had people show up (who did not work at that location), but who were
    attending meetings, etc. Unless someone saw them throught the double glass doors and the large glass enclosed lobby, they just stood out there twiddling
    their thumbs…waiting for some one to notice them, leave their desk, and
    walk quite a distance to let the people in….

    We asked and asked for a “door bell” and also for a “buzzer” so we could just
    remotely open the door for the people, so we wouldn’t hvae to stop our work, get up and go to the door……the majority of whom we all knew
    as mgrs from other offices, etc. We could not get authority from Corporate for the expenditure….We tried and tried for 3 years to fix this simple problem..No avail…

    Well, one HOT AUGUST summer, approx 95 degrees in the hot sun, I looked
    up and saw two men in suits waiting (for how long I do not know) at the door
    in the hot, blazing sun, (one of which was doing Jumping Jacks trying to gain someones attention). I recognized the man doing the jumping jacks, (A top Corporate Area Vice President from our Headquarters). I jumped up and
    quickly let the two men into the nice airconditioning! Having worked for over
    30 years with the Company, I had known this Vice President when he was a
    trainee at the local branch where I started. His father had been a truck driver
    for the Co. Anyhow, I asked him about his dad, and we started talking about
    the “Good Old Days”, etc. for a while, Eventually:

    I turned to the man standing with him and I said “I remember when we had someone who REALLY knew how to run this Company!”

    I found out later that the President of the Company was visiting that day!

    Oh, Well, ……Later I told people what had transpired, and even the Branch Manager said “Well, sometimes they have to hear the truth!”

  47. Many years ago, I was working in an entry-level clerical job. Our supervisor was a clever lady with a very colorful voculary. Our company had brought in an efficiency expert who was supposed to examine every process in the entire office with a fine tooth comb. We’ll call him Mr. Xyz. It did not take long for him to earn the hatred of every working person in the company. He also happened to be a rather effeminate looking fellow with a thick head of curls that looked like little springs. Our supervisor was standing in the door of our department. She had discovered one of the girls doing something in a way thant we had never done it before. “Who in the hell told you to do it like that?” she asked the poor girl. “Uh, Mr. Xyz” she replied. “So since when do we listen to that finger-wave fairy?’ she yelled. Mr. Xyz happened to be standing right behind her. When she realized it, she immediately covered her face with her hands, fell to the floor in a fetal position and proceded to rock back and forth. Mr. Xyz just stared at her and finally walked away. I never did find out if she was reprimaned or if she apologized, but I know she did not loose her job. Not too many people could have pulled that one off. She was one in a million.

  48. Well Susan, at least you know what you said, and are able to deal with it. Take me, I was “supposed to have said something” about the Company I work for, quote:”I hate working for this Company” when I asked my supervisor to whom did I say this to, she would not give me an answer. And then told me that I would not be working the next four days I was scheduled to work. ( I do food demos) And to this day I have not been asked to work. I called her and left her a message asking her if this meant that I was being terminated? no answer to the day.How do you like that. She doesn’ t have the courtesy to at least give me some kind of anwer to both my questions!!

  49. My great boss left due to better pay, and the company replaced him with a Freddie Couger Btch! She did not try to learn her job, and she plotted and fired two good staff members. She was trying to get me in trouble but could not find a legit reason. That crazy dumbie went back to Lincare to work. She also shipped her crap with company ship papers.

  50. Seriously, what a dumb article and I bet a dumb book. All it says for each one is own up and apologize, own up and apologize. Nothing new here, folks.

    So, here’s MY advice: Don’t say anything you wouldn’t sign your name under. See? I could write a book too.

  51. Good one! Also, as far as how others interpret things, you can’t always control that. If you say what you mean and mean what you say and do what both you and I have said (read my comment after yours), then you’ll be known as someone who is forthright and upstanding…How sad it is that we need to a book to tell us to apologize when we screw up, and that happens everywhere, not just work. *Sigh*

  52. P.S.
    It seems other folks have had their share of office escapades. To those who managed to get their own small biz going in this economy, BRAVO!
    I am so grateful not to have to put up with Cutie and the web of suspicion she crafted. Our employer ran me out after 23 years with the company. The state I worked in was not pro-employee. And peeps, those nasties kicked me right into paradise.
    Sadly, the industry is fraught and we’ll just leave it at that. More good office stories please… Mr. Xyz was the best! And the boss sleeping with anyone (Dave Letterman I mean you!) = severe kharma trouble in the future and not good for the office either!

  53. Pingback: Five People to Cozy Up to On The Job : The Work Buzz

  54. I transferred to an office that I found extremely hostile. My supervisor use to make racial remarks that were just inappropriate, “all blacks can sing and Latinos and Blacks dress their kids really well, and does your people eat cat (talking to someone of Asian decent). One day after work, my new Supervisor tried to start a conversation with me and I let her know, that unless our conversations were about the actual job, then I didn’t want to hear any of her racial rhetoric. Well, the next week; the office had to lay someone off and guess who it was… the rationale was because I was insorbordinate and since I was the last to transfer in, I’d should be the first to go. I had a panic attack in the office and went to the doctor’s office. The next morning, I immediately went to Corporate headquarters and spoke to the Program Manager, before meeting with HR. Well, come to find out, I had not been the only person to complain about this manager and I was sent back to work and told I wasn’t on the chopping block. Come to find out, my manager was actually being let go, the Friday after me. So she calls an impromptu meeting and after it was over, She tried to stop and talk to me in the hallway and the pure ignorance and stupidity streaming from her mouth was just unbelievable… I remember thinking, goosh she is soooooooooooo stupid how did she ever become a manger. What the ‘foot in the mouth’ moment was… I actually said. “You are sooooo stupid”, but didn’t realize I was talking out loud until all my co-workers were quiet and staring at me. Se shut up, I walked away and sat down…. Chalk it up to the anxiety medicine for my “Alley McBeal” moment….. Anyways, she was fired that Friday and I worked for the company another 4 years before getting a WAY BETTER JOB!

  55. I agree with most people that you shouldn’t trust anyone, but keeping your mouth shut and just doing your job doesn’t work. I also don’t feel apologizing is the golden answer.

    Office communications skills is an absolute survival MUST have. If a co-worker tries to make my life miserable, I go after that person with a vengeance. I also have no qualms about going straight up to my boss and speaking my mind.

    Personally, I like the gossipers, especially the ones who are higher up than me. I get all the juicy details of whatever new nightmare management has planned and it allows me to prepare for it rather than get blindsided. Getting your hands on inside info is the key to survival in my office, and I would suspect this is the case in most offices.

    Oh, I’ve said things out loud that got passed around, the difference is I didn’t give a rats backside and if someone twisted my words, I made sure they were restated correctly, by me! No. I did not apologize. >:)

  56. The petty behavior displayed in office settings is absolutely astounding. It would seem that the majority of employees have emotional IQs from grade school. To me, these stories show how personal values and ethics are declining.

    Come on people – grow up!

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