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The Tampax Error and other goofs

Throughout your career it is good to hear about people failing.

Failure is a normal thing, it happens. It isn’t something to particularly strive for, but it is very much part of being human. Early in your career it can be particularly useful to hear about mistakes that more experienced professionals have made – because trust me, we’ve made them.

I actually think the hallmark of people who will progress rapidly in HR are those who refuse to be paralysed by their early mistakes, they understand that they need to be better, but that the world is still turning, I’ve got better at that as my career has gone on, but it was certainly the case that a few years ago a minor mistake could throw all my performance off as I became focused on why it happened – not what I needed to be doing next.

Not a great place to be. I thought I’d write a post for myHRcareers that was a bit of a confessional so that if you ever find yourself making an error you can think ‘well, at least it wasn’t a Dave D’Souza level error’. During my career in HR I’ve done the following things (ONCE, not frequently, I’m actually quite good at this stuff and it is spread over 15 years):

  • Warmly greeted the new HR Director using completely the wrong name

  • Sent a disciplinary outcome letter to the wrong person (that took a lot of clearing up)Lost a new starter as we were walking between buildings

  • Lost a class full of children who were having a visit (supremely awkward)

  • Saw someone I hadn’t met for years whilst in the middle of giving presentation, and then became so flummoxed I actually had to stop and say ‘Sorry, have we met?’

  • Took completely the wrong set of data to a presentation to the MD

  • Told the first person that I was suspending from work, in an awkward quiet moment, that at least they could go for a walk and have an ice cream instead of being stuck in the office

  • Had a very confusing meeting with a colleague from Spain, where we talked for 45 minutes before realising he was talking about customer retention and I was talking about employee retention. It was only the point he said he had a target of 500,000 that it all became clear

  • Opened a bottle of milkshake THEN shook it. Drenching me in the middle of a team meeting I was hosting and having to stop it and go home and change my trousers

  • Told a group of people in a training session that I was at my most creative in bed (cue lots of sniggering and me suddenly working out that wasn’t the right thing to say)

  • As a sleep deprived new father I put completely the wrong year on documents for 3 months before my team quietly pointed it out

  • Signed off an email ‘Kind retards’ by mistake.

My most awkward moment was, however, the reason for the title of this blog. We had a female new starter in our department and for one reason or another I didn’t get a chance to properly introduce myself during the week. We did basic introductions, but no more.

On the Friday evening I needed petrol and I found myself in the queue behind her. I could see she had a bottle of red wine under her arm.

I tapped her on the shoulder, grinned and said ‘looks like you’ve got everything you need for the perfect evening in’.

She turned around looking shocked and it was at that point I realised that she was carrying two things, not one. She had a bottle of red wine and a packet of Tampax. I’ll leave the next 30 seconds of conversation to your imagination.

If I can work past that then you can get past anything.



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