We spend about a third of our waking lives at work. As the world becomes ever more image conscious, reputation management grows more crucial for everyone — especially office-based workers.
But work — challenging as it is — can leave us vulnerable to committing the odd blunder, which can damage our reputations. These mistakes often occur when we are under pressure or, ironically, when we are very relaxed, as shown by this study from the University of Birmingham, which found that we are less able to control our behavior when drinking alcohol in environments that we do not normally associate with drinking. That’s why blunders are so common at office Christmas parties.
The good news is that, according to this Monster study, 83 percent of people have never done anything bad at an office party, or have no regrets, and a further 10 percent have done something only mildly regrettable, leading to just a few days of embarrassment. These are the kind of Christmas party japes and blunders that we can all chortle about. However, 7 percent of respondents believe they have damaged their career and reputation and/or have been fired for office-party behavior, and we need to take this fact seriously.
So, if you did make a blunder at the Christmas party, it’s probably time to face up to it and ascertain whether you made a small mistake that will soon be forgotten — if it hasn’t been already — or a career-limiting, category-five-hurricane-level mistake that needs some damage control and/or reputation management. For example, did you do something that called into question your future ability to be trusted with clients, take on more responsibility, become a manager, etc.?
If you engaged in regrettable behavior at the Christmas party to the point where your blunder’s effects will be felt long past the festive period, what can you do to mitigate it? There are several remedial actions you must take:
If you haven’t done so already, apologize in a heartfelt way to the person or people whom you may have offended. Do this as soon as possible and in person, if appropriate. Otherwise, write the offended party a note. Just apologize once, as you don’t want to dwell on the negative emotions. Rather, the goal is to start moving on.
2. Clean Up Social Media
Remove any incriminating pictures from social media. If you notice any unflattering pictures of you on colleagues’ social media sites, you might want to politely ask if they can be removed.
3. Be Realistic
Studies show that people do tend to overreact to their own slip-ups. With this in mind, avoid melodrama: try to be realistic about the extent of the blunder, and maybe check with one or two trusted companions to see how badly the blunder actually appeared to others.
3. Show Everyone You Can Do the Right Thing
If you feel that your reputation may have been damaged or that your credibility and perceived ability to perform have been called into question, now is the time to address those feelings. As a matter of course, you should act more conservatively going forwards, but this alone won’t help to rebuild trust. Get back out in the world, and make sure to attend work social events and show your colleagues that you can drink responsibly and sensibly (you don’t have to drink at all) and that you can engage effectively in these situations.
You may need to do this multiple times: showing the staff again and again that you can behave acceptably in situations in which you previously behaved unacceptably is the most effective way to rebuild trust.