what was your most cringe-worthy career mistake?

If you’re like most people, you’ve had some truly cringe-worthy moments in your career, where you did something so clueless or embarrassing that you still cringe when you think about it today. Perhaps it was when you were first starting out, or perhaps it was more … recent.

Today is the day that you confess to the world!  In the spirit of helping others realize that they are not alone in occasionally humiliating themselves, I hope you’ll share some of the clueless things you did in your past. Bonus points if you can also share what you learned from it or how you recovered from it.

(And thanks to the commenter who suggested this topic a while back!)

{ 472 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager Post author

    I’ll start.

    I had a job at a Mrs. Fields Cookie store in high school. I loved it — everyone is nice when they’re buying cookies, we could eat these delicious sandwiches that they also made there, the work was easy but not too boring, and the manager loved me, and I’d set myself up for a great reference.

    And then I decided to quit. I can’t even remember why. In any case, I had no idea how to go about quitting, so I …. just stopped showing up. I didn’t call, I didn’t tell them I was quitting. I just went AWOL, because I had no idea how one would quit a job. I knew it wasn’t the way to do it, but I didn’t know the correct way.

    For years after that, I couldn’t walk through the mall without taking a circuitous route to avoid walking past that store from the shame.

    1. Work It

      Ha! I did the same thing at a department store in the mall once. I avoided that mall for years. I was old enough to know better, just too cowardly to resign.

      1. Anonymous

        I did this too. At another high school job I called and told them I had fallen down the stairs so I couldn’t come in, and then I just never went back again. oy.

    2. LMW

      I once had a friend quit for me. We were both bussers at a restaurant, and we found jobs as waitresses at a different restaurant, and when she gave her notice, she gave mine too. It was so embarrassing! Then our parents decided we couldn’t work at that restaurant (it was connected to a hotel and had a certain reputation and we were 15 at the time), so she begged for her job back, but not mine. I just decided I was done bussing…she ended up working there for another three years.

    3. Jamie

      I have the flip side of this. As a teenager I took a shot at a part time job at a gourmet popcorn store. You had to stir the caramel corn really fast or it would burn…and lets just say “really fast stirrer” isn’t on my resume with good reason.

      And it smells REALLY bad when it burns. Apparently this drive customers away.

      But I did try and showed up on time and all that – so when I went in one week to check the schedule I wasn’t on it. Asked manager and she said she didn’t need me that week – check next week.

      Next week I checked and still nothing, told to check next week to see if they need me.

      Third week I came into check the schedule and she got really exasperated with me and told me that she fired me three weeks ago and couldn’t I take a hint?

      Turns out when you embarrass someone enough they will remember a job 20+ years later that they only had for 3 days in excruciating detail.

      And in case anyone reading is that bad manager from my past – I didn’t want the job anyway and I would have appreciated being freed the three weeks prior.

      1. Elizabeth

        In my opinion, this manager dealt with the situation terribly! Sometimes you have to fire an employee, but then you have to *fire* the employee. Don’t tell them “check next week; maybe we’ll need you” when you don’t mean it.

        This reminds me of a girl I knew in high school who just started telling the boy she’d been dating, “I’m busy this weekend, but maybe next week” repeatedly, because she wanted to avoid the awkwardness of just breaking up with the poor guy.

      2. VintageLydia

        Same thing happened to me at a restaurant I worked at for a month. I started as a busser but I convinced them to let me serve. They gave me almost no training then threw me to the wolves. Three weeks later I wasn’t on the schedule. Called my manager later that day and she fired me. Would’ve been nice to have some prior notice. I knew I wasn’t doing well (my own assessment, she certainly never said anything!) but it hadn’t even been a month!

      3. Sascha

        This happened to me as well. I was working at a coffee shop for a summer before I went to college. One night I came in sick (very bad for food service), worked my shift, and felt really awful so I went home – when my shift was over. My coworker, who I thought I was on good terms with – told the boss I left her before my shift was over and went to a party. So then I magically stopped appearing on the schedule, and when I called the boss, she gave me the same spiel.

      4. Shoshie

        Ugh, this happened to a friend of mine who worked at a bagel shop. She was suddenly given fewer and fewer hours to the point where she asked if she was doing something wrong. They told her that nothing was wrong with her work, but that they wanted someone who was interested in working there more long term and she had “given notice.” How had she given notice? By mentioning to co-workers that she was applying for graduate school.

      5. Just a Reader

        Ugh isn’t that awful? I got fired from my job at a candy store in high school. They waited for me to show up for my shift and fired me in front of the person they hired to replace me.

        They didn’t tell me why but apparently they told everyone else there that I hadn’t been doing XX right–I never got that feedback, they just canned me and then told all the other employees (many of whom were friends of mine) why I sucked.

      6. Kimberlee, Esq.

        This happened to me as well! At a sandwich I used to work for, I was off the schedule for a month or so before they were finally like “We’ve letting you go”

          1. Sascha

            I am picturing a talking sandwich sitting on a desk, with a tearful employee sitting in front of it. :)

      7. Wendell

        OMG. That happened to me too! Except that I’d been working at the place for 2 full months, not 3 days, and the reason I was “fired” by not being scheduled is because the manager of the ice cream shop I was working at was stealing money and he didn’t want the owner (my dad’s friend) to find out. I didn’t even realize the manager was the reason the register was always short.

      8. HR Beginner

        At my very first job, I was 16, I was trained for a few days and told the manager would call me with my scheduled because I was not in the system to schedule yet. After I did not recieve the call, I called to check in with her but was still not scheduled. 2 months went by and I heard nothing. Then I got a call that I was supposed to be in for work that day and the next! I said I will not be coming in as I assumed I was fired after no contact for 2 months!

      9. E

        I know I’m a day late with this, but I am so happy to read this! I had a similar thing happen to me at my first job at an ice cream shop, and it is so nice to hear that I’m not the only one! My story: my old sister’s friend got me a job at the local ice cream shop when I was 14. I tried to be a good employee, showed up on time and was very willing to learn, but I was terrible at making ice cream cones and probably a little too shy to for the upbeat, talk-to-everyone-who-comes-in job. The boss was a bit of a jerk though, and instead of telling me how to improve, she tried to get me to quit. By not giving me my share of the tips. Which was illegal, since I made below minimum wage. After a week of this (and I honestly didn’t get that she was trying to get me to quit), I I didn’t get my weekly call telling me my shift. I stopped by with my parents (they wanted ice cream, not trying to baby me) to get my schedule and was told I wasn’t needed anymore. It was so embarrassing to get fired in front of my parents!

      10. Emma

        I worked for a certain purveyor of fancy coffee and the way they fired employees (this was a college campus location, granted) was to take you off the schedule too. Very cowardly.

      11. pidgeonpenelope

        This happened to me once and I’m still pissed about it. I had a job working at my best friend’s parents coffee shop. They had a manager there who was ineffective and lousy. I worked like two days trying to learn the job and she wrote me off the schedule. No feedback, nothing. And then I got a better job at Starbucks and worked there 1 1/2 years while that manager got fired from friend’s shop. I never had a chance to redeem myself and show I was an excellent employee.

    4. twentymilehike

      haha … these “quiting” stories really made me laugh!

      Reminds me of a time I worked at a coffee shop in college. I was 18 and it was my second job (not counting the time I worked for my mom). There were three of us working there and I was the new one. No one really liked the owner, but apparently the other girls really didn’t like her! One day I find out that both girls had clocked out and self-addressed-stamped envelopes on the time clock with a note to mail their last checks. I ran to look out the window and saw them both running down the street.

      I very quickly left to work at a new restaurant next door for a dollar more an hour and the two owners got in a shouting match in the parking lot over it. It was pretty hilarious in retrospect.

    5. Cassie

      My first job was working at a college campus eatery – because I had applied and gotten hired close to the beginning of the quarter, all the cashier positions were filled and so I had to be a busser (from what the other employees told me, girls were never bussers, only guys were).

      I was there for 2 hours my first day. Then over the weekend, a friend’s mom who worked on campus offered me an office clerk position. Making $8.81 compared to $5.41 per hour? Not having to stand all shift, collect dirty trays and dump out garbage? I’m sold!

      So I went back on Monday, dropped off my cap and combo lock to the manager’s office (there was a business-suit guy and a business-suit lady in there), told them that I found another job and scurried away. I didn’t even get paid for those 2 hours.

  2. Christine Assaf

    On my first day I was introduced to a co-worker. He sounded stuffed up and congested (as if he had a cold).
    Me: “Sounds, like you’re a little under the weather…”
    Coworker: “What do you mean?”
    Me: “You sound a bit nasily or congested.”
    Coworker: “No, I just always sound like this.”

    -_-

    1. Liz in a Library

      Ugh… I did this with a co-worker once who had a naturally raspy, croaky sounding voice (but not all the time–just sometimes). She responded the same way as your co-worker and I was completely mortified. She was really nice about it, but…

    2. BW

      Reminds me not of something I said, but something an0ther co-worker said to me. I have rabbits as pets, and I do animal rescue,and it was well known to my co-workers. The entire team was assembling for a meeting, and while we were waiting to get started my co-worker asked if I’d ever eaten rabbit. The entire room turned and looked at her in horror. She followed up by offering “It’s less gamey than squirrel.” She really hadn’t meant to be offensive, and I wasn’t offended maybe near as much as my co-workers. The follow-up comment just caused jaws to drop further toward the floor. She really didn’t think anything of it. She was from some rural area of the deep south. where people hunted and ate rabbit and squirrel. It was a perfectly normal question to her. The rest of us were all “WTF?!”

      1. KellyK

        It’s not something I’d bring up apropos of nothing, but where I grew up (rural northwest PA), it’s not uncommon to have eaten rabbit or squirrel either. My dad did a lot of hunting and really liked (and still likes) to cook, so if the animal in question is legal to shoot in Pennsylvania, I’ve probably eaten it.We had a pet rabbit too, but I don’t think I made that connection as a kid.

      2. Anne

        That’s really a cultural thing, I don’t think it’s fair to think of it as rude. I moved to the UK a few years ago, and rabbit is fairly common here too. You can also hunt or buy squirrel. It’s not that weird.

        Good Mexican food though? Practically impossible – when you do find a place, no one knows how to pronounce anything on the menu. But no one would think I was being rude if I said “Hey I made some fantastic quesadillas last night…”

        1. BW

          That was my reaction. I didn’t think she was being intentionally rude. It was a legit question coming from someone who grew up in an area where people hunted small game and ate it, but my co-workers were appalled and she caught heck immediately for it before I could say anything. I felt bad for her! I don’t think she realized that people in urban New England don’t even know you can eat squirrel and have likely never eaten rabbit, unless it was in a restaurant.

        2. Kelly L.

          She says her co-workers knew she had pet rabbits though. Why would you say that to someone who had pet rabbits?

          1. Kelly L.

            Crap, sorry, just realized this thread was ancient. I followed a link here and forgot I had an old thread up along with the new.

      3. the gold digger

        I’ve eaten rabbit. And so has my sister, who had pet rabbits. My grandmother, who grew up very poor on a farm and then married a poor farmer, made it for us one day. My sister didn’t find out until after we had eaten that it was rabbit and she was horrified.

        My mom and grandmother, however, who were used to eating tongue and ham hocks and rabbit, were unmoved.

        1. Jamie

          My dad was from Germany and I loved hasenpfeffer as a kid. Until my brother let it slip that it was German for rabbit.

      4. Just a Reader

        Rabbit is on the menu at a lot of fancypants restaurants, particularly in French and Italian cuisine. I don’t think it’s bad to say you eat rabbit.

        Squirrel, OTOH…

        1. BW

          It depends who you are talking to. The people I know who have rabbits only as pets get really offended. It’s akin to saying you eat cat or dog or babies.

          I eat other types of meat, so to me being horrified at someone else’s choice of meat seems hypocritical. We eat a lot of cow in the US, and in some areas of the world this would be just as appalling as eating rabbit/cat/dog is to other people.

            1. Mel

              I am cringing at most of these comments since I love my pet rabbits. This comment is the most heartless and unfeeling of all. Why is it OK to act like bunnies are not equal to cats or dogs when they are wonderful house pets too?

              1. Esra

                Because it’s pretty arbitrary what animals we designate as edible or not. It’s very cultural and even though I wouldn’t eat horse or dog, I’m not going to look down on someone else for doing.

                1. BW

                  That’s the way I feel. I could never eat rabbit and don’t go to any place it is served and hearing about it is upsetting, but I feel like as long as I also eat any kind of animals, I’m not in a position to judge someone for also eating animals.

                  That said, any talk of eating rabbits while in my house will get anyone a quick and deserved tongue lashing. It’d be like me coming into someone’s home and talking about eating children.

                2. Min

                  The only animals that I eat are the ones that I already knew were tasty before I was old enough to think about it. Anything other than cow, pig, chicken, or turkey, I wouldn’t be able to choke down.

                  That said, I agree that it is totally arbitrary and my issues with eating other animals are mine alone. It’s silly to make moral judgements about a person for eating meat you find unpalatable if you eat any meat at all.

              2. Mel R

                I’ve had pet rabbits. I loved them (in a love-your-pets way, not a drool-when-you-look-at-them way). And I also eat rabbit, and love it.

                There’s nothing wrong or heartless about saying “rabbit is delicious”. What would make it heartless would be if moss said that while looking at your pet rabbits, and grinning – making it specific rather than general, and personal, and intended to upset you.

          1. Other Jamie

            I know it’s just a cultural thing, but when I visited France as a high schooler, I didn’t know they ate horse meat — and I was so dismayed and bummed out that I was served spaghetti sauce with horse meat, I didn’t even think you -could- make it with anything but hamburger. (I didn’t know you could make it with other perfectly normal things like…sausage. :P ) I was more bug-eyed because it wasn’t listed that way on the menu! My mom spoiled it when she pointed out “hamburger du cheval” on a lot of menus. Aiee…

          1. Chocolate Teapot

            I was surprised to find out that Guinea Pig is quite common as a meat in South America. I suppose it’s not so far removed from rabbit, but even so.

          1. AgilePhalanges

            I tried alligator in New Orleans recently, and I thought it WAS fishy tasting. But I’m far from an expert, as I’m normally vegetarian, but figured “when in New Orleans.”

  3. Elly V

    I was interviewing for a job at a small publishing house. I was still in college and had never had an interview beyond “Can you wait tables? Good. You’re hired”.

    The interviewer asked me what kind of office environment I preferred to work in. I said something like “Oh…my dream office environment would have bean bags instead of chairs, lap desks that we could use on the floor, and office dogs to play with.” I remember there was a silence, and then the rest of the interview moved surprisingly quickly. It was on the way home that I realized that my idea of “office environment” probably wasn’t what they were looking for. D’oh.

      1. Julie

        I suspect it would be asking along the lines of, “fast-paced or more laid-back,” “mostly computer-oriented or mostly people-focused,” “the sort of place where colleagues are all friends out of work or not”… that sort of thing. At least, that’s how I’d interpret it.

          1. Julie

            Sure. People have preference, which may or may not line up with the particular office they’re interviewing for. I personally like to keep my work and personal lives separate, so I’d have an uncomfortable time at a company where every Friday the department goes out for local happy hour.

      2. Victoria HR

        They probably meant, do you prefer a team environment or to work independently, do you prefer a micromanaging boss or one that lets you do your own thing, do you prefer to work in a cubicle or from home, etc.

      1. Rana

        Me too. Bean bags, office pets, laptops and tons of plants. And snacks.

        (There are reasons it’s good I work from home now…)

        1. Esra

          I miss working from home so much. Fresh air, sunlight, my pets, sofa, and homecooking are so, so much better than the office.

    1. Anonymous_J

      That’s adorable, though. LOL!

      Who WOULDN’T want office doggies to play with? I mean come on! ;)

  4. Sascha

    I worked at a university where we all feared the higher-ups. One day, when emails were flying back and forth, I hit reply to what I thought was a coworker’s joke, and said something in response like, “Oh, that’s going to be bad.” I actually hit reply to a mass email that had come from the provost. “Oh, that’s going to be bad” when back to the provost, and seconds later, I got a personal phone call from him, demanding what I meant and if something was wrong. After a few minutes of panicked stuttering, I told him what happened. Then silence. Then he laughed, and hung up the phone. I lived in terror until I left that job.

    1. Work It

      I mistakenly forwarded my boss an email chain in which a co-worker and I were complaining about the work. Neither were pleased.

      1. Sascha

        Yikes! I’ve done something similar, had some harsher-than-necessary words about a professor in an email chain that I didn’t realize would be forwarded until I got a reply later.

      2. Science Master

        I’ve forwarded a message to a guy who the original emailer called some names. The original guy was wordy, so I’d skimmed.

        I wasn’t fired, but thought I would be.

    2. B

      Yup, did that. I sent an email to a coworker complaining about her boss, who did he think he was, and with all of his money he could afford this and that. But OOOPS nope, I actually sent it to him!

      I ran into his office saying by accident I sent something to him instead of my boyfriend could I delete it. Yeah, not sure that was a better excuse but I am 99% sure he had already read it anyway.

      UGH…no more email complaints ever sent. Lesson learned.

          1. Sascha

            LOL oh I’ve nearly done that myself. I type the word “student(s)” a lot (university work), and sometimes I will put “your stupid(s)” instead of “your student(s).”

          2. Julie K

            I have almost done this several times, so I set up auto-correct to change any instances of “retards” to “regards.” I also thought it wouldn’t look great if I misspelled my own name, so I did the same thing for all possible typos of my name.

            1. EM

              Great idea about your name! I have a name with an unusual spelling, so I always add it to the dictionary in Microsoft.

        1. littlemoose

          My biggest job duty involves writing official things, and I tend to use the word “public” a lot. I’m so afraid I’ll typo it as “pubic” and spellcheck won’t catch it.

          1. Sandi

            I actually did that once, very very early in my career. The person’s title was Director of Public Relations. But I dropped the L in public. And didn’t realize it until it had been mailed and probably delivered.

          2. Mel R

            My supervisor in a past job once sent out a mass email about some malfunctioning equipment and closed with “Apologies for any incontinence caused”. XD

        2. Anonymous

          oh my god, I’m wetting my self laughing!
          I was interning once and the business was called Kovac Associates, and I answered the phone, Kojack Associates! (As in the 1970s police show!)

        3. Lindsay

          We email hourly metrics at my job that go out to all the managers at the property. One day, one of the girls left the letter O out of the word “Counts”. Of all the typos to make, that is probably the worst one I can think of.

        4. Jeanann

          I did some editing work for a church newsletter and lived in fear of mistakenly writing “Food Panty” instead of “Food Pantry.”

      1. Cajun2core

        In an email I typed “Customer A has reached a new level of stupidity.” Then I hit reply (to the customer) instead of forward. :-( I learned that I never put anything in an email that I wouldn’t want plastered on the front page of the NY Times. I profousely apologized to the customer, who was very understanding about it. I lucked off!

    3. Schnauz

      A former coworker of mine was a treasure trove of work-inappropriate behaviour. A lot of us are laidback and friends outside of work, but this by no means encompasses the entire department/company. One time, after being promoted to manager, she forwarded one of her highly inappropriate emails to the whole department. I can’t remember which one exactly, but as an example of what she used to pass around – man filmed pooping in a saran wrap diaper. Yes.

  5. K

    I worked as a receptionist for a mid-size law firm, and a client came in to see one of our directors. I called him to tell him that Mr. So and So was here, he said, “Okay, thanks.” But just as he began to say something else, I hung up on him. I called him right back when I realized, offering a contrite “So sorry, sir! I hung up on you by mistake!!”

    He grunted loudly and hung up on me right back. Every day. For over a month.

        1. Paralegal

          +1 Especially because, at least in my experience, a lot of people don’t say goodbye on these really short interoffice phone calls. They just say thanks and hang up.

    1. BA

      I had a buddy that worked IT support for a big law firm that told me he lost track of how many times he witnessed lawyers chewing out receptionists for petty stuff. I’ve heard some horror stories from nurses too about doctors being major asses. I’ve been on the receiving end myself at some companies we acquired where the person yelling had no authority over me. I just walked away and politely told him to talk to me after they calmed down (they weren’t “over me” but were still higher up the ladder). It just goes to show that it’s all about that company’s culture and what is tolerated.

      1. Nicole

        It’s stories like this that make me very thankful for the lawyer/boss I have. We keep fairly reasonable hours, a very pleasant environment, flexible vacation, encouraging. I know I would make more money in a bigger law firm in a bigger city, but I HIGHLY doubt I would get the same quality boss. One downside, the boss is almost too friendly and avoids the tough managerial things like poor reviews or firings. And I learned early on that she’s a one-upper. No matter how stressed or how busy or how-whatever I am, she’s always so much more so (at first that really bugged me, till I considered she does run the whole operation). All in all, though, LOVE IT!

        1. DLG

          My workplace sounds similar to Nicole’s. Somewhat laid back, extremely laid back manager, but because of that she lets her staff walk all over her. If they need a certain day off, but for work reasons she tells them have to be there, they threaten to call out sick, she tells them they will have to deal with HR, but then gives in and gives them the time off.

          She threatens to have a meeting with this one or that one and lay things on the line, then backs out.

          I told her that other managers would have fired all but one (small dept), she agrees.

          Worst is that all she does for them and has saved 2 from being fired, they have zero appreciation and little respect.

          Makes me crazy with anger.

  6. Anonymous

    I had someone on the phone being pushy insisting that they speak to Person X right now and saying they’d sent some information over to him and was he interested etc. Well they had a company name which indicated a certain industry known for being very pushy in telesales calls and this *sounded* like a telesales call.

    So I brushed him off a bit and did the “I’m sure he’ll call you if he’s interested” spiel reserved for telesales calls and generally accepted as fine. Caller seemed perplexed.

    Imagine my embarrassment when I then was asked to call them back to set him up with an appointment with Person X. Yes, it was a new potential client who I didn’t know about yet. Luckily I hadn’t actually been rude on the phone but the caller did realise I was the same person who’d spoken to him earlier and asked “Did I speak to you before” and I stammered out “Umm, yes I believe you did”. Luckily he let me off the hook there and I don’t think Person X ever found out.

    1. Elizabeth West

      I had a call at OldJob where someone called and randomly asked if we took American Express. I replied that I didn’t know, and he could probably ask Accounting, and did he want me to connect him? He said no, and I transferred him to someone else he asked for. Later I found out he was the American Express rep, and he told my boss that I said we didn’t. HE LIED ON ME. I got in trouble for that too! Jerk!

      1. Me too!

        I had that once too- a customer asked if we had product X and I replied that I’d only ever seen it bundled with product Y but I don’t deal with that area of our products and wasn’t sure so I’d transfer him to the correct person to discuss his needs.

        I got told off for telling him that we couldn’t do it – which I didn’t do!

        1. Michelle.2

          I’ve had one instance of this sort of thing.
          The worst part is that my boss–who sought me out for the job, hired me, and had worked with me over a year–wrote me up to please this one, crazy customer.
          What are these bosses thinking?

  7. NotthatJamie

    I was tired, burnt out, and not paying attention and accidentally erased a computer I was troubleshooting. I just clicked continue instead of going into the repair console. There was some vital data on it and it required expensive data recovery. I think that is why I was let go.
    I now preach the gospel of backup: I always ALWAYS at least try and get a backup first.

      1. NotThatJamie

        Heh! Well, I didn’t want anyone else to take the blame for that! I’m glad you spell your name right!

  8. Oops

    In my previous career in advertising, I asked my boss how much he made while our whole department was out at a social gathering. Everyone stopped talking and stared at me, and I didn’t realize till then that it was a major faux pas. My boss just said “we don’t talk about that.”

    Now I work for the state and everyone’s salary is public information, so no need to embarrass myself again.

    1. Sascha

      I started working for the state a couple years ago, and found out where I could look up all the state salaries. I told my dad about that fact and he thought it was a massive privacy/security breach – and was shocked to learn it was state law. Although I don’t see what the big deal is, I understand salary talk is just one of those taboos.

      1. Oops

        Yeah, it never seemed like a taboo to me, I just innocently wanted to know what I could aspire to if I worked my way up. There are a lot of things I talk about freely that are taboo to others, though, and I have had to slowly learn how to edit myself.

        1. BW

          When I went to college and had to do an internship, there was an assignment where we had to interview someone at our internship. One of the questions we were required to ask was about their salary.

          Being raised properly WASP I was shocked and appalled. My reaction was you never ever ever EVER ask someone how much money they make EVER! It was considered rude. I couldn’t get past that one and got dinged on the assignment for not asking it. I couldn’t get visions of being castigated for asking it out of my mind.

            1. BW

              You’ve apparently never made this mistake in that context. :D

              That’s where I got that particular knee-jerk reaction, from the culture in which I was raised, and occasionally mock, because intellectually to me it isn’t logical to have a visceral reaction to something just because it was the way I was raised and not necesarily because I thought about it much, and really, my reaction to being told I had to ask someone how much money they make was over the top to the point of being amusing 20 years in retrospect.

            2. EM

              Because its a WASP value to never discuss money. It’s considered vulgar. I never knew what my parents made growing up, and I only now have a vague idea what they make.

              1. TracyDee

                Money is so vulgar to us that when I was at school, everything we needed to buy on campus was put on a card and the bill was sent to our parents once a month.

                Because, you know, you wouldn’t want to actually have to TOUCH that filthy lucre!

              2. Jamie

                I’m a Catholic raised the same way. I had no idea what my parents made until after they died and I never discuss this kind of thing casually…only when absolutely necessary.

                I am still shocked when someone asks me what I paid for my house or my car. I just laugh and say “probably too much” and walk away. I find medical questions less intrusive (but still intrusive so I don’t like those either.)

                1. Jamie

                  I think this is what adds an element of difficulty to salary negotiations for me. The just general discomfort of discussing money as it pertains to me.

                  The more you to it the easier it becomes – but it’s still not my favorite thing.

  9. Work It

    Until age 25 or so, I was quite immature and foolish. Here are a few cringe-worthy moments from the highlights reel:

    Quit a job at the mall with no notice (no call no show), avoided the mall for years.

    Quit a job at a restaurant with no notice and then avoided the restaurant until I had the gall to call a few months later and ask for a job! Seriously, what was wrong with me?

    Mistakenly forwarded a email chain to my boss in which a co-worker and I were complaining about the work and how stupid everything was.

    Answered “Tell Me About Yourself” with my age, personal bio, hobbies.

    Answered “What Do You Know About Our Company?” with “I don’t know anything about your company.”

    Started a temp job, got offered a much-higher paying job a few days later, called the temp company on the weekend to say I wouldn’t be back. I got banned from that temp company.

    Got a cold-calling job with a company. Couldn’t quit because I’d owe the placement agency $1,000. So I pretended to call people all day long. I mostly called automated lines.

    I promise I’m not like this anymore!!!!!!

    1. Hannah

      “Got a cold-calling job with a company. Couldn’t quit because I’d owe the placement agency $1,000. So I pretended to call people all day long. I mostly called automated lines.”

      I actually think this is hilarious and kind of awesome.

      1. Emma

        +1 to the under-25 foolishness of engaging in a hateful screed on an e-mail chain with some coworkers about some new regime change, massively-increased workload plus negatory support to successfully finish said workload. Lots of b’ing and moaning. I hadn’t left that call center job yet (nor do I think I was looking for my next job, actually) but the company was totally in my rearview by that time.

      2. Anonymous

        I had to to this at a collection agency for which I used to work, because they were actually autodialing and calling people illegally! (Outside of appropriate hours, more than once a day, etc.) I refused to play along, so I sat and pretended to make calls.

        When they called me in to “talk to me” and I called them on the illegal behavior, I got fired. I was in my early 20s, and even then, ethics was really important to me!

        Good riddance!

    2. Amelia

      That reminds me, at an interview for a job a few years back I answered “what do you know about the company?” with “erm… well… I spent two hours researching you on Google last night… and now it’s all gone right out my head. Hahahaha.” (In my defense I was 18 and this was my second ever job interview.)

      Come to think of it, that whole interview was a case of verbal incontinence – but I got the job, and they later told me it was one of their best ever interviews!

      1. Jenny

        When my husband and I were in college, he did a phone interview for a financial internship in his dorm room (I was sitting on the bed, reading). Suddenly, I heard him say, “I have no idea what your company does, that’s why I want to work for you — to learn.” And he also kept calling their company by the wrong name, then laughed when he was corrected. My jaw dropped open and he just kept on going! I was certain he’d be rejected, but sure enough he got the job, plus a sizable signing bonus.

        Thankfully, he’s now much less arrogant. But shows you how far confidence (and/or not particularly adept hiring managers) can sometimes take you when you’re young!

    3. Kimberlee, Esq.

      “Quit a job at a restaurant with no notice and then avoided the restaurant until I had the gall to call a few months later and ask for a job! Seriously, what was wrong with me? ”

      One of my favorite work stories to tell: my sister went on break one day at the fast food place she worked at, and then just never came back. She was hired back a year or so later (same management). AND I got a job there later on the strength of her recommendation.

  10. Hannah

    I don’t think it was anything specific, but I just had a really poor attitude at one of my previous jobs. I was really unhappy there and had some less-than-kind coworkers and poor management. BUT, I totally let my sour opinion of the place be known. I was eventually laid off, but I’m sure it was because they were looking for reasons to get rid of me. (Side note: I was actually ecstatic to be laid off because then I got a severance package and unemployment, but still…)

    After a few months away from the place, upon reflection, I knew I was conveying a really negative air and I do feel I’ve learned from it. Although subsequent jobs have not been rainbows and sunshine, I think I’ve been successful in keeping a professional, positive, and friendly vibe about me.

    1. Elizabeth West

      This happened to me too. I really wanted to quit, but when I was pulled up short, I realized that if I quit or was fired, I would make myself look really awful and it would be harder to find something better. I worked really hard to get myself back on track, and eventually when I was downsized, they emphasized it was NOT because of my performance.

      I think a lot of people I’ve talked to and worked with have either had to, or have yet to, learn this. It’s easy to notice someone else’s bad attitude, but not always so easy to see it when it’s you.

    2. Tuesday

      I frequently feel myself making this mistake, but I can’t seem to help it. Things have been bad and getting worse at my company over the past few years, and everyone in my office acknowledges it, but I think I’m the worst. I KNOW I’d be better off in the long run if I could just grin and bear it, but I’m really bad at it.

  11. Lynn

    I had a co-worker named Joaquin. At the time, I spoke exactly zero Spanish, and didn’t know how to pronounce it. I didn’t make the connection when other co-workers talked about “Wakeen”. For MONTHS, I honestly thought I had two different co-workers, Joaquin (pronounced JOE-a-kwin) and Wakeen. In my head, I assigned them different personalities and areas of responsibility and everything. I sent emails saying “we should get Wakeen to look into this” and talked about what Joe-a-kwin had been working on, and no one said anything, including poor Joaquin. I wanted to DIE when I finally put it together.

    1. Shoshie

      As someone with an unusual name, I assure you that Joaquin was probably more amused than anything. :)

      1. Joey

        All of these comments remind me of a guy I worked with in college who just moved from Montana. His first comment to me after I told him my name was that he knew a Mexican. He went on to tell me a story about an immigrant that cleaned his house named Jay-susa who was from Guatemala, how she worked for so little she couldn’t afford Christmas presents, and as a result, his family went to Goodwill and bought her kids some used toys for Christmas. He genuinely thought this story showed how nice he was.

    2. Sharon

      This is a good example of why I think Miss Manners is totally wrong when she says you should never correct someone who mis-pronounces something. Sure, you do it tactfully or in private. But when everybody goes along just to be polite, it causes more hurt in the end.

      1. Ellie H.

        I think there are times in which it’s appropriate to correct and times in which it’s not. I have a “weird” and hard to spell name, so I make a huge effort to get everyone else’s names correct because I know how aggravating it can be. One of coworkers has addressed a Jenn as “Jen” multiple times in email and I’m not going to correct her about it, but I would correct if, say, it were a mispronunciation and we were going to be speaking to the person.

      2. Schnauz

        This is how I think people should determine if a correction is needed:

        Will you be seeing them again and often enough, that it would reasonably be embarrassing to you or them to need to correct them later? If yes, then correct. If no, then don’t.

        Are they chatting you, using your misspelled name, via a chat system that posts your (correct) name above every one of your replies? Correct them, or subtly tease them by misspelling their (very common) name in a variety of ways until they realize what they’re doing. ;-)

    3. Laura

      A friend of mine once told me that he would call someone at another company each month to confirm wire transfers. The guy at the other company was from India, and somehow my friend got his name confused and started calling him by his last name. The guy never corrected him, but started calling my friend by his last name, and then his first name. Like, “Well, hello Smith Joe, how are you?” It took awhile, but my friend finally figured out he was calling him by his last name.

      1. Chinook

        For the longest time, one of the contacts at our major customer thought that I was the president of the company. In a way, it made sense. He called my boss’ line and I answered. He emailed my boss, my boss would forward it to me and I would reply on his behalf. Probelm is, boss is male with a gender neutral name and I am female. it wasn’t until we were in a conference call together that I had to point out that he shouldn’t be referring to the president of the company as a “she” because no one at our end knew who he was referring to.

    4. Lils

      I love this story–made the same exact mistake with Sarah/”Sada” in my organization.

      My boss mispronounces and misspells my name on a regular basis. I never correct, I just answer to the new name.

      1. Kristen

        People mix up my name all over the place and I never correct them. I answer to every spelling of Kristen, Kirsten, Krista, Kristy, Christian, Kristine, etc. It annoys me a little, but not enough for me to stop it.

        1. Rana

          I have to admit I’m always a little terrified if someone introduces themselves as either Kristen or Kirsten; my brain finds it really, really difficult to separate the two, and I hate getting people’s names wrong.

          1. AgilePhalanges

            I have a friend named Kirstin whose best friend is Kristin (or Kristen, never seen her named spelled out), and it is FUN being with both of them together, let me tell you. We should just give up and call them both “K” rather than always using the wrong name and correcting ourselves.

            1. Kristen

              I was in a sorority in college and one of my best friends in the house was named Christina. We also had the same color and length of hair, lived in the same room, and had the same major, so people were constantly mixing us up. Also I was one of 5 Kristens in the house. Seriously everyone called me by my initials. Now where I work there are 2 Kirstens, a Kristin, a Krista, and me. A few people have started calling me by my initials.
              Advice to future parents: do not name your child any name that begins with Kris/Chris. There are too many of us as it is.

        2. MJ

          My old manager, Kristian, was consistently called Kirsten in emails by one of our contractors. The same contractor also spent a week calling me Amanda (my name is Miranda) before I corrected him.

        3. Non geordie beth

          At one point in our building we had a Christen, a Kirsty and a Kristi. It was confusing.

      2. Emma

        +1 to the funny-name crowd. My manager at my first job tried his hardest to pronounce my name but eventually (and humorously) degraded into calling me any old female-gendered name that began with an M. He was particular to Myrtle, haha.

    5. LMW

      I have had the same problem! I now have a permanent deeply ingrained fear of saying the wrong name or name wrong.

    6. FreeThinkerTX

      I had something similar happen with my neighborhood association. One of the women in it is named “Wanetta”, which I’d only ever seen in emails and never heard pronounced. I was at a gathering a few months ago talking to a group of women (we’d all introduced ourselves to each other) and said something about Wanetta (“Wah-net-uh”). They looked at me cross-eyed, said they didn’t know anyone in the association with that name. I gave some context from a recent group email and one of them, “Juanita”, burst out laughing. I wanted to crawl into a hole, but she said it happens all the time.

      1. Nicole

        I did this with a potential client. On the phone her name sounded like “Wanita” and I even mailed her a letter from the company addressed to “Wanita.” She cancelled her appointment X/

    7. TL

      This reminds me of a time when I was a temporary receptionist (and therefore didn’t actually *know* any of the employees to whom I was transferring calls), and got a call for “Hay-soos”.

      Who? “Haysoos.” Just a moment, sir…*frantically looking up and down the list of employees*…do you know his last name? “Haysoos Lastname.” There’s nobody here with that first name, but there is this guy named Jesus Lastname…

      Oh. Needless to say, that name/pronunciation is now engraved on my memory.

      1. Layla

        I know … I had this ex-colleague with that name. He frequently had to explain it over the phone and kept insisting to pronounce it as “haysoos” (as he should ) [maybe] knowing that the person on the other end was not getting it.

        I had a feeling he wanted to see how many times he could repeat it , before spelling it out. Then I can practically hear the “oh Jesus ” in their minds when they finally got it. Lol.

    8. BL

      I once had a manager at fast food place who thought I was two people, Rebecca and Becki, because sometimes I wore glasses and sometimes I didn’t. I wasn’t surprised when they fired him for doing drugs by the dumpster during his shift.

      1. TheAssistant

        There is an executive at my office who works on my floor. I see him constantly, and he definitely knew my name at some point. About a year ago, I got new glasses (not drastically new) and he somehow lost my name in his mind. He calls me Grace, which isn’t even remotely close and is the name of my predecessor who left three years ago.

        He knows my boss has an assistant, and sometimes he is able to recall that assistant’s name, but every day, it’s “Hi, Grace!” to my face.

  12. Jamie

    First real job, I was just getting the hang of the accounts receivable portion and realized that I hadn’t sent the interoffice envelope with a customer payment to the corporate office so the payment was on time technically – but a day late per corporate.

    I emailed the head of accounting, who also happened to own half the company, with my error and asked if she was going to take the late fees out of my check or if I should pay cash. “Whatever is easier for you.” and I WAY over apologized.

    Yeah – they don’t make employees pay customer late fees – you kind of just adjust the late fees out and run another statement. Ooops.

    I figured my error my responsibility – how naive!

    1. Chinook

      Naive, yes, but also responsible. I think I would prefer to err on the side of “my mistakes, my responsibility” rather than “what mistake? I don’t make mistakes.”

    2. Megan

      I totally did this once, on a smaller scale. I worked at a coffee shop that had just introduced peanut-butter-cup frozen coffee drinks. Since lots of people have peanut allergies, they designated one of our industrial (EXPENSIVE) blender pitchers as the ‘peanuts’ one with red tape on the handle. It was explained that we couldn’t mess this up, because the pitchers cost like $100 bucks.
      Fast forward about a week. I’m halfway through blending a peanut butter cup thingy, and I look down. No red tape on the handle. I over-apologized and offered repeatedly to have it taken out of my check, or to write them a check to replace it. Finally my boss looked at me and said, “you know, I think we can just wash it really really thoroughly, and it will probably be fine.”
      It all blew over, but I felt like a total loser. We went nuts with the red tape on that thing after that.

  13. Julie

    Not a big, career-changing moment, but I still cringe about it twelve years later. I was working as a summer cashier at a grocery store. The section managers were great, but the store manager was just awful. He was abrasive, quick to anger, and fond of a couple of policies I have since learned were illegal.

    Anyway, one day a kid about my age came in with his mom behind him, asking if there were any positions open for bag boys.

    Me, in my ignorance, turned to the store manager and asked if there were any positions open for *bus* boys.

    Upon which the store manager unleashed a torrent of abuse upon the poor, helpless applicant, mocking him mercilessly, and asking whether he thought he’d like a position as a sommelier instead. The kid left with his tail between his legs, and even the mom wasn’t ready for that sort of reaction.

    I still feel bad for him, though in retrospect I hope that he found a better job somewhere else.

  14. CJB

    I had a stressful shipping challenge with a temporary shipment to Mexico for a product demo. I was dealing with 2 different companies, our channel and my company and somehow, the paperwork was done incorrectly by our freight forwarder. (I’d reviewed it, but didn’t notice the mistake). Since this was a large amount of tooling (>$20,000), we were charged about $9,000 in taxes and customs fees, etc. This was apparently non-refundable (even thought that shipment returned over the border a week later). I was mortified and when attempting to talk this over with the CEO, I ended up crying for a couple of minutes because of how stressed and upset I was. The CEO was extremely kind and brought me tissues, asked what was wrong, etc., but it was still difficult to look at him for a week or so. A month or so later, I found out someone in our sales department had made a $50,000 mistake and realized that people make mistakes, the company factors this into accounting and I did not really put my job or the company in jeopardy. Needless to say, I felt much better after realizing this.

  15. louise

    ooh, fun topic! I’m sure there will be some doozies.

    In college I landed a “cool job” as a drive time personality on a big radio station. A few months in, the on-air talent represented the station at a business expo. We were told to wear the the station logo but it was the day before the expo and the only shirt available for me was a men’s denim button up that was, well, cut for a man and way too big on me. It hung almost to my knees and was horribly baggy. I was 19 but listeners didn’t know that and I didn’t want to look like a 12-yr-old playing dress up at my first public appearance! I threw a fit to the GM and told him I would *NOT* wear that and would look a lot more professional in my own, well-fitted business clothes. He wouldn’t cave and said branding was more important (than looking professional? Yeah, that was the first of many red flags with him…). I ended up calling a seamstress friend and we tailored the shirt that night to create a feminine fit. The next day when the GM saw me in it, he said “why were you so upset? There’s nothing wrong with that shirt!”

    To this day I’m mortified that I threw a fit over something I could solve~can’t believe he let me keep that job when my actions proved I was way too immature for it!

    1. the gold digger

      What is it with companies claiming they can only get logo’d shirts in men’s sizes? I got that crap as well. I would take the darn shirt and cut the bottom 12″ off so when I tucked it in my (unflattering but required) khakis, my butt wouldn’t look a mile wide.

      1. louise

        Yup, we cut a good 12″ off. :) Put a flattering hemline on it that didn’t have to be tucked in. It still wasn’t great, but it was so much better than before.

      2. Malissa

        I don’t know. I had to seriously alter shirts to not look I was wearing a tent once. The sad part was the first shirts I had gotten were ladies shirts and fit great. The second round was a surprise!

      3. kbeers0su

        I work at a university, and we do get both women’s and men’s cut shirts for our staff. Problem is that the women’s shirts are significantly shorter than the men’s in the torso, so for tall people like me, it’s like wearing a belly shirt. Very professional looking!

  16. Anonymous

    I am prefacing this by: I don’t remember anyone’s name unless I see and speak to them several times.
    When I was new to a job I accidently called a coworker by another coworker’s name. Both were women of color. She corrected me, but in a tone that implied “not all minorities look the same, you racist” and bore laser beams into me with her eyes. I was mortified and wanted the building to just collapse on top of me.
    I am ending this by stating: I am also a person of color, but of mixed heritage and I look white. It was a complete innocent mistake, but I wasn’t going to say “DONT WORRY IM NOT A RACIST BECAUSE IM ACTUALLY BLACK, TOO!”

    1. Zahra

      “DONT WORRY IM NOT A RACIST BECAUSE IM ACTUALLY BLACK, TOO!”

      Actually, one doesn’t preclude the other, just like a woman can be a misogynist. And as someone who gets called by another person of color’s first on a regular basis, it gets annoying fast.

      (The best example: I worked in an office where there was a “Xandra”. They were adamant that “Xandra” and “Zahra” were more similar than “Sandra” and “Sara” and thus it excused their calling me “Xandra”. I’ve seen people making mistakes about my name my whole life (can’t be bothered to check my email signature to spell my name, can’t be bothered to copy my name correctly from a legible official document such as my driver’s license, etc.), so that kind of shit gets tiring pretty quickly.

      1. Gmac

        Nearly three years and I’m amazed by how my employer can spell my name correctly at the top of a letter with my address… And then incorrectly in the rest of the letter… Wondering at which point I should tell them? Lol

      2. Sunday's Child

        Zahra, I have the same thing going on with the name pronunciation and spelling, too. It’s not related to race, just a different spelling of a name that is commonly spelled one particular way. Unfortunately, getting married made it worse because now my last name is also something people don’t pay attention to. I introduce myself or people actually say, do you pronounce it this vs. that?, (example, “bread” vs. “breed”) and then use the wrong one. Even when I’ve spoken it out loud after they’ve asked! It’s not a race thing for most people. It’s because they are not paying attention. I hope that helps you feel a little less targeted, at least that was my intention.

      3. Michelle.2

        I spell my screen name the “regular” way, and have quit minding most garblings of my actual name.
        The exception being the receptionist who insisted I spell it out for her to mail me a document. It arrived with the name mispelled!!!

        1. FreeThinkerTX

          I may have told the story here before; if so, please forgive me.

          Back in the 80’s, before the advent of online travel booking, I called American Airlines to buy a round-trip ticket to San Francisco. The agent asked for the name on the ticket and I said, “Michele – with one L – Lastname”. A few days later I received the ticket in the mail, made out to “L. Lastname”. (Cuz, um, that’s how you spell Michele with one L?)

    2. KellyK

      Ouch! That had to be horribly embarrassing.

      I have trouble putting names and faces together too. To the point that I will occasionally need to run through the company photo directory to try to force the names of people I see on occasion but don’t interact with regularly to stick in my head.

      For some reason, my brain gloms onto superficial features and widely shared like hair color (and yes, skin color) and the more minor details like facial features kind of fade out of memory, unless I deliberately work on remembering a face.

      Though making it a point to say a person’s name (assuming you’ve got the right one in your head!!) multiple times in conversation can help it stick.

      1. Jane Doe

        I have a really hard time with this when people style themselves similarly. I worked at a place where almost all the men (all white Americans, as am I) were in their late 20s-mid-30s and wore very similar suits (color, style and fit), had identical hair cuts, and even had similar facial features and voices in terms of accent, pitch, cadence, etc..

        1. Kelly L.

          I once did a double or triple take at a group of businessmen who walked into a restaurant here in town. There were 6 or 7 of them. All were roughly 50, wearing banded-bottom polo shirts with khaki shorts, dark blond to light brown hair. and mostly thin but with pot bellies. The only differences were their facial features and the particular patterns on their polo shirts. They looked like they’d come from central casting.

          1. Job seeker

            Hey wait a minute, there are some pretty handsome great guys out there that are middle-age men. I happen to be married to one. Like the guys your age (who all look alike to me) they can be different. Give me a good looking middle-age guy any day. :-)

            1. Kelly L.

              How old do you think I am, anyway?

              I’m 35, as it happens. :) But my point is not that middle-aged men look bad. My boyfriend is 47. My point is that all of these men looked identical, including their age–most of the time when an office goes out to eat together, you’ll get some variation.

              I’ve seen the same thing with younger groups as well. This was just the one closest to the front of my memory/

        2. Anonymous

          A woman I worked with that I knew personally and another black woman got called each other’s a lot. While I did sympathize with them because it does suck that nobody can remember your name… they were around the same age, wore a long ponytail, same general build AND one covered breaks for the other AT THE FRONT DESK.
          So sometimes someone would say “Go ask A at the front desk.” You’d get to the front desk and say “A, bla bla bla, please.” and Z would be there saying “IM NOT A, IM Z!” And won’t you know an hour later A would be back in her seat wondering why everyone keeps calling her Z.

        3. Rana

          Oh, my gosh. I grew up in California, so was used to dealing with a pretty wide range of facial features and colors, and then I ended up teaching college in Minnesota. It took me forever to learn to tell my blond white students apart (and they all had relatively unmemorable names like Sarah, Kathy, Megan, Brian, Chris, Michael, Eric…).

          It was especially bad if there was a cluster of friends who always sat together and dressed similarly. I used just hand back their papers by sort of thrusting it at the clump, but then one day I attempted to do this when one of them was sick, and ended up trying to give her paper to her friend. Oops.

        4. Artemesia

          I taught a college class where most of the students were good looking blonds with long hair. I quickly learned the names of the 5 guys, the two red heads, the two black students and the four girls with brown hair — but the 16 blonds just looked so much alike and it took awhile. I was having a huge problem with two in particular — finally my TA said ‘You do know they are identical twins?’ — well no, the young gorgeous blonds with identical hair — all 16 of them, looked so much alike to me that I didn’t notice that two of them were in fact identical twins.

      2. Emma

        When I first started a job and before I’d met the person, I thought there were two coworkers – Juanita and Anita – because of varied the pronunciation was among my coworkers. So I was looking for Juanita but calling her Anita. Some of my coworkers were very confused, and because I used a similar oddly-specific-feature-pairing-system for names/people, I blurted out “The slim lady…[mumbles]..with the..the.. messed-up teeth?” Oh my god, I was (and still am, years later!) mortified by that description.

    3. Yas

      I have the SAME exact story. I am horrible with names and I never usually assume I know some one’s name because I know this of myself. But new job abroad, trying to be friendly, etc. and I took a leap of faith and apparently mixed up the names of two ethnic women in the department and the response I got was, ‘No, that’s the OTHER ethnic woman’. I am so also of mixed race, but she still seemed offended and I was mortified.

      1. Elle D.

        I did the same thing to 2 short, stocky white haired men at my previous job – it’s definitely mortifying, regardless of what the similarity between the two people may be!

        1. Amir

          I have *such* a hard time telling all the older white male Trustees at my charity apart. John, Paul, Graham, Richard, John, Richard and Don.

      2. twentymilehike

        ‘No, that’s the OTHER ethnic woman’. I am so also of mixed race, but she still seemed offended and I was mortified

        Not at work, but at a college group thing, there were two girls from Mongolia. They weren’t related, but they looked similar–build, hair-style, and were both a similar outfit. Anyhow, I kept calling them each others names, and they would correct me, and at some point, teenage me made an innocent comment that ended up coming out sounding something like “you asians all look the same.” Mortified.

        1. Ophelia

          I have the opposite problem… I remember names and faces very easily. To the point that I can meet someone once and remember their name, face, and what we talked about. You have no idea the amount of weird looks you get when you remember a woman’s name, and her child’s name… I’m pretty sure she thought I was some kind of stalker…

          1. Stephanie

            I thought I was the only one! I’ve freaked out a few people with this, to the point where I just pretend to forget their names.

          2. Ophelia

            I forgot to mention on this particular occasion that this woman and I had met two years prior and hadn’t seen each other since.

          3. John Quincy Adding Machine

            I have this problem, too! It’s generally helpful, since I’m a substitute teacher and I have to remember a lot of names, but occasionally it freaks students out if I’ve only taught them once, months ago, and then I see them again and exuberantly greet them with, “Hey, Aiden! How did your TOEFL test go?”

            1. Steph

              Oh it’s so nice to know I’m not the only one! I have an extremely good memory for names and faces,even if we’ve met only briefly. I also remember other random trivia about people, like birthdays, spouses, pets names… Like Stephanie I also will pretend to not remember names because it freaks people out!

              Interestingly, my dad was never good with names (maybe that’s where my ability comes from?), but he had no shame about it. Your name might be Bob, he’d say ‘Hi Tom!’ (he was usually not even remotely close) but after being corrected he’d just carry on like nothing had happened. And no, he most likely wouldn’t remember your name next time.

    4. Lulu

      I am terrible with names and faces, to a point where I sometimes wonder if I don’t have some kind of low-grade prosopagnosia. I’ve been using that Lumosity “brain training” program, and one of the games is a face/name game that simulates working at a lunch counter and having to remember the names of multiple people you’ve “met” before, and there are two girls with long blonde hair that I just can’t keep straight. The upside of this game is that the people don’t change clothes or hairstyles, so eventually you either think “person whose name I always screw up = Charles” or come up with an association! But I’m sure I’ve unknowingly committed this kind of error multiple times in the past… :(

      1. KellyK

        I’m going to have to try that game out. I once took a face-recognition test and scored a good bit below average, but I don’t think it was in the, “Yeah, dude, you probably have prosopagnosia” range.

        1. Lulu

          Theoretically it’s supposed to help you in the real world, though I haven’t really had a chance to evaluate that. I *am* getting better at the game, though (as soon as I figure out how to remember which girl I think of as an Arquette sister and which I attempt to associate with Little House On The Prairie, it will be even better…). Not sure if this particular game is included in the free version, but I do feel like I’m getting my money’s worth of mental stretching now that I’ve subscribed – some exercises are downright painful, so it must be good for me, right? ;)

    5. Blinx

      Oh, I’m so horrible with names, and I hate it when everyone knows MY name, but I just mumble hello back. Or when I think I know their name and say it… but I’m wrong! Usually if I meet 2 people of the same sex for the first time (and usually it’s in a hallway), it’s a good chance that I’m going to mix them up in the future. It doesn’t matter if they look completely different. Meeting 3 or 4 people at a meeting is worse, but at least there I can quickly make crib notes for myself.

      I’m SO glad that most offices and cubes have people’s names on the door. And hooray for LinkedIn — if they’ve got their photo posted.

      1. Lulu

        I used to dread having to go find someone I theoretically knew and not having the names on the cubes/offices. Sometimes I’d ask someone further away where they sat just to avoid being confounded if I had to make a choice when I got there.

    6. Anonymous

      Even when it’s clear there’s a racial element to it, though, I tend to try to cut people some slack. I’m a Melissa and people always get my name wrong, especially if there is a Michelle, and last year I worked with a black Michele (I’m black) so everyone always got our names mixed up. It’s irritating – and I’m someone who studies racial prejudice for a living – so while I realize I may be an unconscious thing people are usually mortified by it, and it often teaches them something. Plus I’ve noticed that peopled are almost as likely to mix me up with the white Meghan I now work with. I will say that I was baffled and a bit offended, though, when a person from another office kept calling me “Deniece” (another black woman I work with who looks nothing like me at all)

  17. Jubilance

    I was working a “filler” job as a staffing assistant while I was finishing grad school & looking for a “real” job in my field. I found one at the end of May, but I wouldn’t be able to start until after I graduated in August. I spent the summer planning my move & finding info on my new city…while I was at work. One day my boss came back from lunch & went to grab something off the printer & instead found my printouts of possible apartments in my new city. I wasn’t yet ready to tell her that I was leaving, since I had only been the position maybe 6 weeks…but after that I had to tell her I was moving & when.

    *hangs head*

  18. Camellia

    Two months into my first professional job right out of college, I was walking toward the restroom with a coworker while complaining bitterly about another group, and mocking them in the process. I stupidly continued the conversation right into the restroom. Yes, there was a person from that group in the restroom who heard everything.

    Five minutes later I was called into a meeting with my manager who was saying, “Let’s see if we can save this situation.” I flung myself on my sword, took full responsibility, and apologized profusely (at least I had that much sense).

    My relationship with that group was forever tainted, of course, but I learned a valuable lesson early on about keeping my mouth shut, and I have earned the trust of many managers and co-workers over the years by doing just that.

  19. LibKae

    Before my first grown-up phone interview I’d researched situational topics, but hadn’t thought at all about informational type questions I might get. So, of course, one of the first questions was asking me what I knew about the company. My response was “Well, um, I know it’s in Texas.”

    1. Elle D.

      For some reason, this question is ALWAYS awkward for me no matter how much research I do – the same way “Tell me about yourself” can be awkward. I always review the company’s website and try and get an idea of the company’s product, mission and overall “vibe”. Despite the research and practice, I have answered this question on 3 separate occasions with an answer like “Uhh…I know you do X in industry Y.” I think in the moment I get nervous that maybe I misunderstood something I read and don’t want to sound like an idiot, thus making me sound even more like an idiot!
      On the other hand, when I’ve been in interviews that flow more like a discussion, I’m able to more articulately discuss what I have learned about the company.

    2. danr

      I had the opposite happen. I did fine on knowing about the company and what they did… and then wandered into talking about the weather, since I didn’t know how to fill an awkward pause. This was with the VP for the division. I did get the job and later on, when I reported to him, we did get to talk about the weather.

  20. Allison

    Once upon a time I was actively looking for a job related to government or advocacy. I applied to a job posting at a lobbying firm and someone almost immediately replied asking when I could come in and chat with them. But I couldn’t leave well enough alone; I noticed a typo in the cover letter I sent them and sent a corrected cover letter. Never heard back from them. Even followed up a week later, and nothing.

    And in general I cringe at not having proper interview attire (I wore a grey, somewhat nice but still quite casual pullover over my blouses; if only I knew how cheap blazers were at H&M!) and mentioning some of my club involvements in my resume. Probably didn’t need to list Students for Sensible Drug Policy or the Pagan Student Organization; and I could have also done without NU Democrats, Students for Choice, and in some cases the Feminist Student Organization. Anime Club may have been a turnoff as well. Sure, I didn’t want to work with an employer who didn’t like feminism or thought anime was weird or childish, but they were only six month jobs. And I didn’t need to mention my involvement in local activism – I wasn’t doing anything hugely radical but it still probably raised some red flags. And I never had questions for the interviewer, nor did I ever have a good answer for when they said “tell me about yourself.” I was also horrible at asking to put people down as references. Had I presented myself as a more polished, straight-laced candidate I probably would have gotten paid co-ops in my college years.

    Hmm what else? I should have let the supermarket I worked for one summer transfer me to a location near school, but nooooo, I was gonna get a co-op job, I didn’t need any of that silly part-time nonsense. Whoops. And at one point I got a pretty good offer at a movie theater – just ushering, no concession work, and I’d never have to work weekends or late nights. What did I do instead? Took a job with setting up a new location for a bankrupt bookstore chain instead (I didn’t know they were bankrupt) and got laid off less than two months in because the store couldn’t afford to keep everyone after they opened.

    1. COT

      I still laugh that I listed “Bible Quizzing Captain” (yes, Bible quiz is a thing in some Protestant denominations) and some of my quizzing accolades (hey, we took second at the national championships!) on my resume. Yes, it shows leadership and smarts, but Bible quizzing is kind of a weird thing to brag about outside of those limited circles that participate in it.

      Fortunately I only used that resume to apply for my first on-campus college job, and had the good sense to change it after that.

      1. KellyK

        Wow, I knew it was a thing, but I never realized it was that *big* a thing, with a national championship and everything.

        Did you take it off entirely, or did you secularize it into “Quiz Bowl Captain” or something?

        1. COT

          I think I took it off entirely, though going with “quiz bowl captain” probably would have worked. By the time I was applying for college internships and post-college jobs I had more recent and relevant leadership experience to include instead.

      2. the gold digger

        “Bible Quizzing Captain” (yes, Bible quiz is a thing in some Protestant denominations)

        I still miss the morning Bible quiz on the radio in Memphis. Catholics never won.

        1. Jamie

          To quote Kathleen Madigan:

          “Protestants read the bible. Catholics read the bulletin.”

          And as a card carrying, bulletin reading Catholic I can say there’s more than a little truth to that IME.

          1. the gold digger

            I tried only once to get into a Bible contest with a co-worker. She was Baptist. I am Catholic. Guess who won?

            As far as the bulletin, my parish waits until after Mass to hand them out, probably to keep people like me from reading them during the responsorial psalm and during any song written by Marty Haugen, who I think has done more to drive Catholics out of the church than anyone else.

            1. Chinook

              I thought I was the only who noticed that every song I hate singing ends up being written by him!

              1. class factotum

                Ha. I think it’s a cottage industry to complain about Marty Haugen online. I have written about him so many times on my blog. Someone calling himself “Marty Haugen” actually commented in defense.

      3. louise

        oh man, so a thing! My church was too small to have a team and I was always bummed about that. My husband was a hardcore Bible quizzer–ended up winning two years of paid tuition at a Christian college out of it.

      4. Other Jamie

        ! I didn’t really know Bible Quiz was a “real” thing — I work at a small Christian university, and I work in the archives — I found a script from the 1950s of a bunch of questions from their Bible Quiz -TV- show held in… Abilene, I think? I was so tickled. They’d invite different groups of people in, like…students, or postal workers. Hee. :D

  21. Anonymousandstuff

    I had multiple undiagnosed medical conditions (severe obstructed sleep apnea, hypothyroidism, and chronic fatigue syndrome) although that doesn’t excuse the fact that I fell asleep at work. I missed a conference call and woke up to desperate IM’s from my colleagues telling me to get on the call OMG RIGHT NOW, but I was way too late. I missed a deadline too. Was fired, and rightly so. I’m medicated now and am not in danger of it happening again, and I do miss that job, it was great. Ah well!

  22. anon

    I was only in my job for about a year when I had to present a marketing plan to all my colleagues in my department (about 9 people). Near the end of the presentation, I was cruising along when someone made a joke and we all laughed.
    Then I farted. And everyone started to laugh as if I would laugh it off, but I didn’t. I just pretended it was my shoe squeaking. Then came the red face, the stammering speech, the rush to finish things and the long, awkward silence for the rest of the presentation.
    This was only 3 months ago. I have to do another department presentation soon. Crap.

    1. The Editor

      I am sorry, but I’m crying from laughing so hard. :-)

      I would not wish that kind of pain on my worst enemy, but since you freely admitted it, I’m taking a great deal of pleasure in the experience. And yes, whenever I present, my new mantra will be, “Don’t fart. Don’t fart. Don’t fart.”

  23. Susan

    It was a few months ago, back in September, I got my first real job right out of college. I loved the company and I was really looking forward to diving into the job and everything.

    Well, I was so nervous the night before I started and had been having some stomach problems, so I didn’t get much sleep. I went in and it was going well– met everyone, filled out some paper work, got a feel for what was to come…everything was moving along nicely. So, the clock strikes 4, 4:30, and I was leaving at 5, and somehow or another, I managed to close my eyes for a moment. My manager and two other employees were sitting there when he saw me sort of sleeping. It was totally unintentional and just a thing that happened.

    Came in the next day and the manager said he had to let me go. Not even given a chance–it was just a horrible thing and I’ve since had no luck in my job search since. I feel awful that I lost my first big girl job after one day and I’m still trying to recover, and hoping this one mistake hasn’t ruined my chances of ever being employed again!

    Definitely the most embarrassing thing to ever happen to me…I don’t know much else that could top it, either. I try to avoid thinking about it and not let it ruin the rest of my working career before it even starts, but…you know, it’s hard.

    And I will definitely do my best to NEVER let this EVER happen again…

    1. Anonicorn

      My goodness, that’s horrible! I can understand it on their end, catching you sleeping on your first day is not a good impression to make. But it seems like they should have talked to you about it, gotten your end of things.

      1. Layla

        Sleeping on the job was a firing offence in one of my employee handbooks –
        But dozing off seems quite normal !

    2. Elle D.

      My boyfriend got fired on his first day of his first professional job out of school. He continued his job search (obviously not mentioning his 1 day stint to any prospective employers) and was ultimately hired by a very well known and respected company. With the behavior that got him fired in the back of his mind, he worked incredibly hard to make a good impression and got promoted to within his first year. This negative can be a positive for you – it’s totally possible to bounce back from this mistake!

    3. Blinx

      Oh, that’s horrible! Too bad they didn’t give you a second chance. In my last job, I fell asleep during a meeting. The speaker was going on and on, and I could feel myself drifting… I think I fell asleep with my eyes open and came to when someone said “earth to Blinx”. I think I just repeated the last thing that I had heard, to show that I WAS listening… but oh boy. I usually try to dig my fingernails into my thumbs, under the conference table, to keep myself from nodding off.

    4. Katie the Fed

      Aww that’s terrible.

      I had an employee who fell asleep on the job his first day. We had a bit of a laugh about it and he turned out to my be my absolute best employee.

    5. Elizabeth West

      Oh that sucks that they didn’t at least say something to you. I would assume someone was just really tired for some reason, and at least ask them if they were okay. But to just fire them? That’s silly.

    6. Sarah

      Hi Susan

      These things happen to us all – we’re all human and unfortunately if you push your body to extremes it will often let you down – especially at work!

      If I was being fired (unless it was redundancy or end of contract etc) I would at least want an explanation – you’re entitled to it. I realise some time has now passed since you wrote this, but if it’s still bothering you, for your peace of mind, is it not worth approaching these people and asking why they let you go? You could do this by email/letter, putting your side of the story.

      It may well be that it wasn’t because you dozed off at all – or if it was, it was being used as an excuse (perhaps they had someone else lined up they preferred, or they realised they didn’t have the budget to cover your position – depending of course, on how efficient the company is).

      Unfortunately, following the aftermath of the credit crunch, it’s become an employer’s market, and the pressure is on managers too to produce better results with much less resource, making many working environments pressurised, unpleasant places to work.

      Going back to your ex-employers, if it was a “proper” job, with an efficient company, they should have done their due diligence before offering you the job, so they should have been confident enough about your character to at least give you a week’s trial after the “sleeping” incident!

  24. K

    Different “K” from the one above. The summer after I graduated from high school, one of my friend’s dads gave me an internship in his office. At first it was fine, and he was happy with the job I did on the first couple of tasks. Then he asked me to look into some broader problem, and I did a bit then got completely paralyzed and had no idea how to continue going about it. So I poked around at it a bit and mostly just sat at my desk thinking “oh my God, what am I doing? What does he want?” At the end of the summer, needless to say, I had very little productive work product. And every summer when I came back from college, I studiously avoided going to that friend’s house and running into his dad. I still cringe every time I hear him or that company mentioned.

    1. Steve G

      A testament as to why offering to take a job at a lower salary than posted does not make one look good in front of an employer. Higher paying jobs often involve such broader problems, and if you can’t solve them, it doesn’t matter if they’re paying you a 1/3 of the posted salary.

  25. Joey

    Long ago, against my own rules I went on some dates with someone I worked with. I rationalized to myself that we were adult enough to be mature about it if it didn’t work out. Little did I know her ex was a crazed lunatic. At first she dismissed his antics, but I ended up quitting because even though we only went on a couple of dates the guy would not accept her dating someone else. Even after I decided it wasnt worth the drama he continued to show show up at work and try to cause trouble for both of us all the time. So I just quit showing up. Of course I didn’t have another job lined up.

  26. Lore

    At a long-term temp job, I was lucky enough to have an office but was perpetually in fear of its being taken away. So one day, a coworker came in, told a dramatic story, slammed the door to illustrate some point in the story…and apparently slammed it so hard it broke the lock or something and we couldn’t get out. I was due to present an important report to my boss (the very temperamental department head) but I was too embarrassed to confess to her that I was locked in my office, so we spent a good half an hour trying to figure it out from the inside, and then calling building security, who basically had to take the lock apart from the outside. When my boss finally came by to find out where the report, my coworker, and I were, the whole thing was revealed. Fortunately, she thought it was hilarious, but did say several times, “Um, you could have just called me and we probably would have gotten you out of there sooner.” And the door-slamming coworker was teased pretty unmercifully as well.

    My lesson? Even if you look like a moron for doing so, it’s always better to err on the side of sharing rather than withholding information.

  27. tAMiAM

    This was back when I was in the Air Force. I was a weather observer and my duty location was open 24/7, 365 days a year. It was a weekend, the weather was great and me and a forecaster were working the midnight shift. Great weather means very little to do so we were listening to music to pass the time. And listening to the radio and on came that old Bangles song “Walk like an Egyptian”. Well about 5:30 in the morning after the song came on, I decided to make my coworker to laugh by not only doing the dance like they do in the video but by very loudly singing a change I made in the lyrics. I changed the words to “Walk like an erection” and that’s what I proudly sang as I came walking down the room and around a corner. But alas, standing at the front counter were 2 or 3 pilots who had stopped in for an early Sunday morning weather briefing! EEEEKKKK!!! They heard me and saw the whole dance. Being fighter pilots and used to living dangerously, they roared with laughter but I died of embarassment. And my co-workers just snickered.

    Ahh good times!

    1. Dang

      OMG, this made my Wednesday. Mostly because it sounds like something that would happen to me. Thanks for the laugh!!

  28. Angry Writer

    I was a 22 year old reporter who hated my job and hated the new town I had moved to for it. I complained constantly. So constantly that a coworker in his 40s suggested that if I didn’t like the job as much as I claimed, perhaps I should find another one. A couple of months later I had found a job. I came in and said to this senior reporter, “Hey So-in-so, I took your advice.” “Oh really? About what?” he asked cheerfully. “I got another job,” I said snidely, then turned around and walked off. He didn’t speak to me for my last two weeks … and I don’t blame him. WHAT WAS I THINKING?!

  29. Yup

    I sent my boss to the wrong city on a trip.

    I booked her flight to the wrong airport code. (I transposed two letters when entering the details online.) Her flight landed in a city 60 miles away from the conference, with no rental car or shuttle arrangements. She was not pleased. This boss was a particularly mean boss – think Devil Wears Prada – and subsequently sent me an email so scathing that I had to put my head down when I read it because I was positive that I’d be fired.

    From this, I learned several things. (1) How to sincerely apologize when wrong. (2) Print all travel arrangements and verify the printed copy before booking. (3) Don’t perform detail-oriented tasks when multitasking. (4) Nice bosses are worth their weight in gold.

    1. Amanda

      How did she manage not to notice that she was heading to the wrong city? Wasn’t there some announcement using the name of the city or a sign at the boarding area stating where the plane was going to? Didn’t she happen to glance down at her boarding pass?

      Yeah, you might have booked her to the wrong airport but she must have been REALLY unobservant to not notice that she was going to the wrong city!

      1. Lulu

        Seriously! Admin pet peeve of mine: yes, it’s my responsibility to do whatever I can to make the proper arrangements etc, but since you’re the one who actually has to make the trip, it’s on you if you can’t be bothered to review them before a mistake could be a significant issue… let alone when you’re actually boarding the plane (note: not applying for any jobs that say Career Admin wanted!)

    2. twentymilehike

      I sent my boss to the wrong city on a trip.

      I’m going to vote this as my favorite story on here. My company travels a lot and it can easily get Really Unorganized, so I can totally relate. I’ve personally been stranded at an airport I wasn’t even supposed to be at in the first place because my first flight got cancelled and my layover got screwed up and I ended up having to spend the night at the Chicago O’Hare Hilton with nothing but my purse and a $7 toothbrush they sold me. At least your boss had her luggage LOL

      1. fposte

        Ah, yes, I was just at that Hilton earlier this week because of a travel snafu. I wonder if anyone stays there intentionally?

    3. Z

      Well, 60 miles off isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.
      I used to book travel, too, and one time when the big boss called from a business trip and asked to have his flight moved so he’d return a day earlier, I accidentally booked the flight for November 26 instead of October 26. He called me from the airport saying the check-in desk said there was no such flight number as the one he was scheduled on. (That service didn’t start for another couple weeks.) He was really nice about the mistake, but jeez.

      1. Lulu

        I’m sure I’ve probably done this at least once – see my comment about traveler responsibility ;) I was always pretty meticulous when booking travel precisely because I was terrified I’d screw something up, though, and my people would often change their proposed arrangements so many times that you weren’t always 100% sure what the current plan was! (My mother keeps suggesting I look into working in the travel industry – are you kidding me???? Nightmare.)

      2. Rana

        My husband and I did something like this to ourselves. We booked a Thanksgiving trip that had one half of the trip on a date in November 2011, and the return on a date in November 2012! We did not realize this until the night before, when we attempted to print out our boarding passes. That was an expensive mistake.

    4. bearing

      She had to take it out on you because otherwise she would have had to admit to herself that she didn’t notice that her ticket had the wrong city on it, that her boarding pass had the wrong city on it, that the sign on the gate had the wrong city on it, that the gate attendant announced boarding for the wrong city, and that the flight attendant announced that the airplane doors would now be closing for imminent departure to the wrong city.

    5. Lynn

      At least it was only sixty miles. You could have sent her to Bermuda instead of Berlin or something.

    6. Frances

      This is EXACTLY why I get incredibly anxious booking travel. The worst thing I’ve done so far is accidentally transpose someone’s name when buying the ticket — strangely enough it turns out TSA doesn’t care about that as much if both names are spelled the same way they are on the ID. But especially since we are in a fairly popular tourist destination and the guests/contractors I book for often want to extend their stay a few days I am always terrified I’m going to miss a date change.

      1. businesslady

        oh, AND I once completely blanked on my boss’s hotel arrangements until I was putting the itinerary together (like three days before the trip) & realized I couldn’t find a confirmation…because there wasn’t one. & I’d booked the flights like a month in advance! I’m still not sure how I managed to do that. fortunately there was a room available at a rate within our budget, so no one was the wiser–but I have NEVER approached an online reservation form with so much anxiety.

      2. Lulu

        Actually, I DO have a cringeworthy travel tale: a boss I loved asked me to cancel a personal trip at the 11th hour, and I somehow got sucked into other things and realized that the deadline had passed where I could cancel for him and get a refund. If this had been a business trip, no big deal, the company ate worse pointless expenses all the time, but it was his own money that I’d accidentally spent. I felt beyond terrible, and finally just took a deep breath and explained to him what had happened. He was very understanding about it, probably because I was usually on top of things and we had a very good relationship otherwise. There may also have been some way for him to write it off – it was “only” about $200, but that was a chunk of change to me! I still feel terrible about it. The only lesson I learned, other than that bosses aren’t always mean and scary, is that I’m really uncomfortable managing other people’s money for a reason.

    7. Anonymous Accountant

      This is my dream to send my boss on a trip to the wrong city. Unfortunately, he books all his own travel arrangements. Hmmm. let me indulge my dream for a moment. :)

    8. businesslady

      I love how all these stories are dredging up Memories of Screw-Ups past.

      I never messed up travel, but I did once send my boss to a lunch meeting on the wrong day. he walked there–about four blocks from our office–with a broken foot (paging Alison! & also, of course this happened when he had a broken foot), waited around for 20 minutes, & then called to ask me to double-check the scheduling.

      all in all, probably took at least an hour out of his workday, not to mention the painful mile or so of walking. whuuuups…

    9. Sunday's Child

      Oh, travel stories! I had a conference to attend at another major city, but my attendance got approved too late to get the conference rate at the hotel. I went ahead and booked my room at the same hotel anyway. At the hotel’s rate, it would have been cheaper for me to fly to and from the conference every single day rather than stay at that hotel. Yes, it was quite expensive. My director spoke to me about it when I turned in my expense report. I never made that mistake again. Another one for “what was I thinking!”

    10. Sabrina

      I had booked travel for someone I didn’t normally work for, including a limo pick up the morning of his flight. Well his plans got cancelled and I cancelled the flight and hotel just fine, and forgot all about the limo pick up. The limo arrived at his house the morning of the flight. At 3:30 AM. Waking him and his entire family up for no reason.

    11. Elizabeth West

      Oh no!

      I did something similar…was supposed to book my boss for presentations, and inadvertently booked one which resulted in his having to drive a hundred miles away for it. He couldn’t get out of it either. It was so stupid; I didn’t check WHERE he was going. He was nice about it, but I felt like such a freaking idiot. *facepalm*

    12. Linea

      Love this! And I did this to myself once at my old job, too!

      I was supposed to fly to two back-to-back meetings (on two consecutive days) in another country. I was supposed to get there on October 26 (e.g.), in order to attend the meetings on Oct 27 & Oct 28. The flight was in the afternoon, so in the morning I came to the office with luggage and all to finish up some things.

      Some four hours before the flight, I decided to do an online check-in, to avoid queues at the airport. However, when I entered my “booking code” the system informed me that I could not check in, and this service was available only in the 24 hours directly before the flight. At first indignant (“but it’s within the period, it’s 4 hours before the flight”!), I checked the ticket again and saw that it was for the next day (Oct 27)!! [face-palm]

      So, I could either buy an expensive ticket for that same day, or wait for the next-day flight and miss the first meeting. After some frantic phone calls with my boss and the people I was supposed to be meeting, in the end I bought the expensive new same-day ticket (and was reimbursed afterwards). With lots of apologizing, of course.

      Oh, yeah, I booked the flight myself through a travel agent, exchanged several e-mails with said agent, confirmed the dates and everything. I even booked the hotel for the wrong two days! I have no idea what was going on, I was doing this almost automatically (since I booked trips often) and apparently my subconcious decided the meetings were not on Oct 27&28, but Oct 28&29. My old colleagues (who shared an office and this drama with me) still laugh about this regularly. :-)

    13. Long Time Admin

      I’m so glad to read all these travel mistakes, especially since I’m interviewing next week for an admin job which includes travel arrangements. It doesn’t make me nervous at all…

  30. Sky

    Cringe worthy and funny at the same time…

    I’m an advisor for a student group (as well as a librarian) and we were supposed to have a cookout for one of the athletic teams. My fridge was packed with 50 packages of hotdogs and condiments. My counter tops were filled with hotdog buns and bags of chips. So, I’m packing everything, getting ready to head out to the field and I get a text from the head coach of the team, the game had to be moved to the opposing teams field, the cookout was canceled. She happens to be a good friend so I texted back,”Great…what about the f&^%ing hotdogs?” and it was a group text…so it went to a couple of the VP’s at the college, the AD, other coaches and higher ups.

    Holy crap. I just about died.

    Monday morning one of the VP’s came into my office and said, “So, what about those f&^%ing hotdogs?” Thankfully, everyone thought it was hilarious…while I was mortified because I hadn’t even been on the job a year and the week before it was announced that I was the Lincoln County Mom of the Quarter, there was a huge newspaper article about me and our family. The college president sent a congratulatory note…and everyone thought I was such a sweet girl.

    My cover was blown…

  31. Anon

    I was cussed out by a manager and rightfully so for messing up a deadline for some after work “team building” crap. I cried and he felt bad. We moved on from that because we both realized we were in the wrong. He was wrong for screaming/cursing, I was DEAD wrong for not managing my work properly and screwing up the deadline.

    I’m no longer at that job, but we have a wonderful relationship to this day. In fact, I just hired him for a work project and it went great.

    I was young and I learned. He was under pressure by a crazed client, and I now understand that pressure too.

  32. JLL

    One of the first places I ever interviewed out of high school for asked me how much vacation I thought I’d need, so i (out loud) figured out that based on the vacations I was planning on taking, i’d need 3 weeks. For some terrible call center job or something- i think it was a call center for a security company. Given what I know now about call centers, unsurprisingly, the room cooled after i said that LOL.

    1. Parfait

      Why do people even ask questions like that for jobs where they know they aren’t going to be flexible? Sheesh.

  33. Anonicorn

    I apologize in advance; this is a bit of a read.

    Near the start of my career, after working at a completely drama-free environment full of IT geeks, I ended up in a less-than-ideal workplace. I had to bring in my personal laptop and work from the corner of someone else’s desk before they had a desk and computer for me. The CEO was…scary. My first week she argued with one of the two IT guys and threatened to fire him – just because he was giving her (sound) advice. No HR. This place was tiny tiny small.

    My actual work day consisted of finishing whatever my boss gave me to do that morning, then reading news articles until he maybe gave me something else to do. I was afraid it would look bad if I didn’t have enough to do, and I was afraid of the CEO. So I didn’t ask. I just waited. I didn’t know any better. However, my boss never once complained that I wasn’t doing enough for him.

    One day the CEO decided to restructure everyone and I ended up working under her assistant, which I resented because she didn’t have a degree or any management experience. She also micromanaged like nobody’s business and went a power crazy. She made me do, what I considered at the time, ridiculously meaningless tasks like file papers alphabetically. (I suspected this was actually her job.) I complained to my friends that I didn’t get a degree just to use the alphabet.

    After the assistant came to my desk one day and told me to “keep the chit-chat down” (she noticed I was Google Taking with one of my coworkers–about work!), I had quite enough and sought out who I assumed was a friendly coworker. We’ll call her Mary. I told Mary how upset I was about the whole arrangement, about having no HR to help me, etc., and she seemed sympathetic.

    A few days later, a male coworker whom I rarely even saw, came to my desk and said, “I wouldn’t trust Mary.” Stunned, I asked what he meant. He simply said “I just wouldn’t talk to Mary anymore.” Then another coworker said something similar to me that same day. This coworker went further, saying how awful the place was and that she hasn’t gotten a proper raise in 20 years.

    I decided not to talk to Mary anymore, but she approached me to suggest that I talk to the CEO’s sister about my problems. Wow, no thank you.

    Fortunately, I was able to move on, but I feel like the whole experience was marred.

    Lessons? I know now that I should have been asking for more work rather than waiting for someone to give it to me. I shouldn’t have been so resentful toward the assistant. She did at least have more experience there than I did. And I should have done excellent work for her, no matter it was, if nothing else just to show her how easy it would have been for me. And I absolutely should not have complained to a coworker. I will never, ever do that again! The whole ordeal makes my stomach turn.

  34. SC in SC

    Here’s a slight twist in that this was done to me as opposed to me doing it. I had a direct report go on and on one day about a particular wine that she liked. I’m not much of a wine drinker but she seemed so amazed by it that when she offered to get me a bottle I agreed. More to be polite than anything else. I paid her for the bottle and told her to pick it up the next time she went to get some…no big deal. About a week later she mentions that she has the wine in her car and we make arrangements to get it when we’re leaving at the end of the day.

    The next morning I check my email and notice there’s something from her sent right before we left the office. When I open the email it’s obvious that she did not mean to send it to me since it’s an ongoing conversation with someone else bad mouthing me and complaining about getting me the bottle of wine. As you can expect I wasn’t very happy about it but I wasn’t that upset either. However, I couldn’t resist sending a response pointing out that I believe she meant that email for someone else. Mortified would be a good description of the phone call I received about 30 seconds later.

    1. Ellie H.

      I really hate that – when someone offers to do a favor for you in such a way that you feel rude if you don’t accept it, but you didn’t want the thing in the first place and feel totally guilty that he or she went out of his or her way for you.

  35. JC

    The first job I ever had was as a student worker during my undergraduate years. Even though it was a terrible work environment, with a boss who was more of a mood swing than an actual manager, I always regret quitting the way I did. I basically went up to him during my last shift and clumsily told him this would be my last day and I wouldn’t be coming back for the fall semester. He just huffed at me and walked away. I’m not sure to this day if saying it differently would have changed his response, but I feel like I could have said it better and less abruptly.

    Another cringe-worthy moment was my first phone interview. The manager called me just as my mother was coming in with groceries. And she was angry with me about something. So as I was beginning to answer questions my mother was screaming at me in the background. I had to quickly drop the phone and shush at her to keep quiet. She did albeit reluctantly. I could barely answer the manager’s questions after that. I remember one question I couldn’t properly answer “Describe to me a time when you failed at something.” I told the guy I couldn’t remember anything! “You mean to say you haven’t failed at anything in your life?” “No, uh, I just can’t remember anything right now…” “You can’t?? Nothing?!” I was so mortified. I don’t even remember the rest of the interview. A couple days later I was sent a poorly automated email saying I wouldn’t proceed to the next round of interviews. Ughhh.

    1. VictoriaHR

      I was once presented with a panel of 8 managers that I worked with on a regular basis, for an internal interview for a promotional opportunity. They asked me a similar question and I was so intimidated by the number of people in the room staring at me, that I couldn’t think of an answer. Didn’t get that one, either.

    2. Ivy

      Stupidest question I’ve every had in an interview: “Tell me a time where you did something, for which you later had to apologize.” I couldn’t think of a response. I assume he was looking for an answer about a professional situation, i.e. I messed up something for a client. But I had only had one job before and it fast food. I don’t think he cares about me making a coffee incorrectly. I didn’t want to say something petty, but at the same time I didn’t want to say something too big…. Mostly, I just couldn’t think of anything. Such a stupid question. Questions like that don’t belong in an interview for part-time retail work!

  36. Jamie

    My one and only “all users” mistake.

    After a very stressful day I meant to send this site to a friend in another department…

    http://www.goatsonline.com/

    But it went out to anyone. Days after I had sent out an email telling people to make sure they read emails from IT because some were missing import information on security updates, maintenance, etc.

    Yeah. Important information like where to buy sneakers for your goats.

    Proof though that my weirdness with goats pre-dates when I found AAM.

    1. Lulu

      That. is. awesome. And much more interesting than the sports-related shares I’m used to receiving from IT!

  37. BW

    Back in the day, when I had a workstudy job that involved taking registration for classes, I had a guy come in insisting that my boss had told him he could take a class free of charge. However, since my boss was not in the office, I was unable to verify this, and told him I would have to hold his registration, and he’d have to stop back in. I was totally following procedure. We’d just been talked to about exactly this kind of thing. Just because someone *says* they can take a class without paying for it, doesn’t mean it’s true, and anyone who said this had to get approval from certain people in the office. He mentioned he was some city councilor, but seriously, I could not, as a workstudy go ahead and complete the registration without getting official approval.

    The guy seemed rather irritated. I took this as a normal reaction. When he left, the office secretary looked at me rather horrified and asked, “Do you know who that was?” She could not believe I had just told a city politician that I could not process his registration without being able to verify that our boss had in fact said she was waiving tuition for him.

    I’m not terribly embarrassed about that one either, but the reaction of my co-workers who witnessed it told me I should be. Oh well. I was never good with politics, and it would have been my butt on the line if I processed that without getting approval. I don’t care who the guy was. I was a student worker, and I was told never ever ever to just take anyone’s word that they were entitled to a free class, and no one ever mentioned to me or left a note somewhere that our boss had told this guy he didn’t have to pay. Huge office and city politics faux pas on my part though. Apparently I should have been intimidated and deferential to his status or self-importance or something. Whatever.

    1. BW

      Lesson? I can’t work in environments that require political butt-kissing and/or favoritism or where I have to listen to people come to me saying “I’m related to so-so important person, and my granddaughter was given a scholarship. So please take this registration I’m doing for her without any payment just on my word because but but but I am NAME DROPPING!” :-)

      1. Sascha

        Seriously! I would have done the exact same thing. And I’ve done similar stuff in my current job – even when I did know who the VIP was. If they want me to circumvent policy, they can take it up with my boss. I’m not putting myself on the line.

    2. iseeshiny

      That story makes me so happy. I work in a place that is composed almost entirely of catering to the ridiculous demands of the privileged and I daydream sometimes about telling some of our more summer’s eve-y members where they can stick it.

    3. aname

      Heh. I worked at an event once and we had a comedian one night. The next day a guy tries to walk into the conference without ID (I was on the door as a volunteer) so I asked for his badge… he wasn’t happy he had to point out that he was the comedian from last night.

    4. Nikki

      Wait, they witnessed it? If they thought he should be waived in, why didn’t anyone intervene and say it would be sorted out later? Especially since you were a student worker obviously following procedure…sigh…

      1. BW

        Apparently no one wanted to be the person telling this guy “no”. Let the student worker do it, and they, as real employees, don’t have to be in that awkward position where someone complains to their boss for following procedure. That’s my guess, because if it were really okay to let the guy register without paying because he was a city councillor, they could have easily intervened and taken care of it for him instead of leaving me to be the bad guy.

    5. ChristineH

      That kind of things just drive me nuts…can’t recall specifics, but I’m sure I’ve had things like this happen to me in past front desk jobs. I hate feeling like I’m doing something wrong just because I’m following the rules and no one tells me about the exception.

    6. Natalie

      Oh, FFS, I think you did just fine. I sit on a committee related to a local development and follow local news quite closely, and I wouldn’t recognize any of my city council members if they showed up in my office. The only local politician I recognize is the mayor, and that’s probably only because we have a lot of the same interests so I see him everywhere.

    7. Sabrina

      I was also a student worker and had something similar happen. I worked in the events box office and the school had just opened a brand new performing arts building and had a big event with some somewhat famous musician to headline it. The event sold out really fast and even the reserve tickets that went to people like the college president and VP were gone. We literally had none left. But the day before a guy calls in and wants tickets. I tell him I’m sorry but we have none left. He says “You don’t understand, I’m Bob Jones.” Apparently that was supposed to mean something to me. I told him again, I was sorry, but we had no more tickets. This went on for a few minutes until he hung up on me. Turns out he was the vice assistant muckety-muck something or other architect on the project. Whatever, not my fault you don’t plan ahead! Oh and he did not get tickets. Since there were none to be had! LOL

  38. Amanda

    First job interview ever, as a page in the children’s room of my local public library, with two librarians who had known me since I was a toddler. I was 13, would have turned 14 just in time for hiring me to be legal, and under a mandate from my parents to get a job.

    One of the librarians asked me “Can you describe any weaknesses you might have?”

    I looked at her and said quite earnestly and bluntly, “Well, I don’t really like people very much.”

    No real recovery from that. They thanked me for my time, I didn’t get the job. I did start volunteering in the adult department the next month, and a few months after that started working as a page there. I worked there on and off for the next five years.

  39. Anon

    I still cringe at my management naivete sometimes. My first job out of college, I only “managed” faculty and that means I herded cats. It was great and I loved it. So, my second job (4 years later) was my first time managing people. I didn’t start it out great by setting expectations and what not. Added to that I look about 17. Third to that is the “Queen Bee” who now reported to me had been allowed to do whatever she wanted. I can see you seeing this all go downhill.

    After about 8 months, I got the “some people are unhappy” conversation from another one of my staff. And I, stupidly, said let’s all talk about it together. As it turns out, it was basically pre-planned personal attack including slams to my character among other things. I wasn’t just thrown under a bus. I was thrown under an aircraft carrier. I cried. Oh yeah, I cried.

    Then got a great pep talk from my boss and then the big boss and put on my big girl shoes. Within the span of about 6 months, I was able to bring in an all new team. The best team I’ve ever worked with.

    And I so learned my lesson. Which is good because I just found out about 10 minutes ago that I’m getting a promotion and a fraking enormous raise to compensate for basically doubling my workload and additional staff. I have a plan now.

    1. Jamie

      Awesome!! Is this the week of success stories or what?

      Congrats! Do something fun with the first bigger check!

  40. Wintie

    I was 18 years old and helped out with various things at a market research company. Once I was asked to go to the store and buy “all variants” of a particular brand of jam for a focus group later that day. The nearest store was 2 minutes away (on foot), but for some reason that I don’t recall I went to a megastore 10 minutes away where they had 40+ variants of that brand. I dutifully bought them all (fielding a lot of questions at the cash register and from the cab driver I hailed to help me transport the bags). Back at the company I came into the 20-person open plan office with my multiple bags filled with heavy glass jars of jam when the person who had instructed me started laughing and informed me loudly enough to direct everyone’s attention to me and my bags that all she needed was three or four variants (which was all they stocked at the store next door). To this day, over a decade later, I can still feel the burning humiliation in my cheeks.

    The incident did teach me never to go to work with a hangover again.

    1. Rana

      Wow, how uncool of that person. Even if what you did was wrong (and I don’t think it inherently was, since they didn’t tell you they only need three or four) mocking you in front of your co-workers is just mean.

    2. AgilePhalanges

      Aw, I agree with Rana that that was mean. But I know what you mean about odd shopping trips. I work in Marketing, too, and we needed to replicate the exact store set of our category, so we headed to the nearby grocery store, took photos of the relevant section, and proceeded to buy two of every single product (except our own, because we have plenty of it at the office already). At least I don’t work for a feminine hygiene company or something, but we still got some odd looks checking out with a cart FULL of candy. :-)

      1. Cali

        Not work related but odd shopping related: Once in college the dollar store was selling Bibles and we wanted to get enough Bibles for our Friday night Christian Fellowship meeting that every person could have one if they didn’t bring one. So we bought some large amount, don’t remember the exact number but let’s go with 40. And a videotape for some reason. Still remember the cashier saying something like “Forty Bibles and a videotape. What kind of party are you guys having?” Don’t remember how we answered, but I hope it was some sort of honest explanation. :)

  41. COT

    My first post-college job was at a smallish nonprofit. Our office manager did our IT support, and she wasn’t very good at it (it had just been added to her job without any training). Having done basic IT support at my campus job, I knew more about IT than she did.

    I was very concerned about our lack of password and workstation security. For some reason I thought that the way to address this was not to mention it gently to her, but to write an email to her boss (who was the CFO, whose job has nothing to do with IT). I received a polite email back telling me that I had to bring this concern directly to the office manger, not the CFO.

    It wasn’t the worst thing ever, but I’m still embarrassed that I tried to undermine the office manager, made myself look pretty arrogant for being such a new employee, and handled office politics so poorly. I’m still not great at navigating organizational politics (and I don’t have patience for them), but I’ve at least learned how to do better than that blunder.

    In the coming months, the office manager did get additional IT training and got better at her job, so she came out looking better than I did!

  42. Coelura

    So this is from the time when all of IT carried text pagers. I was exchanging shall we say non-business texts with my boyfriend. One day I got a text asking me to please call a number and name I’d never heard of before. It turned out to be a poor guy that was getting a copy of every single text my boyfriend was sending me and the guy’s wife was convinced he was having an affair. We called Sprint together and discovered there was an error on their server that meant he got a copy of every single text I received. And his wife had started calling the numbers I had been sent and asking if her husband was having an affair with me. Vendors, customers, and my boss had gotten calls from her! Needless to say, I was beyond mortified!!
    I have never communicated romantic IMs or texts again!! And I spoke directly to his wife and called Sprint with her so she heard directly from Spint that they were accidentally crossing two lines. Then I started telling EVERYBODY about my experience. I’m not sure everyone believed my story, but it was the only thing I could think of to do to reduce the damage this poor guy’s wife caused to my reputation.

      1. Michelle.2

        Why do so few people understand that modern phone calls are routed via computer and it is *totally* possible for goofy stuff like this to happen?

        I’ve met people who don’t believe me when I tell them that, for one day, all my calls to their # went to the same different person. Then the next day (I assume the bug got found within a few hours) my calls would go through as normal. I ran this past an IT expert buddy of mine and he agreed that it *does* happen.

        I would totally believe you.

    1. Tasha

      Wow! I’m glad that you got that figured out.

      Something technically similar, but far less damaging, happened to me. About a year after getting a new cell phone number, I started getting calls meant for someone who lived in another state. These weren’t casual calls: every single one seemed to come from a university admissions office, health care provider, or coworker/boss saying “please get in touch ASAP.” They generally left voice mails. I called back whenever possible, explained that X was not at this number, and crossed my fingers that the recipient would eventually get the message. They stopped a couple months(!) after that, so X apparently figured out the problem.

      1. Scott M

        Something similar here. Except its my company-provided Blackberry. Whoever “Jessica” is, she needs to pay her bills and stop giving her creditors my work number.

        1. Elizabeth West

          I had something coming in for “Carmen White” on my landline a few years ago. I had had this number for 8 years before this started happening. There were creditors, and one man who called saying he was her dad or something, and he couldn’t contact her, and was worried about her kids.

          I am one number different from child support enforcement here, so I called them and reported it just in case it was something through them. Eventually the calls stopped. I never did find out anything about it, but I hope it worked out okay.

          Another time, I was getting late night calls and when I answered, they would hang up. Every night around 11:30 the phone rang. Finally one night, a man said “Oh sorry,” when I answered, and I said “Wait!” and asked him what number he was actually trying to call. He said it, and I corrected him and asked who it was. He mumbled “a dating service,” and hung up. I laughed my ass off and then called the cops and reported the escort service’s phone number. :)

    2. Anonymous

      I don’t understand why her first inclination in that situation was to call all the other numbers and yell at them for potentially cheating with her husband…even if they were his other partners, shall we say, what would that accomplish?

      I think this is the best one yet, though.

  43. Cody C

    I was interviewing for a job with a company that does the in store celebrity appearances for a major retailer and I was crushing it. The manager asked if I got intimidated or fanatical around celebrities. Well as luck would have it I had a previous job at a hotel where one night a famous movie star was staying and he and I sat up all night drinking cold ones a shooting the bull so I told that story. I thought it made me look calm and collected and not Wowed by fame but to the manager it made me look just the opposite. As it turns out the girl that had the job was let go because she got on the bus with one of the bands. The company still hired me but for a completely unrelated position and I got to watch as the person in the cool job jetted around the country on famous people’s private planes!

  44. Stephanie

    Ooooh, fun topic! I will have to read through all of these later.

    I had just “quit” my last job (i.e., quit now or we’ll fire you) and was searching. My best friend’s mother was a friend of the general counsel at at very large, well-known consulting house. So HR calls me to “chat” about my interests. Except I totally didn’t interpret the “chat” as an interview and didn’t half prepare. I barely had things to say about the company and what projects I would be interested in. I tried to save face with a follow-up email, but to no avail.

    Anyway, lesson learned: treat everything as professional business correspondence, even I they’re not calling an interview or to chat about a specific position.

  45. Kdizzle

    I was a management intern at a well known retailer back a million years ago. I was in the back working on the schedule, and lost track of time. I walked out of the office towards the exit only to see the evening manager walking to his car. He locked me in the store for the night.

    It was a serious “wtf?” moment, and much to everyone’s amusement, there were security tapes that showed me in a panic and pounding on the glass screaming.

    I walked out the back door and set off the fire alarm. The fire department came, but I left before they showed up.

  46. the gold digger

    Am I the only one who is going to admit to getting drunk at the huge regional annual meeting and necking with her boss’ married boss?

    Or am I the only one stupid enough ever to have done it?

    1. twentymilehike

      Haha …

      Or am I the only one stupid enough ever to have done it?

      I did get super drunk at a Christmas party once and ended up practically throwing myself at my bosses out-of-town partner while my date was sitting on the other side of me. We didn’t end up making out probably because I spent half the night laying on the bathroom floor puking.

    2. Just a Reader

      I got drunk at a happy hour when I was BRAND NEW and had to spend the night at a coworker’s (read: stranger’s) apartment and borrow her clothes for work the next day.

      The shame never dissapated and I quit not long after.

    3. Jenny

      A co-worker of mine got so drunk at our last holiday party that she puked all over our CEO’s couch. Then she ran upstairs and passed out on his bed, so he had to clean the couch and sleep on it that night. No making out with anyone though.

      Holiday parties are dangerous!

      1. Anon

        I got drunk at the holiday party and wound up making out with an equally drunk coworker. Thankfully we didn’t do it in view of anyone.

    4. Yep, me

      Yeah, I got utterly wasted at my leaving do and slept with my (married and with a pregnant wife) boss.

      It is probably the only thing in my entire life that I am really, truly ashamed of. Thankfully, no one (as far as I know) ever found out.

    5. dejavu2

      I was a mere 22 years old, and I got tanked at an event with clients and coworkers. Some of my coworkers had a really edgy, boundary defying sense of humor, and had come up with… (this was ten years ago, but I am still mortified that this happened)… a joke involving polyamory and down syndrome. Initially, I had been uncomfortable with this inside joke, but eventually it just seemed normal. So, drunk and delusional, I shared the joke with a client. He was horrified, to say the least. I have never gotten drunk at a work function since then. I never mentioned or participated in the joke again. Ugh! Man, I have done some stupid things in my professional life, but this might be the only one truly worth a cringe all these years later. It was really, really stupid of me on every level.

      1. Michelle.2

        This topic reminds me of an Onion joke I saw on a card:
        Picture guy at water’s edge in a swamp with a beer, laughing at an alligator with it’s mouth open.
        Caption says “Studies show alligators dangerous no matter how drunk you are”

    6. GoingAnon

      It was an actual relationship and not a hookup and I wasn’t drunk (just in loooove) but I did seriously put my professional reputation at risk for a dude. I won’t get into details, but if certain people had found out, it could’ve been ugly. And I somewhat knew that at the time but didn’t fully acknowledge it until I was out of the situation and saw things with a more objective perspective.

      1. GoingAnon2

        Yes! This sums up some stupid stuff I did too. And I had already acknowledged as a fact that love makes people stupid, but while in love and lust I couldn’t control myself. Those decisions … so very bad.

    7. Lindsay

      So I moved to a new state with my fiance when he relocated for his job. I got a job at another property with the same company. His coworkers are all his age and are having a party and he invites me to come along.

      About half-way into our drive there he says, “By the way, Jason [guy hosting the party] is roommates with Justin [my new boss].”

      And that is how I wound up getting trashed and playing “Never-have-I-ever” with my new boss before I worked a day for him. We don’t speak of this ever.

  47. A Nonny Mouse

    Let me start this out by explaining that my iPhone has both my personal and work email accounts on it. My default view is “All Inboxes” so that I don’t have to switch back and forth between accounts. When you reply to an email, it comes from the email address to which the email was sent. I didn’t want my work email attached to my personal iPhone, but my boss insisted, so I really didn’t have any other option.

    That out of the way, I was emailing on my iPhone from my personal email with a friend of mine, Jane, who had just moved to this snowy deathtrap of a city from sunny California. She was having a hard time getting used to the weather. I said something snarky, and she responded with, “We can’t be friends anymore.” I replied with, “You HAVE to be friends with me. Otherwise how will you survive here? ALL WE HAVE IS EACH OTHER, JANE.”

    Except I accidentally “replied all” to the email below hers, which was to my work email from a client, and on which my boss had been copied. Add to that, my only coworker’s name is ALSO Jane. So it sounded like I was complaining about our working conditions to my coworker, when really, I was making fun of my friend’s inability to deal with the weather! My boss replied with, “Did you MEAN to send this?”

    Well, of course I didn’t. So I sent an appropriately humble and embarrassed email to the client and to my boss, explaining the situation, and apologizing for the confusion. The client emailed back and said, “No sweat, figured something like that happened!” My boss tends to be the “make a bigger deal out of it than it is” type and is still stewing over “what the client thinks of us,” but honestly, given anything I could have said, this was relatively mild. Embarrassing, yes. But mild.

    I removed my work email from my iPhone that night, and told my boss that I would login to the OWA site via the browser three times a night. My reasoning was that my carrier charges more for “business” email plans than personal, and that I’d have to pay an extra $40 a month to continue accessing my business email on my phone (which isn’t a lie). I just won’t risk the same thing happening twice!

  48. twentymilehike

    First off .. these are really great stories that brightened my day :)

    My first college job after moving a state away from home was at a cafe; I was 17. A family came in with two children probably about 10 or so. I was serving them drinks and the girl wanted a root beer. I asked the other server where the root beer was and she pointed at some bottles while she was rushing by. Shortly after serving the drinks, the dad called me over to inform me that what I gave the little girl was a actual beer. He was not pleased.

    Fast forward about then years. I’m finally at my big Career job (which I’m still at). I have a customer on the phone who is being quite argumentative and I need to have my boss come in and talk to him to straighten things out. I put him on hold and my boss, coworker and I talk about the call for a minute–including bitching about how the customer is a know-it-all and full of himself and so forth. Turns out I didn’t put the customer on hold.

    I put him on speaker phone.

    The funny thing though, was that I think he knew he was being an ass, because he wasn’t really all that upset. Lessons learned: (1) always make sure the correct light is lit up before proceeding to talk sh*t and (2) try to avoid talking sh*t.

  49. Dana

    In my college days I was working at a restaurant waiting tables and I quit without notice. That in and of itself would probably be shameful enough for me now, but it gets worse. I had every intention of going into work that fateful night but before my shift started I had planned on helping a friend who lived close to the restaurant pack for a big move. I parked my car in the designated area for employees, my friend picked me up from there and the plan was to have her drop me off in time for work. After packing there were still several hours before my shift so we decided to get a bite to eat at a nearby mexican restaurant which had particulary good margaritas. I’m pretty sure you see where this is going, but I spell it out anyway.

    After lamenting to my friend how much I disliked the job I was headed for that evening she suggested that I just not go. I had never considered this option an before (nor have I since) but after one margarita it did not seem like such a bad idea, after two it seemed quite brilliant. After the third one I was pretty much done for the night and ended up in in a face plant on my friends sofa.

    The next morning I celebrated my first day of unplanned unemployment by floating with my friend in her backyard pool. With my face to the sun and my toes in the water I silently congratulated myself for thumbing my nose at rules and sticking it to the man. My relvelry was cut short when two policemen came around the side of the house looking for me.

    What I didn’t consider was that a young women had recently been kidnapped by her car, this was all over the news at the time so the fact that my car was at my place of employment but I hadn’t shown up for work was a red flag. I had listed my friend, among others, as one of my emergency contacts. She obviously hadn’t been home the previous night and hadn’t heard the phone the next morning as we sat by the pool, thus the personal visit from law enforcement.

    They were actually quite nice and explained that while it’s not against the law to not show up for work it certainly is a courtesy to call and not worry everyone. They also suggested I immediately call my family members who had also been listed as emergency contacts since they were quite concerned. Needless to say I have never quit without clear and sufficient notice again.

    1. Nikki

      I can honestly say, I did NOT see that coming :) . Was thinking more along the lines of a towed/impounded car!

  50. Brittany

    I worked at a small electronics and security firm shortly after college. I was the admin and my boss, the office manager, was extremely inappropriate. I didn’t realize how much so until she started breaking tons of rules (i.e. having me leave the front desk to “help her” with a project, which mostly consisted of smoking ciggs and talking smack about others in the office – I complied initially because she was my boss and the next step was the CEO). I was on the verge on going to HR to complain about these “breaks” when I received an email from her.

    She sent me an email on the company Outlook of a Some E-Card that read “My penis is so large it could wound you”. Funny, but not in the office! We had a super strict IT policy, so the fact that she was even going to these sites was a huge violation, not to mention attaching 3rd party images and sending them through our network.

    Not unsurprisingly, he was fired the next day. Surprisingly though, I was fired as well for “participating” even though all I did was harmlessly open the email. Made me wish I had spoken with HR much, much sooner so I had a paper record of not endorsing her behavior. The company is, however, pretty irrational. I was not the first admin to be gone almost immediately for a not so legitimate reason.

  51. Another one

    in my job interview, in front of an entire committee, when asked “where do you see yourself in 5 years” i cheerfully replied “hopefully married”… i wanted the ground to swallow me up! :)

  52. Seal

    Several jobs ago, my hugely incompetent boss got a job in another department, leaving a major RFP hanging. I wound up not only completing the RFP but also taking on most of his other duties. Despite the fact that everyone who worked with me thought I was a vast improvement over my now-former boss, his boss absolutely hated me and refused to promote me. My completing the RFP saved her sorry ass as well, but literally the day after it was signed she promoted someone else into my former boss’s job and left me a voicemail to that effect. I quit on the spot with a blistering resignation letter – still one of the most empowering moments in my entire career.

    However, this ugly situation also includes one of the most cringe-worthy moments of my career. My former boss was a unit head, and despite the fact I was the interim unit head after he left, I was intentionally not invited to the biweekly department meetings because, as mentioned above, his boss hated me. Never mind that I was the only unit head – interim or otherwise – who didn’t attend these meetings, or that information critical to my doing my job was disseminated only at those meetings. My boss’s boss didn’t want me there and that was that.

    That is, until the RFP was nearing completion. Since I was the only one who knew what was going on, my boss’s boss had no choice but to invite me to the meeting to give an update. She told me in advance that I was at the beginning of the agenda so I could leave when I was done. But after my update, when she thanked me for coming, I actually had the nerve to ask if I could stay for the rest of the meeting! To save face, she had no other choice but to say yes, but she was clearly FURIOUS that I had publicly flaunted her authority. So I stayed for what turned out to be a very boring meeting, proud of myself for one-upping this evil woman and completely ignorant of how uncomfortable my actions undoubtedly made a room full of people feel.

    Although I still think the way this woman handled the entire situation was wrong (others who were there at the time agreed with me), 15 years after the fact I still cringe when I think of that meeting. I had not yet figured out the concept of “win the battle, lose the war”. If I wasn’t already out of consideration for my former boss’s position by then, that little stunt surely would have sealed the deal.

    1. MB

      To be perfectly honest, if I was in your position I wouldn’t have felt too bad about that. I mean, yes, it’s petty, and some people may call it undermining. But purposely excluding you from department meetings when important information is shared during said meetings is EXTREMELY petty and destructive and just beyond rude.

      1. Seal

        Indeed – this woman’s attitude towards me and the job itself was beyond ridiculous. Literally everyone we interacted with told her repeatedly that I should be promoted, but she flat-out refused for reasons known only to her. Petty, destructive and rude don’t even begin to describe this woman.

        I think what makes me cringe today about the meeting thing is that I let myself sink to her level. That made ME look bad, and may well have changed how some people thought of me.

        On the other hand, it was a good learning experience, as most such situations are. Much of how I manage today is based on my first-hand experience with bad management and managers; in other words, I know what NOT to do if I want to get good results.

  53. Stella

    My very first interview for a professional position was during my senior year of college. When the interviewer asked me to talk about a challenge I faced and how I overcame it, I talked about how difficult it was leaving home for college and how rude the other students were. I had no idea she meant “challenge in a professional context.”

    Oh, and then there was my first resume: double spaced. I didn’t even know what a resume was! I was told to just summarize my work history, so I did, the same way I would write a term paper.

    1. Stephanie

      Ha, I did that in a college internship interview: I talked about choosing to do physical therapy for my knee instead of surgery as my challenge. It was just awkward all around.

      1. the gold digger

        I talked about losing 20 pounds and how hard that was during an interview at P&G that a friend who worked there had pulled strings to get for me.

        The recruiter later told my friend that I did not know how to interview.

        1. E

          I was interviewing for a post-college, part-time job in my field because I couldn’t find anything full time. I got this question, I blanked, and after an awkward pause I responded that my biggest challenge was finding a full time job and I had overcome it by settling for part time jobs.

          Yeah. That did not go well.

  54. Po

    Started at a big-name magazine as a fact-checker, and one of my first query letters was a quote-check to a Dead Famous Author’s nephew. Misspelled Dead Famous Author’s name (granted, it’s an easy name to misspell and wouldn’t get caught by the automatic spell checker. Still, I should have proof-read and double-checked. Also, one of the reasons we send those emails is to make sure we’re spelling everything right!)

    Dead Famous Author’s nephew sends back an angry email saying that I must have been a stalker groupie. He demanded to see my resume and a list of references proving who I was and that I was qualified to work at Magazine.

    When I politely replied with an apology and said that he could contact the author who interviewed him if he wanted double-check my identity, he claimed to have never heard of the person. He wrote back, “I don’t know a [name of author]. And how should I know how to contact this person–through MENTAL TELEPATHY??” (Forget the fact that I had access to the email chain that confirmed 1) he knew and had spoken to her, and 2) he had three forms of contact information for her.)

    1. Po

      Oh, and I recovered by realizing that I was never going to save face with this person, so I worked around him by contacting Famous Author historians to make sure everything was correct.

      From then on, I developed a New Fact-Checker Training program to make sure that all first query letters for future interns were sent to someone in-house and critiqued by someone who knew what they were doing, before they started sending them for real.

      Finally, I ALWAYS checked name spellings before sending things out–especially if the people were big-shots and likely to be easily offended!

  55. JessE

    I was working for a periodontist and was new to the dental world. I was assisting on a procedure where a slice of gum tissue is removed from the roof of the mouth and sewn onto a section of gum tissue elsewhere in the mouth where the gums were worn. The tissue would eventually heal into itself like a skin graft. Anyways, my only task was to suction the blood and saliva from surrounding areas to keep it clear for him to see what he was doing. I was doing fine until I placed the suction tip onto the piece of gum tissue and next thing I knew, it was gone. We wear masks during the procedure but I’ll never forget the way the drs eyebrows shot up and the look he gave me. And the patient who had to have another painful section of gum removed from his palate. Still haunts me.

  56. Susie

    At the end of a nerve wracking internal interview when they thanked for my time I said, “Hey it was better than working! “. I wanted to die.
    Surprisingly, I didn’t get the job. And avoided that person as long as I was with the company.

  57. Joanne

    When I was a waitress at the magical Olive Garden, we had to take a test on the menu. I finished before the others, and I’ve always been really self conscious about turning things in first (don’t know why. probably some carry over teasing trauma from grade school or something), so I started looking at the cardboard pyramid in the middle of the table. The teacher called me out in front of everybody and said, “Stop Cheating! That’s disgusting. Bring me your test this instant.” I still die of shame inside when I think about it!

    1. businesslady

      but you weren’t even cheating! by the powers vested in me by the magic of the internet, I hereby exonerate you from any future feelings of shame.

  58. M

    22, first job out of college, I had done well enough that my boss sent me to a meeting with a client and a vendor we were proposing to work with. The client asked some question at the end of a very long meeting about something totally off topic, and I said, “Don’t worry your pretty little head about that.” To a client. Who was in his 50s. And he was. not. amused.

  59. Sissa

    Oh, this is a painful one. Cringe-worthy indeed, and taught me a big lesson about myself.

    In the last year of my vocational school (I studied audiovisual communication) I scored an intern spot at a well-known media agency in Helsinki, Finland. I was over the moon that half a year I was working with them, enjoying the tasks my boss and everyone else was throwing my way.

    After my studies were done, the agency told me they wanted me to continue working there. I was practically dancing!

    However, within 6 months I’d grown so accustomed to working there that I was pretty much sitting on my backside passively, expecting work to come my way, and spent, to my great shame, a great part of the day socializing with friends on MSN messenger. Despite my manager subtly hinting to me that I should try to find some more work by being more proactive and finding my speciality, I REALLY didn’t pick up the hint, the stupid 18-year-old that I was then.

    So, to my great shock, a couple of months later they actually let me go.

    Now that I think back I should’ve been shaken awake when the first warning signs appeared, but I had a kind of a situation at home with me making a living for me and my boyfriend, having been kicked out from home by my mother.

    I am not kidding when I say it’s the biggest mistake I’ve probably done in my whole life so far. Every now and then I kick myself for my stupidity and hope I can find a job in such a place again, because it was seriously the greatest, coolest, awesomest (is that even a word?) place ever.

    After I was let go, I went into a slump and couldn’t find work (for several years!) so I also created a gap in my resume. Now THAT was a real annoyance to try and get over.

    Nowadays I luckily have a job – not an excellent one, but I can really appreciate having one in this economy (and with my “career” background) as it is. :)

  60. S

    I got an internship with a networking organization that focused on high-level executives after my first year of college. They were fairly new and really wanted to expand their membership, so they had me look up companies and cold call their execs to give them our spiel. Just the fact that I did this is cringe-worthy (they’ve improved their member recruitment since then…), but since I knew very little about the corporate world I ended up speaking to a lot of these people directly. Instead of, say, looking up their assistants or going through the general number. They were very, *very* unhappy to be getting a random call about a random organization.

    My other cringe-worthy story was quitting a job I had at a cafe chain right after college, but reading some of these stories has made me feel better. I got a long-term temp job at twice the pay but didn’t know how to quit the bagel-slinging job, so I waited until Friday at the end of my shift (scheduled to start at the new job on Monday), went to my manager and said “sooo… I’m not going to be coming in starting Monday…” To his credit he was nice about it and said they hadn’t expected me to stay very long, but I still felt so awkward.

  61. Amanda

    I was really cocky about my job prospects after I graduated college (granted, it was 2007 but given that I had limited experience and a liberal arts degree, I should not have been so arrogant).

    I had a campaign-season job where I worked with some major movers and shakers, including the CEO of a large area company. I got to be friendly with him and networked my way into an interview for an entry-level position.

    I got offered the position, but I was scheduled to start the day after Christmas. I already had plane tickets to visit my parents over the holidays and I didn’t want to cancel the trip so I turned the job down. I didn’t even attempt to negotiate a different start date because I didn’t know that you were allowed to do that.

    OK, but they had another entry-level position they invited me to interview for. At that point, I had more applications out for more “exciting” jobs (and of course being cocky, I thought I would land one). I told them that I’d call back and never did.

    Karma came back to bite me in the butt because I never did find a paying job before I left for Peace Corps a year and a half later.

    During my current search, my father noticed that the CEO, who I had squandered such a good opportunity with, was retiring and suggested I get back in touch. I tried to avoid it, but my father kept asking me if I had written him and I was too mortified to tell him how badly I had blown it back in 2007, so I eventually did write him. Not surprisingly, I never heard back.

    1. Amanda

      As far as what I learned, I learned that a) if you have factors (in my case, new grad) that could negatively impact your chances of getting a job, you shouldn’t be too picky, b) you CAN negotiate start dates and preplanned vacation time off (within reason of course), and mostly importantly, c) always treat people who are willing to stick their neck out for you with respect. Especially if they’re the CEO.

      As far as recovery, the ship has sailed a long time ago. I don’t think burning my bridge there affected my other contacts in the area but I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure. I do wonder if I had taken a job there and done a good job, if my search now would be easier. And given that it was a big company, there’s a chance they would’ve hired me back after Peace Corps.

      I also regret sending the CEO that networking note last year. I’m sure I came across as massively unaware. I wish I had just admitted my mistakes to my father when he was pressuring me to send the note.

  62. Charlotte Z

    I was new to managing and had a company phone. I also had a problem employee who was impossible to deal with and really stressed me out. I was waiting in a very long line at Panera one day and venting to my boyfriend. When I got back to work, I saw that I had called my boss 36 times. She was in another state at a conference and in a panic when she saw I called 36 times. I had to explain that my phone was on and in my purse, etc. I prayed she didn’t bother to listen to the messages but at my review it was obvious and I missed out on a promotion. Many lessons learned- lock your phone, don’t vent about anyone, and always clear last number called!

  63. De Minimis

    I told an off-color joke at work once [this was a temp gig] and apparently it offended a co-worker so much she quit on the spot.

    It was a really inappropriate joke I’d heard on Howard Stern. Why I thought it was a good idea to tell at work I don’t know–a group of us were talking about dirty jokes and I decided to tell one.

    Got a stern talking-to, but was not fired, although I was just temping for extra money and was working another full-time job so I would not have been heartbroken to be let go. I still feel bad about my co-worker who quit.

    I won’t tell the joke, it wasn’t really all that funny and made light of something that really should not be made light of, that was the type of joke it was.

  64. De Minimis

    BTW, I’ve also quit several jobs in inappropriate ways [including one where I faked/exaggerated serious depression and disappeared for a few days to where they became worried about me to where they were just happy I was okay when I returned to quit] but I would say the joke incident is probably still #1 on my list of horrible behavior.

    I have done a few ill-adivsed things here and there, but nothing really mindblowingly stupid/inappropriate in recent years [although I thought for years that deciding to take the job at the large accounting firm was one of my major mistakes.]

  65. Lisa

    A contact got me an interview for what he and the recruiter described as a director-level job. The recruiter encouraged me to give the top end of my salary expectation range, because “They’ll usually just offer what you ask for” so I gave the upper mid-range of what I thought was fair for a PR director for a smaller consumer goods company. The CEO personally called me on my cell phone to yell at me for my “ridiculous” salary expectations. I’m not being hyperbolic about “yelling,” either. He literally shouted. I was in tears.

    Turns out it was an entry-level job. They’d posted it online, but I stupidly thought from the recruiter and my contact that I was interviewing for a different, not-yet-posted, much higher-level job. I wouldn’t have even accepted the interview had I known it was a less responsible position than what I was already doing at the time!

    Lesson learned: If I think I’m interviewing for a job not publicly posted, I ask for a written job description anyway.

    1. De Minimis

      I had a similar situation a few years ago, I had returned to my old residence after working in a larger city for a while and foolishly listened to a recruiter’s advice regarding salary expectations…”Don’t ask for anything below X amount or employers will think you aren’t valuable.” [need to add that I was essentially an entry level employee with a very small amount of experience.] I blew at least one opportunity I might have had a chance at due to it, and thankfully was told at a later interview that the range I gave was totally unreasonable and was based on an inflated job market that had been gone for a couple of years by that point.

  66. Constant Cringer

    I left a graduate program to live closer to my father, after my mother’s death, and needed a job, so I took one as a temp admin assistant in Sept 08 (which some may remember was not a *great* time for anyone to find work). It’s been four years and after trying to find work in my field (pre-grad school) while trying to do a job I hate, no hiring manager thinks I’m capable of anything other than filing/scheduling/taking notes/processing invoices/etc. and I cannot figure out a way to market my skills any other way (even though I’ve read about it on this blog, other career blogs, met with a career counselor, met with my undergrad career center, etc.) to even get in at the ground floor (again) in my field. I cringe every morning when I think about how I have regretted putting family first. Then I cringe when I think about that regret.

    1. FreeThinkerTX

      The same thing happened to me when my brother was diagnosed with cancer. He was in California with no one to look after him, so I had him move in with me. After awhile it was difficult to take care of him and keep up my consulting business, so I went to work for Home Depot just to keep some money coming in – and to be able to do it in a job that I could leave behind at the end of the day. My friends and family praised me, but after my brother’s death when I went looking for “real” jobs again, you’d have thought I was radioactive. It still works against me.

      1. AndAnotherAnon

        On the other side, I cringe when I think about how many times I left my dying mother’s bedside to go do some dumb task for an organization who wouldn’t have been the least bit harmed if I had just let my work slide and focused on my family.

  67. Anon for this

    I like to keep in touch with former managers and occasionally meet up with them. Last year, a manager I hadn’t seen in a year or two emailed and suggested lunch. I arrived at the restaurant, saw her waiting, walked over and went in for the hug… but it was someone else. Worst of all, my old manager saw this all go down. And the woman I attempted to hug was older and frumpier than my very-put-together former manager. I recovered as best I could, but yikes, how do you bounce back from something like that?

  68. fposte

    Back in my temping days, I was working on a nice organization’s fundraising mailing to existing donors, which was being done as letters from the director. This was being done in the pre-computer era, so we temps were typing the addresses on the envelopes (maybe I also typed the letters? I don’t remember) and collating the letters and envelopes. And in a fit of efficiency and initiative, I sealed all the letters in the envelopes–when they hadn’t been signed by the director. So basically they paid me to waste their envelopes. I think they were too stunned to be really angry at the time–the person supervising me was just sort of disbelieving and unhappy.

    1. businesslady

      oh yeah–I also forgot about the time I stuffed about a hundred envelopes with letters that were personally addressed to the recipients…without matching up the addressees. (in my defense, usually my company sent form letters out, so the letter/envelope relationship was irrelevant.) fortunately they hadn’t been sealed yet, but…yeah. that was a mess to sort out.

    2. Anonymous

      When I was a teenager (and a little dumb) I was asked to ‘pp’ a load of letters for a mailshot which were supposed to be from our MD

      I actually wrote “pp(MD’s name)” instead of “pp(My Name)” or “pp(Illigible signature)”.

    3. Lindsay

      I was working at a small speech pathology office and we were doing a mass mailing to all the doctors in the area. I got a list and did a mail merge for the envelopes, and didn’t realize that I had the zip code cell in Excel formatted incorrectly so all the zip codes were missing the leading 0.

      The letter also had a typo in it. The typo they found and brought new paper for and corrected. The envelopes I found and I purchased new envelopes myself and reprinted them so they wouldn’t know about it. I didn’t want them to think I was so incompetent that I made two simple mistakes on one mailing.

  69. The B

    I was the office Lolita. I was shy of 18 and got a job in an office. My work was good, but I was boy crazy. There was a man in another department who looked like a young Chris Noth. He must have been in his early thirties.
    I came up with every excuse I could to speak to him, flirted outrageously with the poor man, even left him cute notes a couple of times. One time I wore a mini-skirt to the office and I think he almost fell off his desk.
    The guy liked me but it was incredibly inappropriate of me to behave the way I did.
    Anyway, I left that place after six months to go to college in another city. I never again flirted at a job after that.

  70. Laura

    My last semesters in college I participated in campus interviews with several accounting firms. I got selected for an interview with a local firms, which were conducted by one of the partners.

    While we were chit-chatting he asked what my hobbies were, and I listed off a couple, including travel. He asked where I’d been, and I replied by saying that since I’d grown up in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia) I’d been very fortunate to be able to travel to many places around the world.

    He replied that he’d taken his family to Israel a few years back. So what did I do? Proceeded to tell him that my parents had wanted to go there for years, and finally were able to do so when they left Saudi Arabia for good and had no plans to return, because many times the immigration/customs officials would not let people into the country if they happened to see an Israeli stamp in their passport. Anyway, my parents finally got to go to Israel, and they, personally, were very disappointed and thought it was quite over-commercialized, down to the point of being told that if you’re Catholic, Significant-Historical-Event happened here, but if you’re Protestant, Significant-Historical-Event happened over there. They were also horrified when they saw throngs of people lined up to be baptized in the Dead Sea.

    The guy interviewing me got kind of quiet, and the conversation became quite stilted. Then I realized that he had a name that was obviously Jewish, and for many Jewish people a trip to Israel is the realization of a life-long dream. He had probably saved for years to take his family to the Holy Land. And here I was, sitting there, all of 23 years old, never having been there myself, telling him how lame and crappy it was. OMG. I tried to backpedal, but it was way too late, and I just kept digging myself in deeper and deeper. Needless to say, I did not hear from that firm again.

    Lesson? Keep your opinions to yourself, unless you’re among friends and/or family.

  71. Z

    I got my first office-type job while I was still working on my Ph.D. This means I was coming from 10 straight years of a university setting and figured the office world would work somewhat similarly to academia. In academia, though, you don’t have to worry about chain of command; if you need advice on the chocolate-enriching part of your dissertation, you go straight to the professor who knows about chocolate-enriching, and if you need advice on teapot-shaping, you go to the teapot-shaping professor. You don’t have to run everything by your advisor first. Consequently, at my first job, if I needed to know how some accounting procedure worked, I’d go straight to one of the accountants, without checking with my boss first. She was not. Pleased.

    Also, I think I probably inappropriately showed dismay when I found out that that boss only had a semester and a half of college. I had, of course, realized that I would have bosses who were less educated than I was, but I hadn’t thought I’d have a boss with less than a bachelor’s degree. Well, guess what? My current boss doesn’t have a college degree, either. And guess what else? She’s good at her job and a good boss.

    The lesson? For Pete’s sake, get over yourself.

  72. AdAgencyChick

    Back when I was trying to become a JournalismChick (this is before I knew that ad agencies that do the type of work I do now existed), I was working in my first job out of college as a marketing management trainee for a mail-order products firm. I was making what I now realize to be excellent money for a recent college grad.

    My bonehead mistake was not researching salaries in the field I wanted to go into, and simply expecting that I would be paid at least what I was being paid already, just because, well, I was awesome and deserved that much, right? I had several interviews in which the interviewer got very quiet after I mentioned how much I was expecting to make.

    Oh yeah, and I wasn’t a very good marketing manager trainee. I wasn’t thorough with my assignments, and I left at 5 PM on the dot every day without bothering to notice that all the other eager beavers around me were working later than that. I was shocked — SHOCKED, I tell you! — to get my first negative review. I quit that job after only eight months.

    …and then when, just a few months later, I was miserable in the job that I quit the marketing job for, I had the chutzpah to write to the old company asking for my old job back. Needless to say…crickets.

  73. Brandon

    It was my first real “career” interview (I don’t count my high-school job interview with our local big-box store because the high turnover they had combined with the fact that they were desperate for seasonal workers meant they’d hire a scarecrow if he’d shown up.) I didn’t have any copies of my resume handy (I didn’t know better, I was young!) Anyway, I figured I’d be OK, since I’d e-mailed my resume. I get there, and wouldn’t you know it, his computer crashed. The three of us talked awkwardly for about an hour, and I never heard from them again. I kicked myself for about a month after that.

  74. Anon

    I, too, answered the “tell us about yourself” question poorly. I had worked in a few professional jobs before that, but had never been asked that question that way in an interview. This became my record shortest interview ever coming in under 15 minutes. I’m now a leader in my field, you wouldn’t have know it that day.

    Another time, I had a quick follow-up interview with HR a week after being interviewed by the hiring manager. I remember putting on mascara and making my eyebrows look even. One eyebrow seemed lower than the other under my glasses, but I didn’t take much notice. During the 20 minute drive to my interview, that side of my face was starting to droop.

    Well, I went through with it and talked to HR anyway, but freaked out after I ran to the bathroom when the interview was over and saw what I looked like. Not knowing what to do, I called my boyfriend. He gently suggested going to the doctor RIGHT THEN. I had a case of Bell’s Palsy at the age of 29 (and recovered quickly with the right meds). Weirdest interview day ever.

      1. Anon

        Oh, right, I got the job. I always wondered what HR thought a few weeks later when I came back to fill out paperwork and have my staff picture taken and I didn’t look like a stroke victim!

        1. businesslady

          in that case, I s’pose it was for the best that it happened during the interview & not on picture day!

  75. Anon

    When I was in college, I had a summer job at a local discount department store. It was a dreary working environment and my coworkers (all students) and I had a boss we could not stand. All 10, yes, 10, of us agreed to quit on the same day, leaving him with literally no one to staff the store.

    Remembering the look on my boss’ face when I gave notice still makes me want to die of shame.

  76. businesslady

    I need to go back & read these when I have more time, but I wanted to share one story that I was JUST talking about two nights ago with my husband; for some reason, even though it was years ago, I feel a hot flush of shame every time I remember it.

    early in my “real job” career I was the executive assistant to the CEO & founder of a small consulting company. he wanted a printout of some spreadsheet that was super “wide”–lots of columns & no way to make it fit legibly on 8.5″x11″ paper.

    rather than follow up to say, “hey, did you actually need ALL these columns of data, or…?” I just printed it across a bunch of sheets & taped them together horizontally. it was a multi-page spreadsheet on top of that, so the result was this weird stack of two-foot-wide pages made from three or four Frankenstein-style sheets of paper. it was a case of encountering a problem & then not backing up a step to see if you could prevent it instead of just dealing with it.

    my boss wasn’t usually hyper-critical, but when I gave him that “document” he just looked at it, flipped through it, looked at me, & said, “what IS this?” & when I started to explain, he said, “you should’ve figured out a better solution. you should’ve KNOWN I wouldn’t’ve wanted something that looked like this.”

    the second he said that, I knew he was right–I *should’ve* known. & I think that “I should’ve known better” feeling is the reason the story sticks with me all those years later–it’s one thing to make a mistake that seems preventable in hindsight, but it’s another to realize that you weren’t using your best judgment in the first place.

    fortunately, I’ve only gotten that flush of “shame on me” one other time–when I foolishly went along with a colleague’s suggestion to put a silly appointment on a higher-up’s calendar as a joke–& I sincerely hope that I can manage to avoid it for the duration of my career.

  77. Anonymous

    I worked at a credit union for a large manufacturing company. We served two divisions that had slightly different holiday schedules. Lots of people depended on the little calendar cards the credit union gave out each year to know when their holidays were and when the other division had their holidays. The one year I was in charge of ordering the cards, it seems that I just made up the holidays. When the cards were distributed, people called to complain that they were wrong. I looked at my notes and had the correct dates in my notes, but when I filled out the printing order, I gave the WRONG dates. Almost lost my job over that. I had a great boss who took the bullet saying she should have checked my work.

  78. Scott M

    I was on a conference call on my cell phone while I was driving home from work. I stopped at a convenience store to get something. The clerk noticed the wired-headset attached to my cellphone (no blue-tooth at that time) and made a comment about it. I said “I’m on a conference call I don’t really need to be on. Nobody ever asks me any questions anyway.”

    There was a silence on the phone then “Um Scott, we can still hear you.” It was then I realized that I had not hit the mute button.

    I apologized profusely, to everyone on the call, and later to my boss who was also on the call.

  79. Lulu

    First, I have to say that anyone who’s received a non-professional answer to “tell me about yourself” kind of got what they deserved – particularly straight out of college (and before the internet & current focus on SAT-level interview prep), how are you supposed to know what they’re expecting you to say? In fact, I’m still not sure what I’d say that would be useful… but I digress…

    I think I’ve blocked out most of my missteps, as I’m sure there have been many since this one: internship right out of college with a VERY small music “company”, so small that they involved a band they were managing in the running of their tiny club business and did not actually have a computer in the office (!). I volunteered my stylin’ MacPlus as the office computer, and since I had the ability to use MSWord, the owner asked me to type up some communication regarding negotiations with the band. Which I proceeded to leave open on the computer, for anyone to see.

    I’m not 100% sure anyone in the band saw it, but the owner sure did, and his wife/co-owner was livid and understandably demanded I go to his office and apologize to him for it. I don’t think they ever asked me to do “office work” again, and I didn’t stay with them too much longer after that, mostly because they weren’t paying me anything or teaching me much (although I did meet some interesting people…) and I found a retail gig that did.

    Lesson learned: Be aware of confidentiality issues and always lock your computer when leaving it in a public office space. Also, be careful who you share your computer with and make sure you take appropriate precautions re: security/confidentiality of your documents and communication if it’s a potential issue.

    AND, be wary of small family-run companies with questionable work boundaries who don’t have appropriate professional equipment (although this was the early ’90s, maybe this wasn’t as crazy as it sounds now!).
    AND don’t make assumptions re: young people’s office savvy – there are things that are really obvious when you’re used to working in an office environment that are notsomuch to kids to whom it’s all completely new…

  80. Anonymous Accountant

    I had a really awful job. My gut had told me to run. There’d been 7 employees in 8 months in the position they hired me for. I was unemployed and desperate so I accepted it. The employer was very vague as to why all those prior staff had left. By day 3, it was apparent what the issues were. The prior employees had quit b/c they hadn’t been paid and the employer was under investigation by the Dept of Labor for this.

    It was on day 3 I discovered this. I told him how awful it was that he operated under such shady terms and he should be ashamed of himself and walked out. That was the only time I’ve ever quit without notice.

    1. littlemoose

      I think finding out that your employer has been unable to pay his employees for months is one of the few exceptions to the “don’t quit without notice” rule. When that happens, the contract between employer and employee is fundamentally and literally broken. If you’d been there for years and it was a new problem, your tolerance might be a bit different, but in that situation you had no reasonable expectation of getting paid. I think it made sense to cut your losses and get out.

  81. littlemoose

    One that absolutely makes me cringe is the time I was late to an interview. They were interviewing a really large candidate pool, and the place was packed, with back-to-back interviews. I was so late that I had completely missed my 15- or 20-minute interview window. They went ahead with the interview, but we all knew it was an exercise in futility. Needless to say, I did not get that job. (It’s just as well; it was only PT with no benefits, and I really needed something FT, but I was desperate.)

    Oh, and the time I was very late to a new internship, because I got lost. The poor receptionist was on the phone with me for quite a while trying to help me and my pathetic sense of direction get there. The overall internship experience was all right, but what a terrible way to start. I now own a GPS.

  82. Mary Ellen

    Many years ago, I was a waitress at a very busy pancake house. The milk was served in old fashioned baby bottle type containers, and they did not balance very well on the tray!
    One busy morning I was carrrying three of these bottles of milk as well as a bottle of beer (it was lunch and we were licensed). You can guess what happened…..all three bottles of milk as well as the beer slid onto a woman’s lap…and she and her whole family were all dressed up to go somewhere!
    I managed to fight back the tears and apologize….I still got a tip despite the nightmare!

    1. Ivy

      This brought up a memory from my 2months of waitressing. A family ordered a bottle of red wine. Where I worked, I was expected to properly open a corkscrew bottle of wine. I don’t drink wine. So after struggling for a couple of minutes (and sweating through the whole thing), one of my managers came by and opened it for me. I then proceeded to pour too much wine into the first few cups and ran out by the last one. There was a few seconds of awkwardness, until the father of the family ordered another bottle to save me. My manager said him and the rest of the staff were watching wondering how I was gonna get myself out of that situation.

  83. Anonymous Accountant

    At my last job, I supervised 2 staff accountants on audits and when working with clients.

    We had a real pain of a client who contacted 1 of my staff and was very rude to him. She put him on hold and proceeded to vent about what an ass he was and how he should “suck it up, put on his big boy pants and deal with it”.

    Unfortunately, she had pressed the wrong button. He heard everything she said!! My boss heard about it and luckily didn’t fire either of us over it. He said it was a blessing the client would probably find another acctg firm to do his work but please going forward to ensure the client wasn’t on the line before we complained about them!

    He was by far the best boss I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, 3 years later we were laid off due to the economy and we didn’t have enough revenue coming in to support all the staff we had at the time. We still keep in touch and he still jokes about the incident.

  84. Jenny

    At my very first job, I had to put in an order for color/glossy/laminated/everything-you-can-think-of copies at FedEx. My manager asked for 300 — I ordered 30,000. And I didn’t realize the error until I went into the store to pick up and the person handed me several boxes filled with paper. And then the bill confirmed it.

    Resigned to my fate, I paid with my own debit card and severely overdrew my account. I took all the boxes to a nearby alleyway and then had a complete breakdown, where I called my mom and begged her to help me cover for some of the cost. Thankfully, she did (though I had to pay her back over time, obviously) and I dumped all but 300 of the papers in the dumpster. Wiped off my face, pulled myself together, and went back into the store – where I asked if there was anyway we could separate out 300 of the orders on a new receipt for “expense purposes.”

    Ultimately, my boss was never the wiser. But wow, do I still get paranoid about quantities.

    1. Lily

      I miscalculated my budget by 10 000. But I didn’t offer to contribute it. I told my boss and didn’t sleep for the next month because I was wondering if she was going to formally discipline me.

  85. ChristineH

    So many great stories, some giving me a good chuckle! Not finished reading yet.

    The one cringe-worthy mistake I can think off at the moment is that during the last year or so of one job, I was always complaining about people in my department, even via email to friends in other departments. There was no direct affect to me (to my knowledge), but I am now wiser, knowing that badmouthing can backfire; you could be overheard, or that email may be seen by someone other than the intended recipient.

    1. FreeThinkerTX

      I did that at one job, via IM and email with a particular co-worker, mostly complaining about our (very inexperienced) boss. He found another job, put in his notice, and on the last day turned in his laptop to our boss. The laptop from which he hadn’t erased any of the IMs or emails, even though he knew they’d be accessed for client-continuity purposes.

      I wasn’t fired, but I got called into a meeting with my manager where she obliquely referenced using company laptops and apps for kvetching about company-related people and things, and how that wasn’t such a good idea.

  86. Chinook

    Mine was an expensive mistake but showed what a good boss looks like and the benefits of a good reputation. I had been the Saturday receptionist for my last 2 years of high school at a car dealership owned by a family friend. I was training my replacement before I went off on an exchange program and, since there really isn’t enough work for 2 people at a reception desk on a Saturday, I was put to work cleaning cars with the boss’ son and the part manager’s son (both of whom were a year younger than me but experienced at their work).

    Well, the 2 boys had me back up one of those big, expensive conversion vans into the wash bay and I ended up scraping off paint work onthe passenger side. Both boys went pale and tried to figure out how to fix it. They went to the body shop and theysaid it definitely couldn’t be buffed out. So, I swallowed my pride, went to the boss and admitted to what I had done. He just looked at me and said “that’s your one freebie. Dont’ do it again.”

    His son looked at him and said, “If that had been one of us, you would have yelled at us and fired us immediately.”

    For teh record, they not only hired me back for 2 more summers of work but also recommended me to their sister dealership in the city to work at during the school year. Mr. Bilodeau, you rocked as a boss!
    Boss replied, “That’s because if it had been one of you 2, I know you would have been goofing off.”

  87. FreeThinkerTX

    I was fresh out of college and, though I had already had my first “real” job, was still unbelievably green. I had to moved to San Francisco and was hunting for a job. I managed to have 3 horribly cringe-worthy moments in the space of a few weeks:

    1) Interviewed with an incredibly cool advertising agency for an admin position. They loved me and invited me back for a second interview to meet the whole office. I showed up in the early 90’s version of skinny jeans tucked into soft-sided “slouch” cowboy boots, was chewing gum, and put my feet up on the conference table. (Gads, I’m cringing just remembering it).

    2) Was hired as the front desk person at a medium sized technology company. Worked for a week before quitting to take a higher-paying job with a Japanese import-export company. Then…

    3) On the first day at the Japanese company, I found out that the “fifteen” dollar amount we had discussed was NOT “fifteen dollars per hour” but was instead “fifteen thousand per year” (otherwise known as $7.21/hr). I was mortified because the position I’d just quit paid $11/hr. I quit the Japanese company right after lunch. Then, just because I hadn’t embarrassed myself enough already, I called the tech company and asked if I could have my front desk job back. Unsurprisingly, they said no.

  88. Cath@VWXYNot?

    During my PhD in Scotland I was one of many grad students in the department (but the only one in my lab) who showed up incredibly hungover the day after St. Patrick’s. It was the final day of an experiment that had taken two weeks to run, and at the penultimate stage I dropped the film into the solvent. What should have looked like a neat series of dots when the film was developed ended up looking like a swirly, deformed frog – I wasted two weeks of time and several thousand pounds worth of lab supplies.

    When my supervisor asked to see the final film, I showed it to him with great shame. He said, “well. This isn’t much use to me. Perhaps you should submit it to an art gallery”, and walked out. Luckily, the lab’s senior technician had known him for years and was able to cheer me up with the story about the time this respected professor, back when he was in grad school himself, managed to cycle into the canal (drunk, natch), taking the lab’s entire collection of carefully cross-referenced index cards with him…

    Anyway, that was the last time I ever drank that much on a weeknight. The developed film ended up on the Wall of Failed Experiments and is quite possibly still there to this day.

  89. Morgan

    At my first full time job there was a slight problem with my direct deposit. The finance person asked me to go to my bank during lunch and get a document with my bank number and name. I got back and went strait to her office, thinking it was important and she wanted it right away. She was talking to someone in her office and I naively waited right outside her door. She looked up a few times but I did not get the hint and just stood their waiting, I thought patiently. Finally the woman in her office left, while glaring at me. The finance woman then told me I was being very rude and did I know that was the CEO of the company? No I didn’t. Woops. Never stand outside someone’s door and wait. Lesson learned.

  90. BW

    I used to work an asleep overnight shift in a group home. Problem was I would occasionally jolt out of sleep in the middke of the night with a piercing scream. Scared the crap out of the awake overnight staff, and was highly embarrassing to me, especially because I couldn’t explain without revealing really awkward personal information. So it was just random and weird for everyone.

  91. Kimmiejo

    We were in the process of hiring 20 call center reps and had been interviewing over 100 candidates. I was working out of the corporate office in California and did the initial phone screens and managed the process but I never met the candidates in person because the positions were in Florida (the managers in Florida met with them in person). Using our ATS, I looked up a candidate’s contact information and called him to extend the verbal offer. Then I created the offer letter in the system and sent it out to him. A day or two later, I was checking information in the system when I realized there were two candidates in the same city with the same exact name who had both applied to these call center positions. Upon further investigation I found that I had called one of them to extend the offer and then sent the offer letter to the other one. I called the one I had sent the letter to, apologized profusely and explained my error but unfortunately we had to rescind the offer he received as it was issued by mistake. He was quite upset as he had given notice at his current employer. I called the other person and apologized for the delay in receiving his offer letter.
    As I was talking to the hiring managers later about the situation, I realized I had made another error. The one who had initially received the offer letter was the one who was supposed to get the job! The one I spoke to on the phone never even interviewed for the position.
    I was mortified, but I went to my manager immediately and explained the situation. I had to call both guys back and apologize over and over (I did ask the guy who never interviewed why he didn’t say anything when he was offered a job he had never interviewed for and he said he just needed to work). Fortunately it worked out in the end and the right guy started his employment with us. Needless to say, I never sent out another offer letter or extended another offer without double and triple checking that I had the right person.

  92. Anonymous

    Years ago I worked for a small marketing firm that was on it’s last legs. The owner had to let 95% of the staff go and ended up hiring me as an (independent contracted) assistant. It was my first “real” job out of college. The owner of the company came up with a contest for which we had to establish an 800 number. I called the phone company to do that and they gave me a confirmation number. It never occurred to me to test it out and see if it worked. I neglected to do so and it turned out the order had never been processed so the 800 number did not exist. The first person who called the 800 number was incredibly rude, wondering if this was false advertising, all this malarkey. I got screamed at by the owner and I decided I wasn’t going back and left the owner a voicemail saying I was quitting. For some odd reason the owner scared me and I ended up changing my cell number. The owner wasn’t a bad guy, but for some reason I remember being really afraid of him after that day. I would never do that now, but at the time it seemed like a good idea, especially since I was paying my own taxes when I wasn’t necessarily supposed to be.

  93. Alyssa

    I must say, I am loving some of these! Mine actually happened last year when I was DESPERATELY trying to get out of my then-job. It was my first interview in 3 1/2 years, and you could say I was a wee bit rusty. Here’s how it went down:

    Super Stuffy Interviewer: So, Eliza, tell me about yourself.

    Me: Actually, it’s Alyssa, but that’s ok. Well, let’s see. I love to read, spending time with my family and friends. Oh, the beach is great too!–

    SSI: I meant, professionally.

    Me: (*beet red*) Oh, goodness, let’s see…

    Yep, I never heard back. I shudder to this day thinking about my response!!!

  94. Sam J.

    I worked at a government lab as a student and at an all hands meeting with a high government official. I inadvetantly asked asked a question that was bad. I expressed frustration about mismanagement and asked for his help in fixing it, not knowing that he caused the problem in the first place.
    After that everything went down hill for me and they laid me off a year later. My career was percently ruined.
    The worst part is that I was encouraged to ask hard questions by my mentor in previouse meetings.

  95. Tessa

    In my first professional job, luckily after working there for a year, I accidentally bought my groceries using the company credit card. It was issued from the same bank as mine and looked very similar, I realized it as soon as the cashier handed the card back. No one in the store was willing to run a credit and let me pay with my own card. So, that was an awkward call to human resources and accounting on Monday morning, since I worked in a satellite office. Got teased for months about that. From then on I kept that card in the glove box of the work vehicle and out of my purse.

    1. businesslady

      I did that once–except it was my parents’ credit card, which I still kept in my wallet for emergencies (I was like 23 or so, & stopped carrying it immediately after this incident).

      the purchase in question was a late-night slice of post-bar pizza…on a weeknight. explaining that definitely cost me a few Responsible Adult points for a while.

    2. Anonymous

      I’ve seen people do that at the nightclub and other ‘adult’ related places. One even managed to buy a personal computer on his company card (we never found out if that was really truly by ‘mistake’ either!).

  96. E.R.

    Two career-related events that still make me cringe, years later:

    My part-time job while in university at a mom-and-pop hardware store, I was atop a ladder, gluing tiles to the wall. A couple came in and said hello, I responded with “hello! you look small from up here!”. The man replied, “we look small from everywhere.” When I came down from the ladder later to help them, I realized they were indeed little people. I honestly couldn’t tell from my previous vantage point, but I still cringe when I think about that. What a stupid way to greet someone!

    Then, my first job after college, at a publishing house, I knew nothing but was full of enthusiasm. I attended a meeting where the sales team spoke in a slew of acronyms and things I didn’t understand, but I was too shy to ask anyone for clarification. The CEO then stops me in the break room after the meeting, and asks “Get some great ideas at the meeting?” and I responded with an enthusiastic “yes!”. As he waited for me to elaborate on what those ideas actually were, I froze, and the voice in my head kept saying “say SOMETHING” but I couldn’t think of a thing. He waited a few minutes, then sighed and shuffled out of the break room. I ran into him a few years later, after I’d long left that job, and he said “Hey, E.R., have any ideas from that meeting?!” . Yes, it really was as bad as I had remembered. Sigh.

  97. XT

    My most horrifying moment was at my college internship. I had the flexibility to create my own schedule and send it to my boss, and worked for the federal government where there were no time clocks, and worked on the honor system so no one cared if you came in “late” since you worked your own schedule. I rarely had contact with my boss, as he was usually out and about so I was considering making spring break plans for myself and leaving town.
    Well- I had mentioned to co-workers that I was going to go out of town for spring break, but didn’t think to send an e-mail or let my boss know! Needless to say, when I returned I had a surprising-to-me-at-the-time scalding talk from him. I was so horribly horribly embarrassed for not having done something so completely obvious! It was my first job outside of a day-care center but that’s still pretty in-excusable and immature! Thankfully, I was not fired and continued working there for a year and a half and had good reviews.

    I definitely learned my lesson after that and would never go AWOL on a job again, and I ALWAYS send e-mails confirming pre-approved time off from my superiors, just in case they forget! (It happened again, when I had actually told him and he was super mad at me until he found the time-off-request sheet, and admitted it was his bad)

    1. XT

      ^^Also, I had been at this job for 2 months!!! Forgot to mention that but that makes it sooo much worse

  98. Sabrina

    It’s a long story but on my second to last day at the Worst Job I Have Ever Had ™ a co-worker started screaming at me. I was already emotional about being forced out of the job (even though I hated it, it was a job) and the fact that my grandma was dying and I had moved to a new city the previous year and couldn’t go see her before she passed. So, I screamed back. In front of other employees and patients (it was a medical clinic). Not my finest hour. But the incident was never reported (despite it happening in front of the charge nurse who did nothing to intervene) and the people involved don’t work there any more, so I doubt it would ever come up in a reference check.

  99. Liz in a library

    At my first interview (in high school–thank god), I wore the following: a shiny blue spangly mini skirt, black fishnets, knee-high black leather boots, and…a very appropriate business-y blazer.

    I’m sure I thought I looked awesome!

    1. Michelle.2

      First time I tried for a job: red and black horizontal striped, skin tight, *short* dress and heels. I was conscientious and knew I was expected to “dress my best.”

  100. DebbieDebbieDebbie

    I graduated from nursing school when I was 20 (remember: young and naive!), got married a week later and moved far from home to a very small town where there was one skeevy nursing home and one small community hospital. Now at that time Community Hospital was pretty much run by a group of local docs but I did not understand the significance of that tidbit having gone to college and trained in a Big City Academic Medical Center. I really did not want to work at the nursing home so I was quite thankful to get a job at hospital as a new grad. My new nurse manager sent me over to the medical building to see Dr. F for a pre-employment physical.
    Now on the day of my appointment it was very clear why I was there because of the paper required as part of the employment physical. The nurse placed me in a room, had me don the cotton gown and await the good doctor. Dr. F arrived promptly and he was a charming, distinguished “older man” of 50 or so. We chatted about my exciting new job at Community Hospital, my recent wedding, the move, etc. The thorough exam culminated with the pulling out of the stirrups and a pat on the end of the table. I didn’t find it the least bit uncomfortable until I reported for work the following Monday and realized as I was introduced to the attending physician that the guy who was pretty much running the show at that place had seen me naked the previous Friday.
    It took me about a year to gather up the courage to ask around and everyone else got the standard exam: history of medical problems, TB test, listen to heart and lungs but no pelvic exam. I was just never sure if it was a mix-up and he thought I was a regular patient or whether he was the creepiest of creeps.

    1. KI

      Interesting story! I would have think that he put two and two together and figured you were there for an employment physical when you told him about your new job, so it sounds like a creeper.

  101. BM

    Oh man, these are great.

    I have a few I could tell, but the worst was a couple of years ago. I had been laid off and was in a stressed-out frenzy of applying for jobs and going to interviews. To top it off, my grandmother passed away one weekend not long after I had been laid off, and I spent the entire weekend making funeral arrangements with my mother, visiting my grandfather, and grieving with my cousins.

    That Monday, I ventured out in public for an interview with a very straight-laced financial institute. The hiring manager met me in the reception area and led me to a conference room for the interview. As we were walking, he made small talk and asked how my weekend was, likely expecting an answer along the lines of, “Good, how was yours?” Before I could stop myself, I was saying, “Well, my grandma died, so you know…I’ve had better,” and then I LAUGHED awkwardly.

    To his credit, the hiring manager did give an appropriately sensitive response, but I could tell he was quite thrown off. As was I. I mean, within 20 seconds of meeting the guy, I had shared something incredibly personal (and then bizarrely laughed about it). Plus, it’s extremely difficult for anyone to find the right words to say when someone is talking about a recent passing of a loved one — and that’s if you’re talking with friends! The interview never recovered.

    Lesson learned: Do not let your first public contact after a death in the family be a job interview.

  102. Anonymous

    I was in my young 20s and had a part-time job; most of us were college-aged students. Therefore, our schedules had to work around our class schedules. So when the email went out for everyone to send in their semester schedules with the shifts that would work best for you, I did just that.

    Then I heard nothing for a few weeks. But I just thought the manager took his time in preparing the schedule. Plus it was summer, and he could have asked for the schedules, gone on vacation, and would look at them upon returning.

    Finally I heard back. He gave me only 1 shift of a couple of hours for the semester! And the shift was not one I had requested. Oh, and the manager had written “Oops! I had lost your email and I just found it. This is what I can give you for the semester.” Yes, the word “oops” was written in the email! I wrote back rather harshly saying that I needed more hours as one shift isn’t enough and it was not a day I could really go to this job; I had given other shifts. More or less I said to him to fix it because it’s not my fault he lost the email. He wrote back, suggesting we part ways.

    To this day, I really don’t think he lost my email. I think it was his way of trying to get rid of me without just being more upfront. I should have answered when I was calmer and ask more politely for more hours, even though I doubt I would have gotten them.

    1. JC

      This reminds me of the job I described above. My old manager gave more hours to his favorite student workers, while simultaneously phasing out the other students with less hours. That’s what ended up happening to me. I went from having 12-16 hours (2-3 shifts) one semester to having a measily 4-6 hours (1 shift) the second semester. So I found another job on-campus and quit…and was so much better off for it! :-)

      1. Anonymous

        Oh yes, there was definitely favoritism occurring. I just can’t believe, even to this day, how the manager was unprofessional, especially with writing the “oops.” I know I ended up not being any better in that respect, but I still shake my head at him.

        1. Ivy

          My name is Ivy, and I’m an “oops” user. I hope my “oops”s haven’t caused too much damage. :P

  103. Nyxalinth

    I did some dumb things in my time.

    In 2002 I was sick of crappy jobs and wanted what I thought of as a ‘real’ job. I was into visualization and the law of attraction at the time, so I found a company and did these little exercises imagining myself working there and so on, and submitted my resume. the interview went well, I got the job, and everything was fine (we were doing dispatch for copy repair techs).

    Well, one of the techs was a, um, nickname for Richard to me on the phone, and I didn’t deal with it well–I started crying. I was still in training so my trainer (very sweet lady) took over and told him I was new and finished the call.

    Later that day, the woman who’d interviewed me called me aside and fired me, because I wasn’t working out. Basically, Richard Head had told her what had happened. She told me she’d had a bad feeling about me from the beginning and that I’d “asked for too much money.” Um, how lady? I asked for the pay quoted in the job ad! I guess the dumb thing here is depending on whether or not you believe in such things, by targeting a specific company I used the law of attraction to influence a specific person (the interviewer), which is a no-no, and if you do or don’t, the other dumb thing was in not figuring out what I really wanted, finding out more about the company, asking the right questions about the culture etc.

    The second dumb thing was in 2007.

    I went to a temp agency that I call the Bait and Switch agency, since on several occasions they would call me about a job of awesome and win, only for me to arrive for the interview and hear “Oops, sorry we filled it right before your interview, here’s this crappy job paying less money and twice the bus ride away!” I would always turn it down.

    They called me in 2007 with, you guessed it, another fake awesome job. This time I resigned myself to Bad Job (it was a call center job that I didn’t really want, especially compared to Awesome Job) and off I went.

    Meanwhile, I got a call back from an interview that I’d had the week before–they left a message to call and it was urgent and it was a place where I’d really, really wanted to work.

    So before I even knew why they’d called, I left a message at the Bait and Switch agency telling them exactly what I’d thought of them and their bullcrap, that I quit, and they could take the job and shove it. Feeling pleased with myself, I called the Cool Job back to return their message…

    …only to find out that they were calling to tell me that I did NOT get the job.

    So not only didn’t I have Cool Job, I didn’t have Bad Job, AND the Bait and Switch agency permanently blacklisted me. For a long time after I’d see call center jobs listed but then I’d call and find out it was through that agency…so I’d have to say something like “I don’t deal with you people anymore”. It also gave me a job gap on my resume because for ages it seemed like the only agency with any jobs was THAT one, and my search just sort of stalled.

  104. Monica

    In college, I was a resident advisor. I also had a really bad eating disorder. So, during this terrible year, I lived in the on-campus apartments. The person who cleaned our apartment noticed the garbage was heavier thn regular garbage. Near the end of the year he opened the garbage bag, and found a smaller bag with vomit in it. Fast forward a few days: Dean of Students takes me in her office – describes this incident in detail ( did I mention the athletic director was also there?) and relieves me of the RA gig. I was beyond mortified

    1. XT

      Geez, that doesn’t seem right to me! I mean, if it was something affecting your job such as you kept talking about it to the students, and it caused problems I could understand it but that janitor had no right interfering with your personal garbage! For all they knew you could have been sick that day…if that’s the only reason you were fired, I’m sorry that is totally ridiculous :(

  105. DJ

    I was thrilled to land my first job in TV production. Second day on the job, I had to pick up a producer at his place and drive him to the main talent’s house — then we would all ride together and film the talent on the way to our shooting location. The production company had rented a van for us to use when shooting the drive to the location, but my producer decided that it made the talent look silly to be showing up to set in a minivan. He told me to park the van in his spot in his apartment building’s underground parking garage, and we’d drive his luxury car instead. Well, his parking garage was miniscule, and the van had zero turn radius, so I ended up scraping it against a pole when I tried to park it! Then he told me to just park on the street instead, so I did. By the end of the day, he’d told everyone working on the staff that I “totally demolished” the company rental, AND I got a parking ticket because it was street sweeping day on his street! You can say I definitely made a name for myself because my crew nickname thereafter was “Demolition Jane.” WHOOPS.

  106. Waiting Patiently

    My first job(work study) in college was in the athletic director office right after my swimming class. I barely had time to piece myself together. Frizzy hair, red irritated eyes and dry skin plagued me that semester.
    Then after my first semester in college I did seasonal work for”Wally World”. A veteran employee asked me to switch schedules with her and I agreed.She worked my day and I didn’t bother to show it for her schedule. I did apologize but at first I felt like it was a win win situation for both us since we both got the day off…lol

    1. Waiting Patiently

      I learned the importance of time management and grooming in an office environment. I half hazardly crammed in my work study hours.I hated sitting at the front desk greeting visitors and doing my work looking like who knows what. Most days I retreated to the back office which had the older equipment. The wally world experience taught me reliability.

  107. BGirl81

    I’m currently interviewing and whenever the “So, why did you leave your position at blah company?” comes up, I have a minor panic attack about reenacting that excruciatingly hilarious scene in Bridget Jones when she’s announcing the speaker and keeps wanting to call him “T*ts Pervert” instead of “Mr. Fitzherbert”. Why, you ask? Because I quit after my boss did a full-on boob grab.

    The kicker came a few months ago, when I applied to an anonymous job posting. During the phone interview, the very pleasant lady I spoke with finally gave the name of the company. The CEO of this company is the brother-in-law of my former boss. My super-slick response was to yell, “I’M LOSING RECEPTION!” and hang up. I’m pretty sure it took me a full three days to recover from that debacle. The Cringe does not get more intense than this, people!

  108. JB

    When dropping off my resume for an office support position, I was asked to wait for the hiring manager to get out of a meeting. I amused myself by browsing the merchandise. It was an electrical supply store. On one wall I noticed a tool called a Hollow Shaft Nut Breaker. The tool (!) made me giggle out loud exactly the time the manager walked up behind me and asked if he could help me. After an excruciating long silence, I explained my lack of brain power on the tool name I could not get out of my head. He smiled. Not hired. Still giggling.

  109. Lydia

    Oh man I don’t believe I’m the only HR person to mess up, but looks like I’m the first to confess here!

    My two total red-faced mortification moments happened within a year at the same company. This was a consultancy, so a lot of the consultants were rarely in the office. Add to that my atrociousness with names, and the fact that two shared the first name helps explain partially my first incident.
    I was told that X had had a pay review and to prepare the paperwork. All fine. Then his manager happened to be in the building and I said ‘oh, they’ve confirmed the pay review for X and it’s £…’ only to realise that this was not his manager, it was the manager of the other person with the same first name and this guy was a peer of X – and earning less!
    I was slightly irritated that he hadn’t stopped me – but then I’d have been curious too in the same position!!
    Lesson learned – always triple check before sharing confidential information!

    Or at least I thought it was learned.. the second occasion was possibly worse!
    The company only had about 70 people working for it, and one week 3 women came to me to advise me that they were in early pregnancy. My problem came when on the last occasion I innocently said ‘oh you’re the third in a week!’… needless to say it didn’t take long for the office to work out who the second person was – who was very early on and hadn’t told anyone including her mum, and was very understandably upset to be ‘outed’ in this manner.
    Lesson truly learned, and now I am as silent as the grave on this matter, to the extent that I have to ask the mum-to-be to let me know when the news is public, as I tend to be going around looking innocent long after everyone else has been told!

    Oh, did I mention that this was a security consultancy with a focus on data security… ?!

  110. Siang

    When I was at university I landed a nice job with a local classical radio station, filling in on shifts, and upon graduation I joined the station briefly to be an anchor presenter. This station was a media partner for the local orchestra as well as the local ballet company, so we also had to double to do ‘live’ presentations at performances.
    This was around 15 years ago, so back then, I was really really shy about public appearances, so I’d have butterflies in my stomach and I would script and script and overscript everything before going up to do announcements.
    One Saturday I was on duty for the ballet company’s open air performance, which they were putting together for the benefit of the National Skin Centre, a medical institution that does research into skin maladies and illnesses, including cancer. So my job for the day was to announce from time to time that this performance was for the benefit of the NSC, and say hello to the guests from the NSC staff who were in the audience that day. My contact from the ballet company knew I had nerves and very kindly arrange for me to make all the announcements from backstage so I wouldn’t need to face the audience.
    After a while, feeling a bit more relaxed, I went up and gave my announcement: “Welcome everybody … Hope you’re having a good time and you have a nice spot for your picnic… in the programme tonight are blah blah blah and you can look forward to blah blah. But before we proceed, we’d just like to say hello to our friends from the National Skin CANCER, who are here this evening … etc etc etc …” And from backstage I heard this ROAR of laughter coming from the audience …. and I realised what just came out from my mouth, and I was mortified ………..

    1. businesslady

      back when I was a cashier at Borders (RIP), I was responsible for getting on the store PA & announce that the store would be closing soon–the usual spiel about “please bring your purchases to the front register; the store will reopen tomorrow…”

      I’d change it up sometimes, though, & on one particularly memorable evening I accidentally said, “my drawers will be closing”–meaning, you know, the cash register drawers–but when I heard bursts of laughter throughout the store I realized the inadvertent double entendre. that was more funny than humiliating…but still embarrassing.

  111. DoeJane

    I was in my early 20’s and working with a placement agency to find that perfect job that would take me out of food service. My agency contact had set up an interview for me for my dream job, the day after my birthday. Being young and not much of a responsible drinker I partied like it was 1999. I showed up at the interview not just hung over but still drunk. The person conducting the interview asked me if I was sick, and if I was we could reschedule. I answer nope, not sick drunk. I did mention that I had gone out for my birthday the night before and rambled about how great my party was.
    I was not hired. My placement agency stopped returning my calls and I do believe that the other agencies in town also had me on their do not deal with list.
    I burned a lot of bridges that day.
    Years later I ran into the old contact and took that moment to finally say I was sorry for my lack of judgement. It was quit humbling to be called on the carpet about it years later and reminded again of my choice to party like mad.

      1. DoeJane

        Honesty is the best policy? I was young, and knew about the interview for a few days. I should have rescheduled knowing I was going out the night before.

  112. Erin Borgerson

    I cringe just thinking about this! I was hostessing at Red Lobster in high school and I forgot to take the first home football game off from work and naturally I was scheduled to work that night. I called my manager and made up some story about how my grandpa died in Canada and I would be attending his funeral. I went to the game in full out face paint and a great sign and was photographed by the newspaper. I was put on the cover (AKA the FRONT PAGE!) of our city newspaper and needless to say had some explaining to do with Red Lobster. Luckily I didn’t lose my job but you can bet I didn’t attend the next 3 games because I was working….

  113. DoeJohn

    I am a former intern hire at my company. About a year after getting hired, all of the interns were invited to attend a presentation by the CEO. I work for a large fortune 500 company and it is very rare to have contact with even 1 person above my manager. There are roughly 5-6 levels above me before the CEO.

    I was managing a very important project at the time and my project meeting ran late, which resulted me unfortunately showing up about 5 minutes late to the presentation by the CEO. The CEO was having each person in the audience stand up and tell a little bit about themselves. The CEO noticed I walked in late and circled back to me after every presentation and had me introduce myself. I made a quick introduction and apologized for being late, citing my project meeting ran late.

    I learned several things from this incident. I had a conversation with my manager shortly after (as he inevitably heard about it nearly instantly). I realized that I should not have even attended the presentation at all if I was going to be that late. It would have been better for my manager to be disappointed that I could not attend rather than showing up late. More importantly, I learned to NEVER show up late for a meeting with higher ups.

    I was freaking out about the incident for a while. I had a conversation with several coworkers and my mentor. After calming down a bit, I realized that the best thing for me to do was to move on and just do what I had been doing. Luckily, it didn’t impact my career as I got promoted that year (only 1 year after getting hired).

    1. Ivy

      I might not be understanding, but I don’t think coming to a presentation 5 minutes late is a big deal. Especially if you can sneak in and stand in the back. I can see it being bad if it’s an actual meeting where you’ll be contributing, but even then the 5 minute mark is reasonable. Personally, I wouldn’t even mention being late in my intro if there was a large group of people at the presentation.

      Maybe it’s the company culture though? My company has a habit of starting meetings late…

    2. Steve G

      I wouldnt learn those lessons. You just have stuck-up egotistical management that doesn’t know their place and doesn’t appreciate that people have to do actual work vs. sit in meetings (crazy isn’t it!).

      1. Maris

        I’d respectfully disagree. My company is a Fortune 50 (and thankfully most of the Execs are very nice people) but the CEO spends most of the year traveling globally, meeting clients, negotiating deals, even testifying to congressional committees etc. Their time is very limited – to turn up late where they’re giving a presentation is pretty rude. Even if you come in quietly and stand up the back, you can cause a distraction for others.

        Its a bit more akin to coming to a live performance late. That’s how many people are involved in pulling something like that off on schedule.

  114. Lily in NYC

    I fell and accidentally mooned Maya Angelou at a board meeting once! She was a nasty piece of work, by the way. Same job, years ago: I was returning to the office from lunch and a bee flew into my dress. I ran into the side door yelling “There’s a bee in my dress! There’s a bee in my dress!” and went into the bathroom to get it out. I had run by two of my bosses and some fancy-looking guy in the hallway while I was yelling. It turns out he was the President of Kodak and thought I was yelling that I peed in my dress. I almost died of mortification. My bosses made fun of me for months about it.

  115. Delphine

    I took the bus to go to my interview. I had not though about it, and “friends” that I just meet in this new city have told me that the research center was in the University site, in the forest, easilly reached by bus.
    However I had not realised that it really was a forest !
    The bus briver did not know about the lab (the name has changed a few months before, I did not know…).
    I noticed the sign too late, and ended up in the next bus stop with recognizable environment: at the hopital. Here I called the man I was interviewing with…
    He was surprised, I looked foolish for not having taken a taxi.

    I guess I was able to demonstrate my reactions in stress and stupid situation as I got the job. But everytime I see a bus I feel a twist in my heart.

  116. Dana

    There are some seriously funny stories in here that, compiled with the others, would make a great book.

  117. Lily

    We were off-site at a retreat, it was after dinner and I am an early bird, so it was already close to my bedtime. An -ism came up which annoyed me greatly and I started scolding the offender, but I couldn’t explain myself and was basically saying “because” even though she really made an effort to understand what I was upset about.

    Some time later, the organization was re-organized and she became my boss. … I was ready to profusely apologize, but I never saw her in the whole time that she was my boss.

    Lesson learned? I’m really careful about associating with work colleagues in the evening, because I still tend to run off at the mouth when I am tired.

  118. Nester

    At one job, I humiliated a vendor on a conference call over a mistake he had made. The culture at the company was very mean-spirited, and I got carried away because this vendor had given us a lot of grief earlier in the year. He was really shaken up. I realized what I’d done about an hour later and apologized, but the damage was done.

    I was able to make up for this a little bit when his wife (who also works in the industry, but for a different firm) made a big error on a project we were reviewing. She was mortified, and I could have come down on her hard with good reason, but I just asked her to correct it and get us new information ASAP. It didn’t end up being a problem at all.

    The funny thing about this is that not only did I not know she was this guy’s wife at the time, I remember consciously deciding to be nice about her mistake because I was ashamed at how poorly I had handled the vendor situation.

    Our CEO left soon after, and the culture changed dramatically for the better, but I still feel ashamed when I remember how I mistreated someone who just made a simple mistake. I was bullied as a child, and I found out firsthand how awful it feels to be the bully for once. It’s a lesson I’ll never forget.

  119. Water bottles

    I was helping with a major event to celebrate a school district’s end of year. One of my main tasks was to purchase the take away gift for 4,000 attendees. The gift had gone through so many proofs, and we were using a vendor that we’ve never used before, on the other side of the country. I had paid for express shipping, which was VERY costly, but they still didn’t arrive the night before the celebration. The next morning, I woke up panicked that they still hadn’t arrived.

    Just as I was about to tell my boss, we decided to postpone the event (which was being held outdoors) because of tornado threats! I was elated, and the funniest part was, the weather ended up being PERFECT. Our event was held the next week, and the take away gifts were in hand!

  120. Needed a tan?

    I kicked myself for this for a long time! My boss had asked me to do some follow up phone calls, inviting donors to a gala for a client of ours. I felt awkward making these phone calls, and after a few, I was SO over it. I asked my friend (who had recently lost her job) if she wanted to make the calls, pretending to be me. I offered to pay her AND take her out to dinner. I headed to the pool and took a secret day off.

    She called one donor who is actually a close family friend of mine. I didn’t realize he was on the list. They small talked for about 5 minutes, him thinking it was me. When my friend eventually ask if he and his wife could come to the gala, he got confused – his wife had recently passed away. I even went to the funeral! My friend acted as if she just found out, saying she was so sorry to hear about his loss. I was absolutely mortified when she filled me in later.

  121. pidgeonpenelope

    Back in my late teens, early 20’s, I had the worst attitude ever. I did the following (of which I cringe to this day):

    1. Demanded that, in order to work the extra hours the boss asked for, I got to pick what duties I was doing (meaning I hated working the drive thru at Burger King and wanted to work in the kitchen).

    2. Bitched my boss out for promoting someone else instead of me.

    3. Tattled on coworkers.

    4. While working in the drive thru at Burger King, there was a difficult customer making an order, I said under my breath, “Jerk” but accidentally pushed the talk button. I apologized profusely and said I was joking with someone in the kitchen. He didn’t even know what was going on. I don’t’ think he heard it.

    5. Had bad attitudes and expressed it.

    6. I used to take calls and I did a “customer mistreat” when I hung up on a lady. I almost got fired for that one.

    I definitely had a lot of growing up to do. I still feel bad for my past behavior.

  122. Former Usher

    During one summer in high school I was an usher at a movie theater. One day two girls walked up to me, giggling, and said that one of them slipped and fell on the floor. Because they were laughing, I didn’t believe them, and said “You’re lucky you didn’t fall on your head.” Yes, I really said that.

    They must not have been amused because not too long after that, the manager called me into his office. Apparently we were supposed to take injury reports seriously, and my comment was inappropriate. Who knew?

    I wasn’t fired, but for a variety of reasons unrelated to my incident, I quit after only six weeks. I’m pretty sure I quit with no notice, just leaving a handwritten note with the cashier after I picked up my last paycheck. Oh, how I hated that job.

  123. Anony

    When I was an intern, yep, I had a weekly meeting with my manager. My manager was always so busy and the meeting was really the only time I saw him. I was having such a bad day that when I went to see him for our one-on-one meeting, I came in so upset that I didn’t really talk much when he asked me for updates and he knew something was wrong. I just cringe when I think about what I did. After that, I always try to put on a happy face even when I’m not in the mood.

  124. Anony

    Another time, when I was an intern, I used company e-mail to e-mail the cute guy next to me. We basically chatted all day. Apparently, it flagged in the company system and our managers read our personal e-mail chats. I always now have in the back of my mind that mishap whenever I am using and sending work related e-mails. Do I want my manager to read this?

    1. Jamie

      FWIW – I wouldn’t take an IT gig where I had to read anyone’s inane chatter on a regular basis but my own.

      Really good advice though – most companies don’t do this but it’s good to err on the side of caution.

  125. Fr Ribs

    Years ago, our family had decided to move out of state for various reasons. I ran the office side of a family-owned construction company, the owner of which was the ‘spitting image of Tim Taylor of Tooltime in every sense, good and bad. I dreaded telling him about moving because working for him was like being a part of his Jersey-Italian family…great on some days, and others you just wanted to hide in a culvert. I knew it would be a disaster, and I worried I would find my holiday bonus withheld out of spite.

    In September we found the house we wanted and were waiting to close on it in time to move in after the holidays. About a week before the close, my then wife answered the phone and it was another woman from our church, asking if we would be going to one of the many events they ran. Her reply was “Well, we would love to go, but we are moving to Vermont right after the holidays”. Not realizing for a moment that she was talking to my boss’ wife.

    My cringe-worthy mistake was when he called a meeting to see if it was true that I had a house in Vermont; I told him the literal truth that I didn’t have a house in Vermont (not closed on at the time). I didn’t come clean until during our holiday party and we had already received the annual bonus envalope. I did return to NJ after the movefor a few weeks to help close the books for the year and set up everything for a replacement.

    I regret having bent the truth and letting down the owner, but I was young and the bonus was several thousand dollars that I had doubt I would’nt have received if I hadn’t used the letter rather than the spirit of the truth.

  126. Fr Ribs

    This one wasn’t “mine”, directly. One bookkeeping job I had for a small company, I would review the phone and credit card bills for anything that seemed out of the ordinary. I noticed a billing for some company in another state. Calling them up to see if it was a legit business expense, after a drawn-out conversation it was apparant that this was a subscription for an “adult entertainment” website. I had them cancel the service as it was not work related and our business accounts were supposed to be 100% business use only.

    I brought up the matter discretely with the owner and might have chided him gently about mixing business and pleasure. He pleaded up and down the scale that he had no idea about who used the card to do something like that. I didn’t press because he was the owner after all, but still, couldn’t he have thought of a better user name than his wife’s, and a password of his eldest son’s, names?

  127. Lydia

    When I was an usherette at a world famous theatre I had two mortifyingly embarrassing incidents, which I share here for your amusement, although the learning opportunities weren’t as great…

    I gave blood for the very first time and then went to work. During the interval I was talking to one of the customers, when the world went faint and rushed away. I came to moments later on the carpet and my lucid thought was ‘I shouldn’t be sleeping during the interval’ (not ‘why am I on the floor at all!). I’ve never fainted since, despite giving blood multiple times!

    In the smallest of their three theatres, we also had to sell ice cream during the interval, and had the change in a small lockable metal box. I’d just set everything up, and as the stream of customers charged towards me… I knocked the entire box and its float contents straight into the chest freezer. Coins + freezer = sticking completely fast, instantly. The customers were amused and understanding but it took the whole of the second half to recover all the frozen money from the bottom of the freezer!

  128. Loser

    I am in my first professional job after college. At a meeting outside the office, my boss asked me to hold onto some receipts for a large banquet our company had just provided food for. We were planning to do POs with them later.

    I said, “Sure.” and stuffed them into my jacket pocket. On my way back to the office (across the street), they fell out of my pocket without me realizing. The receipts were worth about $350.

    When I got back and saw that I didn’t have them, I ran outside looking for them (which by the way, it was the end of November in Chicago, i.e. freezing cold, and I had a serious upper respiratory infection which may as well have been the flu). I couldn’t find them, so I called a friend who used to work for my boss and asked what I should do. She said to tell my boss right away and immediately after offer to go back and get duplicate receipts.

    Anxious to replace the receipts, when my boss (who felt happy and jolly about the success of the event and was soaking it all in) got back, I pretty much just blurted out that I lost the receipts and that I was on my way to replace them. He said “WHHAAT!!!!!!!!” Then held his breath, turned around looked at the ground, got up, and left.

    I attempted to replace the receipts that day, but failed.

    The next day he and I attended a meeting together. He didn’t speak to me the entire time there. He offered me a ride back to the office, and still didn’t speak to me. By then I was wayyyy more sick than the previous day, so I hardly noticed. On the way back he stopped at the various places he had purchased from to pick up duplicate receipts. He got 2/3.

    Once we were back to the office, he told me to go home. I asked, “Why?” I thought I was fired! he said the receipt stuff was over with, and that he didn’t want me getting everyone else sick.

    I thought the receipts were behind me until last week, when our entire organization needed to close out all the POs. He said the accounts office wouldn’t accept duplicated receipts. He said his boss yelled at him for 40 minutes. Knowing that made me want to be yelled at instead, because no one wants their boss to be yelled at because of them. However everything appears to be alright now. Not sure what happened once the receipts got higher up.

  129. Nicole

    Last year I interned at a magazine and early on I asked about the possibility of job openings at the end of the semester. I got a vague “We don’t have a lot of money,” response. I pushed for the job all semester…hard. Towards the end a part-time admin-assistant job opened and I said I was interested, with the intent to hang in there until an editing/writing opportunity opened up. At least, I was interested until they said minimum wage, and I quite truthfully exclaimed “I scrub toilets for more than that!” (I cleaned apartments in the summer and made almost twice min. wage, so I wasn’t trying to be funny, but they didn’t know that.) Anyway, my co-intern is now an assistant editor there.

  130. Canadamber

    Hoooo boy. I know that this is old, but I’d still like to contribute. Anyway, I’m a cashier at a grocery store, and I’m a terrible cashier at times. I’m quite socially awkward. ANYWAY.

    Just yesterday there was a woman and she was all confused why she didn’t have to put in the PIN for her MasterCard. I said, meant jokingly, “Well, if you want to commit credit card fraud, that’s YOUR problem.” It came out a LOT bitchier than I had intended it, and she went sort of all quiet and awkwardly smiled, and once I’d realized what I said I spent basically the whole time she was bagging her groceries making awkward little small talk and apologizing. I think she realized that I didn’t mean it, but I was quite worried there for a while!

    I’m also really good at figuring out what people’s cards are before they put them in. So I’m like, “Debit?/MasterCard?/Visa?” and they’re all like, “Yeah,” so once they’ve confirmed it, I put in that it’s either debit or credit and off they go. So, anyhow, I have a tendency to slur my words or mix up what I’m saying, because when it’s credit I usually end up saying, “De-MasterCard?” or vice versa, with any weird combination of words that you can really think of.

    Also, once I was on shift and I was done at 2:30 and I REALLY wanted to go home. I kept checking the clock anxiously for the last 15 minutes before my shift ended; no one showed up to replace me! So, finally, at 2:34, I realized that no one was coming, and I called my supervisor. “Hey, wasn’t I done at 2:30?” “…Maybe. (in a sheepish voice) You can shut down now.” “Thanks.” So I put down the phone, and turn to find a customer with some groceries waiting on the belt! Now, at this time, I was relatively new and I’d heard something scary about how you’d get in trouble for clocking out late, so I told her that I couldn’t serve her because I had to clock out and I’d get in trouble if I was late and did she want someone else to come up here and deal with it for her? She got more agitated as I spoke, and I was apologizing as well, until finally she just sort of snapped, gave a HUGE sigh, and just THREW her groceries back into her cart and stormed away. A coworker was watching me, so I awkwardly high-tailed it out of there and promptly felt bad for the rest of the week.

    I also have a few awkward moments involving my boyfriend, who also works there (we only started dating recently). He works in grocery, so he’s not always around the cash registers, but whenever he is there, I usually end up dropping something or fumbling or just generally being clumsy whenever I see him. :) Like, yesterday, for instance, he had just come in from doing carts and I couldn’t find the bar code for a box of tangerines so I turned it over and they fell out of the box and went EVERYWHERE – oops!

  131. T

    Dress code.

    As a college professor who started teaching at 23, this was a hard one for me to adjust to. I teach at a college that requires instructors to wear business attire. At first, I complied and wore the stuffy blazer jacket and constrictive dress pants. But as time wore on, I became increasingly lax. Since I almost never ran into my boss, I figured no one would notice — and the students didn’t care.

    Being a tall gal, dress pants never worked for me (always too short or too tight). Instead, I started to get away with black leggings and long shirts that covered my bum. When winter rolled around, I started wearing my cozy Ugg boots instead of my more “appropriate” work shoes that would let snow inside. Basically, I looked more like a scraggly student than an instructor.

    As I was entering the copy center, one of the Deans noticed me and asked if I was a student. I replied, “No, I’m an instructor…” I saw her give me a funny look, and glance at my name badge. Later that evening, my boss sent me an email asking why I thought it was appropriate to wear leggings and Ugg boots to work. I had been tattled on…The jig was up! I tried to cover my a** by telling her they weren’t leggings (they were), but “skinny leg style work pants”….I did have to own up to the Ugg boots, however.

    Lesson learned? Big brother is always watching. Dress accordingly.

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