(Photo Credit: Wikimedia)
After using an anti-gay slur against costar T.R. Knight both on the set and later backstage at the 2007 Golden Globes, Washington was fired from the show -- and subsequently, completely disappeared from the public radar.
Recently, on "The View," he said that he "lost everything" in the wake of the scandal.
He told The Huffington Post:
"After the incident at the Golden Globes, everything just fell apart. I lost everything. I couldn't afford to have an agent ... I couldn't afford to have a publicist ... I couldn't afford to continue."
What Not to Do
If we want to learn from Washington's experience, probably the first thing to remember is that the best protection against getting fired for making horrible remarks is not to make horrible remarks in the first place.
But since we're looking at this in the general context of making amends for career mistakes, we should also add that when we do screw up, only a genuine apology will do. In "The View" interview, for example, Washington still seems to point the finger at others when explaining the incident:
"When you try to defend yourself, no matter what has been regurgitated, you don't do it backstage at the Golden Globes and unfortunately for me, I had my first endeavor there. No one told me not to drink for four hours without eating! So you know, I was pretty much asleep at the wheel and I had a lot of anxiety…"
Whoever this mysterious "no one" is, we doubt they made him use a slur ... twice.
What to Do Instead
In addition to watching what you say, and obeying the Golden Rule of the Office ("Do unto others as I would have them do unto me ... and also don't say anything I wouldn't write on my forehead in magic marker or do anything I wouldn't want Instagrammed and sent to my mother") remember that sincerity has a larger role in most office environments than we'd think from watching TV. If you hurt someone's feelings, apologize and mean it.
In any situation where you have to get along with people, civility and respect are important. Manners are the glue that holds society together -- even if that society is as small as your cube or office lunchroom.
Washington is working again; his movie "Blue Caprice" opened in limited release earlier in September and is receiving good reviews. It remains to be seen if he's learned from his mistakes.
Tell Us What You Think
What's the worst career-killing mistake you've ever seen? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.