According to our new study, nearly every employee has either seen or suffered from one of the top five most catastrophic comments, which are:

Suicide by Feedback 23% You thought others could handle the truth—but they didn’t.

Gossip Karma 21% You talked about someone or something in confidence with a colleague only to have your damning comments made public.

Taboo Topics 20% You said something about race, sex, politics or religion and others distorted it, misunderstood it, took it wrong, used it against you, etc.

Word Rage 20% You lost your temper and used profanity or obscenities to make your point.

“Reply All” Blunders 10% You accidentally shared something harmful via technology (email,  text, virtual meeting tools, etc).


83% have witnessed their colleagues make a catastrophic comment.
69% admit to personally committing a catastrophic comment.

Eighty-three percent have witnessed their colleagues say something that has had catastrophic results on their careers, reputations and businesses. And 69% admit to personally committing a catastrophic comment. And these comments are damaging to careers.


  • 31% said it cost them a pay increase, a promotion or their job.
  • 27% said it undercut or destroyed the working relationship.
  • 11% said it destroyed their reputation.

While putting your foot in your mouth is easy, recovering from verbal blunders takes skill  and yet only 1 in 5 are extremely confident in their ability to fix their mistakes. It’s important to learn how to apologize and recover not if, but when, you put you foot in your mouth.


1. The blunder: You said something wrong, rude or inappropriate.
A clear, unrestrained apology is required. The bandage needs to be as large as the wound. Others need to hear an apology as intense as their disgust for you at the moment.

2. The blunder: You said something that was right, but it came across wrong.

You have three tasks:

1) Acknowledge that your message sounded as offensive as others took it to be. And don’t move to step two until they’re satisfied.

2) Say what you really think on the topic in the way you should have said it.

3) Repeat step one.

3. The blunder: You sent someone a message you shouldn’t have sent via email, text, or other technology.

Express your sincere regret face-to-face or with a reasonable substitute like the phone or video-chat software. You must see the disgust on the other person’s face, or hear it in his or her voice, in order to apologize to the degree with which he or she feels hurt. Then, go public with the apology in electronic  view of all who may have been affected.

If you recognise the above as an issue in your organisation - we can help.

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