How to face your colleagues when you have been embarrassed

Statistics show that one in four South Africans in the workplace suffer from depression.
Statistics show that one in four South Africans in the workplace suffer from depression.

THE workplace is a place where you go to achieve what your employer expects from you while getting paid for it. With that said, you still need to enjoy going to work because that is where you spend most of your time. When you have embarrassed yourself at work – whether you were caught stealing or having sex – it can be difficult to face your colleagues and continue working in the same space. Even though this is a tough situation to find yourself in, there are ways to get through it.


Fundi Ndaba, who is a life coach, says after embarrassing yourself in front of your colleagues, you are likely to feel ashamed. “You may also feel belittled and depressed after a moment of discomfort around your co-workers. These emotions can make you uneasy at your workplace,” she says. Fundi adds that feelings of embarrassment are necessary because they allow you to feel discomfort, acknowledging that you did something wrong and will probably never do it again.


Having sex at the office is definitely an offence; it is classified as public indecency. Wilma Calvert, a counsellor at the Family and Marriage Society of South Africa, says there will be trouble if you are caught having sex at work. “Your manager and human resources will get involved. You could go through a disciplinary hearing or even be dismissed because of the incident. You could also experience feelings of guilt, especially if you are married or in a serious relationship,” says Wilma. She advises that if you live with your immediate family, it would be best to inform them of the incident. She says admitting to guilt and accepting the consequences is the right thing to do.


Depending on what has been stolen and who caught you, this could ruin your career. Stealing is a crime, so the company has a right to lay a charge of theft against you.


It is okay to drink at work events, provided you drink moderately and responsibly. If you can't handle your alcohol, consider not drinking at all. Rather opt for a non-alcoholic drink. Senior counselling social worker, Thuli Bottmon, says you must always remember that although it is a social event, you are still at work. “You need to remember that you have your colleagues, supervisors and managers around you. There needs to be a limit to your drinking and general behaviour,” she says. Don’t ruin your reputation or career over one night of being disorderly – think before you act.  


Fundi shares tips on how to move on from an embarrassing moment: 

¦ Maintain composure: The best thing you can do during an embarrassing moment is to remain composed. That way, youll have a better shot at reacting appropriately, rather than defensively. If you’re able to put others at ease after the incident, chances are you won’t be judged harshly.

¦ Take responsibility: The embarrassing incident may have hurt other people. The worst thing you can do is to pretend that your blunder didnt happen and hope it will blow over. Take responsibility for what you’ve said or done and apologise if you were wrong.

¦ Accept that you are human: The best thing you can do is be the best version of yourself, with all your strengths and flaws. Its important to remember that you are human and not perfect. 

¦ Live in the present: When youve done everything you possibly can to rectify the situation and your image, its time to move on. See your mistake as an opportunity to learn something about yourself.