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Taking Back Spoken Words Helped With Large Amounts of Humility

I have a question about etiquette at work. I found out Monday that my husband had his position cut in half for the next school year. (We are both teachers). After hearing about this I was frustrated and upset.

I started talking about how upset I was with two coworkers. To be honest, I have no idea what I said in the conversation. I can’t remember if I mentioned the reason his position was cut or how mad I was with his principal.

My question is this: not remembering what I said, should I ask my co-workers if I was out of line, or just ignore it unless something is said to me.

Given we both work in the same, very large district I don’t want this to come back to haunt me or him. I honestly don’t remember what was said, which scares me!!

What should I do? 0430-14


You signed yourself “Troubled” so that appears to be an indication that you intuitively know that what you said to your work peers was probably not wise to have said.   I would suggest going back and apologizing to them for the emotional outburst as follows:

“After the conversation we had last week I have realized I was too emotional and dumped a lot of my frustration on you inappropriately.   I regret burdening you with the details of a situation you are neither part of the problem nor solution and hope you will accept my apology. ”

Taking back words already spoken is nearly impossible but you can mitigate the damage with a heaping application of humility and regret.   Focus on the other person as being the aggrieved party and apologize for having placed them in an awkward position of hearing ugly opinions.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Meegs May 12, 2014, 8:00 am

    Sorry, this might be neither here nor there, but how do not remember what you said in a conversation a few days ago? Were you drunk?

    • La May 12, 2014, 10:20 am

      I’ve had times when, in a state of heightened emotion, I’ve said and done things and then come out of it with no/very little idea what has happened.

    • remi May 12, 2014, 12:06 pm

      I can’t remember a conversation I had this *morning*. Some people are forgetful!

    • Library Dragon May 12, 2014, 12:11 pm

      @Meegs. Not a very nice assumption. It would be very easy not to remember what was said. Anger occurs naturally as a reaction to a perceived threat and in this case the OP’s husband and their family’s security were “attacked”. Anger often activates a high amount of adrenaline that can be useful in providing us energy that allows us to deal with a challenging situation. It also makes it harder to remember exactly what was said.

      A blind rage is a pure out burst of emotion devoid of thought and only represented by a single emotion, anger. The OP has recognized that she verbalized her anger and wants to mitigate any negative result. A very wise decision. Admin offers a very good follow-up apology that addresses the issue and takes ownership of actions.

      • RC May 12, 2014, 4:47 pm

        I would not say the Megs was making an unkind assumption, I read it as a genuine question. The same thought came to my mind, the possibility that OP was drunk. As well as the possibility that she was pregnant and hormonal, or over wrought and emotional, or is a bit forgetful as I am. None of these were assumptions, just possibilities.

        I agree with everything else in your comment though and as you do, agree with Admins suggestion.

        • Mer May 13, 2014, 1:53 am

          Yes, they are possibilities, but to assume that OP was drunk, in her workplace, is actually rather strong accusation. It is not about thinking possibilities. To have that as a first assumption of a person, that she is drunkenly ranting to her coworkers while at work… I don’t think there is a way this could be kind, or even neutral assumption.

    • ArtK May 12, 2014, 2:57 pm

      Meegs, I have trouble remembering things that I said this morning, much less a few days ago, and I’m perfectly sober. Please keep your nasty assumptions to yourself.

    • crebj May 12, 2014, 9:26 pm

      Quite right, it’s neither here nor there. Please focus on her question, if you have something that might help her.

  • Cecilia May 12, 2014, 8:36 am

    Hopefully, your coworkers understood you were upset and brushed it off as such. Apologize and in the future, as much as you want to vent to coworkers, reign yourself in, go in closet or another “private” space and vent/scream/whatever to release your immediate frustration. Then, go home and empathize/vent/commiserate with your husband and/or friends who do not work with you.

    Don’t beat yourself up too much. Most everyone has had a “foot in mouth” moment.

  • Cat May 12, 2014, 9:09 am

    Having worked in various school districts for thirty-five years I can tell you that you never, ever, say anything against anyone in the system. It will get back to them.
    Watch your mouth in the faculty room too. I had a copy of a detention slip I had written for a high school kid who misbehaved in my class. It was in my open grade book. A teacher who knew him saw it and asked what he had done. Foolishly, I told her. She went running to the kid with, “I heard you got in trouble with….” and he came to ask me why I felt the need to gossip about him in the faculty lounge. Good question. No good answer.
    She was not the only teacher who did things like that. There are many teachers who will try to cause trouble for you with administrators, students, and faculty. I even had a lunch room lady tell an office worker that I had eaten a sandwich that had been set aside for her, though she knew I brought my lunch from home. The worker came to me, furious that I had taken her sandwich. I took her straight to the woman who lied to her.
    Apologize and say your words were spoken without thought in the heat of the moment, and hope you or your husband is not penalized in some way for it.

    • Cecilia May 12, 2014, 10:28 am

      This is really great advice. I submitted a comment saying hopefully the coworkers let it go as a “heat of the moment/foot in mouth” comment but after reading Cat’s comment, I was reminded of a really nasty situation with school board members in our district about a year or so ago, more personal than this but ended up with one board member arrested and being “encouraged” to resign.

      Schools have become minefields in recent years.

  • Dominic May 12, 2014, 10:04 am

    There was actually a court case in Pennsylvania where an administrator was fired for making comments, at a meeting of school administrators from the region, about a colleague who had died that morning. To say her comments were in extremely poor taste, regardless of how many of those present may have felt about the deceased, would be an understatement. The court upheld her termination. In this case, however, her comments were fully intentional, though she was probably caught up in the moment.

  • mark May 12, 2014, 11:20 am

    You can not unsay it and if is your true feelings, I wouldn’t apologize for saying it. I think it may be a good idea to apologize for venting and ask that they would keep your conversation private.

    That said I wouldn’t stress overly about this. Venting is normal in the work force. You don’t want to do it too often or get too personal, but I wouldn’t worry about it beyond that.

  • EllenS May 12, 2014, 1:15 pm

    I think Admin’s wording is excellent, and I would further caution you to keep a tight rein on yourself while you deliver it. It is just so easy to revisit past feelings and allow them to carry you away again. “Sorry I spoke out of turn, but I was just so very upset because….”

    Before you know it, you are off again on the same vent, so be forewarned and on guard with yourself.

    Hope all turns out well.

    • Marozia May 12, 2014, 3:21 pm

      I’d say the same as well.
      It’s easy to get frustrated, but just as easy to apologise.

  • Daphne May 12, 2014, 2:01 pm

    I agree totally with admin and would also tell my co-workers I was so distraught and upset and so stressed about it, I can’t remember exactly what I said. Then you can ask them if what you said was as crazy as you remember feeling–and if it’s as terrible as you think it might be then you can ask them to please PLEASE just forget you ever said it. And of course apologize.
    And just remember, EVERYBODY does/says stuff at one time or another that they wish they could take back or do over. Other people probably aren’t as concerned about it as you think they are, AND, it’s very understandable to be out of your mind upset when your husband loses his job.
    And it might ease your mind a bit to confess to your husband as well, once you find out exactly what was said. And apologize to him if need be.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith May 12, 2014, 2:49 pm

    OP, think how much harder it will be, now, if your remarks get back to higher ups. They could attach to and negatively impact his efforts to return to full time employment. They could also cause repercussions for you and taint your credibility, provoke retaliatory actions, or result in your own position being impacted. An education administrator doesn’t have to fire you to make your work life difficult.

    • Anna May 13, 2014, 12:28 am

      I rather suspect that the OP knows this. It appears to be a good reason for it “haunting” her, as well as being concerned about burdening her colleagues with her own troubles.

  • JO May 12, 2014, 3:43 pm

    Great advice here. Obviously you were very upset and needed to vent. But now that you recognize that the people you chose to vent to were not an appropriate audience, I agree you should apologize and just try not to do it again (which I think you already knew :-)) Also, consider getting some counseling. Just as a way to let off some steam in what you know is a safe and confidential space. Even an hour once a month may help, and there are lots of low cost options out there. Actually, I think that is a good idea for *everybody*!

  • Michelle C Young May 12, 2014, 4:20 pm

    Something I learned years ago: Even a job you love can be filled with frustrations. Sometimes, you just need to vent. The key is where, and how, you vent.

    What worked for me was contacting my sister who was not in any way/shape/form and never would be connected to any of the people in my work. She lived in another state, and did not work in the same industry. Also, I knew her loyalty was to me.

    She was my support, and I was hers. We could vent to each other, get it all off our chests, even analyze things, and no one was the wiser.

    Just be sure your “vent” is an outlet that will never come back to bite you later. You don’t want your co-workers to hear things you’ve said about them, while you were in need of venting.

    If you don’t have a real person who is safe to use as a vent, then get a teddy bear and vent at it. It’s not as effective, because the teddy bear can’t pat you, and say, “There, there,” nor can it give advice or ask you questions to help you analyze the situation. But still, it can’t gossip about you, either.

    Good luck, OP.

  • Angel May 14, 2014, 11:20 am

    I really hate to say this–but Cat is right. It can’t hurt to go back and apologize to the people you vented to–however, I have to say that there is a very good chance that some of what you said will get back to someone who you would never in a million years–want to know that you said it. When it does happen as it inevitably will–try and learn from it. You don’t vent at work–especially not when you work at a school system. Even when you are perfectly justified in venting. Even when you are absolutely right. Sorry 🙁

  • Enna May 14, 2014, 12:30 pm

    I agree with admin on this one.

  • Dust Bunny May 16, 2014, 3:42 pm

    I have a coworker who I suspect does not remember what she says because she doesn’t seem to think first. One of those “no filter” types. She’s never malicious, just thoughtless. Sometimes very thoughtless; she has said some things that I can only thank my lucky stars slipped out in front of me or our boss and not at an office function.

    Apologizing never hurts. However, if you’re worried about what you may have said, maybe there is some mindfulness practice in order? I know venting during a frustrating day at work feels better at the time, but–and I’ve been there, too–sometimes things come out that we didn’t consider as well as we might have, and that we might regret later.