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Dealing with Uncomfortable Situations at Work: What Should We Do?

Forgetting a person’s name

This is one of the most uncomfortable situations, especially if you’ve just asked the person’s name moments ago or if you have met this person several times, but you still don’t remember their name.

One thing you could do (just make sure that you haven’t done so) is to ask for their business card. In case you’ve asked for it already, you can try this trick. Ask them what their name was and if they say their first name, follow up the conversation by saying, “No, I mean, your last name.” It’s more acceptable to forget last names.

Initiating small talk and awkward silences

There are two ways to deal with this. First, you can let the silence pass for a moment. Don’t rush conversations. Just let the silence get in for a few seconds and if you don’t feel like talking, you can ask the person you’re with if you can get them a drink or tell them that you need to go to the bathroom.

The second option would be to use the FORD method:

F – Family

O – Occupation

R – Recreation

D – Dreams

This is a quick and easy way to start a conversation with someone you have just met. However, you have to be careful. Once the conversation starts rolling, you might end up asking awkward questions. This will lead us to uncomfortable situations number 3.

Discussions about taboo subjects

In several soft skills training, money, religion, and politics are the most uncomfortable subjects to discuss about. People are avoiding these topics at all cost to maintain the professional relationship within the organization.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s helpful to have these kinds of conversations. We can learn a lot of things from people of varying social backgrounds, religious beliefs, and political views. It helps us understand where they are coming from. What we can do to avoid heated debates or tension is to stick to the facts, have an open mind about other people’s opinion and to find a common ground where both parties can relate to a certain point. Make sure to take your emotion out of it.

Confronting your co-worker

Nothing is more uncomfortable than confronting your coworker. Whether he or she is problematic, inept or lazy, we should treat them carefully by having discrete and polite conversations with the staff involved. Don’t go to the management right away. Being compassionate and approaching the situation with openness and understanding will help them see the value of what you’re doing. Often times, confronting your colleague will only make the situation worse.

Sending emails to the wrong person

Perhaps, we lack some sleep. Maybe we are too pre-occupied with a lot of things. Or simply, we are too quick to click “send” whenever we try to make an email.

Because of these, there are instances where we might send the email to the wrong person or worse, to the person who is the subject of the email!

What you can do is to own up your mistake. Come clean by asking for an apology. Don’t try to make stories because it would be pretty obvious that you’re lying. You have to listen to their reaction and let them know that you hope for the best and perhaps they could finally move on from this issue.

The next time you are about to send an email, always remember to “Think before you click.”

Accidentally overhearing office gossip

Gossip is not limited in the family or in the neighborhood. Gossiping also exists in the workplace.

The first thing to do is to stay out of it. Always remember that the moment you involve yourself means you are getting yourself into trouble.

Here’s how it goes:

  • Someone will tell a gossip
  • Everyone will listen
  • People will have their opinion
  • The gossip will spread like wildfire
  • People will take sides
  • Office bullying will arise

The moment that the management learns about this, they will start an investigation and they will try to unveil the source of the information. They will learn that you are somehow involved in the process and you will be at risk of being penalized.

So whenever you hear a gossip, try to think about how it will affect the person involved and try to put yourself in their shoes. You wouldn’t want to be the talk of the town, would you?


In every uncomfortable situation, being tactful is the key. You must treat every moment with sensitivity, discretion, and diplomacy to create a peaceful and enjoyable environment in your workplace. Not everyone would do the same, but at least, the change started in you.

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