I Can’t Believe I Just Did That

This is the first post from our guest blogger, Kelly Costello.

Have you ever composed an e-mail with perhaps less that flattering remarks about someone….and then sent it to them?  Have you ever extended an offer to the wrong candidate? And, the dreaded conference call line, you think you’ve have hung up…but you have not!  and you proceed to launch into a diatribe about some of the attendees who just happen to be still connected and listening?

If you are one of the few who have not, count yourself lucky, very lucky!  If you have committed one of these communication gaffes, no one knows better than you just how humiliating, disturbing, embarrassing and potentially damaging to not only your ego, but your professional reputation it can be.  As Human Resource and Talent Acquisition professionals, many of us consider our “bar of conduct” to be above the average corporate citizen. We take great pride in our ability to navigate complex, sensitive, confidential and politically charged exchanges with care and fairness.  Your mind may now be wandering to an example, that undeniable feeling of “I can’t believe I just did that”.  It bubbles right back to the surface, doesn’t it?

It Happened to Me:

Jane Doe sent me an IM right after I had wrapped up a conversation with her that said “you know, Kelly she really isn’t all that bad”…she tried to pretend that referring to me, by name, in the IM was a stylistic choice. I knew something was awry – she rarely had IM’d me before.

The mere thought of raising this topic brought a pit to my stomach upon reflection of the times I have initiated such a message, heard of others’ poor misfortune or  the been the recipient of some let’s say “real” feedback communication. Each instance has been a learning opportunity, unique as the situation may appear, lessons surface and you will have take-a-ways, or a cautionary tale that should not be forgotten.  By all means, do learn to forgive – yourself and others.

It Happened to a Friend:

The interview feedback e-mail string had many recipients on the CC: line and the candidate had not met expectations during the course of the interview loop.   He in fact had made a significant impression on the team, and not in a positive way. Somehow, the candidate was added to the message and had full view of ALL of the interviewers’ feedback.  How about that one for candidate experience?

Recovery post-apocalyptic communication event is key, in fact you must.  Acting swiftly, with grace and sincerity is vital to setting yourself free from the aftermath of destruction.  You must “own” what has transpired and remember, the truth may set you free. What you choose to do next,  is potentially more relevant than the transgression itself. Own it, from start to finish, own all that has happened.  Seek no blame or excuses, take responsibility and then make the toughest call imaginable.  Let those involved know that you’d like to talk with them as soon as possible about an unfortunate and possibly hurtful mistake that you have made.  Initiate direct contact with the subject by phone, lay the facts on the table, and humbly apologize.

It Happened to a Colleague:

The conference call was well attended, the topic was going to be heavily debated and she had a specific outcome in mind.  Somehow, departure from the conference call did not go as usual, she was still on the line when her “unvarnished” opinion and disappointment about the direction of the discussion including the leadership of those managing the project were clearly overheard by the entire project team.  Several attempts were made to interrupt her to no avail. Trust re-building was the top agenda item for the next status meeting.

Yes, there is a future. While you will feel the sting (for some time) of making one of the biggest blunders of your career, you will survive. Ponder now what will you do differently in the future to avoid such missteps and make a few promises to yourself.  A few I have made to myself:

  • I promise not to multi-task
  • I promise to not try to get one more item checked off my to-do list before I head home
  • I promise never to send sensitive e-mails via handheld device
  • I promise not to check the spelling of someone’s name in the cc: line of the e-mail I am composing about them
  • I promise to complete deliverables well before their due date
  • I promise to have a reasonable workload with ample time to thoughtfully complete my action items
  • I promise to carefully review each and every attachment, and I promise to never to have “table chatter” while on a conference call (before, during or after)…

I “expect” , despite my best attempts at prevention, I will find myself with that “pit in the stomach” feeling again one day, hopefully not soon.

I know I will be forgiving to myself and others – in due time of course!

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