Let's say that despite all the good advice out there (including, ahem, my own) you decide to go out with some people after work and hit happy hour. And once again, despite the good advice (did I mention my own?) you get a little past tipsy and say or do something that in the bright light of your cubicle the next morning seems, well....stupid.
Maybe you danced a little too intimately with a co-worker that before the fourth peppermint Schnapps you wouldn't even consider giving a hug. Or, you think you remember gossiping about your boss near a colleague you know hates gossip.
So, along with your raging headache and your retinas being burned by the fluorescent lights the next morning at work, you've got a serious case of regret. How are you going to face the co-worker you snuggled up next to during a Marvin Gaye ballad? Will the colleague who heard you make snarky comments now view you with less respect or consider you unprofessional?
The best thing to do when in this situation is not panic and start firing off emails with subject lines such as "I'm so stupid!" to all your co-workers.
To make the best of the situation:
1. Be respectful of the other person. Don't take out your self-anger on anyone else and say something like, "I hope you don't think that slow dance meant anything. I was totally drunk and would never consider doing it if I had been sober." If you feel you owe someone an apology, make it in private and in person. Be gentle but direct if you feel you did something the other person may have misinterpreted.
2. Stay mum. It's not your place to provide details about your behavior or that of anyone else. Keep your head down and stay busy if someone tries to pry details out of you. "I'm on deadline! I've got to get busy!" you say to anyone who stops by to chat. Don't make any mention of it on Twitter or Facebook.
3. Be honest. Why did you snuggle up to the workmate? Do you have feelings for the other person? Why did you gossip about your boss? Are you mad at her for something or just frustrated your career isn't going as you planned? Consider why you behaved badly and don't just blame it on the alcohol. Probe for something deeper that you may need to address and handle.
Have you ever had morning-after regrets regarding your behavior with colleagues? What would you recommend?