Editor's note: Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues--everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.
A reader writes:
I'm seeking advice on how to apologize to several senior leaders in my company for my irresponsible and offensive drunken behavior at a recent work event. I had attended this event twice prior and had no such issues. This year, I put myself in a situation in which I should have stopped drinking at a certain point and did not. In turn, I do not remember numerous inappropriate things I said[. I also] displayed questionable behavior in front of people I should not have, and am currently facing an HR writeup.
I made some very insecure comments about my job performance and how I'd never measure up to another in the office. And I was too close for comfort to some of my co-workers, which made others feel uncomfortable (put my arm around someone or playfully pushed them), and unfortunately also engaged in inappropriate behavior with a co-worker in a bar in the company of other co-workers and brokers.
Another manager in my office sat me down and explained all of the concerns that were voiced to her. I have yet to discuss with my own boss, and I have a job that rests on my reputation. Is there a way to rebound from a situation like this?
Ugh. Drinking with co-workers is one of those things that can seem fine right up until the point that suddenly it's not fine, at which point it's too late.
Abject mortification is your best bet here. Don't wait for your boss to approach you about it. Go to her now, proactively, and say something like this: "I'm mortified about my behavior the other night. I didn't realize that I'd had one too many, but clearly I did. I'm so sorry, and I'm not going to be drinking at any company events in the future." Say this in a serious tone, not a ha-ha-silly-me tone.
If there's anyone else you think you might have particularly offended or annoyed, say something similar to them too.
And then you really do need to not drink at company events for a long while. And I'd look for opportunities in the near future to be particularly impressive, polished, and professional.
If you do all of the above, then there's no need to beat yourself up over it. And if all goes well, you'll hopefully laugh about this in a few years (especially the making out in the bar, which I'm assuming is what you did).
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