How to Handle Awkward Workplace Situations

Ideally, a day in the life at your job or internship would be nothing but smooth sailing. That’s unfortunately not always the case. These common workplace situations can totally be awkward, but we’ve got suggestions on how to handle them.

1. You forget someone’s name.

We don’t recommend using the classic “How do you spell your name?” trick. Imagine asking that to a coworker named Sam! Awkward. 

What to do: The best way to make it lighthearted rather than offensive is to put some humor in it. It’s okay to laugh at your mistake!



2. Your food gets stolen out of the refrigerator.

Hey, we all get hungry sometimes! That doesn’t mean it’s okay for someone to get dibs on your food, though.

What to do: Your first step should be to make sure your food is stored in a container with your name on it. It’s possible that a coworker assumed the unlabeled food was a free-for-all. If you’ve already done that and your meals are still getting snatched, have a conversation with your manager. They can address the problem as a whole with your team so that nobody feels targeted.


3. Your coworker’s annoying habit is distracting you. 

Habits like gum smacking, pen clicking, or even talking loudly on the phone can easily strike a nerve – and it’s totally awkward saying something about it! You don’t want to appear rude or nit-picky, but these habits can get distracting when it comes to getting your job done.

What to do: Ask yourself if there are any simple solutions you can do from your end. For example, can you drown out the sounds of excessive gum chewing with a pair of headphones?

If the habit is more complex than that, bring it to your coworker’s attention in a tactful manner. They may not even realize it’s a distraction! If the habit continues to no avail – even after addressing it in a diplomatically – reach out to your manager and see how they can assist.



4. Someone else takes the credit for your work. 

It’s frustrating when you work hard on something and it doesn’t get noticed. What’s even more frustrating? Someone else taking the credit and getting the recognition you deserve!

What to do: Your first instinct might be to blow their spot, but take a deep breath and collect your thoughts first. There’s no need to cause any more tension! When you’re ready to address the situation, approach it in a manner that will end with a solution rather than just sounding accusatory. This can be as simple as saying, “Hey! I really enjoyed that project I worked on, but I felt like some of my hard work went unnoticed. Can we talk it through and make sure we’re on the same page?”


5. Someone lets you in on some gossip

Workplace gossip might help those long, tedious shifts fly by faster, but it’s best to stay away from the hearsay for the sake of your job. Nothing positive ever comes from gossip!

What to do: It’s important to take the high road here. Simply express to the source that you’d rather stay out of the loop when it comes to these types of conversations, and leave it at that. Most likely, that will be enough for them to respect your wishes. Easy!


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