Everyone has at least one office memory they’d rather forget. Being called out and embarrassed by a colleague or worse, a big boss, can really be a huge blow to your morale. Whether the company is losing money because of a mistake you made, or your reputation is threatened because you got entangled in a fiasco, the realization of the situation you’re in will understandably make you feel like running away and crying in a corner. And that's perfectly normal!
Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world. This can actually be a moment when you can show everyone what you’re made of.
What to do when you get humiliated at work: Take a deep breath and...
Being in an unwanted spotlight with your brain going 280 kph is not the best of situations. Once panic sets it, it can be hard to think straight, so before you do anything rash, take the time to compose yourself.
Don't make things more tense by succumbing to misdirected anger. If you can, physically remove yourself from the hot seat. As what Suzanne Gelb, Phd, Jd. wrote on The Muse, "It can be difficult to maintain a sense of perspective when you’re upset with yourself, but try to make sure your emotional response is proportional to the blunder you made."
Acknowledge your feelings.
Once you’ve managed to find a quiet area to settle in, allow yourself to acknowledge your feelings. Cry if you have to. Don’t feel any lesser by it. Crying actually does you good as it can help you self-soothe and balance out your emotions, as noted by Medical News Today.
Assess the situation.
Take a mental step back and ask yourself three questions: (1) “Does the problem have a solution I can work with?” (2) “What are the things that I can control and correct?” and (3) “What’s the worst that can happen?” Removing feelings from the equation may be the hardest thing to do, but if you manage to be logical, you can spring to action and do some damage control quicker.
Allow yourself to feel regret—but don’t get held back by it.
Author and certified behavior change specialist Bryan Falchuk shares his own experience in dealing with a huge work-related mistake on Inc.:
“I was embarrassed, nervous, ashamed and sick to my stomach. And those feelings were not just present on the day I found out what I had done wrong. I felt that way for a month—four times longer than the time it took to fix the mistake, explain to others in the firm what happened, and take responsibility for it to the client.
“After about a week, the world moved on. But I did not. I punished myself much longer than anyone else did, and not in a minor way.”
While it’s important to acknowledge your feelings, it’s also as important to pull yourself out of the hole you fell into. Don’t allow the negativity from one situation to spill into other aspects of your life. Not only will this affect your performance at work, but it can also possibly hurt your personal relationships.
Everyone makes mistakes. It’s a fact of life, which is why companies take stock of learnings and move on as soon as the issue has been closed. Sure, it may leave a mark on your file and it may be discussed during your next appraisal, but the good thing is that you can always improve and show what you’ve taken away from what happened. You’re not the first one to make a boo-boo, after all, so own up to it, and then let it go.
When should you resign?
While embarrassment often happens when you commit a lapse in judgement, there are times when you feel shame because someone is deliberately putting you in awkward situations or in positions of blame. It can be an abusive boss or an annoying officemate—whoever is at fault should immediately be reported to a higher-ranking officer, or if the taunting still goes on, to HR.
If these remedies don’t work and the issue is starting to affect you physically, mentally, and emotionally, then it’s time to look for a less toxic work environment. Remember, your well-being comes first.