Video conference gone wrong? Learn from these remote employees' mistakes.
As we enter the third year of the pandemic, when video-conferencing tools like Zoom have replaced in-person meetings and even traditional conference calls, you'd think we would have mastered the art of the virtual meeting by now. However, ask anyone who's worked remotely since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and they'll be quick to share a funny story — or five — about a virtual meeting that's gone horribly wrong for them or someone they know. In fact, we asked remote employees to share their most embarrassing tales of Zoom meetings gone wrong and they did not disappoint! 🤣
However, how do you know when a silly mistake becomes a career crisis requiring serious damage control? Read on to figure out where your Zoom fail falls on the “cringe-worthy” meter, what you can do to rebound from it, and how to prevent these issues in the future. Then, sit back, relax, and enjoy reading 20 more hilarious tales of virtual meetings gone wrong.
Step 1: Stay calm and regroup
My little one leaned in and whispered 'I think I peed a little in my pants' while I was on a call with a large group of leaders. I didn't realize I wasn't on mute until the room went silent and someone giggled 🤣
Take a step back and assess the situation. Before deciding your next move, consider exactly what happened, who was present, and how many people were affected. A big Zoom fail in front of an important client or the entire company will cause greater repercussions than if the same mishap occurred during a small meeting with a few of your team members.
Also, consider the personalities of those involved and your company culture, as these will play a role in determining whether your Zoom fail is met with laughter, indignance, or a pink slip.
While you might have been mortified that your toddler interrupted your conference call to proudly announce their latest potty triumph, try to keep things in perspective. Given the prevalence of remote work, there are far worse incidents taking place on Zoom these days. (If you don't believe me, just read the stories below)
If you're unsure where your blunder registers on the “cringe-worthy” meter, consider how you would have reacted if the situation had happened to someone else. In addition, if multiple people witnessed your embarrassment, ask someone from the group you trust for their objective evaluation to determine whether your professional reputation truly suffered any lasting damage.
Step 2: Apologize and make amends
I was messaging my work friend to basically vent about one of our other co-workers. Then, we joined the team virtual meeting and my friend immediately started sharing her screen — with the whole conversation still up for everyone to read! My heart stopped. The guy I was complaining about was in the meeting.
If your Zoom fail resulted in nothing more than a chorus of giggles from those present, you only need to offer a short apology to acknowledge the misstep (“sorry about that, everyone”) and get back to the business at hand. Chances are, no one will remember what happened in a few days' time.
However, if your mistake was downright offensive or has called your reputation into question, you'll need to do more to make amends. Start by apologizing to whomever was directly involved or offended by the incident, especially if it involved your manager or staff members. If you can't have this conversation in-person, arrange a time soon afterward to speak via phone or video conference to own up to your mistakes and offer a heartfelt apology.
Step 3: Know when to move on
We were attending a virtual, company-wide meeting and someone was on a phone interview with another company! CLEARLY they didn't realize they weren't muted 😱
Whether you would categorize your Zoom fail as more of a small embarrassment or a real career breaker, the last thing you want to do is dwell on the issue or continue bringing it up to your co-workers. What's done is done. If your actions didn't earn you a pink slip, learn from your mistake so you can avoid repeating it in the future.
However, if it's clear your actions have sabotaged your chances of advancing at this company or you're too embarrassed to show your face ever again in the office or a Zoom meeting, you may be better off cutting your losses and preparing to job hunt. Be sure to gather all the necessary details from your work files and add them to your personal “brag book” so you can update your resume with the most relevant information.
Step 4: Learn from your mistakes
The best way to recover from any Zoom fail, large or small, is to make changes that will prevent you from repeating history. For example, it may be time to invest in a webcam cover or noise canceling headphones, become more familiar with your company's video-conferencing tools, or rearrange your home office so your back (and that webcam) are facing a wall.
In addition, you may need to change some of your habits — and introduce new ones — that will help you avoid these problems moving forward:
- Test your equipment. Mute yourself as soon as you join a meeting (and throughout) unless you are talking. You can also update the default settings for joining calls in the Zoom web portal or in the desktop app to automatically join meetings with your video off and your sound muted. You can also place a webcam cover or even a post-it note over your camera as an extra precaution.
- Keep your meeting out of the bathroom. I don't care how important a meeting is; if you need to use the bathroom, do not bring the device with you. Leave your headphones at your workstation and double-check that your device's mic is muted and your video camera is turned off before you head to the restroom.
- Stay stationary. While it may be tempting to attend a meeting while on-the-go, refrain from joining the meeting until you're settled in the car or already at your destination. Moving locations, especially with a Bluetooth-enabled device, can be a recipe for disaster. If you intend to use your phone to dial in for a video conference, be sure to familiarize yourself with the setup and check the default settings, as they may differ from the desktop experience.
- Communicate your availability (or lack of). Alert your family members so everyone is aware of when you're available and when you should not be disturbed. For important meetings, you might block the time off on a shared calendar with your family or write down the dates and times on a paper sign outside your home office. When all else fails, invest in a lock for your office door.
Whenever you're using a video-conferencing tool like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet, there's always a chance something will go awry — especially when you're working from home or while on-the-move. Sit back, relax, and have a good laugh over these embarrassing WFH moments!
1. One background to rule them all
I somehow changed the Teams setting, not realizing everyone could see, and gave us all a background from Lord of the Rings during an important meeting with a guest speaker. The speaker was a pro and barely skipped a beat, but my coworker messaged me, 'WHAT DID YOU JUST DO?' 😬😬😬 I wanted to resign after that one!
2. I repeat: The poop is in the butt
While I was in the middle of a Zoom meeting, my son, who was potty training, came running in and screamed, “MOMMA, THE POOP IS IN MY BUTT!” Luckily, everyone in the meeting was also a parent and had a good laugh about it.
3. Blame it on the dogs
I was in a staff meeting when my boyfriend, who thought I had already hung up, hollered from the other room, 'It's about friggin' time! God, they're SO annoying!' I could have died. I told my team he was talking about our pets.
4. The fart heard around the Zoom call
My co-workers and I still tease our colleague about 'the fart heard around the world' because his name lit up, as though he was talking, when he let it rip. There was no denying it! 😟
5. Unintentional exposure
My poor [new-mom] friend originally had her camera turned off while using her phone for a meeting. While fumbling around to start pumping, she accidentally turned on the camera without knowing. Her whole company saw her bare breasts.
6. Road rage caught on voicemail
A colleague was driving and had to leave me a voicemail. He got cut off in traffic and shouted, 'F#%k you, you effing a**hole' without realizing he hadn't hung up yet. It was all caught on my voicemail! Best laugh I had all day.
7. Joe Exotic makes a cameo
I added the Tiger King as a background to my Zoom meeting and could not figure out how to remove it. 🐯👑
8. Faking face-time
This guy joined our Zoom meeting and must have thought he was on mute because everyone heard him turn to someone in his house and say, 'I just need to show my face on this stupid meeting and then we can hang out.' It was the middle of the work day.
9. Son interrupts meeting to document HUGE accomplishment
My son came running into my office while I was on a conference call to proudly announce, 'Mom, I just took a HUGE dump. We should take a photo and send it to Dad!' Thankfully, most of the people on the call were dads, who encouraged me to do as my son asked: 'Well, wait! It must be impressive if a photo needs to be taken' 😂😂😂
10. Dazed and confused
During a video call, everyone watched as the host's husband walked into the kitchen dazed, like he had just woken up, in just tighty whities 😂 Since she was speaking at the time, her camera was showing the whole screen for all the attendees.
11. Housebreaking mishaps
While I was speaking to a client during a work call, my husband yelled at the dog to, 'Get the f&*% outside before you cr@p in the house again!' 😬
12. Coworker's shopping habits revealed
My male coworker had a tab open for some very racy women's lingerie when he accidentally shared his screen in a meeting. I don't think he realized it until it was too late to tab over and close it.
13. Holiday cheer got the best of him
I forgot to turn off my camera while taking a Zoom meeting on my phone. There I was, hanging Christmas lights on the roof, when I suddenly realized the whole team could see what I was doing. There was no way to cover up that fact that I wasn't in my home office. 😬😬😬
14. Whoever smelt it, dealt it
While I was conducting an interview with a candidate, my son (who was in the same room, but not in the camera's frame) RIPPED a LOUD fart! I knew the candidate heard it and thought it was me, but I just kept going like nothing happened. I almost died!
15. 'Mechanical' background noise disrupts meeting
A woman attending my virtual training was [breast] pumping and accidentally forgot to mute herself. Our single male colleague was clueless and said, 'There's a strange mechanical chugging noise. Can everyone mute themselves?'🤣 As a mom who would know that noise anywhere, I couldn't stop laughing!
16. Coworker interrupts presenter with big announcement
As someone was presenting, one of my coworkers — who I can only hope thought he was muted — said, 'Hurry up, I have to TAKE A DUMP.' 😔💩
17. Selfies gone wrong
I was in a meeting with a potential vendor and her big boss. She must have forgotten to turn off her camera after finishing her part of the presentation because she began texting someone and sending selfies, pretending to 🔫 herself in the head. I'm pretty sure she doesn't work there anymore.
18. Employee receives 'creepy' request during meeting
One of my kids snuck away from the babysitter and kept creepily whispering to me, 'Can I have a kiss? Can I have a kiss?' just off-camera (and out of reach) while I was on an important video call with a potential client. 🤦
19. When a bathroom break turns into your worst nightmare
I had a coworker forget to turn off Zoom video on her cell phone during a company-wide meeting and basically went to the bathroom in front of the entire company...no lie. I felt so bad for her! She immediately quit and never came back.
20. Technical glitches frustrate senior leader
A higher up at our company, who's usually really even-keeled, let out a stream of profanities in frustration because he didn't realize he had, in fact, successfully joined the meeting.