Five Ways to Recover from Face-to-Face Mishaps

Five Ways to Recover from Face-to-Face Mishaps
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When we make mistakes in the workplace, it says more about how we fix them than the actual mistake itself. For National Courtesy Month, we are sharing a two-blog series on how to recover from accidents that happen at work. The following five ways help fix those issues, verbally:

1. Arriving late According to CareerBuilder, 29 percent of workers are late to work at least once a month, and worse, 19 percent of workers say it’s a weekly routine. Even Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, has been late to her own meeting by two hours. Why? Oversleeping. Regardless of why you are late, it’s important to know how to handle this issue for a big meeting when all eyes are on you, as you walk in.

  • Call ahead if you can still make it, this isn’t an excuse to skip it
  • Apologize and be honest
  • If it’s a small meeting, ask to reschedule around their calendar
  • In large meetings, ask a coworker to fill you in after the meeting

2. Properly declining a lunch invitation Whether it’s been a stressful morning or you want your one-hour alone time, be honest when declining a colleague’s invitation:

  • Politely decline and offer to reschedule the lunch for another day
  • Try saying, “Thank you for inviting me, but I actually do X during lunch to relax”
  • Short on funds? Bring lunch from home, then tell them you brought lunch
  • If you are focused on a deadline, tell them you are working through lunch. This lets them know you are going to be occupied

3. Inadvertently Insulting a Client We’ve all been there - making that mistake of answering a political question, only to realize we should have declined to respond. Now we have offended half the clients at the table. Don’t panic and follow these steps to avoid burning bridges:

  • Make a genuine apology immediately
  • Be responsive to email and calls if they want to talk
  • Don’t be defensive
  • Own up to what was said
  • Accept responsibility
  • Start out with the positives and then move onto potential improvements.

4. Names Calling someone the wrong name can be a cringe-worthy moment for both you and the them. If remembering names is difficult for you, there are three stages to commit a name into memory and they all require effort:

1. Encoding is the first stage of getting the information into your brain’s short term memory by paying attention when introduced and repeating the person’s name, “Hello Susan, nice to meet you.” Pay attention.

2. Second stage is storing the name information by consolidating and organizing. Rehearse and connect it to known things so it goes to long term memory.

3. Retrieving the name again so you can use it during conversation is the third stage.

When you consciously go through these 3 stages, the name will be transferred from your short and long term memory.

5. Gossip Workplace can be a place of unpleasant gossip. While it may seem fun to join in the talk, be mindful of what you say and at best, be professional.

  • Avoiding and ignoring can kill the gossip
  • If someone asks for your opinion, say that you don’t have much information about the person or topic.
  • Politely ask them to not discuss personal gossip in the workplace.

Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture (formerly Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide). In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

Photo credit: Pxhere

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