I accidentally hugged the CEO

A reader writes:

Today as I was arriving at work, I got to the door of the building just before the CEO. I was holding the door for him, and he reached over me–I assume to take the door and hold it open for me. I’m a woman, and I don’t know… chivalry? Anyway, my brain interpreted this as him going in for a hug. The reflex to hug back came quicker than the realization that greeting coworkers with a hug in the morning is not something people do. We both just pretended it hadn’t happened and made small talk as we walked towards the elevator.

How embarrassed should I be about this? Is continuing to pretend it never happened a valid option for handling it going forward? 

I’m friendly with him, but we don’t really know each other well. He was involved in hiring me for a fairly junior position I’ve been in for six months, and few months ago we had a running joke that’s since died out, but we don’t work together day-to-day at all. Possibly also relevant: it’s a very laid-back company, a jeans and t-shirt for everyone kind of place. 

Oh, this is totally something that would happen to me, and then I would feel burning mortification for days.

Ideally you would have made a joke about it in the moment (“OMG, I don’t know where that came from; I’m on auto-pilot this morning”) and laughed it off together.

But of course handling it right in the moment isn’t easy, especially when you’re consumed by “what the hell did I just do?” So, you could do what I do when I’m dwelling on something with embarrassment later: say something about it now. It means having to deal with the additional awkwardness of having a conversation about it, but I’m always so much happier to have corrected whatever mistaken impression I’m worried about (and I actually think people can find stuff like this endearing if you do it with the right amount of humor and self-deprecation).

So personally, the next time I saw him I’d say something like, “Um, I think I may have hugged you in the elevator the other morning. I was in a morning fog and I have no idea how that happened. I’ve been mortified ever since, so had to say something about it.” I would then immediately feel 10 times better, because even though we would have now had two awkward interactions, it would be worth the price to let him know I wasn’t just randomly hugging him.

You may not feel that way, though! If doing that sounds unbearable to you, you might prefer to just let it go and use it as an embarrassing story to entertain others with. (And if your company was the sort where you rarely encountered him, it might make more sense to go that route anyway.)

And hell, maybe tell yourself that he’s mortified because he thinks that you think he initiated a hug and that you felt pressured to go along with it. (Or, maybe he’ll think you’re this person! There are all sorts of good possibilities here.)

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 324 comments… read them below }

  1. Laura*

    LOL! The title of the post made me smile. Neither OP nor the CEO made it more awkward than it already was. Alison has great advice, but I’m sure you can just move on if you really don’t feel comfortable bringing it up again. There are much worse things that happen in the workplace. :)

    1. CanadianKat*

      Smile? This is a first actual-laugh-out-loud post I’ve read!

      Reminds me of the time I came from another city to visit my parents. I had recently started a new relationship, and grew accustomed to greeting my boyfriend with a kiss. So when my mom opened her arms for a hug, I very nearly gave her a kiss on the lips.

      1. Audiophile*

        It’s your mom, though. I’m not sure if you’re male or female, but I still kiss my mom occasionally.

        1. TychaBrahe*

          In the US, lip kissing is not really common between people who are not in a romantic relationship, even family members other than spouses. A parent and child are more likely to kiss one another’s cheeks, or a parent will kiss a young child on the forehead.

    2. Josh S*

      I have also ended calls with my (female) boss with “Love ya,” after having talked with my wife not long before. Oops. Awkward.

      1. AKEA*

        It’s a running joke at my day job. So many of us have done this to the boss, to one another, to customers, that we’ve been known to enter the breakroom with “Hi, Love Ya” and leave with “Bye, Love Ya.”

      2. Coolb*

        I had a co-worker do this to me one time. I was super weird-ed and never realized until now that it was likely auto response for the same reason. LOL

    3. Rae*

      I can so relate to this. My current (new) manager has a way of shaking hands where he kind of holds his arm high and swoops down to grasp one’s hand. When he first did this, I honestly thought he was going to do the one arm man hug thing, but I quickly recovered with slightly burning cheeks and before putting myself in hug position, regrouped and shook his hand instead.

  2. ASJ*

    Yup this is totally something that would happen to me too. Right up there with calling your teacher “Mom” in terms of awkward embarrassment (which I have done… twice).

    1. Your Weird Uncle*

      Yep. That happened to me twenty years ago, and I still die a thousand deaths when I remember that one. (Usually when I’m awake around 3am….)

      1. Emmy*

        LM Montgomery wrote that (I can’t remember which book)! It’s the embarrassing things that make you writhe in the wee sma’s. And omigosh my list is soooo long. Dear letter writer, many of us are right there in spirit with you. One of my husband’s is saying in the lingerie department, “Oh, look! they’ve got slips in your size!” (I’m a weird size) only to find out that I wasn’t the woman standing right behind him like he thought. He quickly came and found me and said, “You HAVE to come back with me to lingerie right now! There is a lady who I want to prove that I DO have a wife to!” I’ve often thought “Where is the ctrl+z on my life?!!”

    2. Jinx*

      Yeah, I have physical-auto-pilot issues with gestures. Haven’t ended up hugging, but I end up in awkward spots because I can’t tell the difference between someone coming in for a hand shake, high five, fist bump, etc. There are far too many ways to touch people as greetings!

    3. OfficePrincess*

      I may or may not have called my MALE math teacher mom in high school. My parents are in the local volunteer rescue squad, he was in the neighboring town’s fire department, his pager went off prior to 8am, “See ya mom” was really the only response that was going to happen.

      1. AnonInSC*

        A state trooper responded to a car crash I was in (minor – no injuries to people). When HE was taking my statement and asking questions I said “yes ma’am.” I was in high school and had been working all day. With women. Cringe.

        1. BeautifulVoid*

          Judge Judy gets “yes, sir” all the time. Immortalized in syndication and reruns forever….

    4. Laura*

      I almost call my boss “Mom” ALL THE TIME because she is a mom and reminds me of my own. So awkward.

      1. the gold digger*

        My boss is an engineer and has the same picky engineer personality that my husband, Primo has. My boss is also an absolute delight and we get along very well, well enough that we can have very intense arguments. I was getting so annoyed at him one day that I said, “Oh my God Primo you are driving me crazy!”

        Yes. I called my boss by my husband’s name.

        1. Murphy*

          I once called my husband my boss’s name.

          In my defense, they both start with a “B”, but that was an awkward few minutes (and no, it was at that inopportune moment, which would have been much, much worse).

    5. Blue Anne*

      I called my boss Dad once.

      …at each of the three companies I’ve worked at.

      Clearly I have some kind of issue to deal with.

    6. Kat*

      I accidentally called my coworker “babe” yesterday. He asked me a question across the cubicle divider and I was on total autopilot…luckily he just ignored it! Ahh!

    7. Bob*

      I was once telling a story to a co-worker and referred to a male friend of mine as my “boyfriend” (I’m a straight male and, unlike women and the term girlfriend, that is NOT a term straight men use). I stopped dead (and probably looked horrified) but he immediately said “yeah, I know what you meant” and motioned for me to continue the story.

    8. Murphy*

      I was one talking to one of my staff on the phone and glancing at an email from my husband at the same time. I ended the conversation with my staff with a cheery “love you!”.

      Multi-tasking fail.

      1. TheLazyB (UK)*

        Haha my husband heard a text arrive on his phone, correctly guessed it was from me and signed his email to a client off with a kiss. Then texted me filled with horror.

      2. Revolver Rani*

        This happened to a lawyer I used to work with who was always full of the BEST war stories. She had just finished a long exhausting day of depositions, and was in the airport on her way home, on the phone with the senior partner debriefing him about the day’s events. And at the end of the call, right before they hung up, she just said “love you, bye.” She died.

      3. 2horseygirls*

        I did that once as I was finishing a conversation with my ex-husband.


        We both laughed but geez . . . hello, brain!

      4. Snorks*

        I was talking to my wife once an sending an email to our Admins in another city. I accidentally signed off the email with ‘thanks Babe’!!
        That necessitated a quick phone call to them apologising.
        Luckily they were good sports about it, I spoke to them several times a day so I knew them quite well.

      5. Collingwood21*

        My favourite multi-tasking fail is one my mum managed – answering the phone at work with a cheery “hello, telephone call!”. That always makes me smile.

    9. BTownGirl*

      I thought it was just me!! OP, if it makes you feel any better, I once hugged my longtime plastic surgeon at the end of a follow-up visit. He’s very nice and it wouldn’t have been THAT embarrassing, but for the fact that I was completely topless at the time. Thankfully, I was not banned from the office. If you’re a hugger, you’re a hugger, I tell you haha!

        1. BTownGirl*

          It really was so gloriously awkward hahahaha!! On another occasion, I was getting undressed and handed him my bra. AS ONE DOES!

        1. BTownGirl*

          Honestly, even I was able to laugh through my mortification on the car ride home hahaha!! :)

    10. Emmie*

      I accidentally ended a work phone call with I love you, like I said to my then fiancé. We both laughed very hard. It happens!

    11. Stranger than fiction*

      I accidentally called my boss “Hon'” (as in short for honey) one time around the holidays when I was hugging other coworkers and friends telling them to have a great holiday…it just slipped after I’d been doing that with others for a couple of days

    12. Clisby Williams*

      My daughter once called me Ms. Munson – her wonderful teacher. I was pretty flattered.

      1. Liz in a Library*

        I think this story is so funny because so many of us can see ourselves doing this. Or, um, have done this (what? I don’t know who you’re talking about…).

        It’s so fun to see that other people do the same goofy weird things you do. It’s nice not to be the only person who gets in awkward situations!

      2. OP*

        Actually, knowing this is so entertaining from the outside has been good perspective and makes me feel much better about things.

        1. Your Weird Uncle*

          I’m glad you’re feeling better about it, OP!

          Your post reminds me of a similar one by The Bloggess where she recounted an embarrassing encounter at a ticket counter and her Twitter feed erupted in a similar vein of shared-mortification. This is better, IMO, because we *have* to see people at work again (whereas you can just say, ‘Oh crud, never going to that movie theatre again I guess!’), and we can almost all relate to that pain. You’re not alone!

        2. Murphy*

          It reminds me of a scene in The West Wing where Josh accidentally tries to hug Leo (link to follow).

      3. Bowserkitty*

        I really liked that you said “this sounds like something I would do” in your response!

        I am a social butterfly these past few years, but I am an awkward social butterfly at that. I’ll be curious to see what OP does.

  3. Liz*

    I’ve heard coworkers at two different companies say “I love you” on the phone to their bosses, the same way that they would with their spouses. They were on autopilot, and it just popped out.

    If they can recover from that, I think you’ll be fine, OP!

    1. The IT Manager*

      A work friend ended an email to me with “I love you” and then wrote back immediately clarifying that she didn’t actually love me so, yeah, that slip happens too.

      1. Karo*

        My CEO has the same relatively uncommon first name as my father, so there have been times when I have an email drafted to Dad about something inane (one of those “while I’m thinking about it” notes) that I almost sent to the bossman. Those moments are horrifying.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          A couple of weeks ago, I came *this close* to sending an email titled “no, seriously, I hate you” to one of the bigwigs at work… luckily I caught it in time.

          (My office BFF, let’s call her Betty, had just snuck up behind me and said “boo” right in my ear, making me leap out of my chair and scream. Everyone laughed and laughed while I yelled “I hate you”. It’s OK because we’re both British and we express our mutual affection for each other in the form of insults. Anyway, the bigwig in question is called, let’s say, Bob Evans, and when I started typing “Be” in the To field to email Betty, it got autocompleted to bevans@[domain].ca, and I caught it JUST in time before hitting send).

        2. AnonForThisStory*

          A coworker once mixed up his brother “Mike” with a supervisor “Mike” for their weekend plans… playfully reminding his brother to bring plenty of cash for this bachelor party, you know for all of the “hookers and blow”. The supervisor Mike has a very easygoing personality and wrote back that he’d have to bow out of this weekend because he was helping with a youth lock-in at the church but “it sounds like a blast”. With that easy response, it was easy to laugh and move on. Sometimes when we need to email supervisor Mike, we ask our coworker if he needs any cash for weekend plans…

      2. Lynn*

        Imagining composing the clarification email:
        ” Hi, IT Manager, actually, I don’t love you. Best, Work Friend”

    2. ARKD*

      Yes, I’ve also accidentally called my manager “Mom–Susan” and we just did not talk about it and it’s FINE you’re fine, it’s all okay! I would suggest though, if it’s really bothersome, to just let it come up naturally if you see him again, like “Haha don’t worry I’m not going in for a hug this time! I’m not THAT awkward!” and you’ll both laugh and move on.

    3. Pwyll*

      This, this, this. I have done this to my boss, and it was mortifying.

      Luckily, he immediately responded “Love you too” as we hung up, so we survived.

      1. CM*

        That is hilarious.
        I have never done this, but after reading all these responses I’m worried that I will.
        I did once have a client tell me that “we must be having a secret love affair” because we both accidentally called each other on the same day. That was weird, and I chose to ignore it.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        My beloved previous boss would always put in emails, “I love you more than yesterday but less than tomorrow” when she was telling me/us something, or even say it on the phone. I am really surprised I didn’t say I love you too back. She probably would have just laughed. This is the same person who, when we were dealing with a change in procedure from another department, sent me a picture of a book cover someone had made, The Little Engine that said F*ck It.


    4. HappyHedgie*

      Ha, I did this once with the CEO of the place I was doing a summer internship. It was my last day and he called to say goodbye/wish me well (it was a small place and I had worked on a project for him) at the end just as I was hanging up my boyfriend texted me and autopilot I just blurted out Bye Love you. Instantly realized what I’d done I hung up in a panic. :( So mortifying but, at least I never had to see him ever again.

      And now my face is red just thinking about it even though that was a good 5 years ago.

    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      C’mon. Who HASN’T accidentally signed an email to their boss with “Love, Victoria”?

      1. Purple Dragon*

        I signed one to my whole team with “Love and Kisses, Purple”

        That was embarrassing !

    6. dragonzflame*

      I once said “Love you too” to a client I was meeting for the first time. What I meant, of course, was “Lovely to meet you too” but it got scrambled between brain and mouth. I think we both just pretended it had come out right.

    7. MashaKasha*

      We never say it at the end of a phone convo in my family, so I’m pretty safe.

      I had it happen, not with a coworker, but with a brand-new boyfriend. I’d just spent the first weekend at his place, and was ready to go home. As he walked me to my car, he gave me a hug and said, “Love you…” pause (I swear I could hear the wheels turning in his head) “… Loved this weekend, bye!”

      I pretended I didn’t hear anything unusual. He was mortified enough as it was.

    8. Murphy*

      I posted above, but I did this to one of my staff once. It was awkward, not gonna lie.

  4. KarenT*

    I vote for never bringing it up again! He probably wasn’t bothered by it, and may even think he accidentally initiated it. I think bringing it up after the fact makes it more awkward and into a bigger deal then it is.

    1. Florida*

      I agree. It is likely that he has not even thought about it since then. I think when these types of things happen, it is a huge deal to us, but it is barely a blip on the radar of the other person involved.

    2. OP*

      Your comment just gave the the amazing realization that maybe *he* was on autopilot too and really did hug me. He’s from a country where hugging friends (definitely just friends–not coworkers) hello is very normal. Maybe he’s got an awesome advice columnist he wrote to about how he randomly hugged an employee he hardly knows.

      1. Jinx*

        I can’t wait for the day when Alison gets letters from both sides of a situation. It’s got to happen sooner or later, right? :D

  5. The IT Manager*

    Sympathy. Years later, I am still slightly embarrassed by the fact that in the middle of a conversation a colleague gestured with their right hand, and I reached out and shook it out of habit and totally out of context – in the middle of a conversation. Also I accidentally hugged someone at a parade recently. I realized after that it was his job to get the crowd to stand back from the road, but his arm motions looked like he was going in for a hug and I went in to hug the stranger because of habit.

    I’m sure your CEO understands what happened because it does happen. There’s no need to bring it up, but if it’ll make you feel better and less embarrassed you should follow Alison’s script because it’s a good one.

    1. needsacareer*

      Just busted out laughing at the “in the middle of a conversation” bit in the middle of the office. Totally something I would do. Same with the hug, too, actually. But I would own the hell out of that – people love hugs! …just maybe not your CEO :P

      1. OP*

        I burst out laughing at that too. It’s been 2 days, and I was already feeling mostly better about this, but this comment thread has still been such a nice salve for the rest of my embarrassment.

    2. oranges & lemons*

      I also did the accidental handshake thing to a screening officer in an Italian airport who was just trying to get me to pass him my backpack. In my defense, I was intensely sleep-deprived and don’t speak Italian.

    3. Elsajeni*

      I somehow ended up shaking my mom’s hand as we said goodbye after going out together a couple weeks ago. Both of us stood there like “Nice to… meet you? What are we doing? How did this happen?” and yet we were powerless to stop it.

    4. Urban_Adventurer*

      I was at a happy hour meet and greet with the director of my new academic program. He held out his hand to shake, and I gave him my beer bottle to open. The horror!

  6. Althea*

    If this were me, I would also be so annoyed! Don’t reach over me to do something I can and am doing myself! Argh!

    I agree with Alison, speaking up can really clear the air. Sometimes when I do it, I wait for a time we are already talking. Occasionally it even seems to arise naturally. Other times I’d make it happen. One of the ways I diffuse awkwardness is to pretend-narrate what the other person is thinking. E.g. If this interaction happened, and I ran into the CEO in the elevator the next day, I might say, “Hi Bob, good to see you! I’m not planning on hugging you today, unlike yesterday.” {CEO says hi and or laughs uncomfortably} “Now you’re like, ‘oh my god, I’m so glad I don’t have to find a way to head that off, Althea is so awkward.” Typically the delivery is very dry and it makes people laugh, because I’m simultaneous exaggerating what they might be thinking while putting the deprecation on me.

    Actually I’m finding it so hard to describe. I do it a lot… it helps air out weirdness while putting in the humor. That’s why I like it!

    1. OP*

      “If this were me, I would also be so annoyed!”

      Yeah, maybe the silver lining here is that it will teach him not to do that?

  7. Formica Dinette*

    I came thisclose to doing something similar a few months ago. It was awkward, but not as awkward as a full-on hug. OP, you have my sympathy.

  8. Annonie*

    I’m absolutely the sort of person who would bring up an awkward moment later just to clarify my intentions/behavior/etc. It really makes me feel much better.

  9. Jammer*

    OP, try not to feel too bad. I can totally see myself doing this. If it helps, I bet the CEO felt awkward and embarrassed, too, and would appreciate the chance to clear the air and have a good laugh about it together.

  10. JJ*

    I’m a lawyer and once, when I was a younger associate, I arrived at a mediation where the partner I worked for and the client were already there. I shook the client’s hand (who was a man). I’m a woman and the partner was also a woman and I have no idea why, but I hugged her after I shook the client’s hand. Literally as it happened my brain was screaming “What are you doing?! Why are you hugging her??”

    We’ve since laughed about it. It happens!

    1. Ms. Didymus*

      I love how our bodies just seem to rebel against the brain at times. You can actually hear the brain scream “NOooooooooooooooooooo”

  11. Anon again*

    I still am embarrassed about an incident that happened over 30 years ago when the CFO (an older gentlemen) held out his arm to help me with my coat. Out of instinct (honed by years of parental abuse), I quite visibly flinched. Neither of us ever said a word about it, but I wonder what he thought I was thinking.

  12. TotesMaGoats*

    Dear CEO,

    I just wanted to let you know that I’m not someone who hugs random people each day. I just hadn’t had enough coffee yet that morning. I’m starting a PIP to increase my caffeine intake before arriving at work so I don’t hug any more unsuspecting people.

    The Hugger

    1. SusanIvanova*

      *giggle* That’s a PIP I could get behind.

      I sassed Steve Jobs once. He was talking to a group of third-party developers about a product they were getting a sneak peak at and said something about “it could be worse,” because it was unfinished and not yet up to the usual Apple standards. From the back of the room I popped out “yeah, it could be the version from $othercompany.” And then dug deeper with “I can say that, I’m from $othercompany.” He answered “Yeah, I know,” and I tried to melt into the wall.

      1. the gold digger*

        Given what I have heard about Steve Jobs and working at Apple (my husband worked there for a few years – the years when the stock was worth nothing, so he dumped it as soon as he could – that is making me so sad right now, as I get ready to work instead of to tell The Help What To Cook Today, except he was still married to his ex, so she would have gotten most of it anyhow, as he gave her whatever just to get her to sign the divorce papers), I applaud you.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          I suspect, but can’t prove, I was on a layoff shortlist for arguing with my manager’s manager at a company not involved in that story – or to be more precise, being opinionated and not deferential while being female. And right, which may well have been worse. Basically exactly the sort of arguing back that all the Steve Jobs stories say he appreciated. On the whole, I’d rather work for Steve than that guy.

  13. Lily in NYC*

    My former CEO accidentally grabbed my crotch once during an epic crash (we rounded the corner at the same time and smashed into each other). He was trying not to fall and it just happened (I think he was a little drunk from a 3-martini lunch). He felt so awful but I was relieved that for once I was not the one who embarrassed herself.

    1. Partly Cloudy*

      The owner of our company once accidentally grabbed my friend’s boob. During a birthday lunch, in front of basically the whole company.

    2. Cafe au Lait*

      I grabbed, and squeezed, a student employee’s chest/nipple on accident. I rounded a corner too fast, and the first thing I grabbed was him.

      After I set my stuff down, and took a deep breath, I went to him and apologized profusely. He was a complete gentleman and “of course it was an accident.”

      1. Cath in Canada*

        I grabbed a waiter’s crotch once, while I was on a fourth or fifth date. I have a bad shoulder and was trying to stretch it out, and the waiter walked around a corner and right into my outstretched hand. I was mortified.

        We’re married now (the date, not the waiter). My husband still likes to remind me about how I grabbed another man’s crotch during one of our first dates. I say it’s fair game because the first time we ever met, he went home with someone else. (It was a Hallowe’en party. The second time we met, a couple of months later, went much better for me).

        1. Nursey Nurse*

          My baby, who is 10 months old, is in a stage where she likes to grab stuff and is especially fond of shoelaces. We went out to eat recently and, as our server was standing by her highchair taking our order, she reached for the strings on his apron (probably thinking “wow, those are big shoelaces”) and before I could stop her she grabbed him in a very private area of his body. Fortunately he was a dad, so we just laughed it off, but I was pretty embarrassed,

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I fell over backward in front of a dude I liked once. SOOOOO embarrassing. I was stretching and just went *WHAM*. I was all right, but it was mortifying. We laughed it off and went on to date for almost five years–he still would say, “Remember when you fell over backwards?” and start laughing. I haven’t seen him in probably fifteen years, but I bet if we ran into each other, he’d say it!

  14. Kathryn*

    Could be worse–a few years ago, I accidentally flipped my boss off. We were driving near work. He drives a Porsche and made a maneuver I personally thought was too aggressive, so like a flash–out comes the finger!! “Darn Porsche drivers,” I said to myself. “Darn silver Porsche…drivers…silver Porsche…silver…SILVER PORSCHE!!! OH MY GOD IT’S JOHN!!!!” My blood ran cold at that moment.

    He was totally cool about it when I apologized later. It turned out he hadn’t seen me flip him off, but I think it was best to be upfront about it and apologize.

    Now I am always courteous when driving within a 2 mile radius to work.

    1. shep*

      I am ALWAYS afraid I’ll do this, either heading home or heading to work. Luckily my workplace issues parking stickers for the garage, so I can easily spot fellow employees on the road in the vicinity and keep from being too animatedly exasperated at some of their driving skills (or lack thereof).

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      A friend of mine did this to his new boss of one week, but he also shouted the c word through the open window. Luckily, the boss thought it was hilarious.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Uh, I wouldn’t think his behavior was hilarious. I’d be genuinely worried about my safety working for someone who shouted that word at me/women in cars.

        1. orchidsandtea*

          I think it’s more generic in Britain—it’s got the same problematic roots, but it’s not so potent there. It’s not as consciously gendered, and it’s not as shocking or strong.

        2. Alienor*

          Depends where you are in the world. I have some friends from England who were surprised to find out that a lot of people in the U.S. regard it as the ultimate bad word – apparently for them it’s just another swear word and is not especially gendered (i.e. men say it to each other).

          1. Liz*

            Yeah, certainly in Australia, the level of misogyny in the word depends on context.

            I mean, not that you should use it with a colleague, or your mum, or teacher, but in that context it’s grounds for an apology, not a restraining order.

        3. Cambridge Comma*

          Wow, I had no idea that this word was so strong in the US that a single use would make someone afraid for their physical safety.

          1. asteramella*

            It’s not that the word itself is so strong–it’s that using a very strong word in reaction to a mild offense may indicate a lack of anger control.

    3. jj*

      Oh, man, I catch myself about to make an obscene gesture or do the big hands up “WHAT ARE YOU DOING” gesture behind the wheel close to work all the time!! One of these days I’m going to slip, I know it!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I yell and curse (windows shut) but bob my head as though I’m singing along with the radio. So it looks like I’m going, “Yeah yeah yeah,” but I’m actually going, “Blankety blank blank bland c-word t-word-faced arsemobile f***badger!”

    4. Wendy Darling*

      I had a mini rage meltdown in the car once as an undergrad when some jerk in a green SUV took the last space in the parking lot, which I had been about to pull into before this unbelievable douchebag cut me off. I was just rolling down my window to shout at them when my academic advisor got out of the car.

      …so I slunk away silently and parked on the street several blocks away.

    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I’ve done this exact thing, to a colleague from a partner organization. OH GOD.

      It’s part of what made me actively decide to stop behaving in that way (flipping people off, but being rude in other ways as well). The other part was being on the receiving end of rude behavior and realizing how surprisingly crappy it made me feel. I don’t want to bring that to others’ lives, even if they’re acting like jerks.

    6. NJ Anon*

      I had some one I work with behind me (in cars) and she beeped at me because I didn’t pull out into merging traffic quickly enough for her. I called her on it jokingly. She was embarrassed but got over it.

    7. Cath in Canada*

      I yelled something very uncomplimentary at a driver who almost knocked me off my bike a block from work once (they turned in front of me as I was coming through an intersection on a green light wearing high-vis everything), and immediately panicked that it was a manager. When I finally saw the driver’s face it wasn’t anyone I know, but I still shudder when I think about it…

    8. Stranger than fiction*

      I’m so afraid I’ll do that some day. But then again the execs here purposely come and go at odd times so they don’t run into us little people.

    9. Alix*

      I did something similar to my mom once. She was swinging by to pick me up after work one day (not our usual arrangement, but we were going on an errand together after so this was easier), and I’m waiting out front. Next thing I know, some asshole in an ugly-ass green car comes sailing down the little road in front of the building, stops dead, jerks forward, stops dead, then leans on his fucking car horn and won’t let up. So I, not being a particularly couth young lady, do what comes naturally and flip the asshole off.

      Only to see my extremely pissed-off mother climb out of the driver’s seat.

      Turns out her old car had died and she’d basically bought the first cheap used car she could find, and she didn’t have a handle on it yet.

      The errand afterward was pretty awkward. Mom does icy silence really well.

      1. Adlib*

        Oh man! I almost did something similar to my mom. I had met them at the state fairgrounds to help them pack up the animals, and she was driving separately. We walked out to our separate parking spaces and on the way out, I couldn’t believe how SLOW this silver Civic was driving in front of me. I was silently raging until my brain caught up and realized I was behind my mom. Good thing I hadn’t honked or done who knows what! (Usually I just rage inside my car with the windows up.) She does drive like an old lady though, even for her age while my dad is not quite to maniac level. Ha!

  15. ScaredyCat*

    I generally have the opposite problem. When people outside my immediate family or best friend try to hug, I instinctively move away and kind of glare at the person who dares to do it.

    First time it happened at a club (i.e. the dancing kind), with a client, who gave me a friendly hug when I was leaving. He was probably drunk and all, but when he saw me freeze up and stare at him all shocked, he instantly sobered up. My colleagues all stared at me wondering why I was making a big deal out of things. Can’t help it, I hate being hugged, yet unfortunately live in a country where being touchy-feely is the norm…

    1. Charlotte Collins*

      I am also not a hugger. Unfortunately, I am small and seem to look cuddly to the huggers of the world…

    2. Amelia*

      This is me too. People go in for a hug and I either freeze and just stand there with my arms down while they get it over with or I recoil with a look of disgust. I hate being touched by people…

    3. the gold digger*

      My first date with my husband, Primo did not pay for lunch. He said he didn’t think it was a date, even though he had extended his layover in Memphis so I could pick him up at the airport and we could go out.

      He did not pay for lunch but then he wanted to hug me goodbye, and I was all, “You didn’t even PAY FOR MY LUNCH! NO HUGS FOR YOU!”

      (PS He has since more than made up for that by being a wonderful, generous husband.)

  16. Devil's Avocado*

    I was once chatting with a woman I barely know at a work event and she said “Oh, I have this for (coworker), would you mind giving it to her for me?” and she kind of lifted her handbag in front of her. So, naturally I grabbed the bag out of her hands and said “sure!”. Turns out she was just reaching into the bag to grab a card. I awkwardly handed her purse back to her.

    (We totally laughed it off, but still. So awkward.)

    1. auntie_cipation*

      That reminds me of being a young girl at a Camp Fire Girls meeting, or something of that nature, and one of the adults reached out toward me with a tray of cookies and for some reason I thought she was asking me to take the tray and walk around the room offering all the kids cookies. So I reached out to take the tray. The parent looked at me and said “Oh no, dear, you only get one.”

      So mortified, and at age 7-8ish, I didn’t have the composure to just explain what I thought was happening.

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        We were visiting Hawaii back in the 70’s and my brother and I [8 and 7, respectively] were sent to get some stuff out of the rental car. The key wouldn’t work in the door. Any of the doors. No matter how many times we tried. Suddenly there was a man standing over us asking, “Can I help you?” We were like, “No, the key won’t work in our car.” He, thankfully, realized the problem a helluva lot faster than we had, and pointed us to an identical white, four-door, rental car a few spaces over. I remember wishing I had the super power of “Disappear At Will” because I was convinced that he thought we were trying to steal his car. :-D

  17. Jill*

    I was in the mail room where I was the aide to a city councilman. I had bent over to pick up an envelope I dropped. Hand’n’t heard another council man coming into the room and ended up pushing my ample rear end right into his hands that were reaching out for his own mail box. I flew upright and said, “Whooo, I only came in here for the mail!” He laughed and it never came up again. Humor is key – even if you can’t think of a good line until the next day, like Althea suggested.

    I also had citizens call the office all the time and you’d be surprised how many would end the call by saying, “Ok, bye! I love you!!” I found it amusing and never said a word about it because I didn’t want to make them feel too embarrassed to call City Hall again. It happens. If you can view it humorously, you’ll be OK.

  18. KR*

    I HAVE DONE THIS TO A COWORKER. It’s so awful. I still feel embarrassed. Please forget I told you this. *goes off to die of embarrassment*

  19. Gandalf the Nude*

    Totally not the point, but men who insist on taking a door I’m holding for them drive me nuts. It is one of my biggest pet peeves. That’s an awkward enough encounter as it is.

    1. Myrin*

      With all the times I’m reading about this on English-speaking websites, I’m really beginning to wonder if this is something where there is indeed a cultural difference between the US (and maybe the UK, too?) and other western countries (not that there aren’t cultural differences there anyway but the sexism usually seems to be on par). Because I’ve literally never had that happen to me (seriously, not once) and I hold doors open for men all the time. So strange.

      1. OP*

        Incidentally, this happened in a Western European country that’s not English-speaking (our company culture is still pretty American, so I generally feel the advice on AAM is relevant to my situation regardless)

      2. Alienor*

        It’s not happened to me much either. Sometimes if I’m holding the door for a guy who’s a few steps behind me, when he gets there I’ll kind of pass it off to him like the baton in a race, but no one really tries tries to reach over/around me and hold it for me instead. Usually they just look surprised and say thanks.

      3. Gandalf the Nude*

        I think it’s a little bit of a culture thing within the US as well, since I live in the South. It’s been a while since I spent any significant time up north, but I don’t recall it being as pervasive as it is here.

        1. Rana*

          Yeah, I think there may be a bit of Southern chivalry in the way men are expected to behave in the Southern and border states. It can get a bit silly though. I remember one time when this man sprinted up a flight of entrance steps in order to pass me and hold the door open for me. To his credit, he looked a bit embarrassed when I looked at him in surprise, and murmured something about how his mother would never forgive him if he let a lady open a door herself when he was around.

          1. MashaKasha*

            If I were walking up the stairs and heard a man running after me, that’d startle me for sure!

          2. blu*

            I had the opposite. I couldn’t do anything but laugh when I watched a random dude sprint across the parking lot and hop a bush to beat me to an ATM.

        2. Sparrow*

          Yes, agreed. I grew up in the South and have lived on both coasts and (currently) in the Midwest. I experienced this very frequently when I lived in Texas, and it frustrated me to no end. But I’ve found it to be less common in the Midwest and quite rare on the coasts.

    2. Sophie*

      Personally, I love it when people open doors for me… this is because I am door dyslexic. Seriously – I really struggle with doors. I will pull the wrong way, even when it’s labelled, I can spending 10 minutes faffing trying to unlock one, admit defeat, ask someone and they will open it straight away. They’re usually too heavy and it will stop me in my tracks or I will attempt to open the only door that does not work.

      So I always let people go in front of me or dawdle so someone else gets the door. And if someone holds it open, I breathe a sigh of relief. I do hate the “I’m too far away so I need to run to the door so I’m not inconveniencing you” charade though!

    3. Amy Pond (wannabe)*

      Seconding this, it drives me batty. Plus, it’s almost always a man significantly older than me which makes it weirder, cause the motion is really quite similar to the beginning of a hug. The action always invades my personal bubble and makes me feel like a child.

  20. Susan the BA*

    Adding to the chorus of people who can totally see this happening to them. It’s going to be okay, OP!

  21. SJ*

    This reminds me of the episode of “Friends” when Rachel kisses her interviewer. So really, it could be worse. :)

    1. PoisonIvy*

      I was just thinking exactly the same thing! I was coming on to post that this situation the OP has describe is totally something I would do, and I’d probably try to laugh it off later and apologise for having a “Rachel from Friends” moment if the CEO I slowly to get the reference.

      I feel for you, OP. I think most people will understand, and as it’s a fairly informal office, I think you can save face with a little well-placed humour.

    2. CR*

      Ha, I just came here wondering if OP stole the story from Friends. Don’t try to kiss him next!

    3. ace*

      I was thinking of the episode when the boss had to explain in front of HR that he was not trying to buy Rachel’s baby. Which I think was less an accidental misunderstanding, but still seems similar!

    4. BookCocoon*

      This was also my thought! OP, if those writers could come up with that as a plot, you are not the only person this has ever happened to :)

  22. Just me, Vee*

    I was out of the office off and on for a while, caring for my elderly mom who was recovering from surgery. I called in from her bedside to report my absence, and was speaking to the president of our company, with whom I interact frequently. I wanted to tell her how much I appreciated her allowing me the freedom to be flexible with my work schedule, but I blurted out “I love you.” I was mortified. She said “I love you too.” I think it was just a reflex on her part…I bet she was as embarrassed as I was. She and I have never spoken of it.

  23. Anon for this*

    I did this with a major client once! They are, as far as I know, still a client. Four years on I’m down to mortification only once every three bouts of insomnia, which is a major improvement.

  24. Lillian McGee*

    Oh no! Hahaha. I hope you are reassured by the sheer number of us who can see ourselves doing exactly the same thing. Humans…

    Mr. McGee shares your grief, in a way. The first time he met my aunt we were saying goodbye and SOMEHOW they got into a kiss-goodbye situation (not on the mouth, but like… turn your head and make a kissing noise near their cheek–what IS that?? Is there even a word for it? I’ve never had to describe it before.) Anywho, we got in the car and I was like uh, did you just kiss my aunt? Even *I* don’t kiss my aunt! And he was all “It just happened! I don’t know how!” Once he got to know my aunt better he brought it up and they had a good laugh. But I still tease him about it.

    1. Jennifer*

      It’s an “air kiss”. Commonly done to avoid messing up a person’s face makeup, which is why we see celebs doing it.

  25. MashaKasha*

    We had a new policy go into effect once at OldJob, that I was sure was going to end in a disaster. To my knowledge, it didn’t. Like a lot of places do, we had every door in the building locked, with a keycard lock positioned on the wall nearest to the door, a little below waist level. One day, we were all told that no one could swipe anyone else in. Everyone had to swipe their own keycard when entering a locked portion of the office. If anyone was caught letting another employee in, there’d be consequences. This is what it led to. Picture a group of people all coming back to the office together, through the same door. Under the new rules, each had to swipe their own card. Now our male employees of course insisted on holding the door for the ladies. So there’d be a guy holding a door, standing directly in front of the key lock, which under the new rules I had to reach over to with my key card. My keycard hand being within inches of a random male coworker’s crotch. I admit it creeped me out each time I had to do it. I honestly wish our male coworkers at OldJob were a bit less chivalrous. I thought a hand-crotch contact was imminent. One day a guy would stand too close to the lock, or a woman would miss the lock by an inch, and bam! Nope, never happened.

  26. OP*

    Update: I went back and forth about how to handle this. I had decided to say nothing, but Alison emailed me a sneak-peak of her answer, and convinced me that saying something would make me feel better. Certainly deciding to say something made me feel better. The only thing is that talking in person would involve going to his office, and that seemed like too much. So I decided to write him in our chat program when I got into work the next day. Then I ran the idea by two very different friends, and both agreed it wasn’t a big deal and that sending him a carefully composed message (even on carefully composed to seem like it wasn’t carefully composed) would make it into one. Ultimately I agreed with them, and decided to just drop it and figure it’ll eventually fade from his mind as all the good work I plan on continuing to do becomes his more recent experience with me.

    1. Barefoot Librarian*


      This sounds like a reasonable way to deal with the situation. Don’t MAKE it something when it’s not. :)

  27. Katie the Fed*

    He probably feels just as embarrassed and is wondering if he accidentally initiated the hug. I did the same thing with a lawyer one because he went in for an awkward handshake and I thought it was a hug. Ughhh.

  28. Barefoot Librarian*

    This is DEFINITELY the kind of awkward thing I would do. I feel for you (and am giggling because, honestly, what else can you do in this situation?). I agree with Alison. If you don’t see him often from day to day, just let it slide and try and be extra normal next time. If you interact with him often-ish, I’d address it in as casual a way as you can manage. He might be relieved that you cleared the air. We all do weird things from time time time (some of us more than others. :)).

    And here’s a story to prove it: I was at an end-of-semester party for faculty and was pleasantly tipsy along with most of my colleagues. I was standing with two male professors and we had our arms around each other while we talked. Someone bumped me and I totally slid my hand down and basically put my hand right on one of their butts. He totally called me on it too. I was mortified, but just had to laugh it off. Of course I thought of a dozen funny things I should have said later, but nothing witty came to mind in the moment.

    Yeah, so at least you didn’t grab your CEO’s butt. ;)

  29. TMA*

    I just have to share my own personal anecdote. Last week we were installing an AED in our building. There was a mix-up with the work orders, so the battery was never properly installed in the AED before it was mounted on the wall causing it to beep angrily at us. I was trying to figure why it was beeping and a senior coworker came up and tried to help. He saw that the information button was blinking and reached over to press it.

    Without even thinking, I yelled, “DON’T TOUCH THAT!” He gave me a puzzled look, and I tried to explain that I didn’t want him to get electrocuted, and then we both just walked away.

    The mortification didn’t sink in until I was walking away, so when I ran into him in the hallway later, I apologized and blamed it on being used to telling my three-year-old not to touch things. He just said that my yelling scared him, which was the reason for the puzzled look. We both laughed about it, and all was well.

    TL/DR: I’m glad I said something after my embarrassing moment because if not, I would probably still be stewing in my embarrassment.

    1. SusanIvanova*

      That reminded me of riding in a car with my high school teacher. When she had to make an unexpected stop she flung a hand out to hold me in place because she was so used to her small child being in that seat!

    2. Research Assistant*

      A couple of years ago I was working on something with my boss (a professor) and she got up at one point and said “Okay, I have to go potty now.” She was embarrassed, but I understood. She has little kids, and it’s so easy to get stuck in the kind of things you say to them. I babysit a lot on the side, and I figure it’s only a matter of time before I tell another adult that I need my privacy because I’m going to go potty…

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      For those who don’t know, an AED is an automated external defibrillator. As in, it is supposed to carry enough electricity to start or stop your heart. So I can see why you’d be a little more edgy about someone poking around the AED than, say, the coffee maker. :)

  30. Guava*

    I did this a few months ago with a high level manager! She had hugged me the last time I saw her (they had just announced my promotion) so when I saw her again several months later I thought she was going in for another one.
    She was not.

    Ugh. Humiliating. Played it off. Never said a word. Now it mostly makes me laugh…mostly.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      At Exjob, El Presidente of Corporate hugged me the last time he was in the office before I was laid off. He initiated it. I came around the desk to greet him and he just swept me up in this big hug. I hugged him back and said, “Hi Bob!” like it was no big deal, but I wondered why he did that. I thought he was cool and we were surface friendly, but we weren’t particularly office-close; I hardly ever saw him. I wonder now if maybe it wasn’t one of those autopilot moments and he later was going, OMG WHYY did I do that?!

  31. Elle*

    My boss called me his wife’s name in front of a bunch of people the other day! I was pretty embarrassed about that one, but we all had a good laugh about it and moved on.

    1. Lisa*

      I frequently say the boss’s name when I mean to refer to my husband to coworkers! It’s just that I never call my hubby by name (it’s always hun, that type of thing) and I call the boss by name all the time (and probably see him more!).
      I deal with this awkward issue by immediately just saying “Eek! Creepy! (Husband’s Name)!” …and then continue talking. Everyone just has a quick laugh and we continue one. Mortifying still!

  32. LN*

    The one time I felt really embarrassed about something that I did, I finally brought it up to the person once I knew them a little better, and they didn’t even remember it. I now pretty much assume that’s what happens most of the time, because…realistically, I bet it does.

    1. Liz*

      I am still embarrassed about things I did in elementary school, even though I know that it’s extremely unlikely that anyone else even remembers what happened.

      1. KT*

        That’s a major issue with my anxiety…I’ll be lying in bed trying to sleep, and my anxiety-brain will go “remember that time you did that awkward thing in 5th grade?” and then I’m mortified and dwell on it.

          1. Agnes*

            Dave Barry has a whole riff about how this probably explains a lot of unexpected suicides.

      2. MashaKasha*

        I once said something to a friend when we were both 17, that I was embarrassed about for years. When we were both in our 40s, we found each other on a social network, and the first thing I did was apologize profusely for the 17-year-old me having been an ass to her that time.

        She had no recollection of it! I still continue to feel embarrassed though!

  33. KT*

    This reminds me of my favorite reflexive thing.

    My former company was huge…25,000+ worldwide, 5,000 in the location I worked at. It was a company thing that when something BIG happened, like a new product launch, the top leaders would push out a voicemail to all employees, so we’d get it first thing in the morning.

    This was a HUGE DEAL. The script was written months in advance, vetted by marketers, lawyers, doctors, etc. It was not unheard of to go through 50-60 drafts.

    So we had a product launch, and the vice president pushes out a voicemail…she was awesome, delivering this very exciting news in a very professional tone and nailed it…until the end, where she said:

    “This is obviously terrific news and I thank you for your contributions to our company. LOVE YOU, BYE!”

    She must have realized what she did, because right before the dial tone came on, you heard her go, “AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

    And with our weird system, there was no way to retract it, so everyone heard it, saved it, replayed it.

    I’m now so bizarrely paranoid that I’ll do the same whenever I’m on the phone.

    1. Karo*

      Oh my god, I remember you telling this story a few months ago! It still makes me giggle when I think about it.

      …Also maybe makes me realize that I spend too much time on AAM.

      1. KT*

        No judgment!

        And I like to tell this story because it keeps it top of mind. Then for weeks after I say to myself “Don’t say I love you Don’t say I love you” every time I use the phone

    2. Friday Brain All Week Long*

      YAY I was hoping you’d repost that story! It’s just so charming. Poor VP.

    1. Augusta Sugarbean*

      OMG thank you for this link! I was feeling totally cranky about work today and it’s made me feel so much better! (And on the alert not to accidentally hug anyone today.)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      OMG thank you for posting this. I have been crying with laughter for the last 30 minutes, and I’m still not done with them. This is everything I love about life all on a single page.

    3. Windchime*

      OMG, I have things to do but I’m drinking beer and reading those and making myself sick with laughter.

      One of the twitter posts was about calling people by the wrong name. My sister had friends, Trish and Jim, that she had known for months. One night, sis and Trish were at the bar and Trish says, “Why do you call me ‘Trish'”? Sis says (confused), isn’t that you name? Nope. Trish and Jim were really named Stacy and Roger. Sis had been calling them wrong names for months.

    4. Jean*

      Thank you for sharing this thread and its many examples of human goofyness. (Goofiness? both words look, well, goofy.) It’s like reading H.L. Mencken: smile, smile, smile wider, chuckle, chortle, giggle, snort, and finally FALL OVER LAUGHING LIKE A HYENA. All those people blundering about. Yup. I’ve been there. Hahahahahaha snort gasp snerk gurgle.

    5. The Spider*

      Oh gods, I’ve had to stop reading, the tears from laughing so much were starting to obscure my vision!

  34. MaryinTexas*

    I did something similar. One day as I was getting ready to leave for the day, I got a nasty paper cut on my hand. Moments later I got in the elevator with the CEO, also on his way out for the day. And when I say CEO, he’s the CEO of a Fortune 10 Company! He asked how my day was and I proceeded to show him my paper cut. WHAT???? He responded with “Gnarly….” I thought that was the best one-word response ever. What was I thinking showing him my paper cut? It just goes to show that they’re people too. As for you hugging the CEO, I’d just laugh it off and probably would never bring it up to him. He’s probably already forgotten about it.

    1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

      This is amazing. Reminds me of a time when I was new to a job and one day I overslept, was pretty frazzled, and just barely got to work on time before a presentation I was doing under the supervision of a very nice and friendly supervisor. As we were waiting, she asked me how I was doing and for some reason I just blurted out how much I couldn’t stand the roommates I’d moved in with and how they were driving me up a wall and how I was pretty sure they were drinking my tequila behind my back. Just wayyyyyyy too much information to tell a supervisor at 8 in the morning.

  35. Ell like L*

    This happened to me once, except it was a person I was in the process of FIRING. They were distressed (they knew it was coming for weeks, but were still sad when the moment came) and started gesturing with their arms. Turns out they did not want to hug the person who was letting them go. I was mortified for weeks.

  36. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I think I’ve mentioned this here before, but when I first started consulting, I was leaving a client after our first in-person meeting. I was holding a massive plastic cup of iced tea, like the size of a small baby ( we had met at a coffee place). She leaned in to hug me, which was completely unexpected and totally threw me off, but instead of just handling it normally and returning the hug, I for some reason was so confused that I dropped my huge iced tea, which then exploded everywhere, all over her.

    She did not try to hug me on any future meetings.

    1. Adlib*

      I am always terrified of spilling things. Like, if it happens to me, it’s pretty much the worst thing ever. I don’t know why though.

      Fortunately, last time I was out with friends, one of them spilled her drink twice! I always react as though it’s not a big deal (it’s not) so I have no idea why I want to die when it happens to me.

  37. AndersonDarling*

    Well, OP, at least you work somewhere where the CEO is hug-able. I’m thinking back to every place I worked and if the CEO made any kind of huggy move, I would have cringed.
    And to make you feel better, I once crashed into a director when going around a corner. It was a full body contact crash. He was 7′ tall and I nearly bounced off onto the floor. I laughed it off and was able to eventually move on.

  38. BostonKate*

    Not work related, but I accidentally call my friends “babe” because I’m so used to saying it to my boyfriend. My best friend has gotten used to it, but it occasionally pops out around people I’m not so close with and it gets a lil’ awkward.

  39. LisaD*

    This literally happened to me this morning with our CCO. Fortunately he IS a hugger, so he was thrilled with a morning hug. You never know, maybe your CEO is really bummed out that people don’t hug him very often because he’s the boss. You could have made his day!

  40. Monica*

    Oh my gosh! This is so like saying, “Love you!” when ending a call with a co-worker/client or a kid calling a teacher “mom”. This stuff is SO embarrassing, but totally normal. (Or maybe just in my world because I’m always doing things like this???)

  41. Sadsack*

    Oh, this really made me laugh out loud! I feel for you, OP. I can totally understand how this happened. I am willing to bet that your CEO would also be understanding and find it funny.

    The other day something similar happened with my significant other. As I was talking to him, I was going to make the OK sign with my hand, but for some reason I gave him the finger. I realized what I was doing part way through, but it was difficult physically to correct it. I have no idea what I was thinking — I guess I wasn’t.

  42. Jillociraptor*

    OP, I have accidentally hugged both my current boss and my boss immediately previous! I’m a big hug person and it’s kind of second nature when I see someone I haven’t seen in a while to go for the hug. It wasn’t exactly a mixed signals issue like yours but more of a “forgetting to tell my brain to shut up when it encourages physical contact with non-intimates” situation.

    Both bosses handled the situation with grace. It’s funny because I’m actually not big on physical touch other than hugs for greeting, but dang, tell my dumb brain that!

  43. Applesauced*

    My friends and I call this the “handshake hug” – someone goes for a handshake and you, well, hug them. It happened once on the street when I saw an acquaintance, introduced my friend and then she witnessed the handshake hug as I proceeded to COMMENT on it while it happened.

  44. Aurora Leigh*

    In the spirit of awkward boss/employee interactions . . .

    When I was a high school student working at my first job, it so happened my boss and I were both working at the front desk during a busy period. My lunch coverage got there, so I told him I was headed to the break room. His response (loudly, in front of customers) “I’ll be down to sleep with you in a minute!”

    So many strange looks!

    For clarification, he took naps on his lunch break :)

    1. Cath in Canada*

      I was once on a work trip with my boss and a few other colleagues, and made the hotel reservations for everyone. When we got to the hotel, my boss got to the desk first and gave his name. Of course, they couldn’t find him in the system. Rather than say something sensible like “all the rooms are booked in my name”, to my horror I heard myself say “oh, yeah, that’s because you’re in my room”. The look on his face before I managed to explain myself…

      To make matters worse, it was a huge, sprawling hotel. When we started walking to our rooms, all the others quickly split off to head to their rooms in various different directions, but my boss and I had ended up with adjacent rooms and had the longest, most awkward walk in the world to the very far end of the massive compound.

  45. Carolina*

    Oh lord. A few months ago, I was pulling into my work parking lot, and saw who I thought was one of my work buddies, walking across the lot and starting honking my horn obnoxiously and yelling “Get out of the road.”

    Got a little closer and realized it wasn’t her.

    Then, I got into the building, and saw the woman I thought I honked and yelled at, and started apologizing profusely for honking and yelling. You guessed it. A different person.

    1. CM*

      That reminds me of the time that I called somebody Jessica for like a month. I had met her several times before that and we had started out friendly, but somehow that friendship had cooled. Eventually I heard someone else call her Erica. The next time I saw her I said, “Erica, I’m so sorry I’ve been calling you Jessica all this time.” She gave me a strange look, muttered, “That’s okay,” and walked away. It wasn’t her, it was a different acquaintance who was not named either Erica or Jessica. I’m bad with faces, but this was a new low.

  46. btdubbs*

    These stories are so funny! I once accidentally hugged a group of strangers at the airport right in front of my waiting family in an epic moment of joint confusion. The people I hugged were some sort of travel program waiting for people that hadn’t met yet (holding a sign). When I waved to my family standing behind them, they thought I was indicating I was part of their travel group and approached me with a warm hugging welcome. I can’t really explain the hugging — we were in Atlanta so maybe they were trying to play up the southern friendliness? I was traveling with a good friend who assumed these were family friends she hadn’t met yet, so before I knew what was happening she was hugging everyone too! This all happened directly in front of my family who were wondering why the hell we were hugging a bunch of strangers. Haha it definitely took that awkward moment when you think someone’s waving at you but is really waving to the person behind you to a new level!

    1. Total Rando*

      I can so see this happening at the Atlanta airport. I have to know, how did you exit the wrong group of people after all the hugs?

      1. btdubbs*

        I think it was something along the lines of me saying “Oh! Sorry! I don’t know you!” and them saying “Oh! You’re not such and such?” “Nope!” and then we quickly ran away to my family laughing. Not very smooth!

        1. ArtsNerd*

          This. This was the comment that took me from discreet giggling to full on cackle/laugh-crying.

    2. YaH*

      This is fantastic and completely normal in the US South.

      Speaking of airports, I once flew out for a trip with my sister, who was flying there from her own city. I got to the baggage carousel, and upon spotting her, walked up behind her and said, “Hey, stranger!”

      Then promptly said, “Oh, you actually are a stranger!” when the woman turned around.

  47. greenbeans*

    I’ve had something similar happen with auto pilot, only I was at the dentist and mentally a million miles away. When the dental hygienist put her finger on a back molar to check something, my mouth was all “bite down on the tasty sausage!” Even worse, I think it was like that for a few seconds because she had to ask me to release her finger.

    Our bodies have brains of their own sometimes.

    1. YaH*

      Ok, this is where I lost it.

      When I got my wisdom teeth out, the painkillers for the inevitable drysocket made me hallucinate and I could SEE OUT OF MY MOUTH. I genuinely mean that. It was like a tiny me was sitting on my tongue, and I was looking out past my teeth at the doctor and the room. He put his finger in my mouth to check on the packing and I remember seeing his gloved finger go in my mouth towards my… eyes? and thinking “hey, I don’t have to keep my mouth open so wide, I can relax, there’s plenty of room” and apparently bit down on the guy’s finger.

      Never again, hydrocodone. Never again.

    2. BeautifulVoid*

      This whole discussion is hilarious, but now I’ve completely lost it. Tears are streaming down my face. Thank you.

    3. Alix*

      I bit my orthodontist once, when I was in middle school.

      To be fair, he had it coming. He accidentally dropped a tool down into the back of my mouth/top of my throat, and he just reached on in. Reflex kicked in and I bit down hard.

      I couldn’t really think of what else to do, so I just let him go, sat up, fished out the tool, handed it over, and then laid back down and opened my mouth so he could finish.

      The bad part is, my sister for years would tell any new dentist or orthodontist that I was a biter, so they were all a bit nervous about sticking their fingers in my mouth.

    4. Copper Boom*

      When I was a teenager I once had my mouth open so long with my dentist that it was getting dry. My saliva was building up and before I knew it, it shot right out of my mouth and hit my dentist in the face! Later on while I was waiting for my sister to finish, I walked past the room where my dentist was working on another patient and he squirted me with the water gun to get me back. Yup… Totally mortified even years later!

      1. Jessilein*

        Note to self: do not drink water when reading this thread. I almost choked myself just now.

    5. Partly Cloudy*

      “Bite down on the tasty sausage” is what drove me over the edge into a full blown laughing fit in this thread. Luckily I’m alone in my office right now (I share space with 2 other people).

  48. Deanna*

    This reminds me of the episode of The West Wing where Josh screwed something up and Leo’s lecturing him. Then as he leaves, he hugs Leo because he thought Leo was about to hug him. Leo said “What are you doing?” Josh said “I thought you were going in for a hug.” Leo “Boy did you read that wrong.”

    I’ve done it before, OP. Just not to a CEO. You’ll be fine. :)

    1. Ell like L*

      Aww I can hear John Spencer saying it even though I haven’t seen the West Wing in years.

  49. Chia Seed*

    I’m loving everyone’s awkward moments. I’ve got one to share – it’s a bit…more moist than what’s come up so far.

    It was maybe my second week at my current job, when my boss and I were standing around chatting. At the time I found him pretty intimidating, and it was maybe the first time since I was hired that I’d spoken to him one-on-one. Before I go on, let me point out that it was prime hay fever season.

    Mid-sentence, he took a big gulp of water, and then sneezed before he swallowed…sneezing/coughing (snaughing?) a mouthful of water in my face. I was drenched. I remember we both stood there, speechless and stunned. I mean, what do you say when a leader in your industry human firehoses on you? Also, what apology is good enough for accidentally coating your colleague in your backwash?

    We were crippled by joint embarrassment/horror until a colleague passing by rushed to grab some paper towel.

      1. Chia Seed*

        Yeah, if I had laughed then some of his spit-water would have dripped into my mouth and now I’m dry-heaving thinking of the situation.

    1. MJ*

      This reminds me of an embarrassing new-job story of my own…

      Shortly after I began working at my current job, a coworker and I were in the process of moving our desks to a new location, and had to borrow some tools from the Facilities department. As we were walking across campus to return them, we ran into our boss, who said, “Hey, what are you guys doing out here?”

      I held up a screwdriver, opened my mouth, and my brain screamed, “DON’T SAY ‘SCREWING AROUND!'” So I just stood there. With my mouth open. Holding a screwdriver. The only way it could have been worse is if I had drooled on myself.

      Boss cocked his head at me and then kept walking. (Luckily, we get along great and he thinks my awkwardness is funny.) I still cringe every time I think of it.

    2. Silver Radicand*

      I had a similar situation with my brother, but I was the offender. I was so surprised that my astute apology was “Thank you!”

  50. Ama*

    I once worked somewhere where I had the same name as the big boss’s wife (it isn’t a particularly common first name). I once introduced myself by first name only to someone at an evening event who I had emailed but never met in person and thought she looked surprised, but didn’t realize until later in the conversation that she thought I was the wife, not the office manager (I was a good 30 years younger than the boss and his wife, so the surprise was because she hadn’t been expecting “our” age difference). She was really embarrassed but I was more amused than anything.

    After that I always introduced myself with my full name and title at work events for that company.

    1. Partly Cloudy*

      Where I used to work, the owner had the same first name as my then-boyfriend. One of the ladies I worked with, when she was new-ish, would hear me refer to “Steve” all the time and thought that I was married to the owner. After she’d figured out that I wasn’t, she told me about how she thought this for awhile and thought how down-to-earth I was for being married to a billionaire.

  51. Justin Corwin*

    Jake: Thanks dad… Why is everyone staring at me?
    Rosa: You just called Captain Holt Dad; you said thanks Dad.
    Jake: What? No, I didn’t. I said “thanks, man.”.
    Holt: Do you see me as a father figure, Peralta?
    Jake: No, if anything I see you as a bother figure cause you’re always bothering me!
    Terry: Hey, show your father some respect.

  52. Ang*

    My mom came out of the store one day, climbed into the car, patted the driver’s knee and said, “Let’s go home!”

    It wasn’t her car, or her husband.

    Best part? I don’t think my mom was embarrassed by this (doesn’t everyone do it?)

    1. Ang*

      She was embarrassed after getting a ticket for getting lost and driving on the runway on a small Air Force Base, though. My mom furnishes the best stories.

    2. MJ*

      My mom loaded groceries into the trunk of her car and then got in the backseat and waited. She had driven herself to the grocery store, alone.

  53. LPUK*

    Years ago in my first role, I was standing in an open office when my big boss asked to see me in his office. As he turned round to walk back down, and I started following, he sort of put out his hand… and I took it! we walked hand-in-hand down the office for a few steps before separately realising what we’d done and parting in mortification. Nope, we never mentioned it again either, but I still blush nearly 30 years later.

  54. Joseph*

    This reminds me of something similar happening to one of my friends:
    Friend works at a major, Fortune 100 company at one of the branches. He was in HQ for training one day and was walking down the hall and saw an older gentlemen walking down the hall towards him. They did the whole “dodge left, wait both of us moved the same way, let’s dodge the other way” dance and ended up smashing straight into each other. Since my friend was younger and a bit sturdier build, the other guy fell backwards and my friend fell on top of him.

    At the next training session, they were showing photos of senior management and realized it was the CEO. Fortunately, since he works in a different branch, he never saw the CEO again. As far as we know, the CEO may still be completely unaware who the random employee was that tackled him was.

    1. Dweali*

      I did this when I was working in a restaurant as a server with a co-worker…we were in the middle of the aisle next to a few tables did the left/right fake-out and then somehow just head-butted each other…the whole area just went quiet looking at us (6 or so tables during a Friday night rush)…then the laughing started (us then the tables surrounding us)

    2. Carpe Librarium*

      In the interests of avoiding the “step left, whoops step right” scenario, I always “keep left” just like driving (I live in Australia and we drive on the left here).
      I figure it should work for foot traffic just as much as road traffic.

  55. Nervous Accountant*

    This is making me smile so much, it’ss kind of cute. I’ve never done that, but sometimes I worry that I’ll slip in some Arabic when talking on the phone with a client…..somehow I don’t think that’ll go over well.

  56. DMC*

    Loved that twitter link. Hilarious. I’ll have to read more tonight. This did remind me of an email oops a friend of mine did back in the day when we had film cameras and it was JUST becoming a thing that stores could put our photos on a floppy disk for you. I was part of one of those message board exchanges where someone wrote: “If you go to Walmart, they can put your photos on a dick.”

    Then I replied, “OH MY GOD! They can *DO* that?!”

    That pretty much blew up the thread, and I still chuckle about that one.

  57. Sophie*

    Oooh, I’ve got one! This actually happened to my co-worker and not myself – the fact we could only hear one side of the conversation I think made it even funnier.

    So a customer calls in with an enquiry about kids Hunter wellingtons, as we hear our co-worker talking about prices, the colours and sizes we have in stock etc. Co-worker then seemingly out of the blue says ‘cheese’… ‘cheese’…………’cheese’. She then stopped and said to the customer, most professionally: ‘I do apologise, but I appear to keep saying the word cheese’

    We were in absolute stitches! Turns out she was trying to explain that the height of a particular type of boot will come up to childrens knees. Which turned into the word cheese! It was the apology that topped it off – it was not said in a normal conversational tone, but in the ultra conservative ‘phone voice’ that people sometimes adopt.

  58. not her the other girl*

    It happens! Not me, but a coworker once closed a call with a customer with “Alright, bye-bye, I love you.” Hung up the phone and immediately said “Oh. my. god.”

    Same job, but on my first day I was following my trainer around like a duckling and at one point I completely missed the “stop following me” signal and almost followed him right into the bathroom. Whoops!

  59. Ruth (UK)*

    Sorry OP, you gave me a laugh! On the brightside, I honestly think you can just never mention this again and even if it’s a little bit awkward for a short time, it’ll pass. This totally sounds like the sort of thing I’d do too, and that other people would probs do – and the fact that it’s easily relateable probs means any other witnesses etc probs understand it to be an awkward oops.

  60. stevenz*

    I’m sure he had a good chuckle about it, and doesn’t hold it against you. So to speak. You can also take a different approach than the serious tone that Alison suggests (nothing wrong with that, though) and when you run into him, with no one else around, you can say something like “sorry that happened. I’m not that kind of girl” and it will be laughed off. Anyway, what you did was not a bad thing to do – hugs are great – just wrong context and timing. At least you didn’t unthinkingly punch him in the nose.

  61. Deb*

    My boss has accidentally messaged me “Give me a sex” instead of “Give me a sec” SO MANY TIMES. I find it hilarious and oddly comforting, like having emotional “insurance” in case I end up initiating an awkward encounter with him one of these days.

    1. Partly Cloudy*

      I have almost messaged “go tit” several times, but luckily I’ve always caught myself and changed it to “got it” – so far, at least. Now I’m jinxed.

  62. LENEL*

    My Bosses first name is the same as my wonderful Stepdad’s.

    I am terrified I’m accidentally going to call my Boss what I call my Stepdad by mistake, which is “Papa Firstname.”

    Now I am slightly more terrified, I will have to start actually calling him Boss or something. Ack.

    Or maybe I need to practice laughing and then saying “oh dear, my stepdad has the same name and I went on autopilot!”.

    1. nony*

      My boss’s name is Brad. It hasn’t happened yet, but I just know the day is coming where I call him dad. Then I’ll clear my calendar and just hide under my desk for the rest of my life.

  63. anon...*

    I was drinking coffee and talking to a co-worker when some went down the wrong pipe while the rest was still in my mouth. And that’s how I ended up spitting coffee all over my co-worker.

  64. Dweali*

    The story I love to whip out for when our new hires talk about being scared/intimidated by our director…2 things first 1) I am an EXTREMELY socially awkward person and 2) Director has a very forceful presence (I swear you can feel her coming towards you when she is still a hallway and a half away)

    I was probably about a month into the job and coming back from lunch. Director ended up getting on the elevator a floor after I did and yawns (or maybe I yawned, can’t remember) the following is the dialogue:
    Director: something, something thank goodness it’s almost Friday…
    Me: Yeah, sometimes my cat jumps on me at night and it makes me tired…
    *cue us not making anymore eye contact* the elevator doors opened shortly after and I did the walk of shame of the elevator back towards my office.

    My first contact with this person and I sound like the crazy cat lady (but I’m sure she doesn’t remember…ok I hope she doesn’t remember)

    1. Basia, also a Fed*

      I’m totally sympathetic to cats keeping you awake! Mine used to jump on my feet every time i moved.

  65. Liz*

    OH MAN. I haven’t called my boss dad (yet), but when I was at Borders, I accidentally ended a store announcement with… hmm, from memory, it went like this:

    “Good afternoon, customers, and welcome to Borders. We have some great deals on cook books this week, as well as a great range of new releases, and six whole biographies of Robert Pattinson from Twilight!” [We strongly suspect this was one of the reasons Borders Australia went broke.] “Our friendly staff are waiting at the info desk to help you out!” *awkward pause* “Okay. Thanks.” *as I’m putting down the phone, still audible to the entire store* “Well, that was crap.”

  66. Professional Sweater Folder*

    Try not to worry too much OP. These things happen and they become fun to laugh at in time.

    In fact, a few weeks back, I accidentally grabbed my coworker’s butt. I was at the till, serving a customer and my coworker was handing me a hanger. I reached back to grab it, but I miscalculated.

    We laugh about it now, and it’s become a running joke with us that I’m trying to make a move on her. (We’re both women, she’s straight, and she believes I am too.)

  67. The Cosmic Avenger*

    As we say in our house, Socially Awkard Penguin is my Patronus.

    “You too!”

  68. Pennalynn Lott*

    I was in a “celebratory” mood when I was writing my holiday cards about 10 years ago and sent one to my ex-boss and his family signed, “Love, Pennalynn”.


    1. anon...*

      My mom once sent out Christmas cards that, instead of saying “Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays from the Smith Family” only said “Happy Family”

  69. Mephisto*

    This is my philosophy–If I would laugh if it happened to someone else, I have to laugh when it happens to me. Thinking about it in those terms makes getting over my embarrassment easier and cuts my angst time way down. OP, you’ve added to your arsenal of funny stories, so good for you.

  70. Wren*

    No advice, just chiming in to say I feel you. I had such a great time talking to the specialist following up a sleep study I did that when she stood at the end of the consultation and leaned over the desk to shake my hand, I very nearly interpreted it as a lean in for a hug. I liked her so much it seemed totally natural that we’d be parting with a hug! I did catch myself, but I was so close to having hugged her.

  71. Domi*

    These comments are fantastic.

    (A wee bit of context – I think Canadians in general do more hugging in the workplace, although I’m not a fan). I was a young female Canadian grad student doing research interviews in Brazil with scientists I’d never met. At the end of an interview with one older gentleman we both stood up and he reached towards me for the typical arms on your shoulders and air kisses greeting. My jet lagged Brain saw him moving in and though – oh a hug, that’s akward but okay. By moving in, his kisses landed squarely on my neck, clearly surprising the heck out of both of us..we retreated, shook hands like it didn’t happen and left very very quickly. It was about a decade ago but I still groan when I think about it.

  72. Basia, also a Fed*

    I recently said “I love you” to a co-worker when we were hanging up from a work conversation in the middle of the day. Argh!! I’m a straight female and so is she. Fortunately, we’re friendly – we go to lunch together and chat in the hallway. I apologized and we both laughed.

  73. Lauren S*

    I have a horrifically awkward work hug that I was on the receiving end of. I work as a photographer (mostly of families). As I was finishing up talking to a family, their sweet little year old baby (walking, but not talking) toddled over and threw her arms out to hug my leg. Which would have been really sweet, had my camera not been strapped to my body right at her head height. Poor baby just wanted to love me and got hit in the face. She was fine, she bounced right back without fussing.

  74. Oops!*

    I did this same thing a couple of weeks ago and have been so embarrassed about it ever since. I was planning a huge event and had to meet with the CEO the day before the event to debrief him and tell him that we were moving the event to a rain plan. It was very stressful and we were sort of encouraging each other that everything would be fine.

    AThe next evening when I saw him at the event, I waved and gave him a hug! In the moment it just felt like I was seeing a fatherly figure and I was so relieved that the event was going well despite the rain that it just seemed like we were celebrating in that moment together. It wasn’t until the excitement of the event wore off that I realized what an incredibly stupid thing that was to do! I just hope that he chalked it up to the merriment of the event and hopefully hasn’t thought about it again…. Ah!

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I know this seems weird to most Americans in a business setting, but I regularly work with my colleagues from Europe and it is totally normal to give a slight hug and what I call the “kiss-kiss” upon greeting each other. Some of the Americans have also picked this up.

      At first I felt awkward, but now I just accept it as being normal with our company.

  75. FD*

    Oh man, I haven’t done this, but I have said “I love you” at the end of multiple calls, including with Big Deal Customer.

  76. July*


    I couldn’t even get through the whole letter because I was laughing so hard. *exhales*

    Let me go try again.

  77. Zoe UK*

    A colleague was wrapping up a business meeting with an important client. As they all stood up, the client extended his arm and lifted it up in a weird way where she wasn’t sure in the moment if he was going to shake her hand or hug her. She doesn’t like being touched, panicked and ended up giving him a high five.

    The story is a now a legend in our workplace. :-)

  78. Erin*

    I work in retail and I despise wireless Bluetooth devices. Just for the simple fact at least once a week I try to start a conversation with a customer, which is a part of my job, and they’re not talking to me, they’re talking to someone else on the phone very loudly. Half the time customers laugh it off, the other half look at me like I interrupted their important bussiness. But if it’s so important why are you in a shoe store having this conversation? Here’s how this situation goes:
    Me: hello how are you?
    Customer: hi!
    Me: can I help you with something.
    Customer: did you get those reports I sent?
    Me: I beg your pardon?
    Rude Customer: can’t you see I’m on the phone!
    Nice customer: (smiles and points to head set)
    Me: sorry I couldn’t tell.
    It’s always during a slow point of the day and they are the only customer. It gets even more awkward when their conversations are something work related and they work in a field with confidential things like medical, education, law and social work. Social workers are the worst for this. I had 3 social workers come in to then store doing this exact thing this week. I really don’t want to hear half a confidential conversation about someone’s SSI payments and their mental health issues, especially when I can’t leave you alone.
    You can’t see those Bluetooth things all the time. Please if you’re having an important work conversation don’t be shopping at the same time.

  79. Kristobel*

    Oh man, I have actually done this! Our account executive from another office was visiting and went to shake my hand, but the way our bodies were angled I thought he was going in for a side hug. We did an awkward shuffle until he just grabbed my left hand and squeezed and I weakly said “oh. nicetoseeyou.” I was totally mortified, but thankfully I only saw him a couple times a year. I immediately told all my coworkers after the fact though. Let it be a funny story and share the embarrassment, it’ll make you feel better. :)

  80. Oops*

    I usually call my husband to check in when I get to the office in the mornings and end the call with “I love you”. Well, I also managed to end two calls to two separate co-workers with “I love you”. Thankfully one of them thought I was talking to someone on my cellphone at the same time I was talking to him on the desk phone.

  81. Joline*

    Last year I had a meeting where I was introducing a client to a new boss. At the end of that meeting my boss shakes the clients hand so I reach out as well…I realize as I’m doing it that it’s weird since I already know him well and we’re not a handshaking culture in general (I don’t think we’d ever shaken hands before that)…and he totally called me on it. Looked skeptically at my hand and made a comment about it. So I told him “yep. well, now I’ve committed. so it’s happening.” He shook my hand.

  82. Elizabeth West*

    OMG thank you guys so much. I have been having the WORST WEEK EVER and now I am crying laughing and have to stop reading this for now, lest I get in trouble (again).

  83. ValleyGal*

    Laughing so hard at the comments on this one.

    I impulsively hugged the proper and uptight female chair of our not-for-profit board after opening a wonderfully expensive and thoughtful Christmas gift last year. (Fragonard candle and soap in a beautiful tin and dish) I think part of my reaction came out of me swooning over the delightful but subtle fragrance. At most not-for-profits this would be fine. I learned quickly through her body language that this was not fine with her. I was mortified but for some stupid reason (like trying not to think of a white bear) did it AGAIN and hugged her goodbye when she was leaving my office.

  84. Newbie*

    Oh my gosh – I feel for you OP!! I thought I was the only one who had done this!! This happened to me about a year ago…to one of our Director’s…AND, in front of the vendors that has just come into our conference room and were getting settled for a meeting with said Director.

    I remember that day and it is absolutely still burned into my mind. I was very distracted and going in too many directions at the time, and Director comes into my office and needs assistance with a projector and hookups for a last minute presentation the vendor wanted to put on. Director was reaching for the light switch behind me and my brain interpreted it as a hugging mechanism, and even as I went in for the hug, I was immediately and horribly mortified and my brain was screaming ‘Danger, Danger, Don’t Do This!!’. The funny thing is, the vendors were so busy trying to get their presentation connected and up that I don’t think they even noticed. Director was awesome about it – has a great sense of humor already, but just exclaimed something like…”Well, I am never one to turn down a free hug…”

    I am so comforted by this question and these comments to know I am not alone in this craziness!!

    I will never be able to forget this and how strange the whole thing was. Moral of the story – I have learned to recognize when I am getting too stressed or crazed at work, and step away and breathe for a moment, because not doing so o

  85. Kelly*

    I actually said to a higher up “Ok, love you” before hanging up the phone one day… O.o

  86. JJ#2*

    Once my boss (he’s male, I’m female) and I were giving a building tour to a group of visiting senior citizens. I managed to trip over the carpet, fly through the air, and catch myself by grabbing a huge handful of my boss’s man-boob. I could feel it in my hand for days. Mortifying.

  87. Anon because embarrassed*

    At a recent event at Parliament, I was introduced to one of organisation’s trustees. I did my best professional chatter with her, my boss and the Director of Campaigns. The conversation got a little more informal, the Director of Campaigns (somewhat of a work friend) started teasing me and I…hot him with a book… In front of my boss and the trustee who is quite an eminent person…

    Spent the night panicking that my boss was going to fire me in the morning. When Insaw her I apologised for hitting the Director of Campaigns (even typing that is embarrassing) and she said it was fine and good for the trustees to see some office cameraderie.

    I love my boss :)

  88. Lulu*

    I’m so sorry OP and everyone else that has posted, but I have been laughing so hard I am crying!

    A year or so ago I was asked for a coffee by an influential business man in town who thought he may have a position becoming available that I would suit. We played phone tag for a couple of days, before he left a message asking me to call him at a specific time to discuss when to meet for an informal chat. I dutifully rang him at the time he nominated to arrange a time to see him, and noticed he sounded a bit flustered when he answered. I asked him “is now was a good time?” meaning was I interrupting and should I call back. There was a somewhat awkward pause, and then in a rather terse tone he said, yes of course, we can meet now for coffee but you will have to excuse my gym clothes! He seemed rather taken aback at what he presumed to be a pushy job candidate, and after coffee, and trying explain myself, I never heard from him again. Sigh…so many lessons learnt!

  89. asteramella*

    Thanks to everyone for sharing their stories. I LOL’d.

    A few weeks ago I was working at an LGBT-related event. I had to talk to members of the public and had pumped myself up to be very friendly and social although I am normally somewhat quiet and reserved. I noticed a coworker I didn’t know very well from my day job standing nearby–how exciting, there are hardly any other LGBT people at my day job! I went over to greet him and in my excitement somehow ended up hugging him enthusiastically. He hugged back with a bewildered look. Oops. I tried to smooth the moment over by chatting for a bit… After a few minutes I mentioned our shared workplace and a look of comprehension dawned on him. He had not recognized me and assumed he was being hugged and chatted up by a complete stranger!!

    I have seen him in passing at work since then… I’m still embarrassed so I just try to smile and give him plenty of space!

    1. asteramella*

      I’ve been on the other side of this too, though. My boss has three direct reports, me and two other women. My boss is an older married man who is very quiet and unassuming. At the end of an all-day company meeting, the company provided a happy hour with free beer and wine and snacks. I was carpooling with the other two direct reports and wasn’t drinking, but my coworkers were. After a while we were ready to go, so we go to say goodbye to our boss, who had had several beers and was significantly more relaxed than usual. In an extremely unusual gesture, he hugged my coworker and they both looked surprised at themselves… To save the moment I jumped in and hugged my boss too, then the third report gave him a quick hug as well.

      We had never hugged before … and probably never will again. LOL.

  90. The Shrieking Eels*

    The one and only time I’ve hugged someone in a position of authority over me at work (he did me an enormous personal favor) was also the one and only day at that job where I did not put on a bra. I realized in the middle of hugging him and can only hope he did not realize that my expression changed to utter horror mid-hug.

  91. Alyssa*

    Did this remind anybody else of that FRIENDS episode where Rachel accidentally kisses her interviewer when he went to open the door for her?

    See! Could be worse. lol

    1. Alyssa*

      Just realized this was already pointed out! Whoops. I was just so overwhelmed by all the comments, forgot to “ctrl F” to see if it had already been mentioned.

  92. Shayland (ActualName)*

    I know this is super late and no one will read it, but I have to share.

    Once my sister was talking with our reverend, asking him for a reference, and he jokingly said, “And why would I do that?”

    And my sister responded with, “Because you love me!” Because that’s the banter she always shares with my mom when she asks her for something.

    The reverend just said, “Yes, I do.” And then settled the details of the reference.

    My sister was so, so embarrassed (she was 16 or so at the time, and it was the first time she’s done something like this). My mom thought it was very endearing of our grandfatherly reverend.

  93. Shayland (ActualName)*

    Also, when my mom was on her last job search, she accidentally sent an email meant for her therapist, about the interview she just had, to the hiring manager.

    The email had a lot of super personal info init, but she also described in length how positive she was feeling about the job and her thoughts on the specific people she’d be working with. Mom actually cried for about an hour after doing it, and right after she hit send was the only time I think I’ve heard her swear in her life.

  94. John Ringo*

    Back when I had a real job (novelist is not a real job) I’d frequently communicate by phone with a rep’s AA out on the West Coast. I handled complex QA reports and CALTRANs and CALDEP were constantly requiring really really weird reporting requirements so we talked frequently and even developed a strong (not unprofessional) personal relationship.

    One day I was figuring out how to develop the latest obscenely idiotic report for CALDEP (or ‘CalDerp!’ as I preferred) and was finishing up the phone call.

    ‘Okay,” I said in a distracted tone. “Got it. Love you, honey. Bye.”

    We were both married at the time. It was completely inappropriate but I was totally distracted thinking about how to structure the query.

    I called her back immediately to apologize.

    I couldn’t even get the words in over the sound of her laughter. She knew exactly what had happened and thought it was hilarious.

  95. Old Admin*

    I haven’t hugged my CEO yet, or called a client honey, but here are my stupid stunts and what I did:
    – Shortly after (or in the midst of?) my midlife crisis (and single), I was drunk at a company party and asked the chief architect to marry me.
    I forgot it, and didn’t hear about it until years later (I was married by then).
    I apologized, and very clearly stated my being drunk/unhappy at the time without trying to cover up anything. That helped take away the longterm undercurrent of awkwardness. ;-)

    – At my first real jo long long ago, I got my technical director into trouble on the second day.
    I was working at my desk with the TD showing me something when our Pointy Haired CEO (he really looked liked the Dilbert character) barged in, asked me how I was doing, if my company email address had been set up. My answer: “Not yet, but I’m sure it’ll happen”. CEO proceeded to actually yell at my TD about it. I was mortified.
    Gathering all my courage, I got past my nerdiness and caught the TD in the kitchen later, and apologized for having caused the trouble.
    The anger melted away from his face, he shook my hand, and introduced himself by first name. I’ve known him pretty well ever since!

  96. emma2*

    This exact thing happened on “Friends”, except Rachel KISSED her boss. So the OPs situation is not that bad!

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