Quick Study: How To Avoid Awkward Situations With Your Boss

The Huffington Post Canada  |  By Posted: 04/23/2012 10:48 am Updated: 04/23/2012 10:48 am

They're tucked away in corners behind clients and stacks of papers, writing down your every move or staring at the clock when you come in late. But bosses are human too, which means that every so often, you'll run into an embarrassing situation with them -- say, while using the washroom or when out with friends at a bar. This kind of behaviour isn't exactly laid out in the employee handbook, so how are you meant to handle it when such an encounter occurs?

Pat Stonehouse, founder and business etiquette expert of Advancing With Style in Toronto, says your boss and supervisor should always be treated and seen as a different type of employee.

"These are the people who decide if we get promoted, get a raise, go or stay. You also want to be respected by them, but ultimately they do have influence of where we go in the company," she says.

Here are 10 sometimes tricky and awkward situations with your boss and how to overcome them. Story continues below:

  • Urinating

    When you gotta go, you gotta go -- so don't let your awkward boss stop you. "We shouldn't feel uncomfortable, it's your body's function. If you're that uncomfortable, try flushing the toilet to mask the sounds," says etiquette expert Pat Stonehouse. For the embarrassed and awkward fellas who don't want encounters at the urinal, she recommends avoiding the bathroom at "busy hours" or using another facility away from your boss's office.

  • Passing Gas

    Remember when you were a kid and someone farted and everyone had to touch their nose to prove it wasn't them? This is probably not the most practical way to do it in your 30s, but most of us still feel a little bit shy about letting gas go. "It happens. Just say excuse me and let it go. If you're having a gassy day, remember it's normal and you're not being rude," Stonehouse says.

  • Gossiping About Your Boss

    The next time you decide to gossip about your boss, just imagine someone saying negative things about you. "Keep your mouth shut. Praise publicly and criticize privately. You don't have to agree with everything your boss says but vent it somewhere else," Stonehouse says.

  • Boss Asks You Out On A Date

    For those of you who believe in love at first sight, falling for an employee or boss can happen in the workplace. "It's a bad idea to date your boss but you have to decide if you want to take the risk and if it's worth it ," Stonehouse says. She says if you're attracted to your boss, consider transferring to another location or letting your boss know you would be interested another time.

  • Getting Drunk

    When it comes to getting hammered, Stonehouse has one rule to keep in mind: Keep it at a two-drink maximum. "More careers have been ruined by drinking than any other way. When we have too much to drink we become relaxed and we say and do things we wouldn't normally think of doing and saying," she says. "What people don't get is that they're not being judged from 9 to 5 but anytime you have a client present."

  • Talking About Illegal Activities

    Sometimes things are better left unsaid, especially if your boss overhears you talking about getting stoned and robbing your neighbour. "This is too much information at work. We all get to know people really well at work, but there are certain things we can keep in our personal lives," Stonehouse says.

  • Embarrasing Messages On Social Media Sites

    By 2012, most of us know that tweeting or uploading anything you were embarrassed about back them will probably come back to haunt you. "Anything you post is not private. Be careful you don't say anything about your boss or who you work for -- you don't need to make venting public," she says.

  • Awkward Silence

    Silence is golden in some situations, but if you're stuck in the elevator with your boss with nothing to talk about, there are ways to avoid it. "It's better to say less than too much. Comment on things that won't get you in trouble and be happy with what you're doing at your company," she says.

  • Boss Forgets Your Name

    There's nothing more frustrating than having your boss forget your name or confuse you with another co-worker. "When people have a large staff it's difficult to remember names. If it really bothers you, you have to somehow make them remember your name in a positive away," Stonehouse says. For example, if you're at a work function, introduce yourself to your boss again.

  • My Boss Keeps Touching Me

    There's a fine line between someone who is overly friendly to someone who is just plain creepy. "How silly can we be in the days of sexual harassment -- a boss shouldn't be touching his or her employees," Stonehouse says. If it does bother you, Stonehouse suggests addressing it politely and letting your boss know you are not comfortable. If it continues, you have the right to contact human resources.

Business etiquette has come a long way, Stonehouse notes, and with the influence of social media in the workplace, employers and employees are starting to get too personal.

"We don't have to love them or like them, but when you go into an office, we should exhibit professional behaviour. Gossip is harmful and people who gossip all the time are not respectful for people's privacy," she says.

The Twitterverse is filled with descriptions of embarrassing employee-boss encounters (search "that awkward moment when" and you'll see what we mean):

Maegan Rees
You know why you shouldnt wear jeans to work? you forget to be professional and then say things like "hey girl" to your boss in the bathroom

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Then there's a whole other type of awkward -- like avoiding co-workers in social situations: