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We all make mistakes, but that isn’t much comfort when we’re the ones making them and we’d much rather crawl into a hole than face their consequences. Still, sometimes failure is the only way we learn how to do better the next time around. Nine working women shared memories with me of times they had to learn things the hard way, and while their experiences are cringey, they’re full of lessons to be learned. Take their advice to save yourself the trouble of making the same slip-ups! 

1. Don’t trash talk!

“Don’t gossip with coworkers you don’t know very well. You don’t know who you can trust or who is friends with who! Learning this the hard way helped me see through people in the office faster. People who politely refuse to gossip with you off the bat are usually pretty decent people who care about being respectful.” – Sarina, 32

2. Speak up when something’s wrong.

“I once let a toxic, manipulative coworker walk all over me for several months because I was afraid of coming off as a ‘difficult person’ if I complained about her behavior to my boss. I should have said something way earlier, because by the time management caught onto what a jerk she was and disciplined her, she had been individually bullying several people in the office for months. I should have trusted myself and spoken up.” – Ange, 23

3. Don’t be a jerk.

“One time, I had to sell an [engineering] concept to a major car company all on my own. Later in that meeting, I brought in my coworkers and they made some mistakes in front of company. I yelled at them afterwards and realized later that I shouldn’t have. What I learned that day is not to be mean to people, and I think that made me more promotable from that point on. It made me a better manager. The other takeaway from that was to ensure I knew what my coworkers would say before they went into a meeting.” – Ariana, 62


4. Don’t get too comfortable.

“I used to work at a marketing company for a boss who was way more lax than the rest of the company’s managers. Because I was so comfortable with his low-key work environment, I started to forget that I had to be more behaved with other managers in the company. As a result, I forgot to follow company policy in how I distributed a secure internal memo and ended up getting in huge trouble for it. If a company’s really by the book, they will get you for breaking even the rules that seem like they don’t matter! Watch out for that.” – Jana, 38 


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