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What's Been Your Biggest Communication Gaffe? Win FREE Tix to NextGen+

Let's face it.

We're all moving too fast.

Texts are flung out on the fly.

Emails are all too frequently half-baked or marked by massive misspellings.

Conversations are rushed or rudely interrupted by a phone call.

There's no doubt that we are operating in an increasingly communication-challenged environment...and we're bound to fall into avoidable blunders.

In fact, my guess is that most of us have a way-more-memorable-than-we'd-like-to-admit mistake in communicating with our colleagues.

So how about you?

What has been your biggest communications gaffe and how did you fix it?

Bonus: The best answer will receive a free ticket to GovLoop and Young Government Leader's NextGen+ event on December 6, 2012.

Deadline is Friday, Nov. 16.  Share yours or +1 your favorite.  


You may submit an anonymous response to


P.S. I will also be leading a workshop at this event called "Become a Brilliant Communicator." We'll explore strategies for methodically moving through your daily communications minefield and explore common scenarios that can trip you up. 

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At a previous place of employment, I was using Outlook. When I would type in the name of a particular colleague to send an email, it would automatically populate it with the name of someone in another organization. At least once I inadvertently sent this person an email...and would cringe when they'd send back the response, "Are you sure this was meant for me?" Bah!

My biggest communication gaffe was reponding directly to a provocative question from the Washington Post using my real name and agency.  Once it was published on the Federal Page, I was called into the office and told that although I am entitled to my own opinion, I am not entitled to sharing it openly.  Baically, I left that office feeling embarassed, threatened, and victimized by my own egotistical ambitions.  Since then, I have learned to withold my opinion, or if I really feed compelled to share it, do so anonymously! 

(Name and Agency Witheld to Protect the Author from Prosecution)

Terry, what ever happened to freedom of speech?  Did you consult your Office of Legal Counsel about this?

Any type of "prosecution" would warrant filing a whistle blower complaint, as well as contacting the local/national union, DOJ's Office of Special Counsel, the MSPB, and perhaps your members of Congress and the national news media to "blow the whistle" with a bullhorn. 

The First Amendment is still intact -- at least the last time I checked.

As long as your own personal views are being expressed -- rather than intentionally acting as an unauthorized and perceived official spokesperson for your agency -- I believe you should be on firm legal ground.

Also, keep in mind that over officious communications officials, as well as the "powers that be" within agencies, may tend to think that Feds are robots who can be programmed to do as they say. My advice: don't fall prey. 

DISCLAIMER: Keep in mind that, while I'm no lawyer, I do play one on TV (lol).  Just some food for thought here. 

This is still AMERICA!


Thanks for sharing that example, Terry. It's a fine line between exercising freedom of speech (as David said) and negotiating one's role within an organization...especially when you work in government. I always appreciate your insights on GovLoop!

While this contest is a fun--and instructive--idea, the entries that won't be submitted (career suicide, anyone?) will almost certainly top those that are posted here for public consumption. Too bad you can't guarantee privacy or anonymity, but anyone who would fall for such a guarantee online will likely end up being a comms victim for next year's contest.

Thanks Todd - good pint - that's why we tried to focus it also on how do you fix it.

Also we do take anonymous answer (see line above)

You may submit an anonymous response to

Good point Todd.

Communication by email for me is the likeliest source for miscommunication. Between being misunderstood because of misread tone or address error, the possibilities are great. Although I cannot note a specific miscommunication, I know I have double checked my sent box a dozen different times after a sudden fear that I may have inadvertently replied to the "wrong" person. Each time I vow that I will never send an email that could be misinterpreted or construed as an insult to anyone.

Yeah - that's why I usually put the email address in the to box only when I'm done.  I've made too many errors of accidentally sending before complete with the address in there

I think email might be everyone's number one. I know I try to be cautious about it, often reading and re-reading messages at least a couple times to be sure my meaning is coming across. I often use emoticons and parenthesis (Tone Alert: meant to be constructive) to give people a bit more context.  :-)

Recently, I had to go to an industry conference and had packed all of our materials for the conference. About halfway through the conference after we had handed about 100 of our one-pagers to various potential customers, my VP of Business Development  noticed that two of the functional area sections were identical. Three or four people had reviewed the document and somehow it eluded us all. I was so embarrassed and immediately called our graphic designer to get it fixed, but the damage was done. To remedy the situation, I made sure to mention the missing area in discussions with people to make sure they knew our professional talents.

I just did that on a recent trip. I put together the materials a bit too hastily and discovered only weeks after the trip that one of the headings for my sections was a repeat of the previous. Bah! Moving too fast always gets me.


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