POSTED: November 21 2019
One in three employees hide these embarrassing mistakes at work!

One in three employees hide these embarrassing mistakes at work!

Have any of your employees ever had an awkward moment at work? Well, according to latest research, one in three (34%) Brits admit that they’ve made embarrassing mistakes at work; with a further 33.6% stating that they’ve tried to cover them up. We take a humorous look at embarrassing moments while giving practical advice to managers.

CV Library’s study, which surveyed over 2,000 UK professionals, reveals that those aged 18-24 were most likely to slip up (42.6%), followed by under 18s (38.7%). Alongside this, only 45.3% of Brits have actually been successful when trying to cover up their mistakes.

For employers, it shouldn’t be the embarrassing mistakes that raise warning signals. It’s the fact that such a high number of professionals are trying to cover them up. While it may seem like common sense to try and mask the situation, certainly try to avoid encouraging this.

After all, it can negatively affect team chemistry and morale. Also, if employees are hiding their mistakes from you, then they won’t be disciplined and learn from the situation.

The top ten embarrassing mistakes at work

The study went on to ask Brits about their most cringe-worthy moments at work, with the top ten including:

  1. Tripping over in front of the whole office – 22.4%
  2. Sending a negative email to the wrong person – 16.7%
  3. Getting too drunk at a work party – 15.7%
  4. Leaving a smell in the bathroom – 14.6%
  5. Getting caught bad-mouthing a colleague – 11.7%
  6. Accidentally saying ‘love you, bye’ on a work call – 9.6%
  7. Congratulating someone on being pregnant when they weren’t – 8.5%
  8. Hooking up with a co-worker and everyone finding out – 7.8%
  9. Farting in front of the office – 7.5%
  10. Having food stuck in your teeth all day – 7.1%

Interestingly, just over one in 10 (12.6%) Brits said their embarrassing moment had implications on their career. This includes feeling uncomfortable and awkward at work (50%), believing their professional reputation was damaged (30.6%) and receiving a disciplinary from their boss (19.4%).

When to step in

As a manager, it can be difficult to know what to do when someone messes up at work. On one hand, you won’t want to rub salt in the wounds; especially if they’re upset by the situation. But also, depending on the severity of the mistake, you might not want to let them off too lightly.

With some of these awkward moments, like tripping in front of the whole office, or leaving a smell in the bathroom, a reprimand may not be necessary; unless it’s a continued occurrence. They’ll already be embarrassed enough and a telling off might not always be necessary.

If you do plan on discussing any embarrassing mistakes with employees, it’s important to strike the right balance. Be empathic, but also firm. This way, you’ll command respect while also coming across as a reasonable and compassionate manager.

Discourage bullying at work

In some instances, employees will try to cover up their mistake so they don’t get teased by their peers. In fact, our study suggests that of those that faced career implications for making embarrassing mistakes at work, 16.7% were ridiculed in the office.

And that’s why you need to be careful with how you handle the situation. After all, you don’t want anyone to be made fun of for something they’d rather people didn’t know about.

At the same, with the CV Library’s data revealing that a number of employees have been caught bad-mouthing their colleagues, it’s important to keep an eye on this. While friendships between colleagues should be encouraged, cliques shouldn’t; this can build a toxic working environment and harm your retention rates.

Not only is it unprofessional, but if the subject of the matter finds out, you’ll have an even bigger issue to handle. Encourage an open and honest line of communication between yourself and your employees and be sure to nip any continuous teasing and ridiculing in the bud early. Your staff will certainly thank you!

Beware of being too strict

One important point to note here is that you shouldn’t jump the gun when it comes to punishing someone for embarrassing mistakes they’ve made at work. While it’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and reprimand someone in front of the whole office, it might leave everyone feeling uncomfortable.

Take a few calculated minutes to evaluate the severity of the situation. Would it be easier to pull the employee aside and have a quiet word? Or, is it the tenth time they’ve made the mistake and you need to escalate it to HR?

Use mistakes as a learning curve

These embarrassing mistakes don’t need to be the end of the world. If you approach the situation in the right way and with the right mindset, it can actually be a great learning curve for you and your employees.

Sure, you shouldn’t tolerate certain behaviour. After all, it might put productivity or employee morale at risk. But there are lessons you and your employees can learn. For example, if an employee is unhappy with another colleague, let them know that they can come to you for guidance on how to handle the issue professionally.

If you’re helping your staff to develop and understand what is acceptable at work, you’ll gain loyalty. Candidates are always on the lookout for employers that can help progress their career!

If you need help tackling problems in your workp0lace then advo hr can help. Drop an email to and find out how they can support you.


You can read the original CV Library article here.