How to recover from 5 embarrassing communication fails at work

Anthony weinerMario Tama/Getty ImagesDon’t ruin your career with these mistakes.

Anthony Weiner’s back at it again with yet another scandal.

According to the New York Post, the former US representative sent lewd photos to a woman on Twitter in 2015. Weiner previously resigned from the House in 2011 and saw his New York City mayoral bid sink in 2013 over similar scandals.

Weiner is a good example of how risky (and risque) online communication choices can torpedo your entire career. What you write in an email, type in a text, or post on social media can really take a toll on your professional life.

While hopefully the majority of people haven’t undergone anything close to this current fiasco, most people can probably relate to making a mistake in an email or message.

I experienced one such incident in college as the editor of the campus paper (coincidentally, at the same school where Weiner hung out with Jon Stewart for a year as an exchange student, according to this biography of the former Daily Show host).

The backstory: A campus protest involving a statue of Thomas Jefferson had prompted alumni to unleash a flood of letters to the editor to our student newspaper. As editor of said paper, I kept forwarding all of these letters to our opinions desk. After receiving one such letter, I passed it on with a note asking if the editors had room for it in the upcoming print issue. It was understood that if there was no room left in the issue, we’d post it online and possibly run it in print the next week.

There was one problem — I’d somehow managed to cc the letter writer in my email. He replied immediately, expressing his unhappiness. He’d taken the terse, vague wording of my note as indication that we were going to dismiss his letter altogether.

Fortunately, in that situation, I was able to quickly and clearly explain my mistake and assure him that we had every intention of accepting his letter.

However, as the Weiner case indicates, you’re not always able to go back and fix such mistake.

Here are five common communication mishaps pertaining to email and social media, along with some tips on how to bounce back from each:

Problem: You attached the wrong picture or file to your message

You meant to send your colleague the deck for the big presentation, but ended up attaching your 100-page, steamy 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' fan fiction instead (who among us hasn't done this?).

Other variants of this awkward misadventure might include accidentally sending inappropriate photos to a boss or coworker, sensitive information to someone outside your organisation, or, more innocuously, harmless but random files to the wrong person.

Tip: Stay calm

Your recovery plan should really depend on the nature of the leaked information. If it's a relatively unimportant mix-up, be prepared for some light ribbing, but don't freak out.

If it's more in the 'sexy pics' or 'confidential company secrets' vein, that's a different. You could get in a lot of trouble, or even fired over that.

Try not to freak out. At this point, this situation is out of your hands. You're can't undo your mistake, unless you somehow break into the recipient's computer and delete the offending message (an all-too understandable impulse, but a bad idea nonetheless).

Consider sitting back and giving it an hour. You never know, the recipient's inbox might be so flooded that they won't ever even check the message.

If you're sure that they have seen it (or are going to see it), take a deep breath and confess the situation to your boss. They might be able to help you (or they might fire you, but, that's what happens).

Problem: You sent a rude message to the wrong person

This scenario's in line with my own email slip up.

You're mad. Your boss won't get off your back about the big project. Your client is a whiny dweeb. Your idiot of a cubicle mate is crunching chips and singing 'Rasputin' by Boney M. again, even though you politely asked him to cut it out.

So you shoot off a quick message kvetching to your best friend in the office. But, oh dear, something went wrong. In your fog of rage, you accidentally sent the message to the target of your tirade -- or worse, the whole company!

Tip: Apologise

Don't try to make excuses that you were hacked or having some sort of breakdown. You can't wriggle your way out of this one. Be honest and just apologise. As Mike Zimmerman previously reported for CBS, it's probably a good idea to say sorry in person in this situation.

Problem: You posted something inappropriate on social media

This is the Anthony Weiner variety of the online communication fail. Weiner infamously burned down his political career by sending suggestive pictures to women, in some cases via Twitter.

People want their social media followers to see that they're living an exciting, crazy life, so they make the mistake of sending out posts that could potentially risk their employment.

Tip: Delete it stat and be prepared for the fall out

Once you realise you've made a mistake on social media, it's probably a good idea to go ahead and delete the offensive post. If you catch the offending post quickly, you can pray that no one saw it. Even then, there's always screen shots, so be on guard.

In general, be careful about what you post on social media. It's typically not the best place to air inappropriate photos, bigoted rants, and angry opinions about your boss and company.

Free speech is awesome, but remember that the First Amendment most likely won't save you from getting sacked.

Problem: You drunk text/email the people you work with

You're going wild at the club and want everyone to know that you're having an unforgettable night. So naturally, you're sending texts and Snapchats to everyone throughout the reverie.

Emerging from your hungover stupor the next morning, you realise that some of those blurry pictures and deep thoughts you texted out as you tried to order pizza at 2 a.m. pizza somehow got sent to your coworkers or boss.

Tip: Play it by ear

Are you employed at a work hard, play hard sort of company? In that case, a drunk text or Snapchat, might not hurt you too much -- especially if it's just among your friend group.

If it's only moderately shambling, play it off with a laugh.

If it's more serious or you work at a more straight-laced organisation, you might be in trouble. This is especially if you're a belligerent or promiscuous drunk and thought it'd be a good idea to try to pick a fight or seduce someone remotely.

If that's the case, apologise, in person, first thing. And consider hiding your phone the next time you go out.

Problem: You embroil your organisation in a reply all nightmare

As Entrepreneur reported, one unfortunate man shot off a quick email to his 33,000 colleagues at Reuters last year, sparking off a reply all Armageddon.

'The vast majority of the replies ironically seem to have been people telling others not to reply all -- while replying all themselves, thus furthering the issue they protested,' Entrepreneur reported.

Tip: Learn how to use email

Seriously, don't be this person.

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