5 Awkward Workplace Situations & How To Deal With Them

Published on: 21 Nov 2017

Awkward office situations

Handling awkward situations in the workplace is a fine art and not one that's easy to master. Some cultures make it a lot easier to deal with controversy than others, and things can quickly escalate at work, especially in a claustrophobic environment which doesn’t give you the opportunity to cool off when something goes down. In the spirit of ensuring optimum wellbeing at work, we take a look at some of these situations and offer our best solutions to some of the office's most uncomfortable moments. If any of these relate to you, take it in:


Someone else takes credit for something you’ve done in BROAD DAYLIGHT

This is uncomfortable, but these people do exist. They want all of the glory all of the time and will do anything to be under that spotlight. Watching someone rob you of the credit you deserve can be pretty mortifying and in the long-run, lead to serious resentment of that person.

Solution: There’s no way you should let this go, but there is a way to deal with it that won’t make you look bitter and twisted. First things first, it’s imperative that you make your boss aware of the part you played in the work that's being complimented. Never owning up to good work and letting others take the praise is going to do more damage than good for your career. When you approach your boss, try not to come across as jealous and keep the vibe lighthearted. If your boss is smart, they will piece the puzzle together themselves.


You’re stuck in the lift with someone you don’t really know but you don’t want to make a bad impression

We are not sure why being in a lift is so awkward but it just is, in all walks of life. Sharing that confined space for any length of time feels strange, and as humans, we never quite know how to cope with it. Whether you’re in the office, at a hotel or going up The Shard, the lift scenario is a hotbed for uneasy moments.

Solution: The best way you can deal with this is to always have a strong set of conversational questions prepared in your head. The worst thing is small talk that dies a death after two seconds. Unlike other scenarios, being in the lift at work doesn’t really give you the option to travel in silence. If it’s Monday, ask them about their weekend and continue to ask open questions until the time is up. Never give them the opportunity to only answer 'yes' or 'no'. Open questions are key. Your colleague will secretly appreciate this as they're unlikely to have their own strategy to combat the discomfort.


You overhear someone talking about you at work

Oh dear. It’s never nice to hear someone talking about you, especially when that conversation is not meant for your ears. It’s also really hard to refrain from retaliating in this situation. Who wouldn’t want to defend themselves against the evils of gossip and rogue rumours?

Solution: Whilst you might want to go in there all guns blazing, it's going to do you no favours in the popularity department and it certainly won’t make you the bigger person. Take a step back and call a friend or family member. Vent your initial wave of frustration to them in the first instance and you’ll quickly feel more calm. Take the high road and remove this issue from the office environment, you don't need anybody else meddling in your business and you don't need to cause a scene. In a mutual setting, let them know you heard their comments and address them. Some of them might have been true so take this opportunity to own it and nip it in the bud. You’ll also probably (you should) get an apology too.


You accidentally send an unpleasant email about someone to the person in question

CRINGE. If you’re unfortunate enough to have been in this position, there really is no easy way to deal with it other than to be honest. They’ve seen the email, they’ve got the evidence. Firstly, never write anything over email that you wouldn't say to someone's face. Emails are not private so if you're really going to town, just have a chat with your mate instead. That eradicates all possibility of this arising in the first place. 

Solution: As painful as this situation is to even consider, you really just have to apologise. Making up some far-fetched story about how it wasn't them you were talking about but someone by the same name and description is desperate. We all get annoyed by people at work sometimes and of course you're going to voice your frustrations to colleagues occasionally, it’s human nature. Getting caught out is bad luck but it can happen to anybody!


You forget someone’s name when you need to introduce them to someone

Argh, the KING of awkward situations. This one can happen any place, anytime, whether it be a wedding, a party or a conference, this should be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, it’s not always avoidable and trying to encourage the 'introducee' to introduce themselves without you having to say their name is quite frankly, bad form.

Solution: The only real solution to this issue is to own up to it. Keep it light-hearted and laugh to yourself a little whilst you deliver the news that you have indeed forgotten your new friends name. Of course, this is more tragic if you’ve met this person more than once, but hopefully this tip will encourage you to find out their name early. Write it down or tap it into your phone if you're that bad with names! 


The workplace isn't always an easy environment to navigate and as you move on to new jobs, you're going to experience a wide variety of different obstacles. Uncomfortable situations and how to handle them are just one of the great challenges we face at work, but there's a lot more where that came from so make sure you follow our blog for weekly tips and careers advice specials.