confess your awkward work moments!

Inspired by a recent commenter who shared a story about the time she accidentally slapped her boss in the face, we need to hear from others about awkward messes you unintentionally (or intentionally?) caused at work.

Did you insult your company president to her face? Trip a client in the hallway? Come out of the bathroom with your skirt tucked into your underwear? Get caught in flagrante in the conference room? This is the time to get it off your chest. Confess to us, and your soul will be cleansed.

{ 537 comments… read them below }

  1. Lanya*

    I remember a story about a former coworker who was pumping breast milk in her office with the door closed, and her boss barged right in without knocking and then backed off apologetically once she realized where the pumping noise was coming from. Former Coworker said it wasn’t all that terrible, because she was covered with a cloth and her boss was female…but it was definitely an awkward moment for both of them.

    1. Tina*

      I was once in the situation of having to explain to a male grad student why he couldn’t enter the office he SHARED with a female grad student, because she was pumping. Awkward. Should have seen the look on his face. I should have told her she needed to discuss it with him directly, rather than using me as the messenger. But I was 22 and was just so surprised, I didn’t say anything to her.

      1. Meg*

        I would have been so irritated at being asked to relay that message. Not that I don’t think the female student deserves a private space for that, but seriously? She should have handled that discussion herself.

        1. Stephanie*

          Actually, it is federal law to provide a private place that is not the bathroom for pumping. I am lucky as a new mom that my work already provided a place, but you’ll bet that I would have talked to my manager and/or HR about it. If their solution would be to have me pump in my office, I would expect that he or she be the one to explain it to the person I share the office with. Personally, I would have asked for another place to pump, but it doesn’t seem that strange to me that the manager is the one having to have that conversation…

          1. Forrest*

            Um, why? Why would you expect your manager or HR to talk to your office mate about it? They’re going to find out you’re pumping anyway. Why not tell them and if they give you issues, then hand it over to hire uppers.

            Also, the law only applies to companies of 50+.

            1. Stephanie*

              Honestly, I am just taking this from the perspective that the company (of yes – more than 50 people) has to provide a place for me to pump that is private and accessible for me when I need to pump. If they decide that place is my office — which is an inconvenience to others for sure, they have to be the ones to make that arrangement. Why should the the newly pumping mom have to be the one to embarrass herself with a conversation like this with a coworker?

              There are already way too many hurdles for new moms going back to work to add having to educate another coworker on pumping schedules one might need to keep.

              That all said, I would have talked to my office mate about it myself if I was in the situation. And I definitely pushed back with my manager / HR about having to displace a coworker 3 times a day before it came to that. Thank goodness I am not!

              1. badger_doc*

                So forgive me for sounding naive–I haven’t had kids yet. Why can’t you pump in the bathroom??

                1. KellyK*

                  It’s a health/sanitation thing. You wouldn’t make yourself a sandwich on the bathroom counter, would you?

                2. Kristen44*

                  First, our bathroom only has a plug by the sink. I don’t want to stand at the sink and pump while people come in and out. “Hi everyone! Don’t mind me and my boobs!” It has no chairs, and I don’t want to sit on the toilet while I pump (if I use a battery). It is a bathroom…where people do their business. I don’t want to sit in there for 15 minutes twice a day and listen to all that while pumping. And something just seems gross about pumping out milk for my baby to eat in there. Pumping isn’t fun to begin with. Add having to do it in the bathroom? UGH.

                3. Pandora Amora*

                  Producing milk isn’t simply a matter of physically vacuuming the milk out. There’s a psychosomatic response to nursing called “letdown”. Babies stimulate it, but mothers need to be in the right mood for letdown to occur.

                  Most people do bathroom things in the bathroom. It’s not a natural or safe environment to encourage letdown.

                4. badger_doc*

                  I guess I didn’t think about that. The bathrooms at my work are pretty nice, so I figured that would be the most private place to do that. I suppose I could reserve a conference room but I’d be afraid of anyone other than another woman walking in on me. I just figured the bathroom was the most obvious place and if a woman walked in, she would know what was going on and it wouldn’t be an embarrassing situation. Plus there is a sink right there if needed!

                5. khilde*

                  badger_doc – I think it’s a pretty reasonable question to ask, especially if pumping isn’t something you’ve really experienced or known anyone that did it. I used to think the same thing before I had kids, but I echo the reasons everyone else gave.

                  The most obvious reason is that it’s not sanitary. The milk doesn’t have to touch anything really (in my experience, it goes straight into a bottle, which I pour straight into a bag that seals. However, when I’m transferring the milk, the bottles and bags have to rest somewhere and I balanced all that on my pump bag, but that bag has to sit on the floor (or on my lap) which is just awkward and gross all around). So pumping milk takes some serious coordination with all the equipment (bottles, tubing, the pump bag, the milk bags, etc). Having a table and a comfortable place to sit so you can relax (for the let-down like someone mentioned above) is really helpful.

                  I do employee training so I find myself in a variety of different locations when I am out of the office. I’ve pumped in a bathroom stall before (I’ve breastfed in a bathroom stall before, too, – it sucks. ha! no pun intended. I do wish more public places had non-bathroom locations for women to go to nurse when they’re out and about). I’ve pumped in my car (actually that’s where I go when I’m training at a hotel and am on lunch break when I’ve already checked out of my hotel room). I put my car in a secluded part of the parking lot and do it there. I sort of feel defiant doing it. Like I dare someone to look at me askance so I can give them a lecture on how crappy it is to have no where to go to do this! So, nursing mothers often have to adapt to their circumstances, but it is a blessing to have a clean, comfortable, and private place to do it.

              2. Bea W*

                Why should anyone other than the person who is pumping be the one to “embarrass” themselves by having to have that awkward personal conversation someone they don’t share an office with?
                I would argue it’s less embarrassing for the pumper to explain than it would be for anyone else. Presumably, if you’ve been pregnant and are now breastfeeding and pumping, you’ve likely gotten over the embarrassment factor of mentioning it to people when you have to step out to either feed or pump. New Mom understands their schedule better than anyone else.

                I can see it being appropriate to ask a manager to handle it, but expecting someone who is not your manager or in a management/HR position, like the commenter Tina, to inform other co-workers is a bit much. The law ensures new moms have a private place for pumping. It doesn’t place the responsibility of having a potentially awkward conversation on folks who are otherwise not involved in either managing or securing that space.

                But then I’m used to new mom co-workers who would put signs up on an office door warning people not to come in whenever they were pumping. Obviously, co-workers who write things like “Pumping -Do not enter!” or “Mom at work” on a sign and hang it on their door have made peace with any feelings of embarrassment. :D YMMV.

                1. Stephanie*

                  Like I said previously, it wasn’t obvious to me in the original comment that the poster wasn’t the person’s manager? I apologized for my misunderstanding to the commenter… not sure what else I need to do?

                  And I actually agree with everybody that it was weird for someone other than a manager or HR person to have to talk to the office-mate.

                  On the signage: I think it depends on the industry / company culture. My office is pretty female heavy and has a lot of moms with young children, but you don’t see anyone posting signs like you mentioned on their doors. But we have external clients come through the office all the time, and we have a designated lactation room.

                2. RJ*

                  Ooh, “lactation room” reminded me of this good one! Our department had recently relocated to a new building. We had a new mom come back to work and she was told that the lactation room was down on the first floor. We were on the third. So she goes downstairs and finds the labelled “pump room”, but the door is locked. After checking in with a number of admins, someone finally got a hold of the facility staff to get the key. Lo and behold, once they get the door opened, they realize that this room holds a lot of machinery and the water pump for the gigantic fountain feature in the lobby. The actual “lactation room” was a side room off the first floor break room, but since we had our own third floor break room, no one on our floor knew it was there.

                3. Forrest*

                  I don’t see why it should fall to the manager or HR. Their job is to provide you a place, not have a conversation. Espcially automatcilaly and without question. It seems to be oddly combative to be all “well, then you talk to my office mate about it!”

                  Its your office mate. They’re going to figure out if you’re breast feeding or not. I would image its even more awarkd to send your manager/HR in your stead. Plus, I don’t think that’s really HR’s job and what if the office mate doesn’t report to the same manager?

                  There are a lot of stressful things about being a new mom. Telling someone to step out or let you know when they’re off to a meeting so they can breast pump isn’t really one of them.

                  I mean, if you’re brave enough to tell your manager and HR you need to pump, why not your office mate?

                  But I personally thing that HR and managers are not there to manage your personal relationships, which is kind of what this falls under.

                  Bottom: They’re going to find out anyway. Might as well as be from you.

              3. Jessa*

                Why should this conversation be embarrassing first thing, second thing, the office should have a lock if you’re going to be using it for that, or you should be able to tack a “privacy needed please knock” sign on the door when pumping.

          2. Anonymous*

            Yes, it’s law that they have to have a lactation room, but no law saying it has to be in a convenient location. I work at a university, and they don’t have one in every building, rather they have only a couple for a campus that has a very large area. I don’t have kids and I find that appalling, that someone has to walk a half mile just to get a room that can use.

            1. PregCanuck*

              Honestly, this whole concept of a lactation room in general is pretty absurd. The US is the only first-world country that doesn’t provide mothers with ANY federally mandated maternity leave, nowhere else in the Western world are “pumping rooms” a thing. Instead of women fighting for insurance to cover breast pumps and laws that make employers provide a private room (that they possibly have to fight for anyways) to pump in, why aren’t y’all fighting for what every other country provides: MATERNITY LEAVE. There is plenty of credible research that shows how vital not only breastfeeding is, but also a secure attachment with parents is to creating functioning adults. How can anyone be surprised at the state the States is in when the very foundation of society- new babies- are basically confined to what amounts to an institution at 3 months old for 10 hours a day?

              There are so many things about American labour laws that strike me as archaic and screwy and bordering on human rights issues- but maternity leave is the chief among them. I live just north of the US/Canadian border and I’m about to go on my first federally provided 52 weeks of maternity leave (during which I’ll make 55% of my weekly income.) My employer can’t give away my job, can’t fire me, can’t deny me the right to take my 52 weeks, has to return me to my job with the same or better pay at the end of it, and I can start that 52 weeks at any point within 8 weeks of my due date. Unless my baby physically cannot nurse I have no use for a breast pump, no need to discuss my breasts with my coworkers, and no need to try and balance work with being sleep deprived with a newborn. I’m able to stop working two weeks before my due date, have a full year with my new baby while we get through all that hard first year stuff (my husband could take it if we so wished but he’s not growing it so I vito’d that) and I can return to work when he’s a year old and ready to be in daycare. I have no idea how Americans do it.

              1. Cat*

                Umm I support maternity leave too but it is ridiculous and insulting to suggest that American babies without stay at home parents don’t bond with their parents or become functioning adults because of it.

              2. Stephanie*

                How this American does it:

                My daughter goes to a WONDERFUL daycare where the caregivers totally love on her all day long. They provide us with a sheet of what she has done that day (diaper counts, feedings, activities). They provide her age appropriate activities and are great at suggesting activities that we can do with her at home (as first time parents this is wonderful to us).

                Yes, some things (well, mostly just pumping) suck. But you know what? I love being back at work, doing what I love to do, with my great coworkers. And I love that when I leave work I can spend quality time with my daughter, totally loving on her all the more. Not every mom (or dad) is meant to be a stay at home parent, even if just for the first year. My daughter started at daycare at 3 months old and actually seems better for it.

                If you can’t tell: I really dislike the notion that somehow daycare is an ‘institution’. I also went to daycare as a kid (as did my husband) and neither of us think we are any worse for it!

                1. khilde*

                  Oh, Stephanie, we could be good friends. I feel the same way about pretty much everything you said.

                  I just had my second baby (who’s 10 weeks old) and I was a little more reluctant to go back to work when she was 9 weeks old, but I was still ready when the time came. But we have a wonderful daycare that I trust very much to love on my baby in my stead. And my heart aches for mothers/fathers that don’t have great daycare options. I would love to see a positive change there. Cause feeling helpless with sucky providers and few options has to be a horrible feeling.

                  One other little rant that has always bothered me regarding taking your kid to daycare is when someone says “I don’t want someone else raising my kid.” I don’t usually get too nuts over what people say, but this one has increasingly irritated me the longer I’ve been a parent. Because I firmly do not believe anyone else is raising my children. The daycare teachers are there to keep them alive during the day, to play with them, and to instill basic manners and decorum. But overall, we’re (me and husband) are the ones that are utterly responsible for imparting our values, moral lessons, consistent discipline, etc. I find it interesting that I’ve never heard anyone saying that K-12 teachers are raising children. Yet daycare providers are?

                  Whoa, sorry, I didn’t mean to go on a rant. I truly don’t mean to open up volatile discussion, so sorry AAM, if I do! :0

                  But actually, what I came to say is that I keep thinking of research I’ve heard that parents are actually spending MORE time with their children these days than they did in the 1960s even though the number of parents working outside the home has increased also. Scroll about 2/3 of the way down on this link, and check out the first bullet under the heading “Other Key Time Use Findings.” In part here’s what I’m referring to, “…The amount of time parents spend with their children continues to go up. Fathers have nearly tripled their time with children since 1965. Mothers’ time with children has also increased, and today’s mothers spend more time with their children than mothers did in the 1960s.”


                2. Forrest*

                  For real. Its like baby season at my new job. Some moms are all “why do I have to come back.” Others are “do I have to take this leave? I miss work.”

                  Being with anyone, even a baby, 24/7 will get to you after a while. Work is a nice change of pace. I’m all for ordering companies to offer maternity and paying for it, but I don’t think it needs to be the Canadian system either.

                1. CEMgr*

                  Correct. I breastfed my first until she was 14 months old (and I had to travel to Japan for business). I was back at work when she was 3 months old and she was 100% breastfed until the age of 5 months.

                  I would not have wanted 52 weeks of maternity leave. Work was a welcome relief after being trapped at home with an infant all day, every day. And I had a responsible engineering management job too. YMMV.

                  So I needed a lactation room and a pump.

              3. Pandora Amora*

                I don’t understand why you’d deny your husband the same experience for your baby’s first year. If he wants to have the same great bonding experience that you talk about, why try to deny him that?

              4. Dutchwoman*

                “nowhere else in the Western world are “pumping rooms” a thing”
                This is not true. The Netherlands is a Western country with generous maternity leave and pumping rooms are required here, because some mothers need them even after they return to work.

              5. Andrew Wiggin*

                I completely agree that it would be great if the U.S. had 52 weeks of maternity leave paid at 55% of normal salary for both mothers and fathers, but everyone seems to forget the one critical question about providing that benefit:


                I don’t claim to know what the right or best answer is, and obviously there are multiple viewpoints, but setting aside the arguments such as whether or not it’s fair for breeders like me should get that type of benefit when non-breeders don’t, and setting aside proposals like, “everyone’s salary should be a little lower to cover it” or “the cost of the service or product provided should be a little higher to cover it” I want to point out the real-life impact of Canada making it a legal requirement to provide a year of leave at half-salary:


                Full Disclosure: I used to work for a US-based global company that had one of their sites in Canada. I helped track headcount by site for capacity planning purposes, and there was a HUGE difference in the headcount and cost for Canada:
                – Twice as many employees as any other site for the same amount of work, because at least half of the people were on long-term leave.
                – Fifty-plus percent higher costs for the Canadian cost centers because they had to factor in the cost of long-term leave.

                The end result was that the company closed down that entire site, laying off thousands of people, and built a new site in the US where the cost of living was lower, thereby saving millions and millions of dollars…

                1. Cath@VWXYNot?*

                  The first question to ask is not who pays, but who benefits.

                  As a “non-breeder” as you put it, by choice, I’m happy for my tax dollars to pay for other people’s parental leave, government-subsidised day care, and high quality public education, because I believe these are things that benefit society as a whole, not just those specific kids and their families. (Sure, a full year of parental leave isn’t something that every single parent wants, but I think everyone should have the choice to do what makes them and therefore their kids happy). Do I want well-educated doctors and nurses when I’m old? Hell yes!

                  Given that all of society benefits, I’m happy for all of society (including “non-breeders”) to pay, via the tax system. I certainly don’t claim to speak for all Canadians in this regard, but it’s a sentiment that’s common enough that no politician anywhere on the mainstream spectrum would dare to suggest getting rid of the current generous parental leave rights.

                  On the economic front: long parental leaves also create jobs – temporary jobs, yes, but I know lots of people who broke into the fields they’re in now by taking on a one-year mat-leave cover. There are four or five just in my department of my office.

                  Current US unemployment rate: 7.3%
                  Current Canadian unemployment rate: 7.1%

                  There are obviously a million other factors in play here, but honestly, I don’t think our higher benefits rates make that much of a dent.

                2. Mel C*

                  Stupid question – the millions and millions of dollars saved: did the money get redistributed to the workers by elevating their salaries? Or did it just go to the shareholders or owners? If Canada is doing so badly, why is their money worth more? Ditto for the British pound and the Euro… pretty much all the other countries that would be our counterparts socially and economically are doing better than us, AND they have universal healthcare, AND provide paid maternity/paternity leave. So… your argument is invalid.

            2. Tina*

              I certainly wish the mom had talked to her office mate herself, and in advance. It was one of those “Tina’s sitting right across the hall, so I’ll just have her tell him when he comes back” situations. They had a discussion after that particular instance, and I don’t know what they worked out, I just know I wasn’t dragged into it again. But try being a 22 year old college student with no personal experience with pregnancy or breastmilk and feeding, explaining to a man that she hardly knew, why he couldn’t go into his own office. After the fact, it was kind of funny.

    2. ExceptionToTheRule*

      I offer this without judgment or other comment:

      We had a new mom breastfeed (not pump) while running teleprompter during a live (regularly scheduled) newscast.

      1. khilde*

        I do employee training and one of my coworkers told me that in a recent class she had a woman breastfeed her baby during class. That was the first time in 20+ years she’d seen that. So the mentality on this is definitely changing!! As an aside, as a mother I don’t think I could concentrate on the material at hand with my newborn in the room with me! haha.

  2. Sabrina*

    This happened to a friend of mine. She was returning from lunch with her lunch buddies and had just gotten on the elevator. The department manager came up to the elevator doors with some other managers just as the door was closing. My friend tried to hit the door open button, but in a panic, couldn’t find the button and ended up hitting the door close button instead. Apparently the look on the manager’s face was priceless and sent everyone into fits of giggles. And then as my friend was exiting the elevator, the manager exited another one, and of course my friend was still laughing.

      1. Nikki T*

        I read some place that in a lot of elevators they don’t work! But I have also hit that button by accident myself…oops.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      I’ve done that several times in our office building. The open/close door buttons have symbols, and I’m a written word person, so it’s happened many times to me. It must have happened a lot to other people because they finally put “OPEN” and “CLOSE” labels on the buttons.

      1. Colette*

        I’m also a word person, and I usually just stare at the buttons, frantically trying to figure out which one is open and which one is close. And then the door closes automatically and the problem goes away. :)

        1. Jazzy Red*

          I live in a very hilly area. There’s a sign on one of the roads that shows a truck on a steep hill pointing downward (you know how those official non-word signs are). It took me more than 2 years to figure out that it was a “warning – steep hill” sign because the figures just didn’t make sense to me. And after the first time I went down this road, I knew the hill was steep (duh!).

      2. Vicki*

        I was recently in an elevator that had a sign explaining the buttons, e.g.:
        To close the doors, press the “Close” button.
        To hold the doors open, press the “Open” button.

        Except that there were no “Open” or “Close” buttons. They were the usual and >< labels.

  3. Brandy*

    Spewed wine across the table at a business dinner. To be fair, most people were VERY drunk, and it happened because someone had just told a hilarious and wholly inappropriate joke while I was mid-sip of wine.

    Luckily, the only person that really seemed to notice was someone at my company (who has since left).

    1. Ivy*

      Well, I did that over a coworker who was telling a joke. He left the company more than 5 years ago but I still remember that embarrassing moment

  4. Oh Lord...*

    I recently punched a coworker in the face myself. I was mortified beyond belief.
    I’m the first person in my office every morning. I arrive, unlock the doors and turn on the lights. Most of my coworkers know this. One morning someone thought it would be funny to arrive before me and hide in the corner to wait for me. I unlocked the doors, came in, and before I could turn on the lights he leaned down in my ear and breathed really heavily, saying “There you are”.
    You know fight or flight? Well apparently I, at 13 weeks pregnant no less, go into full on fight mode. I swung around and cracked him right across the jaw and started to go in for another when I realized who it was. I think I may have dislocated his jaw.
    Also, I’m our office’s one HR person.

    1. Poster formally known as Jane Doe*

      Aw! That was rude of the person. I once threw my now-husband into an armbar at blockbuster video when he had the nerve to come up behind me and give me a hug!

    2. Andrea*

      That’s not so much awkward as it is just desserts for the idiot who thought it would be funny to sneak up on you and surprise you. I hope he learned a long-overdue lesson about scaring women for fun.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        Amen! He totally got what he deserved for sneaking up on a woman in a deserted office, for trying to scare a coworker, and for trying to frighten a woman with whom he didn’t have that kind of teasing relationship (wife, sister, etc.). He should have known nothing good would come of that.

    3. Meg*

      I shouldn’t laugh at that, and on some level I do feel bad for the other guy. But on the other hand, he probably should have expected that.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        Yeah, you should laugh at that. The guy deserved a punch in the nose for doing something like that.

        I would have hit him with my purse, and he would have died.

    4. Jill*

      That sounds like a cruel and unnecessary joke. I guess some men don’t understand how women have the legit need to fear for their safety more than most men do. I love that your pregnant kick-ass instincts kicked in though.

    5. Audiophile*

      I’m sorry…. I’m laughing so hard reading that. He got what he deserved.

      I had a (now ex-) boyfriend sneak up on me, in the library, while at a computer. He got elbowed pretty hard in the gut and didn’t do it again.

      1. Jessica (the celt)*

        My sister always jumped out at me to try to scare me when we were kids, so my first instinct when someone does that is to deck them. I warned my husband of this automatic instinct, so he wouldn’t think the “hide behind something and jump out yelling” trick was a good idea. He’s smart, though, so he’s never actually tried it on me.

        Side story not related to work: The first and last time I was in a haunted house, I was 16. Someone who has the above instinct shouldn’t go into haunted houses. Enough said.

        1. Jessa*

          Someone came up behind me once and I was standing at a sink in front of a window. I’m hearing impaired, I had no clue, they decided to poke me on the shoulder (I don’t mean lightly tap, I mean you know POKE!) I shot an elbow back at them. Luckily they stepped back from it and didn’t get seriously jabbed in the stomach. But seriously poking someone? BAD idea. The guy was new. He had no idea I couldn’t hear him. He thought I knew he was there. Luckily he wasn’t the CEO or something.

      1. Andrea*

        Yeah, there’s no excuse for that kind of ignorance. Any man who cares about any woman—wife, girlfriend, daughter, sister, mom, friend, neighbor, colleague—has got to be sensitive to the safety concerns and issues that all women have to live with. And any man who cares about the women that he knows should also damn well know better than to sneak up on a woman in the dark in a deserted space. If he somehow doesn’t know better (what, he doesn’t read the news? Or have eyes?) then he probably deserves a punch. No mortification necessary for the woman who punches to defend herself.

          1. Frieda*

            Yes, but women are often (subtly or explicitly) told that it’s their own fault if they are the victim of a crime, for walking alone/in that outfit/at that hour/in that neighborhood. In my experience this causes women to be more cautious/vigilant than men, in general. So I can see how a woman would be more likely to assume that someone was attacking her rather than playing a prank.

            For the record, I personally don’t think there is a relationship between how “vigilant” a person is and their risk for being a crime victim, but that’s the story we tell ourselves so we feel like we have some level of control over a situation that we can’t actually control.

            1. fposte*

              I just don’t think this is a story about sneaking up on a woman, particularly–it’s why it’s stupid to sneak up on anybody.

          2. Anonymous*

            However a greater percentage of women will be the victim of domestic violence or rape by someone they know.

            1. Lee*

              Technically this only proves violence against women is more reported.
              It doesn’t actually conclusively prove a greater number of women will be victims than men.

          3. Anon*

            Are they victims of “random” violence more, though? Just anecdotally, I know plenty of men who have been beaten up or experienced whatever physical violence, but it often started as a verbal fight that they were in and escalated – i.e., they would not be scared to walk to their car alone in a parking garage.

            1. TheSnarkyB*

              Yeah. I don’t know what the stat is from exactly, but my first instinct is to question the definition of “violence.” Like… is this just a misinterpreted/lost-in-translation stat about how men are more often involved in violence (i.e. situations with no clear victim or aggressor)? Because then my instinct is to say “Yeah and men are more likely to start it.” Like.. in an equally matched bar-brawl between two men, are they both being counted toward the statistic of being the victims of violence?

    6. Sydney*

      He’s lucky you just punched him once. I was startled like that one time by a friend, and I punched him, then picked up a nearby baseball bat and hit him twice before he finally said words and I recognized his voice. He won’t ever do that again.

      PSA – Do not pretend to be an attacker, especially in the dark.

    7. Bea W*

      Well…when you lie in wait to scare someone by pretending to be a creeper, getting hit in either the face or the nuts is just one of the occupational hazards.

        1. Ruffingit*

          No doubt. And this guy is lucky she wasn’t hurt when he scared her. She could have freaked out, lost her balance or something and been really injured or God forbid, lost the baby. Such a stupid, stupid thing to do. I cannot imagine why anyone would think this was a good idea.

    8. Steve G*

      I’m not one to get offended by other’s office gaffees and have a high threshold for what I consider bad, but this is rediculous. That person was really dumb and not nice to do that especially to a woman – pregnant, nonetheless!

    9. Not So NewReader*

      Wow. Such stupid behavior. He got what he deserved.
      Not that I recommend hitting, but he put himself in a spot where chances were pretty good that you would start swinging.
      I hope his boss stepped in on this one. This is over the top. A pregnant woman, no less.

      You sound pretty calm about it all, considering. I don’t know if I would be able to do the same.

    10. Anonymous*

      Maybe this is wrong of me but I seriously think he had that coming. At the time, you didn’t know if he was an attacker waiting for you or what not.

      I hope there isn’t any disciplinary action taken against you b/c I really think your actions were warranted, given the circumstances.

    11. Marie*

      That is the best possible response, and from HR, no less. Who the heck thinks it’s funny to make his pregnant coworker think she’s being attacked while alone in the office?

  5. Emily*

    This isn’t really funny-awkward but more horrible-awkward. I was introduced to my company’s CEO at a work social function only a few weeks after I joined my current position (this being my first job since I graduated). A colleague in my department dragged me over and the basic gist of the conversation was this:

    Colleague: This is Emily, who will be working with Boss on our special project!
    CEO: Hello – we want more numbers now that you’re here.
    Me: We’ll try our best! (said in as happy, cheerful and enthusiastic manner as possible but slightly panicked because what the hell was I supposed to say?)
    CEO: (totally deadpan) Try harder.

    Then he turned back to his conversation and I was essentially dismissed. This was in front of the HR manager and a number of other employees that I’d never met in my entire life but were quite important to the company. I wasn’t sure if he was joking or not, either, but I felt so embarrassed and ashamed and I wanted nothing more than for a spontaneous sinkhole to swallow me up. My colleague actually apologised and said she wasn’t expecting it to go quite like that, and so did my boss when he heard.

    I’ve now been here two years and the CEO has retired, but I still sometimes think about that moment and cringe.

    1. Jeanne*

      I think you were fine. I would have wished for the sinkhole too but I can’t see anything you did wrong.

    2. Pussyfooter*

      He was very rude…and made an ass of himself in front of everyone else, too. (sorry he was so mean to you)

      1. Former Usher*

        RotJ quote? If so, I think the safer response would have been to catch the first shuttle off the Death Star.

  6. Poster formally known as Jane Doe*

    When I was first starting out in my field, I worked for a very small company – there was just 3 of us. Being so small, we all grew very close. The firm was in a small house, and the restroom had a window in it, right next to the toilet, with mini-blinds on it. One day, things were taking a little longer than normal, so I took a little look-sie out the window while sitting upon the throne. I looked out, and made direct eye-contact with my boss, who was out on the back porch for a smoke break. (He wasn’t creepy, just happened to look up when the blinds started moving). Needless to say, I was completely mortified, especially when he came in and told our other coworker what happened. I still don’t know why I looked out, but we all had a good, tears streaming down our cheeks laugh about it.

    1. Nikki T*

      We have a GIANT mini-blinded window in the last stall in the ladies room, it creeps me out even though we’re on the fourth floor.

      1. Pussyfooter*

        ugh. Sometimes I house-sit for a friend with a beautiful home. The guest bathroom has an outside door to the back yard, with a full length window in it, directly beside the toilet. The glass isn’t even frosted. Who designs these places????

        1. Twentymilehike*

          Hahahahahaha yes! I once had a friend who’s bathroom had, directly across from the toilet, a sliding glass door with a tiny fenced in yard inside of their larger fenced in yard. It was just big enough to stand it, and was covered with a very low roof. ?!?!?

      2. Rana*

        We once stayed in a hotel that had the shower arranged such that it was completely enclosed in glass… with things visible in the living room! There was sort of a “modesty panel” of etched glass from about shoulder height to mid-thigh, but still! Awkward…

        1. CathVWXYNot?*


          We once stayed in a swanky rented house that had NO DOOR on the toilet stall in the master bedroom’s en suite bathroom. It was laid out almost like a maze, so you were enclosed by a couple of right angles worth of wall, but there was NO DOOR that you could close between you and anyone using the shower or sink, or in the bedroom. My now-husband and I had only been together about a year and weren’t living together yet, which made it especially awkward – I might be able to deal with it now (maybe), but back then I refused to use it and went downstairs instead.

        2. Jessica (the celt)*

          Yeah, but whose shoulder to mid-thigh height? I’m super short and my husband is super tall, so if I had to share that room with someone other than him, that could get really awkward…

          1. Rana*

            Exactly! What was particularly awful is that we were staying in this hotel along with my mother-in-law, and my brother-in-law and his wife, and although we had our own rooms, sometimes it made more sense for us to meet in one room while getting ready so we could plan things. So at one point my poor husband and his brother ended sitting on a bed in the main room, staring at the opposite wall, so that their mother could finish her shower without being embarrassed. It was a truly stupid design.

        3. Jessa*

          Someone came up behind me once and I was standing at a sink in front of a window. I’m hearing impaired, I had no clue, they decided to poke me on the shoulder (I don’t mean lightly tap, I mean you know POKE!) I shot an elbow back at them. Luckily they stepped back from it and didn’t get seriously jabbed in the stomach. But seriously poking someone? BAD idea. The guy was new. He had no idea I couldn’t hear him. He thought I knew he was there. Luckily he wasn’t the CEO or something.

    2. Yup*

      My current office has the exact same setup. And I just had to go hide in our bathroom-with-a-window-that-faces-the-front-porch for a good 10 minutes because I was laughing so hard at this story.

    3. BGirl81*

      Ohmygod, it would have been even better if you’d looked at him with the Dwight Schrute Glare hahaha!! Thank you for making my day :)

  7. Rich*

    On two separate occasions, at the end of my shift, I pulled my cash drawer to count it, started walking, and slammed it, and my hand, into a female coworker’s chest. The second time it happened was with my manager, of all people.

    1. Mortified*

      I had one of these once. I reached right just as a co-worker leaned in left and I ended up with a handful. I recoiled in horror and mumbled a pathetic “sorry” and she graciously ignored it and pretended that it didn’t happen. Couldn’t look her in the eye for the next 6 months. Mortified.

      This was about 15 years ago. I wonder now if the result would have been the same or if I would have been run out of the office . . . .

    2. Gene*

      When Dad was flying a hot-air balloon for a radio station (KDKB) I was working ground crew for him. One of the tasks after flying is to milk all the air out of the balloon so it can be stuffed back into it’s bag. It’s typically done by two people from opposite sides and you end up unable to see in this sea of nylon gathering big armfuls of fabric. In one of my gathers I ended up with a handful of the other crewperson’s (a lovely young thing I had a bit of a crush on) butt. We never did go out, and that moment was never mentioned.

          1. Jamie*

            Eh – I’m sure he meant no harm, but referring to a woman as a thing bothered me too. The language objectifies and dehumanizes women, even though I am positive that wasn’t the intent.

  8. Steve*

    Not once, but twice, while standing in a doorway talking to someone, I reached behind me to turn the doorknob while still facing the person I was conversing with. Both times, the “knob” I grabbed wasn’t connected to a door. And both times it was a very flamboyant (but straight – think Robin Williams) guy named Andy. One more time and I would have had to propose marriage to him. He knew it wasn’t intentional, and he was not upset by it. However, he wasn’t too happy that his being groped became a story that was told over and over again by those who witnessed it. He did finally ask someone in HR to speak to them to ask them to let it die a quiet death.

  9. ProcReg*

    6 years ago (I was 23 years old), we were at a work training in the conference room. We all picked one of several times that worked into our days. We did not ask our boss for permission.

    Our monster boss came to the room during the training, and walked behind us all at our tables and whispered, “I went to find my children, and I couldn’t find them. You’re all in trouble.” There were several other agency employees present.

    Several people in the agency came up to us later, laughed and asked, “How do you work for her?” I, being young, naive, and on the spot, said, “We just show up. It’s really hard.”

    Surprisingly, the agency had no clue why turnover for a department of 14 had such high turnover!

      1. ProcReg*

        Oh, yes! Had the economy not laid an egg in 2007, i’dve been able to leave much sooner! First job out of college, it was awful.

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        I read this as the boss expecting her employees to watch her children and being mad that no one was doing it…but your interpretation is equally plausible.

        Either way, horrible!

        1. ProcReg*

          No, she just called her employees “children”. She was very condescending. She was removed from power a few years ago.

  10. Undercover*

    Well, I’m not saying this was me, because boy, would that be embarrassing…

    But a friend may have gotten a little too comfortable at an office party, had a little too much to drink, and spent a little too much time telling her boss in detail about how ugly his tie was, how she always hated that tie from the first time he wore it to work, and how everybody in his department agreed that it was a hideous tie… and learned that it had been given to him by his wife. Who was standing next to him. The next few weeks at work were seriously awkward. For my friend. Because it wasn’t me.

    I will, however, readily admit to having tucked my skirt into my underwear, and during my first month in a new job. I don’t think anybody saw it before I felt the draft, but I’ve never really been quite sure. If anybody did see it they were extremely gracious.

  11. ThatsNotTheWebcam*

    I had mostly ignored the rumors that my manager was having an affair with his assistant (he has been divorced since then). This particular incident made it a bit more difficult to ignore.

    We were in our classroom working on getting our new video conference system to work. We needed to connect to a test webcam, and my manager remembered that he had one in his laptop bag in his office. He had forgotten it up there after lunch (out with assistant).
    So, I ran up to his office, opened the laptop bag side pocket… And found he forgot something else. That side pocket was also full of condoms and condom wrappers. Found the webcam in another pocket of the bag and took the webcam back downstairs without a word. It was only an awkward moment for me, but it was really awkward.

    1. ThatsNotTheWebcam*

      (And the icky part was then realizing “Wait. Why did he have that webcam in his laptop bag?” *shudder*)

  12. Still another Lisa*

    A million years ago in my first job I was in a meeting with my manger and several other people of varying levels of importance. A hand out on some operational procedures had been given to us as part of the meeting scope. As we began my boss’s boss gestures to me and says “Since your new please read paragraphs one and two, as they will have direct significance to your role in this department” So I began to read, out loud, got through both paragraphs and looked up. “Um.. I meant read it to yourself” was his response. I thought I was going to die, and I was kidded about it for a long time after that by my boss. Why didnt someone stop me! LOL

    1. HR Gorilla*

      Ohhh! Same exact thing happened to me, except I was in a deposition at the time. We (my employer) were the defendant; the prosecuting attorney said ‘I’d like to direct your attention to Exhibit H and have you read that.’ I began reading it aloud, and after a sentence or two, the prosecuting atty interrupted me by blaring ‘TO YOURSELF.’

      And of course–of course!–I laugh when I get nervous/embarrassed, especially if it’s inappropriate to laugh at that moment. 4 attorneys, my boss, and the court reporter sat in silence waiting for me to finish reading Exhibit H *TO MYSELF.*

      Due to the combination of my startle response at the atty’s booming interruption, along with my embarrassment, I tittered and coughed and tried to concentrate on the document with my eyes watering from trying to suppress my laughter. So dignified.

      1. Tina*

        I must watch too many Law & Order type shows, cause they have the witnesses read stuff out loud all the time!

  13. kdizzle*

    In my most unfortunate workplace embarrassment, I was a management intern at a large retailer. I was making some adjustments to the employee schedule as the store closed for the evening.

    The manager on duty didn’t happen to look around in the back office to see if anyone was there, and accidentally locked me in the store. I watched from inside as they all got in their cars and drove away…there I was, furiously pounding on the glass and waving my arms.

    I had to walk out the back door and set off the fire alarm. I didn’t stay for the fire trucks to arrive; I just went home. I was beyond pi**ed (I also hadn’t been paid for working there after a month and a half…but that’s another story).

    The next day, they pulled up the security tape at the team meeting (the tape where I’m screaming and pounding on the glass) and played it for everyone. Awesome.

    I don’t shop there anymore.

    1. rlm*

      OMG! That’s horrible! Did they play the security tape for entertainment purposes or were they just trying to figure out why the fire alarm went off?

      1. kdizzle*

        First, a manager looked at the tape to see what happened…Then, he showed it to everyone at the team meeting because he thought it was hilarious.

        I still cringe just thinking about it.

  14. shannon313*

    During my first week at a new job, I managed to both a. Catch my heel in the cuff of my dress pants and fall face first onto the floor, earning the nickname Face Plant and b. not realize the bathroom lock was glitchy and have a man walk into the unisex restroom while I was (thankfully) peeing. Oddly, I made an extremely good impression and am still friendly with my former boss who refers to me as his Best Employee Ever.

    1. CathVWXYNot?*

      GAAH, in my last job we had unisex everything-in-one-room (i.e. not stalls) washrooms that two of my male colleagues sometimes forget to lock… the horror! My poor eyes!

  15. Margaret*

    During my very first internship, I was wearing a short dress (mistake numero uno) and bent over to pick something off the floor revealing my thong-clad ass to one of the people I was working under. I heard her say my name in a shocked way, but she was too polite/embarrassed to say anything directly about it. Lesson: don’t wear short dresses to work. And if you do, don’t wear thongs and bend over in front of someone else.

    1. Bea W*

      This happened to a co-worker of mine who didn’t realize she was mooning the world. My boss (another woman) was passing by, gently pulled the back of my co-worker’s dress down to fix the situation without saying a word and went on about her business.

    2. Anonymous*

      My mind is totally in the gutter! I have to admit that you saying “one of the people I was working under” made this funnier to me…

  16. Gene*

    I got on the elevator at City Hall with my boss (we work at a remote location and were headed up to talk with it about a project) and we were the only ones there. As a joke he pressed all the buttons. As the doors shut, someone ran into the lobby, pushed the ‘Up’ button and the doors opened so the HR Director could get on…

    It was a very quet ride to the 6th floor for us, he was headed to the top floor.

    1. JMegan*

      Hee. I did that in my apartment building once, and also got caught by someone going aaaaalllll the way to the top!

  17. Jamie*

    I sent an email to my ex-husband calmly, but in a very verbose way, explaining to him his responsibilities and how we had children together so his obligation to get the cs to me on time isn’t optional as their needs cannot wait…etc. Nothing nasty though, think more broken and weary.

    Actually I meant to send to my ex, but rather sent it to a co-worker with a similar name. Yeah.

    His response was awesome though. “I don’t think this was meant for me, but the 90’s were a crazy time for everyone so who knows. Will you take a check?”

    If you have to misdirect a very personal email to someone in your office you want to do it to the guy with a good sense of humor who doesn’t gossip. We’re still friends.

    1. JMegan*

      My friend did that once. The email she thought she was sending to her husband contained the balance in their bank account, her weight (she had just been to a Weight Watchers meeting), and the desire to have hot sweaty sex that night.

      The coworker she sent it to thought it was hilarious!

    2. Rebecca*

      One time I meant to send an email to a friend asking about her weekend plans, I may have quoted some R Kelly lyrics. Apparently I accidentally sent it to a higher-up with a similar name. Thankfully, she also thought it was hilarious and even told me her plans for the weekend!

    3. jmkenrick*

      My friend send a picture of herself in bed (with the sheets pulled up, thank god) to a coworker instead of her boyfriend…

      The most cringe-inducing part is that her coworker responded with “I’ll be right over.”

  18. Kelly L.*

    Posted this in the old thread, but I smacked a co-worker with a frying pan once by accident. She was behind me and I didn’t see her; I was holding it and apparently “talking with my hands”; cue Three Stooges moment.

  19. The Other Dawn*

    Back in my my teen years I was a cashier at a grocery store. Back then we had to hand-ring the coupons. Only store coupons got scanned and the system would allow you to double-scan a store coupon, even when the customer had only one item for the coupon. During my first couple weeks on my own register it got super busy and the store manager bagged for me (aren’t stores always short on baggers?). So, I got flustered while I was scanning the store coupons and accidentally double-scanned a few of them. The manager notices, because of course she has every item of a two cart, $400.00 order memorized. She starts picking through bags and then comes up to me on the side and starts yelling at me. She pulls out the coupons I just scanned, holds one up, and YELLS, in front of all my customers, “It says ONE coupon per item! See? Do you see it there? ONE! Can’t you read? Are you stupid?” Needless to say that, at 16 years old, I proceeded to cry at the register while ringing the next several orders. Customers were very sympathetic to me, but thinking back, I really wish one of them had said something to the manager and stood up for me. I definitely would if I saw that happening to someone.

    1. EM*

      Oh gosh. I was a bagger at a large grocery store when I was 16.

      An old man came through and one of the items he purchased was a container of pre-cut fruit. I’m clumsy naturally, and somehow, as I was getting the container into the bag, I dropped it — the container burst open, spilling all the fruit on the floor.

      Unfortunately, it was the LAST container of that variety of pre-cut fruit and the old man was NOT a kindly old gentleman. He berated me and suggested I be fired. I think I cried for the next 20 minutes.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I feel for you. It was a tough job. For me, any job dealing with customers is tough. People are rude, mean, and sometimes stinky. Oh, the stories I could tell.

    2. evilintraining*

      That was a really crappy thing for the manager to do. I had a similar experience in line last week with my cashier at the store. The cashier needed manager approval for a CoinStar transaction and hit a wrong key or something. The manager swiped her key, then actually said to the cashier, “You screwed it up from the beginning,” and walked away. Those of us in line felt horrible for the poor guy at the register. I said as loudly as I could, “Was that a manager? If so, that’s a lousy way to manage.” I don’t know if she heard me or not, but at least the cashier knew I supported him!

    3. The more you know..*

      Oh wow that’s awful.
      I had something similar happen to me when I was in retail. There was a woman with a $500 + total and she was angry because I couldn’t give her any sort of discount. After I told her “I’m sorry I can’t do that” for the upteenth time she procceeded to insult not only my intelligence, (you’re so stupid, you probably work here because you don’t go to school, ect) but she started calling me fat, insulting my (dyed) hair and even went as far as to make comments about my acne. (I was 17!!) My manager was there the whole time and not only did she NOT step in at any point, but after the woman had left and I had burst out in tears she refused to let me leave the register! So I had to stand there ringing people up while I was crying and it was so awful. So yeah, I really understand where you’re coming from when you say you wish someone had stood up for you, because no one did for me either.

      1. Tina*

        That customer was a jerk, and your boss should have dealt with her complaints about discounts. How awful.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        That is awful!! These days if I were a manager on the customer-facing side I would absolutely no qualms about stepping in and throwing someone out of the place. Customer service, be damned!

      3. TheSnarkyB*

        Oh hell no. If I were the manager, that would have been “You can pay full price right now or you can leave the store empty-handed and not invited to return.”
        When I worked in food service (as a take-out cashier/semi-bartender), I had a boss (restaurant owner) who did this with one regular who treated everyone like sh*t every time he came in. My boss would basically say, “I don’t care how much money you’re spending here, you will treat my people with respect or leave and never come back.” I think it was a 3 strikes deal…

        1. FreeThinkerTX*

          I worked in customer service at the nation’s largest home improvement store a fair number of years ago. We routinely had customers treat us like crap, and the managers always looked the other way. One night, however, shortly after an Assistant Manager from another store had voluntarily chosen to be “demoted” to Team Leader of our department (because he’d decided to go back to college), a male customer who was about 6’6″ and looked like a linebacker got verbal with me. He started to call me names and cuss — and out of nowhere my 5’9″ Team Leader *jumped* over the counter, bowed up to the abuser, and told him to get the hell out of his store. The abuser started to protest – “She’s treating me rudely… I’m just asking for a discount… The customer is ALWAYS right…” – and Team Leader told him that any customer who feels the need to raise his voice or use cuss words is ALWAYS wrong, and then told him again to get the hell out of his store or he’d call the cops. The abuser slunk out of the store with his tail between his legs.

          That Team Leader is my hero to this day. :-)

  20. Not getting my name for THIS...*

    On a weekend one of only two people in the office, the other a man I didn’t know well.

    I’m in the bathroom attending to some…feminine hygiene needs and there is a pounding on the bathroom door.

    Freaked out I yell that I’ll be out in a minute and this “gentleman” proceeds to have a freaking conversation with me about locking up or setting the alarm…even though I kept repeating I will be out in a minute in increasing degrees of anxiety in my voice.

    I have never in my life been so acutely aware of how thin a bathroom door is and how little is between our most private moments and our freaking co-workers.

    And when I came out and he was still standing there I told him going forward I didn’t care if the building was on fire – NEVER knock on that door again. Seriously!!

  21. Lexie*

    Told my new boss that I was “Just like Joan from Mad Men” in relation to my new position working for him (I’m a curvy redheaded Executive Assistant). Then, as his eyes widened, decided to follow up with “Oh, apart from all the sleeping with the boss stuff….” trail off… red face… thankfully he laughed – quoted me a few times though!

  22. ES*

    This is not mine (thankfully), but at my last job the VP of our department was out at a museum. He saw a statue of a goddess named Diana, which was his wife’s name. He took a picture (the statue was, as you might guess, somewhat scantily clad) and sent it to his wife with the caption, “Saw this and thought of you.”

    Only problem was he didn’t send it to his wife – he sent it to our organization’s biggest donor, who was also named Diana.

    We never, ever let him live that one down, and to his credit, he always took the ribbing gracefully.

    1. Jane*

      Over the weekend, my coworkers and I went into the office to complete some inventory. While there, we connected our laptop to netflix for background noise–just Disney movies. When we finished our work, we decided to watch Psy’s Gangnam Style video very loudly. Of course, out of nowhere, the CEO walks by smiling and shaking his head.

  23. Lee*

    I once called my boss “Dad”. You know like how school children sometimes accidentally call their teacher mom/dad? Well I’m a young-30s woman who called her boss Dad. To his face. I think it was something like “Dad, what time is the conference call this afternoon”?

    We just laughed it off but I was so embarrassed, probably a few shades of red darker than usual :)

    1. SweetMisery*

      I do that on purpose after my boss, our similarly aged coworker, another younger temp, and myself went to another site for a week.

      The cab driver thought we were a family, and when he started talking about how it was good he was making his daughters work, I asked for a raise in my ‘allowance’.

      1. MM*

        My ex used to call me a lot at work and I’d always end the conversation with “bye love you” very automatically. I’m still scared to this day that I’m not going to think and end a conversation with a colleague by saying “bye love you”.

        1. The IT Manager*

          :) I once got an email from a casual friend/co-worker signed “love” She followed up very quickly with a message saying she didn’t mean it.

        2. Rachel*

          Yup. I have done that to my former boss. Twice! I was mortified and tried to explain, but he laughed it off both times.

        3. tcookson*

          I started working for my (now former) boss after staying home with the kids until my youngest started kindergarten. One time we were walking out of our offices together and had stopped to chat before going our separate ways for lunch. As we were saying ‘bye, I leaned in with my eyes closed and my lips puckered up for a kiss. He recoiled in alarm, and I snapped back to attention and never, ever mentioned it to him. I think I was on auto-pilot husband mode!!

          1. khilde*

            My oldest is almost 4 and my communication with her is a constant stream of “do you have to go potty?” So I was with some colleagues and we were leaving a meeting and where I normally would have said, “excuse me, I need to use the restroom before we leave,” I said, “I need to use the potty before we leave.” It’s definitely not as embarassing as most other stories, but I felt so stupid for using parentease at work! haha.

            1. ClaireBear*

              I had a coworker who always referred to using the restroom as “go[ing] potty”. The extra awkward part was she was middle-aged with no kids, so I have no clue why she used that phrase.

      2. Chinook*

        I did something similar while travelling with 3 other women and a priest who was also in his 20’s. Because he wore a wedding band but no roman collar, he kept getting asked which of us was his wife. Because he would turn beat red, we started replying we all were. The best part was when we ended up sleeping outside (with 1,000s), the other women decided he had to sleep next to me since were closest in age (I still don’t get the logic) and then we started bugging him about waking up with me next to him.

    2. StillSnarky...*

      Not too long ago, I ended a fairly long telephone conversation with my boss with “love ya.” It’s just one of those things my family says before we hang up just in case it’s the last time you talk to them.

      Fortunately, I don’t think the boss heard me. If he did, he’s never mentioned it.

      1. RJ*

        My cubie mate got a call from her boss as he was driving home one night with some specific instructions for her. Clearly, his brain had already made it home without him, because he ended the call by telsaying, I love you!” Oops.

  24. Yup*

    I was supervising a design update to the office suite across the hall from where my office was located. It required some light construction – drywall, painting, carpet, stuff like that. The contractor randomly asked me to come over to resolve a quick issue. As we walked around, he mentioned that the new cabinets and counters had just been installed yesterday. Without even thinking, I walked right into the kitchenette to see them. Which was unfortunate because that room was full of flooring guys who were laying the mud for the new floor onto the concrete. In my stiletto heels, I slid on the mud halfway across the room INTO the new cabinet area, executed a weird twirl that caused my knee-length skirt to fly up, and fell through the doorway onto a roll of unwrapped carpet. I shriek-mumbled an apology and limped quickly back to my desk across the hall. I didn’t realize til later that I’d left a trail of muddy high heel prints all the way out the door and into my office.


    1. SarasWhimsy*

      I so needed a warning for that. I just snorted so hard I almost inhaled my gum.

      That sounds like something I would do.

    2. BGirl81*

      I just spit Diet Coke all over my lap. Thank you for sharing and that’s something I would totally do as well!!!

  25. Cajun2core*

    I once itended to forward an email from a customer to which I added “Customer has reached a new level of stupidity.” to a co-worker. However, I hit REPLY instead of Forward and my comment about the customer reaching a new level of stupidity, went back to the customer!

    I profously apologized to the customer. Luckily he was good natured about it.

    Since then I have learned, never put anything in an email, that you don’t want plastered on the front page of the New York Times.

    1. Jen in RO*

      I almost did something like this. I had received a stupid email from Coworker 1 and I wanted to show Coworker 2 just how stupid. I was going to forward the email with a snarky comment… except I clicked Reply. Luckily, I found it easier to say the snaky comment out loud, so I just sent a blank reply. That taught me to never send an email that I would be embarrassed for others to see.

  26. Lore*

    Arriving to fill out paperwork at my first temp agency (many moons ago, before the internet, where forms needed to be signed in person), I decided to take the stairs to the second floor rather than wait in a crowd for an elevator. Only the stairwell locked from the inside–there must, I realize now, have been a fire exit that went to the outside below lobby level, but I swear one could not re-enter the lobby by the door I’d used to access the stairwell–and then security started speaking to me over the intercom to figure out what I was doing there. Oh, and it was 90 degrees and humid out and the stairwell wasn’t air-conditioned. I’m sure the whole experience lasted less than five minutes, but it sure felt like sweaty hours at the time!

    1. Robin*

      I also got trapped in a stairwell in a huge, old city building. Had no idea all the doors would be locked! Finally I started pounding on a glass door at the back of someone’s office, and a nice woman let me in and then out the front door. Then had to explain to my husband why he had to keep circling the building so long.

    2. Empy*

      I thought I was the only person this had ever happened to! When I was about 13, I was at a national convention type thing at a hotel in Denver. A few of us got trapped in the stairwell. This was before teenagers had cell phones permanently attached to them and before cell phones were effective at powering through large concrete structures.

      We wandered for about 2 hours. No one missed us because it was free time and we had said we were going to explore around the hotel. We accidentally ended up near the lobby of a bank before finding an entrance into the hotel. That would have been an interesting conversation with the police!

      1. ella*

        Ha! I know exactly which hotel you mean. I used to work there. Finding tourists lost in the stairwells wasn’t an extremely unusual occurence. Also finding people who were drunker than they wanted to be (thanks, high altitude) or complaining of headaches/tiredness (have you drunk water? No, only coffee? Drink water. Don’t like water? Deal with headache, then.) There were only three elevators for 27 floors, so many people found their way into the stairwells which didn’t actually lead them to their rooms. People got themselves into all kinds of random places–the bank, the kitchen, the back halls, the service elevators…

        It’s because the hotel was originally three buildings, that got retrofitted into two, so lots of floors and stairwells and things didn’t line up. I can’t even tell you some of the places I used to find wandering around backstage in that place.

  27. Can't Believe I'm Admitting This...*

    I am lucky enough to have an office to myself, with a nice, heavy wooden door. Usually, if I need to fix something clothing-related I go to the ladies’ room, but this one day they were doing maintenance on the restroom and we had to use one 17 floors down. I just needed to “adjust” my undies out of no-man’s land, so I shut my door and stood right in front of it so that on the off chance anyone came by I could hold it closed. At least… that was the theory. My boss decided to come in without knocking (he NEVER does that). I tried to hold it shut and said “WAIT! HANG ON, HANG ON!” but he forced it open. He said he thought there was something blocking it. I can’t even tell you how embarrassed I am still, month later, that my boss has seen my underwear.

    1. Julie*

      There was something blocking it! He should have stopped when you yelled “WAIT!” But I can totally understand your being embarrassed even though he shouldn’t have barged in.

    2. Anne 3*

      Something similar happened to me. It was 7 PM, most coworkers had gone home, and I needed to adjust my itchy tights. I went into the restroom behind the door (not the stall, they’re too small and dark) and did my thing (standing on one leg to pull up the fabric that had slid down into my shoe) and someone opened the door behind me so that I toppled over right onto the bathroom floor. Luckily she just laughed at me.

      1. E.R*

        I wanted to share this story when this post first opened but was too busy. I think it fits in this thread nicely, if you don’t mind me adding to the underwear stories.

        Two months into my new job, it was winter, and my boss likes to bike to work, even in bad weather. He was wearing sweatpants while biking, and we both sat down in the company kitchen to change from wet boots into dry shoes, with some casual conversation about hating wet socks. I get up, go to my desk, realize I left my coffee back in the kitchen, and when I get there – bam – he’s in his underwear. He was changing ALL of his clothes. I stammered out a huge apology and an awkward joke and the worst part of all – he didn’t say anything! Just finished getting dressed, went to a meeting, ignored me for the rest of the day, and went back to normal after that. I was mortified. He seemed more or less cool about it.

        Now that I have more context about this guy, I just roll with the weirdness every day.

  28. Rebecca*

    My boss accidentally texted my co-worker once, having intended to text his wife, about how awful work was that day.

    And one time I flooded the toilet at work, which is right next to the CEO’s office. Thankfully, I had only peed and the CEO had the toilet serviced right away so that wouldn’t happen again.

    1. Bagworm*

      I had blocked out the time I flooded the toilet right next to our ED’s office. I was running (splashing) around when she came running in and turned the water off. I still get teased by my former co-workers that I didn’t know how to do that. (I worked at an agency that provided housing and had lots of DIY-ers on staff, including the ED who had done a lot of work personally on the firt building the organization purchased/rehabbed.)

      1. ClaireBear*

        At a former workplace, I went to use the restroom, but whoever last used it left a decent amount of toilet paper in the toilet. I flushed the toilet before using it, and it flooded. I tried to turn off the water, but there was no shutoff valve. Then I noticed there was also a lack of emergency drain. So the whole restroom flooded too.

  29. AnonEMoose*

    Being a well-endowed sort (yes, this IS relevant to the story), I tend to prefer underwire bras. And one day, while I was bending over, the underwire snapped in half; promptly poking through and stabbing me in the breast. With the shirt I was wearing that day, just taking off the bra and continuing the day was not a realistic option. Nor was just dealing with the ouch (the way that thing was stabbing me, I was afraid I was going to start bleeding!).

    So I had to go to my boss – fortunately female – and explain why I needed to leave. I made it home and finished the workday from there. But that’s still in my Top Ten Awkward Conversations with My Boss list.

    1. zebras*

      Ouch! That has never happened to me, but I do keep an extra pair of pants and shirt in my office in case of coffee spills or whatever…..maybe I will add some extra underwear to the stash too!

    2. Sabrina*

      That’s happened to me before only it did stab me and I did start to bleed. Luckily it was at the end of the day, but unluckily we had a work event after. I went to Lane Bryant to buy a new one and had to explain to the associate there that I needed the dressing room to change bras. She was very understanding.

    3. Calla*

      Only tangentially related but I’m always baffled by women who talk about underwires snapping or wearing out and poking them through the material. I’ve gone through quite a few underwire bras and never had that happen, fortunately! (Is it because some women keep them too long, or…?)

      1. Del*

        It can have to do with the quality of the bra to start with, how well sized it is for the individual (ie how much strain the underwire/casing is under), and how it’s washed (again, strain). Some bras will last forever, others will start to stab after a few months.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yup, it’s quality. I’ve had good-quality bras last foreeeever, and cheapie bras snap in months. (The underwires were plastic, even.)

        2. Gjest*

          I hadn’t thought about the size issue keeping them from snapping, but now that I think about it, I haven’t had one snap since I went and got properly sized a year ago. I’ve been wearing the new bras I bought that day ever since with no snapping (which used to happen all the time). I feel weird saying “neat!” about bras, but well, neat!

      2. AnonEMoose*

        I think it partly has to do with how much stress you put on the bra. In my case, the wire snapped when I was bent over from the waist and sort of twisting to one side to reach something. And it was an older bra, so maybe that had something to do with it, too.

        I’ve also had the experience of one end of the channel the wire is on getting worn, and the wire poking its way out through that. At least that time, I was able to push it back in, apply a safety pin, and get through the day.

      3. O*

        Until I started buying bras at lane bryant, everything bra I ever bought from a department store, the underwire would move around and stab me in the arm or punch through the fabric. The few times I even ordered them online, a couple moved the first time I ever wore the bra. Most would last maybe 3-4 uses. I think the quality and how you wash them matters, I didn’t start using a bag in the washing machine until I was in my twenties.

        1. Calla*

          That’s what I figured it was! I’ve always used a delicates bag, retired them when they got older, etc. But I didn’t want to assume that was the cause rather than me being lucky. :)

          1. S from CO*

            Many years ago I worked for a major department store in the lingerie department. We were all trained to help customers find the right bra (and with bra fittings if the customer requested it). About 90% of our customers were not wearing the right size bra. Some of our customers were referred to a custom bra shop since the largest size we had in stock was a 46DD.
            The quality of the bra and the stitching around the wire area is very important in providing the right amount of support.
            While on this topic…this is an entertaining show:

      4. Anon*

        I think is has to do with how well endowed the woman is. As someone who’s lost a lot of weight (and went down a considerable number of bra sizes), I can tell you that when I was larger, I had underwires snap/wear out all the time, and since losing weight, it hasn’t happened.

        My other thought is it might have to do with the quality of the bra…

        1. Calla*

          I wear a bigger size bra, so I don’t think that’s the sole cause. Now if you’re well-endowed AND wearing the wrong size, I can see how that would contribute to the problem, especially along with quality and care.

        2. Anon for this*

          I don’t know, I think it’s more so the quality of the bra. The best way to describe my girls is “unreasonably large” (as in, there is no good reason any boobs should be this large naturally), but I’ve never had an underwire snap–and I wear bras for a good 2 years or so before buying new ones, because bras in my size are so expensive. In fact, since I switched to Goddess, I’ve never even had an underwire poke through the top of the channel and stab me in the armpit. I recommend Goddess to everyone.

    4. SarasWhimsy*

      I figured this out in high school and I’ve sworn by it ever since! If the wire ever breaks through – use a high quality corn pad on it. Like one of the ones that has felt on it, not just a bandage or plastic or whatever. Ever since the school nurse gave one to me in high school, I’ve carried some in my purse.

    5. BGirl81*

      From one well-endowed lady to another, try the Bali Double Support Wireless haha! If it makes you feel any better, I was once talking to a male coworker when the plastic front clasp on my brassiere chose that exact moment to break.

      It was obvious. Mostly because I yelped, “SH*T!”

      1. Diane*

        That happened to me when I was talking to my new male boss. I crossed my arms, finished the conversation, and prayed he didn’t notice.

  30. Brton3*

    This wasn’t exactly my fault but I still feel responsible. I was working at a really poorly run nonprofit organization in New York. I had a great relationship with my boss, but the Executive Director (who was her boss) was a walking disaster in every way.

    I had a job interview on the West Coast, and I told my boss about it (she was actively looking too). At my interview, they offered me the job and said they would check my references.

    That very evening, I get a call on my cell at around 9pm (midnight in New York) from my boss, who sounds rather tipsy. She says “I have to tell you a story.” Somebody on my search committee emailed her for a reference, except she misspelled my boss’s email address. The insane executive director had all misdirected emails go into her own mailbox (this is how crazy she was; even the generic went straight to her instead of someone more appropriate to deal with spam and random inquiries).

    So, at 4:55pm on a Friday, the ED gets this email saying that I’ve been offered a job and they’re checking my references. In a panic the ED goes into my boss’s office – “he can’t leave now! Did you know he was looking for a new job??” – and my boss has to sit her down for the first time and say “Jane, we are ALL looking for new jobs. You need to come to terms and deal with this.” They had this excruciating hour long conversation and my boss left and went straight to drinkin’.

    I left a month later, my boss found a new job a month after that, and in the last 5 years I think the entire staff of the organization has turned over twice. Except the ED!

    1. Jazzy Red*

      Wow! I really admire your former boss for telling the ED that everyone was looking for new jobs. I’ve never heard of any passing that kind of information on to a higher-up, and living through it.

      1. Brton3*

        It was a combination, I’m sure, of a) knowing she was great at what she does and that she was just waiting for the perfect opportunity to leave for a better job, which she did, and b) being beyond fed up with the ED and her eternal cluelessness. I can totally imagine the look on my bosses face and her thinking, “do you REALLY not know that everyone wants to get out of this disaster?”

      1. Brton3*

        You have no idea. She is amazing. One of the only bosses I’ve had who I truly think of as a role model. Even though I moved across the country she still forwards me postings every time her shop is looking to fill a position.

  31. TL*

    This morning, on the radio station I was listening to, the Lady DJ suddenly burst out laughing and gasping and then the male DJs were trying to figure out what was going on (apparently she laughed so hard she fell out of her chair and was lying on the floor).

    She finally got her breath back and explain that Senior Male DJ had given her his iPhone so she could edit and post a video he’d taken for the station and her computer had automatically pulled all his videos up – and there was a video there that was of an incredibly, er, personal nature. This all while they were live on air.

  32. evilintraining*

    I dozed off during a presentation in my boss’s office, sitting right next to the president of the organization. I was pregnant and, thus, always tired, and the presentation was a little boring. I didn’t know the president very well at that point and was totally mortified. Fortunately, he’s a great guy, as is my old boss, and they both understood the situation completely.

  33. Sascha*

    I once sent the VP of my organization an email that said, “Uh oh, better watch out.” It was in response to a coworker who made a joke about something – I was firing off emails quickly and didn’t realize I had replied to an email from the VP instead of my coworker. The VP called me immediately and demanded to know what I meant, and if I was trying to be threatening. I squeaked out an explanation, and after several torturous seconds, he laughed it off and hung up on me.

  34. JJ*

    I’d just started my office job while in college, my first job ever. It was a night shift but the times would overlap from when I start/when the other student workers before me leave, and sometimes they would stay later to hang out, chat, finish assignments, etc. It was my first time meeting some of them who were older and as I was walking in the hallway towards the computer, somehow my foot (maybe part of my shoe) got caught on a box and I ended up tripping and falling onto the floor. The guy I was about to meet said, “Quick, tell me something about yourself so I won’t remember you as the girl who fell!”

      1. JJ*

        A “Are you ok?” would’ve been nice too, but I agree – at least this way I didn’t have to awkwardly laugh it off by myself… XD

  35. Embarrassed Barista*

    When I used to work at Starbucks, I was known for having a very bubbly personality, and would often dance around when our store was empty, etc.

    One day I was bringing newly rinsed pitchers from the back and was kind of dancing (or…walking jauntily?) as I walked back to the front of the store. I ended up slipping, completely wiping out on my back, pitchers clattering everywhere, in front of co-workers and guests.

    My supervisor was laughing too hard to help me up, and I guess they decided to pull the security tape to look at the accident in case I decided to file for workers comp or anything. All week, every member of management would just watch the footage and then come to me and laugh. It wasn’t mean-spirited at all, but I still get embarrassed thinking about it.

    The incident NEVER died, as I became a cautionary tale for the importance of non-slip shoes when working in food service :)

    1. Calla*

      I did this as a customer about a month ago! I went to the little lunch place in our building to get a drink. I didn’t realize that in front of the ice bucket was a HUGE puddle of water. So when I pivoted on my heels to turn around, I slipped. I caught myself barely on an edge of a snack bar (hitting my knees instead of, say, my face), but the ice went everywhere.

      Fortunately, no one I work with was there, but it took me a week to work up the nerve to face the cashiers at the place again, and I was rewarded with two huge bruises on my knees that have just now finally gone away.

      1. Jen in RO*

        Someone spilled water on the tile floor in my office, and my coworker slipped and fell. It was pretty scary since she was close to a desk and she could have bumped her head, but luckily she was fine.

      2. tcookson*

        I was standing in the book section of the world’s largest retailer once, and all of a sudden I was just in a heap on the floor — no warning, nothing, just BAM!! It took me a few moments to figure out WTH had happened . . . but I finally realized that I had unconsciously turned out my ankles (I have a habit of standing on the sides of my feet when I’m standing in one spot for very long).

        Except that I forgot I was wearing some very high platform heels (which I never wear, except for that one time!). So at the very instant when I turned my ankles out, my feet fell off the platforms and I went down like a sack of potatoes.

    2. Julie*

      As a side note (question): Why do stored insist on calling customers “guests”?! We are customers; we are not guests. Grrr. I guess this bugs me! :)

        1. Kelly L.*

          That’s one step dumber, even! At least guests is just pretentious…co-workers is flat-out confusing!

      1. Lindsay J*

        It’s a hospitality thing. I think it’s supposed to condition employees to think of the customers as guests in their own home, whom they would go out of their way to make comfortable, etc.

        After working in amusement parks a long time where saying “customers” was forbidden, I actually feel uncomfortable saying the word customers in relation to my jobs. I’ve noticed the same for others I’m working with that come from hotels, etc.

      2. Cat*

        I never understood this either. I worked at a large retailer that insisted on us saying guests. We had to use these walkie talkies to talk to each other and the people in the stockrooms. So if we walkied someone and accidently said customers, the managers would interrupt our conversation just to correct us to say guests.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I used to work for a food company that had cafeterias inside factories and such. When I lived in my hometown as an adult, I had a job at the one in the furniture factory. One day, my coworker J. and I were standing at the register during the lunch break, talking to R., a good-looking, farm-boy factory employee our boss had introduced me to, and in whom I was interested.

      I said something like, “Oh man, I need to stretch,” and arched my back and leaned back a little. Only I leaned back farther than I thought, and the next thing I knew, **WHAM!!!** I was flat on my back on the floor. J. cried, “Oh my GOD!” R. helped me up and I laughed it off, but I was MORTIFIED.

      J. said I had scared the hell out of her. Luckily, the rest of the factory people were in the lunchroom, and only the two of them saw it. R. teased me about it off and on throughout our subsequent 4-1/2-year relationship. “Remember when you fell over backwards? Ah ha ha ha ha!” Yes, I remember. >:P

    4. Vicki*

      Now I’m recalling one.

      I was walking back to my cubicle and two co-workers were standing in the aisle, so I did a funny little hop step to get around them… caught the toe of my shoe on the rug… started to fall, did a bigger hop step bounce dance thing and landed on one knee against the wall with my hands braced on the wall.

      Not hurt but embarrassed.

  36. Ann Furthermore*

    – This is how I learned that there are some things worth spending money on, and that decent undergarments are on that list – at least if you’ve got a substantial sized chest. I had found some bras on sale at Target, and so bought a few. But then…I was working away at my desk one day and looked down to see that the underwire of my bra had worked its way all the way out of my top, and was hovering over my boob in an upside-down half moon formation. And I have absolutely no idea how long it was like that.

    – During a staff meeting once, I was sitting with one foot on the chair, with my other leg on the floor, and that foot fell asleep. When the meeting was over, my boss asked a few people to stay, and told the rest of us we could leave. I didn’t want him to think I was trying to be nosy or eavesdrop, so I stood up right away…and fell right on my face.

    – My desk is in kind of a dead spot, plus cell reception inside the building is just terrible. Sometimes if I text my husband during the day, I have to hold my phone up towards the windows to get any bars to show up. So I was doing that one day, kind of leaned over, holding my phone up in the air, and one of my co-workers walked by. I think he thought I was just randomly showing him my phone because he slowed down and said, “Uh….nice phone, Ann.” Then I explained what I was doing and we had a good laugh.

    – And I did come out of the bathroom once with my skirt tucked up in the back of my pantyhose, but thankfully I realized what I’d done and fixed it before anyone else saw me. Phew!

    1. LV*

      Your underwire incident happened to me too, when I was an undergrad – in class – in front of the prof, who was (1) the faculty advisor for my program (2) extremely attractive. I still shudder to think of it.

    2. Julie*

      I laughed out loud at the underwire story – it came all the way out of the bra! What a mental picture! :)

  37. CathVWXYNot?*

    In a former job, I was once in charge of booking hotel rooms for a work trip. I made the reservation (for four people) under my name, because I used my personal credit card. When we arrived at the hotel, my male boss approached the desk first and gave his name, which the clerk obviously didn’t have on the reservations list. Rather than saying something sensible like “oh, all reservations are under my name”, to my horror I heard myself say “oh, no, [boss’s first name], you’re in my room”.

    Luckily he had a good sense of humour… but I think it took me several days to stop blushing…

    In my current job I sent an email to a male professor telling him he was underspent (on a grant budget). It got autocorrected to “undraped”.

    My friend Beth has the best ever work typo story, though:

    1. Another Anon*

      ooh, that’s a tough typo to live down! Though my former boss has one that’s just as bad: I worked at a magazine, and we frequently called in promotional images for the products we featured. My boss sent an email to a male clockmaker requesting a hi-res images of his clock…and left out the “l.”

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Reminds me of a lady who meant to type “pens.” And inserted an extra “i.”

        Nope, wasn’t me. But I have used it as an example of “why spell check is not always your friend.”

    2. Jen in RO*

      Two of my friends got an email invite to a conference in a seaside resort, where they would be able to ‘enjoy the shores of Turkey’. Except they spelled ‘shores’ with a w instead of an s….

    3. Bagworm*

      One of my friends/former co-workers missed a typo in the heading (that was on every slide) for her Master’s thesis presentation in Public Health Administration. She missed the L in Public.

    4. Lindsay J*

      At one of my jobs there was a girl who sent out hourly counts to all the managers and higher ups. Well, one time she forgot the “o” in the word “counts”. It takes a lot to embarrass me, but I would have been mortified.

    5. Susan*

      I was talking in my boss’ team leads meeting recently, giving a project status. I was mentioning that we were looking at buying hardware with bigger disks…except I misspoke the disks part. There was some laughter, I finished out the status, and one of my co-workers said – “I have to be honest, I missed the last part of that status.”

    6. Kerr*

      After reading these, I think someone needs to come up with an Embarrassing Words Spell-Checker. (If somebody came up with this as an add-on for different browsers, that would be amazing.) If you type a potentially embarrassing word, it would be underlined in a loud color, and would show a pop-up box before it let you send an e-mail: “Are you SURE you want to say that?”

      1. Collarbone High*

        At my first newspaper job, the spellcheck was programmed to flag “pubic.” I had many occasions to be grateful for that.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      When I got a job at a shopping paper, my coworkers told me a story about someone who had worked there before who wrote an ad for a lady who was selling an organ. Only she typed the wrong word, and the ad said “Orgasm for sale.”

      They had to run the ad free until it sold.

      1. Loose Seal*

        Can I just say that I wondered why she was selling her kidney through the newspaper? Then I got a clue.

    8. kf*

      I sent a work email with the greeting of Hello on it, but forgot the ending “o”. Lucky for me it was a friendly email but I still turned red.

    9. Meganly*

      At my last job, I had to OCR a ton of software documentation to rebrand it (the original company wouldn’t give us unlocked PDFs and that was my solution). Unfortunately, the “cl” in the word “click” was randomly replaced with “d” at random. My boss had originally wanted me to skip editing the OCR’d text. I remain SO GLAD that I insisted, though the dick conversation with my boss was highly uncomfortable.

  38. Alicia*

    My office has a glass door, and full glass window next to it, and basically anyone walking down the hallway can see my face because of the way my computer is oriented. One day I was having an afternoon snack of an apple and that oh so disgusting (I mean delicious!) caramel dipping sauce. It was so good I decided to lick the foil, full tongue basically hanging out of my mouth… just as my (male) boss comes around the corner.

  39. accident at work*

    At work, in a huge warehouse.. ran to the ladies and barely got there in time. I was wearing black linen shorts… I splattered the back of the shorts in my rush to get out of my work apron and well, get those shorts down.
    I spent the rest of my shift, with brown splatters on my black shorts. Not one person said anything and I didnt notice the spots until I got home.

  40. O*

    A couple months into my new job, I was working in a room by myself, since the rest of the equipment was in other locations (we tended to rotate who worked alone), and it had been a while since I had worked in that room. Was sitting there on the computer rocking away to my music when I see something out of the corner of my eye, no one had thought to warn me a tour was coming through that day and there was a window into the room to see the lab…had absolutely no idea how long the 20+ people had been standing there and for the life of me could not remember if I had done anything embarrassing in the last couple minutes. My coworkers thought it was hilarious and kept making suggestions for things I might have been doing. And of course that day it was the director giving the tour, but thankfully never brought it up!

  41. Bryan*

    At our department’s holiday party the VP’s wife went into detail about the underwear habits of our VP. This included what type he likes and how often he changes them in a day (goes through 5 pairs a day in case anybody is interested).

    Also wow a lot of people of accidentally punched/slapped coworkers. I feel a little left out it’s never happened to me.

  42. Anonymous*

    Thank god this wasn’t me. A co-worker on a field project was at dinner complaining about our client. A little too loudly…and yep one of the client’s staffers was also in the restaurant. My co-worker didn’t get fired, but she was pulled from the project immediately. It was very uncomfortable for the rest of us as well. “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” – Thumper’s father.

  43. AdAgencyChick*

    How I learned never to trust the mute button:

    On a conference call. West Coast client, we’re on the East Coast, and with the time difference, we were all in the office well past a reasonable hour. The clients decided they need to have some confidential discussions, so they put us on mute. We also had them on mute, or so we thought.

    When they took us back off mute after thirty minutes, they said they were moving on to the next item on the agenda (ie, something that our agency wasn’t involved in), which meant we could have all gone home not just half an hour, but rather two hours, earlier, because the way the discussion went meant that we hadn’t really needed to be on the call at all.

    I let out an “Are you f**king kidding me?!”

    Yeah, we weren’t on mute. My coworkers blamed it on someone passing by in the hallway and face was saved…but man, I do not trust that mute button any more!

    1. Twentymilehike*

      Hahaha similar thing happened to me … Only we thought the customer was on hold while we discussed how ridiculous and annoying he was. Turns out he was on speaker.

  44. Mela*

    I’d had several webmonkey jobs in dotcom bubble start-ups with foozball and dart boards, but I started my first corporate job in March of 2000. In April, the boss brought in a really really fancy awesome cake with whole strawberries and clotted cream for a coworker’s birthday. In June, I asked where my cake was, after my whole birthday had passed without any acknowledgement from the company. It turned out that the coworker was an unpaid intern and it was just a nice gesture out of my boss’s own wallet, and I was made to feel very very small for expecting the gesture for myself.

  45. Cake Wad*

    I had a co-worker trip and dump an entire bag of Craisins all over me, my desk, and the surrounding floor area. She quickly apologized and said she would run to get a broom and dustpan. But instead, she promptly disappeared for one of the 2.5 hour lunches she was so famous for and never spoke of the incident again.

    I was one of the first people to the office one day, and my boss quickly pulled me aside to tell me that most of the staff (but not me) were about to be laid off. He told me to go home for the day so I wouldn’t be there for the unpleasantness.

    So I got on the elevator and when I reached the lobby… there was the entire group of people who unknowingly were getting laid off moments later. They suspiciously asked why I was leaving and I said, “I left my wallet at home” and ran away from them at top speed. I never saw any of them again.

    1. Brton3*

      That reminds me of the day I got to work and my boss pulled me into the conference room and sat me down. Her first words were “I just want to assure you that your job is safe.”

      That was not an awesome day.

      1. Anonymous*

        Admittedly, it’s worse when you’re pulled into the conference room and told you’re being let go…

        1. Jazzy Red*

          That happened to me, and I was expecting a raise, so it totally threw me for a loop.

          And it was all a power play by the guy who was over my boss. Yeah, you really taught HIM a lesson by throwing me out of work.

    2. Nikki T*

      Not sure why, but the Craisin incident made me laugh! I can just see me waiting around and then suddenly realizing…she’s not coming back, is she?

      1. Julie*

        It made me almost laugh out loud, too. And thank goodness it was almost because I just started to sip out of my soda bottle. Never going to do that again while reading these comments!

      2. Cake Wad*

        Nikki, that’s exactly how it went… I waited awkwardly for a few minutes, just shoving aside all the Craisins on my desk. I got up to look for her and finally gave up and cleaned it all up myself.

  46. Kate*

    I once discovered, at about 10 am, that I had a smear of menstrual blood on my forehead.

    I had spent the previous hour interacting with my team and colleagues as usual without anyone mentioning it.

    1. Anon*

      It’s better than telling someone that they have dirt on their forehead only to be told (reminded) that it’s Ash Wednesday and that it’s NOT dirt. Not that I did this…

      1. Kate*

        I have a medical condition which makes my periods unusually heavy and messy (I’m getting treatment for it now but wasn’t then), and I guess at some point I brushed my hair back…

        1. Bea W*

          That sounds awful! I’m glad there’s a treatment for it. I’ve had some heavy periods due to temporary medical issues, but have fortunately not touched anything with bloody hands. I’m usually too grossed out to do anything other than hobble over to the sink with my pants down (at home, not in a public restroom!)

  47. businesslady*

    I told this one in the “cringe-worthy” thread back in January, but it’s actually more appropriate here:

    when I was a cashier at Borders (RIP), I was responsible for getting on the store PA & announcing 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.

  48. JMegan*

    Love these stories! Here’s mine:

    I was waitressing at a large-ish resort, when one day the manager asked me to set one of the empty tables in my section “for Eugene Levy and his family.” Yikes! So I did, and had (or thought I had) a decent amount of time to calm myself down before they arrived.

    It was one of those dining rooms where the serving staff carry large trays and kick the kitchen door open to go in and out. When I was on my way out with a bowl of strawberries for one of my other tables, my foot slipped on a wet spot on the door and the strawberries spilled on my tray. Naturally, this was the moment that I saw a woman and some children starting to sit down at the Levy table.

    I was apparently not as calm as I thought I was, as I went to my other table and started babbling: “OMG I spilled the strawberries they’re all over my tray I’m so sorry there are more strawberries in the kitchen and I’ll get you more right away OMG OMG OMG!” Eugene Levy had actually not arrived yet, so the people at the first table (who were regular guests and knew me quite well) had no context for what was going on, and must have thought I had flipped my lid. They were quite lovely about reassuring me that it was okay, and they were quite sure there were more strawberries in the kitchen that I could quite easily get for them. :)

    Finally got that sorted, and went over to introduce myself to the Levys and take their order. Still, there were only three people at the table, so Mrs Levy said to me “My husband is over there chatting with some other people. Would you mind getting him so the rest of us can have our breakfast?”

    So after that whole ridiculous incident with the strawberries, I had to walk all the way across the dining room, interrupt a conversation between some guests, and introduce myself by saying “Excuse me, Mr Levy, your wife is waiting for you.”

    “Calm, cool, and collected” has never exactly been my middle name, lol!

  49. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I think I’m constantly having awkward work-related moments, but the one I always remember (and I may have told this story here before) is from when I first started consulting.

    I’d just finished meeting with a client at a coffee shop — the first time I’d met her in-person. I was holding an enormous plastic cup of iced tea.

    Now, it will probably not surprise some of you to learn that I am not a hugger with anyone but my nieces and my fiance, and certainly not in work situations or with someone I just met. But for some reason, she leaned in to hug me, and instead of just rolling with it and handling it like a normal person, I was so thrown off that I dropped my enormous iced tea, which exploded on the ground and splattered all over her, soaking her.

    The hug was never completed, nor did she attempt it in the future.

    1. Joey*

      I’ve always wondered why women hug more than men at work.
      Is it because women generally hug more than men to begin with?
      Is it because men are afraid of being seen as weak or a perv?
      Is it because a double standard is acceptable to men and/or women?
      Is it because I’m in the south?

      These are the weird random things that run through my mind.

      1. GaGirl*

        I’m not a hugger at all and everyone who knows me knows this. (I’m female and it pertains to the story.) I was out to dinner with my parents for Mother’s Day and, at the end of our meal, hear someone calling my name. Turns out to be my VP and his family – also out for Mother’s Day. I go over to say hello and for some reason I still can’t fathom, he leans in to hug me! I actually took a step backward and he’s still leaning, leaning, leaning….and I’m hearing that slow motion “Noooooooo!” in my head. He finally ended up kind of awkwardly patting my back while my arms were straight down at my sides and I was standing stiff as a board. I was beet red. It was awful. I came to work the next day and told two of my good friends – who know I’m anti-hug – and to this day all they have to say is “Remember when [Name of VP] hugged you!” and they die laughing. I couldn’t even look at him for a couple of days because I felt so awkward.

      1. Tina*

        I usually have to reach a certain comfort level before I’m ok with hugging someone (or other particularly close touching). One time we had to go to university-wide training activity, with people we didn’t know. One of the activities included standing real close and linking arms with each other. The woman next to me kept reaching for my arm, without actually looking in my direction, so she didn’t realize that she wasn’t connecting with my arm because I was deliberately moving away. So she reached for me again, at which point I kind of yelped “I’m not comfortable with that”.

  50. shawn*

    A former boss was preggo with her 2nd kid and told me some of the names she was considering. One of the names was more vintage style and didn’t seem to fit with other names in her family, plus my personal feelings were that it was a bad/dumb name. I basically said those thoughts, didn’t think it through, and of course now realize I should have kept those thoughts to myself. My ended up naming her kid that, it was in rememberance of a family member (which I later learned), and I felt super awkward/embarassed because of what I had said. She was a great boss and didn’t hold it against me or anything and never brought it up again, but I felt like an idiot.

    1. khilde*

      My go-to line for anything related to other people’s children is “oh! how interesting!” said in a pleasant, genuinely curious tone. Might not be the right fit for everyone but it’s gotten me out of some awkward situations. And with names that strike me as crazy I usually say “oh! is that a family name?” I am learning the art of asking question when I don’t have a really good response.

  51. Diane*

    Shortly after I started a new job, I was chatting with my boss, who’d just started the job after teaching in Japan for over a decade. I noticed a few chess-related items and said, “Do you actually play, or do you just like to look intellectual?” He said, “I’m Japan’s grandmaster. Do you want to play?” Fortunately, he had a great sense of humor.

  52. yep, leaving this on anon*

    During grad school I was the assistant to the Director of Communications at my university. One of my many jobs was documenting the construction and renovation of of of our historic buildings – interviews, pictures every week, etc. For my first day on the construction site, I showed up early (as I always do on the first day of a new project). One of the workers gave me a hard hat and told me to wait for the project manager. I had never gotten to wear a hard hat before, and I was really excited about it (for whatever reason). So after about 10 minutes of waiting and getting a little bored, I took a picture of myself in the hat to show my friends.

    When I got back I made a folder for the pictures and made sure to delete the one of me (wipe the memory card, delete file, empty trash, etc). Unfortunately, instead of using the folder of pictures, my boss went to “recent uploads” and downloaded the full set. A few days later, a board of department directors and higher-ups were meeting with donors to discuss the progress of the project. The photos were part of the presentation, and right in the middle, projected in glorious hi-def onto a wall-sized screen…selfie in a hard hat.

    My boss laughed so hard she cried.

  53. BookWorm*

    Years ago, while still in school, I worked at a popular department store in a mall. One night, a man came in looking for a necklace to go with a dress – while explaining what he was looking for, he showed a picture of a woman in a blue dress to me. Then he told me it was him in the dress. I asked if it was for a costume party. “No, I just like to dress up” was his reply.
    I was speechless. I’m sure my face had a very shocked expression.

    Today, I would handle something like that much better – maybe sell him some earrings and a bracelet too. But at that age, seeing a picture of a man my grandfather’s age in a dress, wig, etc – it was just too much.

      1. JessB*

        Oh, that sounds pretty surprising to me! I don’t know that I’d be shocked, but I certainly think it’s possible.

  54. Jill*

    I had been at my first job about 9-months when we had a our fiscal year-end happy hour. One of my managers introduced me to a partner that I had never met, after I’d had one too many drinks. My manager introduced the partner as an important guy and my response was “Well, I’ve never heard of you.”
    “I used to run the department.”
    “Yeah, but you don’t anymore.”
    He handed me his business card, to which I responded “Oh, Northeast Managing Deputy Partner, I’m soooo impressed.” and then stuck the card in my bra.

    I was so mortified when I later woke up at 3am. Luckily, it turned out that he was of the drink-at-lunch crowd and because of some combination of his personal affinity for alcohol, my manager’s vouching for me, and my natural charm (?), the incident never got brought up.

    1. TheSnarkyB*

      Oh noooooooooo :D :D :D
      aaahhhh I’m dying!
      hahahah this is the greatest: “I’m sooooooo impressed.” *sticks card in bra*

  55. ChristineSW*

    Oh god…I’ve only read the first couple of stories and I’m already giggling! There goes my productivity for the rest of the day…… (I’m not working, but still…lol).

  56. P*

    I came back from lunch to an empty office, only 5 people work in that office so it’s not uncommon for them to be out on appointments. I went to the single stall men’s room, did my business and nearly overflowed the clogged the toilet. Being a new office we didn’t have all of the standard things one typically has, meaning no toilet plunger. To avoid a mess I ran down the street to a walmart and bought a cheap plunger, fixed the clog and set the plunger down behind the toilet.

    The manager of that office is the type of person who notices every little thing. Knowing he would have noticed the plunger sitting behind the toilet, I knew I had to tell him about it to avoid him asking around. That was one of the most awkward emails I’ve ever had to send. Thankfully he laughed it off and joked about it with me casually. But it was still uncomfortable.

  57. Sabrina*

    I remembered a clothing related one. One day I was walking into work, heading to my cube and out of no where, my pants fell down. Like around my ankles. I’d like to think this was because I had lost some weight but I honestly don’t really know. Luckily it was about 7 in the morning on a Friday when most people worked from home. I was able to quickly duck in to an empty office to fix the situation. I don’t think anyone saw…

    1. LisaLyn*

      Oh dear! That sort of happened to me, too. My boss was taking me to to lunch on my last day before I moved on to a better position. We were walking into the restaurant and –BOOM — my pants fell down. Well, there was no actual boom, but …

      Thankfully, I was slightly behind him so since I have catlike reflexes, I don’t think he noticed. I was sure glad it was my last day, though!

      1. Sabrina*

        LOL this was also near my last day. My friends have since joked that I dropped trou and showed them where to plant it, but that’s not quite how it happened. :)

      2. iseeshiny*

        Me too! I have a bad habit of keeping one foot tucked underneath me when I sit down in my chair, and one time I stood up to go to lunch and my heel caught on my skirt and yanked it down to my knees. Luckily my office mate is a lady and was also facing the other way so no one saw but I couldn’t stop laughing for the longest time.

    2. Lalaith*

      That actually happened to me at home once. I live in a two-family house, and my husband and I were heading out somewhere. Just as we walked into our shared entryway, my pants slid right off. We were having a good laugh about it – just the two of us were there – when the front door opened and my neighbor walked in! I’m quite sure I got my pants back up before he saw, because he just started chatting with us like nothing had happened, but the poor guy was probably wondering what was so dang funny about the weather that we both looked like we were about to bust a gut.

  58. Claire*

    I had an ear infection (until then, I didn’t realize adults got ear infections) and at the suggestion from my doctor I took an over-the-counter decongestant. I was careful to take the day-time version and only took 1 pill when I recommended 1-2 pills every 4 hrs.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that I react very strongly to decongestants and quickly started feeling very strange – heart racing, limbs buzzing, mind very fuzzy. I made it through one meeting before pulling my boss aside to tell her my partner was coming to pick me up because I was stoned out of my mind. Fortunately, she was very understanding.

    1. Rana*

      Oh, man, I feel for you. Decongestants are not my friend… but it took a few incidents like that for me to realize it.

  59. Collarbone High*

    I was working for a defense contractor and wanted to invite all the members of my team to a New Year’s Eve party, so I sent out an Evite using our Outlook distribution list. Or, I thought I did, until I started getting replies like “Am stationed in Italy but will try to make it :).” I’d accidentally used a Navy client list whose name was one letter different from my team’s. The invite went to about 7,000 sailors.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      Well….Hello, Sailor! (And now I’m trying to muffle the giggling so I don’t have to explain it to my coworkers…)

  60. Kat M*

    Here’s my awkward moment that saved the day!

    Several years ago I was working full-time and had to leave right when I was scheduled to in order to get to my internship on time in the evening. My boss knew about it and was totally supportive. But I did have to change out of my work uniform and into my internship uniform. Well, one day EVERY SINGLE BATHROOM was full. And continued to be full. I was freaking out, and my boss asked me what was going on. When I explained, she pulled me into her office, closed the door, and stood in front of the window so that I could strip down and change and get the hell out.

    Awkward? Yes. But nothing could kill my loyalty to that boss afterwards. :)

  61. anon cause this is bad!*

    This is bad.

    So, I went through this phase when I first met my husband where I would talk in a funny accent. We would both talk in it – young love, yadda yadda. It was our little thing and kinda cute. The accent was like Frahnk from Father Of The Bride-all the long As were soft As.

    It was my birthday and I worked in an office of two – just me and my boss. He bought a birthday cake for me and when I was leaving work that day, I yelled back to his office “Thanks for the cake!”

    IN THAT ACCENT. Say it in your head. Yeah. I said that. To my boss. In a very loud voice.

    1. HR Gorilla*

      Oh my gosh, I never thought there was someone else who tried to talk in Martin Short’s “Father of the Bride” wedding planner voice, and had it go horribly wrong.

      Last year at my dad’s birthday dinner at my sister’s house, my dad let out a satisfied sigh after finishing his meal and said ‘that was delicious, thank you!’ I blurted, in THAT accent, “save room for cake!” Oh, the embarrassment.

  62. Joshua*

    At my first IT job out of college I was put in charge of the e-mail and web servers for a company that sold the email product. Managing email for an email company sort of puts you out front. So, on day one they wanted me to send a message to their largest subscriber list. Being obviously unfamiliar with the mail platform (it was their own proprietary product) I asked to “watch” the first time and was told no, just “dive in and figure it out.”

    So, taking caution I exported all members of the list (52K of them) and added just myself for a test-run of the message before I went live.

    In the midst of my feeling rather clever I sent the test message, the body of which was, “a moose once bit my sister, moose bites can be quite nasty…” and waited for it to land in my inbox, which it didn’t.

    I then, in a panic noticed that I had exported the incorrect list and sent that message to 52 thousand subscribers to our product. I ran across the hall, burst, quite unannounced into the data center, located the email server and unplugged it entirely, no not the network cable, the power.

    As I turned around both the CEO of the company and the network administrator were both standing there looking at me in silence. I was going to explain the situation right then but thought it better to compose myself slightly before explaining so I walked out between them, went into my office, closed the door, took a few deep breaths and walked back out to where they were standing (same place).

    The CEO said something to the effect of, “so, I see you are a Monty Python fan.” and they both started laughing. I was relieved. I asked if I could send a note of explanation and they declined. Because I had unplugged the server it had only gone out to 2-3K people and I could handle the surprised responses myself, directly.

    They were good-natured about it, but talk about a baptism of fire… First day of my first professional job… nice.

  63. LoveyDovey*

    I’m sure there’s a bunch of mortifying moments in my work history that I’ve repressed, but I can’t forget the time I told my boss I loved him at the end of a phone call. I was multi-tasking while we talked and distractedly ended the call with “All right, I love you, see you later!” like I usually do with my family. I caught myself and was very confused and started rambling with such eloquent statements as “Oh my god! I didn’t mean that. I absolutely don’t love you….no, I mean, I like working for you but I know you’re married and I’m married, and I’m not flirting so please don’t report me to HR for harassment…” At some point during my back-pedaling he just hung up.

    1. JR*

      This is my fear! Every time I hang up with a client I think I’m going to accidently say it without thinking. Oh god I hope it never happens.

    2. Jamie*

      I’ve done that more than once with my consultant.

      I was mortified the first couple of times, but now I just blame him for having the same name and freakishly similar voice to my husband.

      Accidental declarations of love…you either find the humor or quit in shame.

  64. Stephanie*

    I used to work for a patent search firm (like IP legal consulting). When I interviewed for the job, This American Life recently did a pretty unfavorable, hour-long show about patent trolls. Trying to make relevant small talk, I brought this story up. The Senior VP was like “Oh heh, [the company profiled] is one of our biggest clients.”

    Despite the gaffe, I ended up getting the job. In a company meeting later, that same Senior VP was like “I know [the aforementioned company] gets a lot of criticism, but they’re great clients!”

  65. KJ*

    This incident is still being brought up to this day, even though it happened in 2009! I was having my very first ocular migraine. If you’ve never had one, it involves flashing lights, and weird patterns floating before your eyes, followed by an ever-increasing field of blindness. I had no idea what was happening. Over a period of about 10-15 minutes it kept getting worse and worse, so I went to use the phone in my boss’s office (for privacy), to call my “phone a nurse” hotline through my insurance. In the midst of the call, I momentarily passed out, AT MY BOSS’S DESK. He walked in to check on me, saw me slumped over his phone, and as I am waking up I hear him yelling for someone to call 911. Then, (and this is the part that has earned me place in the “workplace embarrassing moments hall of fame”,) he started smacking my face to keep me conscious! It was all very frightening at the time, but quite funny in hindsight, especially now that I know what was causing it. He loves to remind me of “the time I got to smack you.”

    1. Julie*

      I didn’t know these things could cause blacking out – good to know. I get the “auras” every now and then (minus the migraine, thank goodness!), and one time, I passed out at work for a few seconds. I knew it was probably related to the “aura,” but I didn’t realize that there’s a known connection.

    2. iseeshiny*

      I got my first ocular migraine in my junior year of high school, in the middle of a creative writing class. I was slightly freaked out but knew what it was because my mother gets them too. I went to my (young, handsome) teacher and told him what was happening so I could go to the nurse and get an excedrin or something and he asked me if I had dropped acid that weekend! Evidently the symptoms are similar to a side effect/flashback type thing.

    3. Anonymous*

      Ooo, I had one of those last year, my first time ever getting a migraine. Weekend receptionist, I was coming back from lunch when it started… It was also making my head fuzzy and me nauseated…

      I had the phones forwarded to another office while I was at lunch and the doors were on timers. I knew I had to get in to the office to let someone know what was happening, but I couldn’t be in a vertical position without losing my sight. Eventually I rolled out of the car onto the parking lot pavement, stayed flat on my back like that for a minute or two until I could gather myself together enough to walk the 30 feet or so into the building (the doors having unlocked themselves in the meantime. The floor in the building was mostly tile, but I knew there was a seating area with carpet just off of the center… I was basically walking blind by the time I got halfway inside the building, and did a controlled drop onto the carpet. Luckily one of the sales managers (not my manager) was there and responded to me calling for help. He was able to get in touch with people who could get the doors locked and get the phones re-set while friends came to pick me up, and got me moved into an office until they arrived.

      I was feeling better by the time my friends got there, and my friends and family were insistent on me going to an ER, which freaked me out because I didn’t have insurance. By the time I got to the ER, all of the symptoms had cleared up and the doc I spoke with said it was a toss up between a migraine or low blood sugar.

      I highly doubt it was low blood sugar. I ate breakfast that day and had eaten most of my lunch before this started, and I’ve gone plenty of days without eating until dinnertime without incident.

    4. Rana*

      I get those sometimes, and, yes, they are really, really weird. I’ve never passed out from one – I just get the scintillating moire effects that start out as a pinprick size, expand to fill all my vision, and then disappear. They don’t hurt, and are gone pretty quickly. I hope I never have one when I’m driving, though!

      1. Bea W*

        I used to get these, and had one while I was driving on a toll road where the exits were very far apart. Luckily, there was a rest stop close to where it had started coming on, but oh that would have been bad.

  66. Joey*

    Here’s mine. Was on my cell phone with my wife when my boss called. I interrupted my wife mid sentence to tell her ,”Its my boss. Hang on for a minute.” My boss, going 100 miles an hour asks me to put together some speaking points on an issue I was dealing with. She says, “thanks, bye.” I say, ” love you, bye.” Hang up. Look at my cell phone. Cringe. She emails me a few minutes later the song “If loving you is wrong I don’t wanna be right.”

  67. The Other Dawn*

    One time I was on a conference call for training. It was presented through our core processor so there were many banks on the call at once. There was a code to punch on the phone keys that would mute and unmute the caller’s phone and I lost track of whether I had muted or unmuted. I then told a coworker, thinking that the phone was muted, that the training was so incredibly boring, had better things to do, and I just wanted to blow my brains out every time I heard X (the trainer) speak. Well…it wasn’t on mute. Another caller spoke up and said, “Whoever just said that, we can hear you. You might want to learn how to mute your phone.” Thankfully there was no way to know it was me, but I was mortified nonetheless. Now I make sure I keep the mute/unmute code posted at my desk.

  68. j-e to the double n*

    This isn’t a story about something I did specifically (although there are many of those stories) but it was plenty awkward!

    I once worked at a collection agency and was on the reception rotation (we were looking for a new receptionist at the time, so I was just filling in for the day and thus was not familiar with everyone who usually came in, etc.). Anyway, at the time we had just hired a new batch of people (collection agency = high rotation) and thus the drug testing nurses were there testing the newbies in the guest bathroom, located of course right next to the reception desk. Well, long story short, the nurse administering the test was a guy who was very confident in his attempts to hit on me for a dude who handles other peoples urine for a living.

    He kept leaning over the desk saying really cheesy pick up lines and gesturing with his hands (with the pee jars still in them). The whole time I just sat there mortified and hoped that the cap didn’t fly off the cup during one of this large arm movements.

  69. Anonymous*

    I have bladder issues that cause me to wear a pad every day. Not a Poise pad, but just a regular ‘that-time-of-the-month’ pad. I got home one day and realized that the pad was gone. Turns out it had worked its way out of my underwear while I was walking out to my car after work and was in the parking lot.

    I leave late, so no one saw it happen. Mortifying.

    1. Collarbone High*

      Years and years ago, I read a similar story in the “most embarrassing moments” column in YM, from a teenage girl whose maxipad fell out while she was in line at a bank (and talking to a cute guy, because all those stories involve talking to a cute guy). To this day, I don’t know how I would handle that situation gracefully.

      1. Julie*

        I don’t think it’s possible to handle it gracefully! Too embarrassing!

        I was at a talent show performance for young people, and during a high kick during one of the dance acts, a girl’s maxi pad fell out onto the stage. Either the dancers didn’t notice, or it had been drummed into them to “keep going no matter what happens” because they kept going like nothing had happened. At the end of the routine, the girl who lost the pad was at the other side of the stage, and the girl who was closest just ran over and matter of factly swooped up the pad and ran offstage with everyone else. I was very impressed with all of them.

    2. tcookson*

      I’ve had my maxi pad work its way back to where it is protruding from the back waistband of my pants — that’s a nice feeling, especially when you can’t figure out how long it’s been that way and who’s seen it!

  70. Sarah*

    I joined an university department to run their student art gallery. The position used to be under another supervisor until they figured out she was awful and moved it under someone else. It was the second day of my new job, and there happened to be a staff social. I was being introduced to everyone by my boss. I was then introduced to the other museum director (the old supervisor). In front of my boss and two of her employees, she went on a rant about how she would not be my second supervisor, how she didn’t have time for that, and how she didn’t like students (mind you, we were in a student life department!). I just smiled and said okay. My boss was mortified! The next day he asked me for my impression of that situation. I told him that it was incredible awkward and unprofessional of her. He agreed and said that he had brought it up to our department chair. Turns out that they were documenting all of her misbehaviors, which eventually led to her termination as a state employee!

  71. ArtsNerd*

    Once I missed a call from my boss while she was travelling for business. Assuming the number she called from was her cell, I called it back instead of checking. It was her mother’s phone number.

  72. Evilduck*

    Oh dear, I have way too many of these. I’ll start with this one and think about whether I can make the others sufficiently anonymous…

    When I was a senior in high school, I worked as a receptionist for a wealth management firm in the afternoons after school got out. Because we were in the Mountain time zone, all the managers would leave around 3ish when the market closed. On Fridays, the place was dead by 4 pm. One Friday, I was pretty much all on my own in the office, maybe one or two people were still there, but I was B-O-R-E-D. There was an oscillating fan behind me and I got a whim to stand up in front of it and let it blow my long hair like I was on a Victoria’s Secret photo shoot. I did this for probably a good five minutes before I heard someone politely clear their throat. I turned around to find our biggest client standing there trying to drop something off for his manager. He asked me what I was doing and, not being able to think of anything plausible, I told him in a tiny voice, “Um, pretending to be a model?”

    I’m not sure if he ever told anyone in the office, but luckily, he had a pretty good sense of humor about it.

  73. Julie*

    I once disparaged an instruction “manual” (it was a PowerPoint presentation with the steps written out) in a conversation with a colleague (who was not my manager but above me in the org chart). When he said, “what’s so bad about it?” with a particular tone, I realized that he had written it. Ugh! So I backpedaled and just mentioned some formatting issues and said that maybe some of the steps could have had a little more detail. To be fair, this is my area of expertise and not part of his job or anything that he “should” be good at. I felt terrible, and I hope he wasn’t too upset about it.

  74. Mallorie, the recruiter*

    Ugh, I am ashamed to even admit this but it literally just happened so it seems poetic with this thread. I just messaged one of the top admins in my market because several columns in an excel sheet were missing. She politely pointed out that I just needed to scroll over by saying, “Do you see those little arrows at the bottom?” I almost died of humiliation! SCROLLING OVER, I mean, really… how dense can I be. She assured me “this conversation never happened” but I can’t help but laugh at myself!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve done that. When it opens, you expect the columns you’re looking at to be the ones furthest left — but they are not always! I’ve made myself look like a luddite at least twice because of this.

      1. businesslady*

        I like snottily asking “where is such-&-such data?!” only to realize it’s contained in another worksheet or a group of hidden columns.

        1. fposte*

          I didn’t initially know that there could be another worksheet. Unfortunately for this thread, I didn’t find it out in any particularly spectacular way, but it was kind of a “Duh!” moment.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Recently I struggled a bit to solve a similar problem. The person who had saved the file clearly had much larger screen than me b/c i couldn’t scroll to see any more columns until I realized that all the columns I could see were frozen.

    3. CathVWXYNot?*

      This happened with an Excel spreadsheet I sent one of our admin assistants a while ago. The next couple of emails I got from her seemed rather sharp in tone – turns out she’d been upset at all the extra work I’d made her do by not providing enough information in my request, when in fact the columns had just scrolled over…

    4. Elizabeth West*

      LOL I did something similar just today…I sent a screenshot to illustrate something I thought I was missing in it, and Coworker sent it back with nothing in the email. I emailed, “I don’t see anything..” She emailed, “Open it up full screen.” I did, and there was a big red arrow pointing to the exact thing I was asking about. D’OH!

    5. AnonEMoose*

      If it makes you feel better, I once worked at a place that did outplacement (helping laid-off people with their resumes, providing access to a computer, help with navigating job search websites, etc.). And one of our clients had been a CIO (Chief Information Officer) in his most recent position.

      One day he came up to me waving a 3.5 inch disc (yes, this was that long ago) and claiming that there was a problem with one of our computers. Because, says he, there’s a file he can pull up on his laptop, but not the desktop in that office. I ask him “are you sure it’s looking for all file types?” Yes, yes, he’s sure. “Ok,” says I, “I’ll come back with you and look. But understand that if that is the problem, I’m going to laugh at you.” Yep, he’s sure.

      So I walk back there with him. Guess what the problem was? Yep; the desktop was looking for the wrong type of file. To give him credit, he looked me straight in the eye and said “Go ahead. Just go ahead.” We both had a good laugh and he told the story on himself later.

      1. Jamie*

        I love this one. And I think I love that guy a little bit, too.

        If you can’t laugh at yourself IT will eat you alive.

  75. Bagworm*

    For a brief period, I tried sitting on an exercise ball at work. One day, I was sitting on it having a conversation with a colleague in the cubicle next to me and it just popped. I was a bit disoriented but couldn’t help cracking up.

      1. Bagworm*

        It was pretty great. Nothing makes you feel like your efforts at weight loss are failing quite as much as popping your excersise ball. :)

  76. Anna G*

    While in grad school I worked for an archives, with a boss renowned for her no-nonsense attitude. One of her main dictates was that we should never move collection boxes we couldn’t handle–naturally, to avoid damage to ourselves or the materials. One day she accompanied me on one of my retrieval expeditions to the closed stacks for a box with heavy, fragile glass negative plates. As I reached up to pull out the box, she said, “That looks kind of high. You want me to get you the stepladder?”
    “Oh, no need, I got it,” I said, and pulled on the box, and promptly dropped it.

    Luckily I also managed to somehow catch it… with the help of my head. I held it like a water jar and assured my horrified supervisor that I was just fine, and hey, the box and all the plates were, too! I was so relieved I hadn’t broken them that I barely noticed the giant goose-egg.

    1. Kit M.*

      If I had a nickel for every time I dropped, and then awkwardly and painfully caught, a box of archival materials, I’d have a quarter. Fortunately, I’ve never been directly observed.

  77. Former Usher*

    This was several months into my first job post-grad school. We had a department-wide, off-site meeting for training. I made a wrong turn and ended up walking in late. Sadly, I used the door at the front of the room by the presenter, so the entire room paused to watch me arrive late.

  78. Scott M*

    Wow, my embarassing moment is not nearly as bad as most of these.

    I had to leasve the office early while on a conference call, to I dialed in using my cellphone. I was using a wired earpiece (before bluetooth headseats were widely available). So when I stopped at a convenience store on the way home, i felt the need to explain to the cleark (whome I knew) why I had this earpeice stuck in my ear.

    And I ended my statement with “I don’t know why I’m invited to these calls, no one ever asks me anything.”

    And I was quickly informed that I was not on mute. I called my boss after the call had ended to profusely apologize about my unprofessional behavior. He was a good sport about it.

  79. anon for this*

    11 years ago I was answering phones at a city department. Just as the phone started ringing, my then-sup/the Deputy of the department came up to me at my desk, and past experience told me he needed something and right away by the look on his face.

    I picked up the phone and said, “[Department Name], can you please hold?”

    Guy on other end: “Absolutely.”

    So I put him on hold while my boss gave me instructions for at least 5 minutes. After my boss walked away, I picked up the phone and took it off hold.

    Me: ” Thank you for holding.”

    Guy: “May I please speak to Mr. [Co-worker’s First and Last Name]?”

    Me: “Who may I tell him is calling?” (I should point out that I was required to get a name and reason for the call from everyone before they were put through.)

    Guy: “Governor [First and last name of Governor]”

    Yes, it was really him, and yes, I wanted to die.

      1. anon for this*

        Sorry, no, would probably be a better story. :) Otherwise it’s only funny if you are local or pay a lot of attention to that Governor’s political party and would recognize him.

  80. Anon*

    It was near that time of the month and I had a panty liner folded in half in my pocket. I was walking down the hallway where there are several offices and somehow it slipped out. A female coworker said I had dropped a paper and I looked back (died a little) and quickly picked it up. I have no idea if she saw what it really was and was being polite. I was still mortified.


    I recently was on the phone with a coworker (someone technically above me) and we were discussing some log files. They were compressed in a zip file which naturally one unzips to decompress and read the files. He said, “Let me know when you get unzipped” then there was an awkward pause and he nervous laughed and mumbled something (“Ah, er, I mean”). I just picked up the conversation again.

    1. Sabrina*

      This reminds me of a Cubs game I watched once. It was late in the season and the ball boys/girls were wearing their more cold weather gear. Harry Caray says “That’s the first time I’ve seen [ball girl] wearing pants.”

      1. Jazzy Red*

        Good old Harry!

        My church hosts a gospel singalong once a month and around mid-way through, we always stand for one song, just to stretch a little bit. My sisters & I call it the 7th inning stretch, and I’m always tempted to “lead the singing” like Harry did (leaning out of the pressbox window and swinging his arm in time to the music). RIP, Harry.

    2. Kelly L.*

      Not my awkward moment, but someone else’s:

      Years and years ago, I worked at the public pool in my hometown. We were all about 18, and some of the guys were pretty squeamish about anything ladyparts-related. So one day a couple of my male co-workers rousted me out of the women’s bathhouse, visibly shaken, and told me in trembling voices that there was a *gasp* PAD on the pool deck and could I please, please come deal with it? So I’m thinking, used pad, ew gross, and I get rubber gloves and head out to survey the situation.

      The pad was still factory-sealed in the plastic wrapper.

      1. Lindsay J*

        At one of my jobs, the shift supervisors for each shift shared a drawer for their personal belongings in an armoire type thing we had in the break room.

        One of the swing shift supervisors was female, and the other was male. The male supervisor freaked out when the female supervisor put a box of tampons in the drawer. It was really ridiculous and unprofessional, considering he was a school teacher in his late 20s at the time.

      2. Anonymous*

        Years ago I led an exercise group after our office closed, and ladies used various offices to change clothes. One morning my boss reported that the man whose office she used to change clothes the night before had found a pad on his desk.

        She then blushed and said she told him “Sure glad it wasn’t me who changed in there last night.”

  81. AdminAnon*

    I have 2:

    The first happened when I was in high school. I was a hostess at a nice Italian restaurant in my small hometown. It was a really busy weekend night and the servers were all overloaded, so they pulled me off of the host stand to run food. The manager piled my tray up with several lasagnas, pastas, and drinks, as well as more bread and some other side items. I carried the tray successfully to the table and set it on the rack. I distributed most of the food and all was going well. As I got to the last 2 items, another server needed to get through the aisle. Since there wasn’t enough room with my tray, I picked it up and stepped to the side. I grabbed the second to last item and, as I started to set it down, the tray tipped. The last dish–a bowl of piping hot spaghetti–started to fall off and was headed straight onto the head of a small child. I saw the whole thing happening in slow motion, so I reached out and tried to grab it. I missed, but did manage to knock it out of the way…and directly into the lap of the county sheriff. I also gave myself third degree burns all over my hand and arm. I was 16 at the time and mortified. I started tearing up (from both the pain and the embarrassment) and my manager came to smooth things over while another manager took me to the back to clean me up. Luckily, the customers were really nice (and grateful that I had saved their grandchild from spaghetti burns on his head). They were regular customers for the next 4 years while I was a hostess and eventually a server. They were always really nice to me and tipped very well. I never heard the end of the spaghetti story, though…

    My second story is more recent. About a week after I started my current job, my boss invited me out to lunch to talk about the position and get to know each other. As we were walking back to our table, I somehow slipped and ended up sprawled on the floor of the restaurant. My shoe flew off and ended up under another table. I was so shocked that it took me about 30 seconds to process what had just happened and another minute to find and retrieve my shoe. Of course, the entire restaurant was staring at me. My boss asked if I was ok and–thankfully–never mentioned it again.

    1. Limon*

      Lol! that restaurant slippage story is so incredibly funny! the spaghetti yes but your slipping on the floor. Awesome (well, I mean that in the nicest way!). I couldn’t stop laughing out loud!

  82. kas*

    I was having penne pasta with executives and one fell INTO my blouse. I was in shock – it seemed like ages to get that sucker out whilst people tried not to look or laugh too much. Blushing my head off, we had a bit of a giggle afterwards.

    1. Alicia*

      I am not extremely plentiful up top, but I swear I’ve never met someone who spills food into her bosom as frequently as me. My fiance finds it hilarious!

      1. AnonAdmin*

        One of my favorite wedding pictures of Husband and I is of us both looking down the front of my dress for the piece of cake I had dropped. :)

    2. Claire MKE*

      It happened with castmates and not coworkers, thankfully, but once at a sub shop while I was filling up a cup with ice, a cube flew down my shirt and LODGED itself in my bra. And there was a small child nearby so I couldn’t go fishing for it. Brrr.

  83. DC*

    Our company had just moved into a brand new building. In an attempt to get everyone’s work space functional as quickly as possible, the computer techs came through and connected phones and computers, leaving the cables and wires in a mess under each desk. (This was just a big room with all our desks next to each other.) I kept getting my feet caught in the cables while sitting at my desk and finally decided to just straighten them out myself. I pulled my chair out, got down on my hands and knees, crawled under my desk and proceeded to push back the cables when the president of the company came through, showing off the new digs to a couple of his buddies. Hmm, I thought, this is a little awkward, but maybe if I just sit still here under my desk they’ll pass on by and that will be that. They stopped right at my desk and as they stood and chatted, the president pushed my chair in under my desk. The resistance he encountered was, of course, ME, because I was crouched where the chair was supposed to go. Their conversation stopped, they stared at me, I crawled out from under my desk, stood up and mumbled something about computer cables and quickly excused myself. I might also add I was wearing a dress and high heels. Awesome.

      1. DC*

        OMG Emma, that link was HILARIOUS! If only I would have had someone to distract those guys long enough for me to crawl out with my dignity intact!

  84. HR_Jen*

    I was with my boss giving a tour of our newspaper to a group of senior citizens. We were walking down the hallway right outside of the publisher’s office when clumsy me tripped over the carpet. I flailed through the air and with great force reached out to grab the first thing to stop myself from falling. That thing happened to a huge handful of my boss’s man chest.

  85. Claire MKE*

    Not as deliciously hilarious as some of these, but at my very first work “event” ever, the woman my boss and I had been chatting with waited until he was talking to some other people to ask me if he (who was definitely 20 years older and also gay) and I “married or just coworkers?” I was so relieved he didn’t hear (though I know he would have thought it was hilarious.)

  86. ggg*

    When I was a grad student my advisor left for an extended time to start a lab across the country. Morale was low and many of the students were goofing off a little, for example, watching TV shows on our computers in the middle of the day instead of working.

    One day all the group members got an email. “Dear group, It has come to my attention that no work is being done while you all watch back episodes of Sex and the City. This is unacceptable. We have already lost two grants due to the lack of results, so please do not submit purchase orders until future notice. — Advisor. P.S. Bob (his eight year old son) will be joining the lab this summer. He is very interested in (complicated project). I trust you will do your best to mentor him.”

    The tone of this e-mail is just strict enough that we worry for a minute. He wouldn’t really expect us to mentor an eight year old, would he? Then we notice that the e-mail address from which the message has been sent is clearly fake. We confirm that it was just one of our groupmates playing a prank. Ha ha ha, nicely done.

    Ten minutes later, we get another e-mail from another student, replying to the first e-mail. “Dear Advisor, I am offended that you think I have been spending my days watching TV. In fact I have been working extremely hard and am ready to publish X novel result on Y project. It is clearly other members of the group who are to blame for the loss of our grant money.”

    The kicker — this guy had hit reply all, and then noticed that my advisor’s address was fake, so he *changed it* to the correct address in the reply field! So now advisor is pissed at the prankster for sending a spoof e-mail from him, AND knows we are all screwing around in his absence. Brilliant.

    At least the second guy could laugh at himself, because there was no way we would ever let him live that down.

  87. VictoriaHR*

    I was standing by my boss’s cubicle and had to sneak a gaseous emission, but I thought it would be a silent one. It wasn’t, it was one of those that go “POP” and everyone knows what it is. I went beet red and he turned around and looked at me and said, “Are you ok?” and I turned and fled. Humiliating.

    1. Clever Name*

      Ha! This reminds me of a similar embarrassing incident at my last job. A coworker and my boss and I were leaning over my boss’ computer looking at something in the bosses office. I had to pass gas, and was holding it in. Or so I thought. I realized with horror that I wasn’t successful. The funny part was that my boss (apparently) was known for passing gas in other people’s offices, so my coworker blamed my boss, and my boss thought it was my coworker getting him back. I didn’t say a word.

  88. Anon*

    I have two.

    In college I worked one summer at a sushi bar. I had taken a year of Japanese and one of the sushi chefs knew this and would try to talk to me in Japanese (I’d understand about every third word). Well, when the summer was over I left my job. I got a call to come in and pick up my last paycheck, so I did. Now, I also watched a lot of anime (Japanese cartoons) and so would pick up some… unsavory grammar. I go in to get my check, and the chef says to me (in Japanese) “you didn’t remember it?” I smiled and said what I thought was “I forgot it!” His expression changed to something very bizarre, I tossed out a “sayonara!” and left. Only later I realized I had subbed in a different suffix on the verb and so instead of saying “I forgot it” I said “I f***ing forgot it!” all with a cheery smile.

    Second story is from my one stint in retail, I worked part time for a large bridal chain store in addition to another full time (but still customer facing) job. I was up front and a bride came in and said she had gotten a call that her wedding dress had come in and could I go get it please. I got her name and went to the back and sure enough, there it was. I brought it up to the front of the store and put it on the counter, figuring she’d want to pay for it and take it. Well, while I was in the back her fiance had come into the store and was now standing with her at the counter. I put the dress down and turned to the register, only to be confronted by the assistant manager who was breathing fire. She snatched the dress up and ran into the little enclosed area we had behind the front counter and hid the dress there. She then came back out and berated me in front of the bride for daring to show the dress to the groom! I was flabbergasted. I think the bride was too, until she realized she could maybe play this for a discount or something and then she got upset that the groom had “seen” her dress. The assistant manager was like “never EVER bring a wedding dress anywhere that a groom could see it!” and I just apologized over and over again and said that she had asked for the dress so I had gotten it for her! Ugh. I got promoted at my real job and left retail shortly afterwards.

    1. some1*

      Your bridal shop manager sucks. True, a lot of brides freak out about their fiance seeing the dress before the wedding, but if that customer was one of them she obviously would not have brought her fiance with to pick up the dress.

      Also, when I started in retail I made tons of mistakes out of ignorance. My awesome manager always waited until we were alone to ask me to do something differently.

  89. Lora*

    This one was awkward all around, not just for me.

    I was on a business trip with several of my colleagues at a manufacturing facility we were trying to bring up, as were the newly-hired staff for the place. They were all oil roughnecks, just to set the scene here. I was doing my laundry in the hotel laundry room when I got a call from one of my fellow engineers, asking me to come out to the parking lot for a minute or two, with lots of loud, indecipherable yelling in the background. I told him to wait 15 minutes until the dryer had finished, then went out to see what the ruckus was about.

    They were all drunk, sitting in the back of a pickup truck. My boss, the VP happened to be walking by, pulled me aside and said, “you’re the senior engineer, you’re in charge here. I’m going to bed, it’s been a long day.” OK, a tiny woman with a shrill voice is going to control six oilmen and a geeky engineer. Fortunately, it was quickly evident that they were all real lightweights who had gotten hammered on three beers, so I felt pretty good about drinking them under the table (Note: NOT a recommended management technique), and indeed four of them went to bed shortly thereafter. The remaining three, when I asked why they chose to spend their evening in a parking lot of all places, explained that they were waiting for the prostitute one of them had called from craigslist. They proceeded to show me the picture of her and asked if I thought she was worth $150/hour.

    *blink blink* Um. Dude. That is not cool. Your time is for whatever you want, but I will have no part in your efforts to catch the crotchmeasles. And I did not need to know this. “well, we thought she might not stop if she saw a truck full of only drunk men hanging out. That looks sketchy, you know?”

    Shortly thereafter they ran out of beer, got bored, and went to bed. The next day at work, the subject of lunchtime speculation was what every woman on the job site was worth per hour. They priced me at $600/hour. Gee, thanks…

  90. Jo*

    I used to cycle to work and on a particularly cold day I wrapped a cloth around the lower part of my face to try and keep it warm. When I walked into the office, everyone looked at me horrified and assumed I had been in an accident, as only at that point did I discover that the purple cloth I’d used had gotten a bit damp and the color had seeped out, making the lower half of my face a streaky purple (which apparently had looked like horrible bruising at first glance!).

  91. CathVWXYNot?*

    I cycle to work and shower and change when I get there, so I never actually see how the clothes I’ve chosen for the day look until I’m already at work. This has caused a number of white shirt / black bra and other incidents, but the worst was when I grabbed what I thought was a t-shirt with a nice print on it and put it in my pannier. When I got to work, I realised that it was actually a different t-shirt – exactly the same make, colour and size (it’s a kind that’s very commonly used to print onto) – but instead of having a lovely arty squid on it, it was the one my friends had printed for me on my hen night… Nothing too embarrassing, but still not good (photos here if anyone’s interested: ).

    Recently, one colleague mentioned to another that what looks like a glass panel separating the head of department’s office from the open office space we all sit in was actually plastic. The second person didn’t believe her for some reason, and decided to go and up start tapping on the window to check for herself. She’d tapped several times before she looked up to see the head of department and director of the institution looking back at her in surprise…

  92. Stephanie*

    I belched once during a phone interview. And not just a little belch, like a full-on gross-out comedian belch. I was answering a question and it just came out of nowhere.

    I quickly apologized and kept talking. Despite that, I still managed to land the job.

  93. Mary*

    I am female and was on a liquid, mix your milk-shake diet drink. To mix the drink, I bought a small battery hand-held mixer/whisk contraption. I didn’t want to do mix my drink up in the kitchen; so
    I discretely mixed it up while holding the cup under my desk. I thought the sound wasn’t that loud; but one time when I left my desk I saw one of the male managers on his knees looking under my desk, trying to figure out what I was doing under the desk and with what. I has to confess that I was mixing up a drink (underlying point being, I wasn’t partaking the use of a vibrator:) My milk-shake diet ended that day.

  94. Lo*

    I was working at my first job out of college and everyone decided to go out to celebratory drinks. Included in this group was the department VP, who we endearingly called “honey badger” because she could get mighty ferocious if she needed to. We all liked her, but were still unnerved by her presence in most cases since she would, well, “take what she wants.” She had announced that the food would be paid for but the drinks were our own responsibility.

    I was the quietest one in the office and also the youngest, so I was thrilled when an older co-worker with great experience (Ogilvy!) struck up a conversation with me. We ordered a couple drinks and continued to talk for two hours, until he excused himself to go to the restroom. When he came back to say bye, I saw it as my ‘out’ and said I was also leaving. I walked right out with him.

    That night, as I’m telling my mom about my evening, I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t paid for my drinks. I get super worried and shoot an email to “honey badger,” letting her know that I was so sorry, knew I was supposed to be paying for it and was in no way trying to swindle her out of that money. The next morning, she comes in very confused. A co-worker had picked up my tab for me when the waiter came looking for the “cute girl in the dress.”

    At our staff meeting later that week, “honey badger” joked that I had been taking shots all night. The entire department laughed about me being the quiet one who drinks people under the table and walks out on a tab, all while leaving the waiter disappointed that he didn’t get my number. I never lived it down.

  95. AnonAlces*

    Loving reading these :)

    (Not my current job, but posting anonymously anyway, just in case).

    I write fantasy fiction as a hobby–think Game of Thrones type stuff. It’s not something I’m paid to do–yet–but it is something I take seriously. I also tend to work fast, and in this job, often found myself in situations where I had nothing to do because I’ve done all the work and no one has assigned me anything else yet.

    This is all relevant, I promise :)

    So one day, rather than aimlessly browsing the internet when the work ran out, I decided I would poke at one of my novels , which I had on a USB key.

    And somehow, I managed to print the novel out. All… oh, 300 pages or so >.< I don't know what I did, even–it was a new-to-me version of Word, and I think I hit the button that sends your document directly to the printer with default settings. I only had an idea something was wrong when I saw the page numbers ticking up in the corner of the document, but by itself, didn't think anything of it.

    … until a coworker came into my office with a ream of printed pages in her hands, and said, "Does anyone know what this is?" I saw "CHAPTER ONE" on the page and snatched it out of her hands, yelling some excuse like, "Sorry, that's something I printed accidentally."

    Later another coworker asked me what it was, and I said, "Uh, I was looking at some files from my previous job and accidentally printed it out."

    The worst part was, the novel is told from the first-person perspective of an assassin. The first line of the novel was something like "There are as many ways to kill someone as there are assassins in [fantasy land]."

    So not only was a bad employee, but a psychopath as well.

    1. Calla*

      Oh, god. This reminds me of something that happened at my first Real Job. I was in a similar situation, where I had a job I was very good and fast at, so I had some spare time to poke around. I was also very into writing at the time. And not just any writing. *coughfanfictioncough* So anyway, one day I decide to take a legal pad and jot down some stuff. As I finish one page and turn to the next, I realize there’s a supply order form beneath it. One of the kinds that has the three papers and the top one transfers everything to the bottom two? Oh yes. And the order form had been filled out and needed to be signed and then sent off to the purchasing department… with my writing on the second and third pages. I was so, so horrified.

      I don’t even remember for sure exactly how I fixed it. I think I ended up shredding that order and just re-doing it. But OMG, I learned my lesson. Thankfully now if I get the urge to write (original stuff now), Google Drive is handy!

      1. AnonAlces*

        Fanfic! *waves hands* I had my share of writing that, too. Thankfully none of it ever accidentally got printed.

  96. businesslady*

    ooh, I just remembered another one, which also functions as a PSA:
    when you forward an Outlook invite, whatever message you include is visible to the meeting organizer.

    I discovered this when a coworker invited me to a BBQ & I forwarded it to my husband with a not-that-bad note that could’ve been SO MUCH WORSE (something like “meh, I’m not sure if you’re even invited to this, but either way I should prally go.”)

    I realized what happened when the coworker was all, “I saw your note; of course [husband] is invited!” & then I had to breezily be all, “yeah, I totally intended for you to see that!” while internally wondering “OH GOD WHAT DID I WRITE.”

    so, yeah. maybe it’s obvious to others, but if you’re ever tempted to forward an Outlook invite with snarky commentary…don’t.

      1. LJL*

        I found out the hard way.

        Instead of writing an email to my fiance to let him know I’d landed an interview for an internal position, I just forwarded it to him. This confused the HR rep, who emailed me to ask just whom I’d forwarded the message to. *blush*. Fortunately, we had a good giggle over it, and I got the job!

  97. I swear I am more professional now*

    Back in the day I was working at my desk when I got an instant message from my boss asking me to register I responded with something like “Wow, that’s a ridiculous domain name.”

    Turns out he IMmed me while giving a presentation for the marketing team and my response was displayed to everyone on the projector.


    I never did get along well with the marketing team. Also, is now a fairly popular news aggregation site.

  98. Seal*

    For my first conference presentation for a new job, I spent weeks putting together a solid PowerPoint slideshow. I practiced my remarks until I had them down cold. I carefully picked out what I would wear and arrived early at the room I would be speaking in to get set up. My presentation was well attended and things were going very well. Until…the battery in my laptop died unexpectedly and the screen went dark. Not only was my presentation graphic-heavy, I was also demonstrating websites – in other words, without my laptop I was dead in the water. Fortunately, someone in the audience had an extension cord so I could plug in, reboot and get on with my presentation, although it took about 10 minutes of frantic scurrying around in front of the audience. These days I always plug in my laptop for presentations.

  99. Anon*

    Oh, I have one!

    My former supervisor and I are around the same age, and we both had a heavy sense of sarcasm.

    I had had two of my female co-workers ask me questions earlier that day, so when my male supervisor turns around and goes, “Hey, Jane?” I mistakenly asked, “Yes, ma’am? I mean, SIR!”

    Jokingly, under his breath, he says, “You jerk.” But being hard of hearing, I misheard him and asked—very confused, “…Did you just call me a dick?”

    Many laughs were had that day.

  100. ThursdaysGeek*

    Years ago, I worked in a lab in an old building, and I was discussing with a co-worker whether she thought the emergency showers had water as rusty as the emergency eye wash station. She said, “There is only one way to find out,” and she pulled the chain. As clean water poured out in the hall (no drains, because we did radioactive testing), she pulled again to stop it, and it didn’t stop. She tried a couple more times, and then we stood watching the water pour down in the hall, wondering what to do. Others came running, someone jerked the chain really hard and it stopped and said “Whoever pulled that must have taken off” and we agreed. They certainly wouldn’t still be standing there in the hall! We helped mop up the water. :)

  101. Anonymously Anonymous*

    It was my first year as a sub. I had been there a while so I pretty much knew all the kids. On this day there was another sub filling in for the Sped teacher for the day. So there was this kid Josh, who would randomly recite lines to movies like The Lion King and would loudly tell you “Your not my family!” if he was upset (the teacher had done a unit on family one week)

    Anyway we were out on the playground and I see him run up to sub and say something. I saw her standing there for a while with a worried look on her face. Finally she came to me and “that little boy just asked me , ‘ you know my father’ and he said his father died a long time ago”…. I couldn’t help but laugh as I explained to her that he was just repeating a scene from Lion King and how he said the same thing to me when I first started!!!

  102. Louise*

    A coworker approached me at my desk in a pod. I was surrounded by my team, all at their desks.

    Coworker: Hey, Louise, do you have a sec?

    Me: Sure, I have LOTS of secs!


  103. BGirl81*

    At my last job, I had a massive crush on a coworker. One thing led to another and we ended up in a full 0n Secret Office Affair. One day, I was chatting with the receptionist, who was a very sweet woman in her early 70’s. I was holding a hammer to hang up some pictures in my boss’ office and the dude comes up and says, “BGirl, I didn’t know you knew how to use tools!” To this day, I have no idea what possessed me to respond as I did, but here is what actually came out of my mouth:

    “Well, we know you do!”

    I wanted to shrivel into the floor. The receptionist was laughing so hard, she spit out her Tootsie Roll. Eventually I made an honest man out of him, but we can’t get through a husband and wife DIY project without him bringing it up!

  104. Anonymous*

    I have not read thru all the comments so I may be repeating something someone already posted, but I told my boss as we were ending our phone conversation “I love you” out of habit saying it to my DH…that was embarrassing to say the least!

  105. Christine*

    I had a laundry emergency and decided to re-wear a pair of hardly-worn work pants from the day before. Halfway through the work day, one of my coworkers screamed a little and said, “whose UNDERWEAR is on the floor?!” Yeah, they had apparently hung up in the leg of the pants and worked their way out. I turned flaming red and whisked them into my purse. They were not cute underwear, either, they were decidedly of the granny variety (see above, re: laundry). Fortunately, after giggling insanely about it for a little while, it never came up again.

    1. Calla*

      Have you seen The West Wing? This exact situation happens to Donna! Except she’s at an art gallery with someone she needs to impress.

    2. Windchime*

      Something similar happened to my Dad once. He worked in the back part of the Post Office, sorting mail. He was allowed to wear street clothes, so he was wearing a long-sleeved flannel shirt. One of his co-worker’s said, “What’s that, [dad’s name]?” and pointed to something sticking out of Dad’s shirt cuff. It was a pair of Mom’s silky underpants, which was stuck in his shirt sleeve due to static cling from the dryer.

  106. Malissa*

    My story starts with my boss getting divorced. He actually managed to keep most of the drama out of the office. But when he started dating again…well that’s where it became awkward.

    After the boss started dating I noticed I was getting some pretty strange looks from my coworkers. This went on for about two months. I wasn’t a gossip, mostly I kept my head down and worked. I really should have been more attuned to the office chatter.
    after two months my boss started a conversation with me about weekend plans. During this conversation he mentioned that he was going to see his girlfriend, Melissa (pronounced just the same as my name).
    Gears in my head started clicking into place. During the previous months he had told no one that the Melissa he was dating wasn’t me. Most of the office and people in other locations thought I was cheating on my husband with my not-so-discreet boss.
    Well he started talking more about her and things finally cleared up. No more misunderstandings….right?
    Wrong. I found another job and was training my replacement. It was her first day. the power had already gone out for an hour. Later the boss gathered everybody up in the office to announce his leaving.
    Somebody made a comment about how Melissa would be happy, as he’d have more time to spend with her. New hire looks at me with absolute shock. Figuring the reason we were both leaving was do to some hanky-panky. Thankfully somebody explained the situation.

  107. Anonymous*

    One Co -worker one:

    One of the chatty girls came over from the other office and started talking to my boss about her sunburn over the weekend. The boss jokingly said that with this weather she can’t have got burned… she then pulls down her top to show major cleavage (and probably a bit more…) and said “yes I did!” I heard his chair skittering backwards. I started to wear higher cut tops after that incident. Made all of us a little paranoid.

    One from me:

    Our Health and Safety guy came over and without any warning lent down and squeezed my shoes… claims he was checking if they were safety shoes because they were weird (they were just boots with a thicker sole)! Somehow I avoided kicking him…

    Another from me:
    In the car with boss… he apologises, says I could have walked this faster because we got stuck in traffic. I turn and say “But it does mean I get to spend more time with you!” Luckily he didn’t take that as an advance – took it as a joke. Luckily I escaped the car a few minutes later!

  108. B*

    I worked for a small non-profit right out of school – joined about 13 years ago. The ED asked me to redesign our business cards, which i did happily. On the business card, under our logo and in very small print, it said “Serving Dallas, Collin and Denton County”.

    Six years later (when I had been promoted to VP) I looked at my business card and something caught my eye: I had left the “o” out of the word “county”.

    It was on every staff person’s business card.

    For six years.

    1. businesslady*

      AAAAAAAAAAAAAH. I used to order business cards & this was my worst nightmare. (when I finally got a business card of my own–the last one I ever typed up myself–my husband read it like, “‘COPmany’ name?!” pretending there was a typo to freak me out.)

  109. Maggie*

    While standing at the copy machine, I coughed and farted at the same time. If you have never experienced this, the cough makes the fart come out very loudly. Kind of like an explosion. Very embarrassing!

    1. Bex*

      Oh, you just reminded me of one of my worst ones!! This was years ago, and I was all of about 22 or 23 .. My work station was in the same room with the copier (along with my gigantic IBM DisplayWriter machine and printer!), and this room would get very warm during summer afternoons. I was wearing an extremely full gauzy white Greek dress (anyone remember the wonderful clothing Pier One used to sell way back when?) .. I was bare-legged underneath the dress since it was so long .. but I was still sweating because it was so hot in the office, and I had all these yards of gauzy dress fabric really making me sweat! Well, I had gotten up to do something, and meantime, one of our engineers had come in to use the copier – and this dude was always looking for a reason to make sexual comments to my early 20’s self. I had this bad habit of flopping down sorta hard into my office chair, and while the Big Nasty Engineer was running his copies, I flopped down into my chair, and the air rushing between my very sweaty thighs made a most incriminating noise!! He, of course, turned around and stared at me – and I did not know what to say! Do I let him continue to think that I had let out a gigantic fart – or do I tell him that it was not what he thought but that it instead was the air rushing between my sweaty thighs when I flopped down onto the chair? I decided not to say a word .. and surprisingly, he did not either. My mother passed this story on to my (then) 90 year old grandfather and she said that he had the best laugh he’d had in a long long time, hahahaha!!! Thank you, mother!! ;)

  110. S*

    The first time I went in a business trip with my boss, we had a seven hour road trip ahead of us after working nearly a full day in the office.

    There was some time left before we were due to leave, so I went home to get my luggage and had him pick me up an hour later.

    Unwilling to spend seven hours in the car in a skirt and high heels, and also because I have a very casual relationship with my boss, I changed into jeans, my favourite band t-shirt, a hoodie and red converse for the drive – figuring that we would arrive at the small town hotel long past 10 p.m. and no one would care.

    My boss kind of looked at me in amusement when he saw me, but didn’t say anything. But when we arrived at the hotel at 10:30 p.m., looking completely shattered, I had to walk past the ENTIRE management board who were having post-management meeting drinks at the hotel bar next to the reception desk.

    To this day, my boss is in stitches about “that time S went on a business trip in her pyjamas and met the board”.

    1. SpeakyMcGee*

      I did the same thing on a drive to a conference where I was speaking. My room wasn’t ready so I had no place to go change before I had to meet the keynote speaker, several top members of the conference who were all 30 years older than me, and then lunch for the entire conference started…

      I’m used to speaking at casual design conferences, but this was a more traditional business conference. So there was me in a hoodie and bright blue hair in the middle of the suits.

  111. Sylvia*

    Started a new job this week. My boss saw me walk into the men’s room instead of the women’s, and so diplomatically corrected me of my faux pas. That was pretty funny, I took it in stride. However, also feeling really overwhelmed by the amount to process and a little bit socially awkward. Scared of my colleagues and boss–these after work receptions and events are a little frightening when you don’t know a soul. I just don’t know how to connect with them or what to talk about, but don’t want to seem too fake or familiar, nor standoffish. Help?!

    1. businesslady*

      I know it’s hard to do, but try to relax as much as possible & let the conversation flow naturally. one of the conventions of improv performance (which is, at its core, a made-up conversation between two or more people for the benefit of an audience) is the “yes, and”–you don’t want to ever contradict something that your scene partner said, but instead add to & build on it.

      I find the same principle works well in a business-y social setting: just match the tone, overall vibe, & subject matter of existing conversations as you join them, & show a little bit of your personality in the process. I’m sure you’ll be fine. :)

  112. Jamie*

    Talk about perfect timing – one this just happened today.

    I was in the middle of an audit and asked a gentleman who I needed to interview for a couple of questions, if now was a good time or if I should come back after I spoke to X.

    “I don’t have time later, but I we can do a threesome with you and X now.”

    Uhm, yeah, there was a language issue and I asked someone to explain to him that threesome doesn’t mean interviewing two men at the same time for a QC audit.

    And no way this guy was being funny or making a joke – just scrambling for the English phrase and really landed wrong.

    1. ggg*

      We once had to explain Rocky Mountain oysters to a group of Japanese colleagues in a buffet line in Colorado. We tried to avoid making lewd gestures, but they kept saying, “I do not understand how oysters can thrive in the waters of this inland region.”

  113. NW Pixel Chick*

    I’m the graphics/web person in our company. I’d been at my job a year or two and on occasion, I’d been asked to Photoshop some odd things for fun – so when one our assistant director asked me to manipulate a photo for him I thought nothing of it.

    Our training director, an avid fisherman, was away for a week and our assistant director (who is not) thought it would be funny to tell him he’d spent the week the TD was away honing his angling skills.

    The AD told me, “I’m going to e-mail you a photo; I want you to put my head on it.” He e-mailed me a pic of a guy holding a large king salmon. I laughed but again – since I Photoshop stuff, it didn’t seem entirely out of the ordinary for me.

    So, as you may have guessed…I spent some time Photoshopping my AD’s head – hat and all – onto the body of a salmon. I was pretty proud of my work; when he walked up to my desk to ask how it was going, I turned the monitor for him to take a look.

    There was a beat and then he quietly said, “That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.” Obviously, he’d wanted his head on the guy…we had a laugh over it and from time to time the print shows up here and there around the office. It’s become somewhat of a classic.

    1. AnonAlces*

      *snerk* Nothing to add, but wanted to tell you how much this made me laugh. Sounds like something that would happen in my office.

  114. Anonima*

    I was once in charge of teaching a bunch of Spanish children English. While I spoke fluent Spanish, there were still times where, while the midst of an explanation, things would occasionally “escape” before I could think about how they translated.
    -When teaching a classroom full of 14-year-olds how to close friendly letters in English, I told them you could frequently end them with “xoxo.” Didn’t realize “x” can sometimes be a slang way of writing “ch,” which altogether was a very slangy way of closing your letter with “VAGINA.”
    -I also had to work in tandem with other teachers in their areas of specialty. While desperately trying to get through a lesson on atoms and sub-atomic particles with 16-year-olds who were zoning out on me and a teacher who was my dad’s age but once in while tried to hit on me anyway, I needed to use the phrase “fine atomic dust.” Unfortunately, the Spanish word for “dust” can also be slang for “f***” in the wrong context. I very dynamically, very passionately explainied the finer points of an “atomic f***.” Needless to say I thought I was killing it because I suddenly had everyone’s attention… followed by bursts of laughter.

  115. Dana*

    After finishing an audition to teach group fitness classes at a health club the manager offered me the job, I accepted and went to the locker room to shower and change. While naked in the shower behind a shower curtain that didn’t quite span the width of the door the manager comes in calling my name and asking me if I’m there, then proceeds to stand right outside the shower I’m occupying and ask me questions about my paperwork and availablity. After anwering several questions hoping she’d leave I finally had to poke my shampoo lathered head around the curtain and ask if we could continue when I was finished showering and dressed.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Geeze, who thinks it’s appropriate to conduct business conversations while you’re in the shower? She really couldn’t wait 10 minutes?

  116. Susan*

    I was new to what was my second professional job after college. I had had a frustrating day, trying to figure out why something public-facing worked inside the office but failed outside. I was full of “omigod – I am awful” stress, when I realized I had left my keycard inside the office. This was after work hours, my mom was visiting, I could get in in the morning…but I was so hyper that I insisted we go over to the office to get it RIGHT NOW.

    There was a key code to the front door. Unfortunately, I was so new that I didn’t know it, and what I thought it was failed. I was so aggravated that I turned away from the door, walked towards my car, threw up my arms and yelled “F*ck, f*ck, f*ck”. Upon which time I heard a voice behind me – “Did you want to get in?”. It was my VP.

    The incident was never mentioned, and I worked for that company for another 5 years before I left.

    1. Nodumbunny*

      I had something similar to this at my first job out of school. Standing at the copy machine after hours, in what I thought was an empty office. The copy machine jammed again, and so I softly muttered my go-to string of cuss words, only to hear a chuckle behind me – it was the executive director. The good news is at least it was work-related copying – not a photocopy of my posterior.

  117. Anon for this*

    The time I discovered my now ex then FWB’s brother works in the same office as me.

    “Oh you go to this thing? My brother does too”
    “Oh what’s his name?”
    “His name is John”
    “… oh. I know him. “*turns the colour of a brand new firetruck*

    Made all the more interesting by the fact that I’d been working there for about 5 years at this point, as ha the brother, which was also as long as I’d known the FWB.

    To this day I am not sure if this guy actually knows I ended up going out with his brother for 5 months….. or that we broke up… which makes being around him really awkward long-term.

  118. Richard*

    Not embarrassing for me, but definitely for one of my colleagues!

    A couple of years ago, I’d just started as a recent graduate at my current company, and they held a graduate event over two weeks, filled with lectures, activities, pizza in the evening, and a few trips to the pub with a company paid bar.

    After the first week, we were pretty tired out, since many of these days went from 9am to 11pm, including the pub trips (which many felt that they had to go to, since it was organised by the company, plus hey, free alcohol!). A friend and I were walking back through the main building, and someone asked us if we were enjoying the graduate event. He asked us if we were enjoying the event.

    My friend replied with “Well, I wouldn’t exactly say I’m enjoying it…”.

    The guy looked a little offended at this answer, and I knew why. I quickly switched to damage control. I explained that whilst the event was great fun and had some interesting content, it did mean that we were putting in some long days over the two weeks, and we were pretty tired by this point. The guy looked a little more understanding, and said he’d take the overall length into consideration for the next event.

    As we walked away, I spoke to my friend.

    ‘You do know who that was, right?’
    “Err, no.”
    ‘That was , he’s the CIO, and he was one of the people who organised the whole thing.’
    “Oh. Well, the last month was nice while it lasted.”

    Nothing came of it, of course – but my friend did spend the next year avoiding our CIO like the plague!

  119. Sophie*

    One of my senior coworkers (who had been with us for about 4 months) cut his finger. He was looking for bandaids, and I found one for him. I offered to put it on his finger for him, because of the awkward positioning. He said something like “Are you sure?” and I made a sarcastic crack about “Yes, as long as you don’t give me any weird blood diseases” or something like that.

    He said it was a bit offensive and I said sorry, I didn’t really think it was offensive, I was joking. We then went back to packing.

    One of my other coworkers pulled me aside and told me that he’s gay. Oops, I had no idea. He understood it as a HIV comment. Massive embarassment. We can laugh about it now, thankfully.

  120. Twentymilehike*

    It was very awkward the time my former boss was traveling in China on business and called my coworker to check in. He was a little tipsy and he divulged that he had a prostitute in his hotel room. My coworker assumed he was joking until my boss put the woman on the phone, and she kindly described the services which she would be providing.

    To this day, he does not know that he was on speaker phone with the entire staff.

  121. Liz in a library*

    Oh I am constantly doing embarrassing things…

    One that isn’t my fault was the time my boss flashed me her boobs. She had a bra break at work and asked me to help her staple it back together. That was very early in my work career and I didn’t yet realize that I could actually say no…

    I spit on one of my student workers once. We were talking and I took a large swig of water…straight down my windpipe, and I sprayed her and the entire desk. I apologized profusely, but honestly, there aren’t enough apologies in the world for that.

    Very recently in my current job, I met a bigwig who I had previously spoken to once or twice on the phone. She is our sales VP for all of North America, which is way way above me in the org chart. I went to shake her hand, but she went in for the hug. I was standing too far away and I ended up falling over into her instead.

    I accidentally showed my last boss porn once. Luckily she was very understanding. I was trying to show her the blog Adulting and typed that word .com into the address bar and turned the monitor toward her without looking at the screen. At least she alerted me quickly.

    I also only learned way late that the host of a WebEx can see if you are paying attention or not.

    Ahem. Yeah, so I apparently work hard at humiliating myself at work.

  122. R*

    This school related not work related…but when I was in my first year of college, I was invited to spend Easter with some family friends at the grandparents’ house. The grandpa was a retired physics professor at my university, and I was studying math and physics. I happily told him that I didn’t really like physics and was focusing only on math going forward. Two weeks later I stumble across a list of Nobel prizewinners…

  123. Blushing*

    I used to work with a director who was very resistant to change and he would loudly freak out/complain about whatever had been done. One time, the other admin and I had to move his mailbox up one slot (about 2 inches up), and we were joking about it saying he’d probably come out and start freaking out the second he saw it.

    Well, he DID in fact start freaking out about it. It made me laugh so hard that I had to text the other admin about it via inter-office text messaging… and I accidentally ended up texting him the message, instead of the other admin. Luckily I didn’t say anything mean, but I was still mortified when he texted back asking what I was talking about!

  124. Marie*

    Late entry here, but I think this one is worth adding.

    My husband worked at a restaurant years ago when he was in high school, as were many of his coworkers. One of his coworkers, Wakeen, cleaned up some broken glass from the restaurant floor and was instructed by the manager to “put it in the back room for now” because it would need to be disposed of properly (so no employee would accidentally cut himself while emptying the trash). At the end of the shift, Manager asked Wakeen where the broken glass was, and Wakeen reported that he had “put it in the back room”, as Manager had directed him earlier. Manager checked in the back room; no sign of the glass. He again asked Wakeen where the glass was, asking him to be more specific: “Where EXACTLY did you put it?”

    Wakeen (casually): “Oh, I put it in the glass grinding machine.”

    *Stunned silence.*

    Manager (with growing trepidation): “But Wakeen, we don’t have a glass grinding machine.”

    Wakeen (calmly): “Yes we do, it’s right there.”…. pointing to the water softener.

    I guess all that rock salt looked an awful lot like broken glass. Because really, don’t all restaurants have a glass grinding machine?

  125. TheSnarkyB*

    Please forgive me, for this is only an AAM-related bad moment, not exactly work-related. 5 minutes ago I was talking to my boyfriend about how my new HR-contact didn’t/wouldn’t give me a straight answer about whether a tiny nose stud counted as “minimal facial piercing.” and thus, whether it was ok or not. (I made it clear that I was equally willing to accept a yes or no.)
    He said, “I bet she wouldn’t respond directly because it’s like… illegal or something for her to tell you ‘no’.”
    My response: “BASED ON WHAT employment law!???!?!!!” in a very ragey voice. Maybe time to start skimming the “is this legal” posts…

  126. Amy*

    OK, mine is comparatively really trivial, but I sent my boss a message saying,”…I’m really busty.” I meant busy. And then I sent a panicked follow-up along the lines of, “OMG, I’m so sorry, that was BUSY. My bust is not up for discussion.” Smoooth.

  127. Natty*

    This first story is one in which I caused the embarrassment:
    I was working in my first office job out of college, but it was only a part-time deal – nothing fancy. I was having some trouble convincing the higher-ups that my job was important (not uncommon in a social media position at a company run by 60-something men), but I had great support from my supervisor, so I had some hope.
    Turns out, not even my very intelligent and charming supervisor could convince the old codgers to keep me and they decided to let me go.
    She took me into the conference room to deliver the news as gently as she could, for which I am grateful. Still, it was my first time being let-go (not fired, as my boyfriend likes to remind me. Their poor budget couldn’t accommodate a position they felt was superfluous.), and I was definitely shaken.
    My supervisor tried to lighten the mood and said, “Well, now you’ve got the rest of the week free! Any plans?”
    I managed to very meekly squeak out, “Um…it’s my birthday tomorrow.”
    Which was true.
    Her face turned super red and I think she almost started crying (what a doll) and she immediately gave me a hug.
    I felt awful that I’d made her feel bad, but the irony was too great for me to not mention it! I mean…come on. My BIRTHDAY!
    Anyway, we composed ourselves and I went on my way. To this day I can’t get over the irony.

    Story 2 is my own personal embarrassment:
    Straight out of college I went to work at a place some people may call magical, maybe the most magical place on the planet.
    My position was outdoors at all times in the heat of late summer, so my assigned uniform included shorts.
    Well, one day I was minding my own business when I felt a very sharp pain on my very upper, inner thigh. The pain was so acute and swift I couldn’t help but stick my hand up my rather massive shorts-leg to figure out what it was.
    I’d been stung by a bee.
    And in front of hundreds, nay, THOUSANDS of people, stuck my hand up my pants.
    But that’s not all folks.
    I waddled to what I’ll call the “breakroom” to report the sting to my manager. You see, I’d never been stung by a bee, and therefore didn’t know if I was allergic. I really wasn’t worried, but it did hurt quite a bit so I wanted at least a breather.
    Turns out this classified as an “incident” and the paramedics had to be called!
    Much to my dismay, I had to sit with my shorts-leg pulled all the way up to my crotch while a very attractive paramedic swabbed my bee-stung and sweaty inner-thigh.
    I was fine, in case you were worried.
    Just one in a series of magical moments at that job.

  128. anon in the uk*

    Not something I myself did, but I was invited to a technical seminar after which, apparently, there would be drinks and nipples.

  129. Woodward*

    I live in the Rocky Mountain area and at my previous job, we had a new employee who had just moved from Australia. Day one working with her, I asked if they have this type of copy machine in Australia? She gave me a weird look and responded slowly, “Yes…and we have cars and airplanes too” (or something to that effect).

    I had phrased it completely awkwardly, but what I was trying to ask was if the same brands of copy machines were used in Australia as well as the US (probably all made in China). So much for a first impression!

  130. Sissa*

    I actually have two cases, one of which technically wasn’t awkward for me but for my coworker. I’ll start with the one where I was awkward..

    1. One day I’m sitting at my desk when the head of our department waltzes into our shared office with an unknown lady in tow. I’m not really paying much attention to what is going on until they come to me, so I promptly stand up and introduce myself.

    Then I ask the head of our department “What’s the occasion? We have a guest?”

    He replies, with a slight smirk “No, she’s going to be working here”.

    I wanted to sink into the floor to never be seen again, but I just faked a quick laugh and let them continue their tour. I had no idea that the vacancy that had been open for a while had been filled up and they had hired someone without letting me and my closest colleagues know.

    2. We’re getting visitors from our local offices in the other European countries, among which the folks from my home country (I am currently living and working in another country). We chat a little in the kitchen while I’m picking up some tea for myself, and somehow we end up talking how I ended up in this country.

    Then all of a sudden that person says “You don’t have to stay here you know, you can always move back.”

    I pretty much gape at them and tell them meekly I have no intentions of moving back. Then I wish them a good day and march out of the kitchen.

  131. Anne*

    Not embarrassing for ME, but… I got married in the middle of a big project rollout. I only took two days off for the ceremony, and took my honeymoon later.

    So on the day of the wedding, my main contact at the client we had the project going live for called in for me and was told I was out of the office that day. So he called my mobile phone. The number popped up, I didn’t recognize it, thought it might be a supplier or something, and answered…

    “Hi, Anne? Thanks for answering, they said you weren’t in the office, I wasn’t sure whether you were working today. I need help with…”
    “Oh, hi John. I’m actually not working today. Could one of my co-workers help you?”
    “Well, it’s just a small thing, you see I-”
    “John, I’m actually being zipped into my wedding dress right now.”
    “OH! OH MY GOD! Sorry! I’ll call the office! Geez. I’m rally sorry. I’m surprised you picked up the phone. Sorry. Um. Congratulations!”

    It was hilarious and I didn’t mind at all. He obviously felt really bad, though. Pretty sure it won me some goodwill points with the client, as well.

  132. My2Cents*

    Our company was launching a new online service and had already bought a domain name. Word got out but no one had the guts to point the glaring problem with the domain name – xyzcondms.

    I’m no stranger to approaching management so I politely relayed the information to my boss who had no clue and neither did his counterparts. I often wonder how much longer it would have gone on before someone said something.

  133. Snail Mail*

    Question…why do people write long emails or other messages? Do you really think I have time to read all that?

    1. Ruffingit*

      I never do that at work. I always write bullet points so it’s easy to see what I need/what info I am providing. The wall of text e-mails is horrible to try to wade through so I do my best not to do that.

    2. Vicki*

      I do it because I treat email as a written communication medium.

      Letters, memos, other documents… all should be as long as necessary to cover the material. The reader doesn;t have to read it all at once. Especially with technical or specific information, an email documents that information for later review.

      I’ll come back with: Why do people feel that a “long” message needs to be handled by telephone? I’ve had people say “It’s too long to send by email, I’ll call you.” No. No you won’t. If it’s more than a few sentences and doesn’t need a lot of back and forth discussion, don’t you dare use an ephemeral can’t-be-remembered format!

  134. HIG*

    Many years ago I was a cashier at a Home improvement store. This was the first cashier job I ever had. A burly contractor type of guy was purchasing screws, washers, nuts and bolts. I got everything rung into the POS correctly except the nuts. I looked at this man in the eye and said to him “what size are your nuts?”

  135. first impression...*

    A little late to the party here, but I have to share. My first day on the job, I got settled at my desk, and then, suddenly, urgently had to poop. I don’t know why, but there you go. I stood up and started to hustle to the bathroom. This meant passing by my new manager’s office. He saw me and called me in to sit down and have a welcome chat. I’m sitting there, sweating and desperate to get to the bathroom, when my bra popped open. This has never happened to me before (or since). I was wearing a suit, so he couldn’t tell what was going on, but I had to sit there with my arms crossed to keep it as much in place as I could manage. After a couple of endless minutes passed he said, “Well, I’ll let you go. Were you on your way to get some coffee? You seem a little fidgety.” I was mortified but I told him yes and beat it out of there.

  136. Limon*

    Ok, my turn. It’s an ‘important meeting over dinner’ type situation.

    I have come into town from across country, people are happy to meet me, say wonderful things to me about how much they like me and other very encouraging things! This is going to be a great dinner and meeting the next day. This is my previous profession and so very formal and high level professional, etc. Blah, blah.

    Ok, So we are in a beautiful restaurant and I am wearing my nice new gray wool pants and a sweater. When someone comes to join the table (a woman) we all rise (I am a woman too, but whatever, it’s a male dominated profession). As I go to sit back down on the very expensive leather seat – you guessed it. Not a real fart, but one of those incredibly rare and unpredictable “chair farts.” They sound real, are loud and equally embarrassing, but they are in fact just squeaking wool on leather.

    There was silence for a very, very long minute, a couple of people looked at me and frowned, and so I finally said something like: “oh, the chair.” But it was lame, and I didn’t have the werewithall that I certainly do today – to just say, hey! that was the darn chair! and make a great joke out of it. It was a stifling profession and this was part of my long exit from it.

    You know, I never recovered after that and they were much cooler. Lol! I wasn’t meant to be there I would say and like they say – when one door closes. That door sure did close!!

  137. Anonymous*

    I was riding the elevator to get out of the subway station next to work, when a (female, thankully) coworker told me, as she passed me by, that my skirt back zipper was broken. Of course, this happened the day I was wearing my most embarassing underwear: a g-string with a red heart cut out at the top!

  138. Anonfail*

    I was working as a contractor for a company (Company X) contracted for a government agency (Client Y). One day, I got an email saying that everyone was to attend this meeting with Client Y. In the meeting, the leaders of Client Y asked if there was anything they should bring up to Company X to help things go better during the project. I said nothing. One of my coworkers spoke up about one of Company X’s failures during the project and why it happened. The leaders in Client Y said that they would bring this up to the leaders in Company X. One of the leaders in Client Y offered their email address up for future contact.

    After this meeting, I completely lost my mind and decided to be “helpful”. I sent an email to this leader in “Client Y” asking them to call me. No additional info was exchanged. Without my knowledge, this same leader went to the top of the chain of Company X and complained about what things were done. My coworker’s name and my name were brought up in the complaint.

    An hour after the meeting, my boss calls me and asks me to find a private room. I spend the next ten minutes in my own personal hell trying to explain how I didn’t say anything to the client about our company’s issues and trying to separate myself from causing the breakdown of the relationship between Company X and Client Y. It was explained that the email I got should have never gone out to me and I should have never attended that meeting.

    After a solid month of reminders of my mistake at every weekly meeting (“As a reminder, we don’t talk about internal company business with client”), late travel reimbursements, and unforeseen travel expenses (“My company didn’t pay for the hotel room?”), I resigned.

  139. Ali*

    I’m late coming to this, but I just had this happen today and had to share it.

    I work remotely, so every other week, I have a conference call with my team on Google Hangout. I am normally very vigilant about making sure my phone is silenced during the call and today, I did the same. However, I guess I must’ve not hit the volume button on my phone enough times because in the middle of the call (in front of a group of mostly males, no less, as there’s only one other woman on my team), I got a call on my phone and my “Call me Maybe” ringtone blared for everyone to hear! I was so fast to truly silence my phone that it wasn’t even funny.

    (Now, before anyone can judge my taste in music, I do find the song a little catchy. My friend and I had an inside joke going about the song…it was nothing raunchy or anything that I couldn’t repeat at work…so I thought it would be funny to set it as my ringtone. I did that a while ago and never really got bored with it.)

    Needless to say, I will have a new ringtone by the time I meet with my boss again on Tuesday AND I will be quadruple checking to make sure my phone is honestly on silent for every meeting from here on out!

  140. Pronunciation is not my strongsuit*

    So I was in Moscow trying to get my company’s offices set up. Anyway, I had studied Russian for a while, but I hadn’t had a great deal of speech practice. Anyway, I was leading a staff meeting and I wanted to make certain everyone understood the importance of communication. Now, here’s an interesting factoid about the Russian language:
    pisat’ = to write
    pi’sat = to piss
    The only difference is where the stress is in the word. They’re even spelled the same way. So, I began my talk discussing how important it was to piss on clients. Make certain you piss on your manager too, so they’ll know what’s happening! It’s a good habit to piss on someone within a day of receiving an email from them!

    Yeah…I knew something was wrong, but didn’t know what it was until one of the guys took pity on me.

    Of course, I had a friend who was even worse off. He was Swedish, and worked for a construction company in Russia. Well, the Swedish word for work is ‘job’, pronounced yob. The only words he knew in Russian were “here” and “there”. So he would go around the site and tell workers, “job here”, “job there.” Wellllllll, the word yob in Russian is the f-word. So he was essentially walking around telling people, “You f*** over here, and you f*** over there.” He said no one ever told him he was wrong–they just thought it was his weird Western management style.

  141. L McD*

    All right, so this is very late, but it is hilarious. An older post on AAM reminded me of it, but I don’t think I ever commented before, because the post was already quite old when I found it.

    It’s also my husband’s story, but it’s too mortifying not to share (and really, not his fault at all, but still…)

    My husband’s boss was engaged to a co-worker. Let’s call him Steve, and the fiancee Carol. (They worked in different departments, so she was not a direct subordinate to him or anything – so not against company policy, totally normal in the culture, etc.) Frequently, she would stop by with gifts of food for the whole department, just to say hi, etc. My husband got to the point where he was somewhat friendly with Carol, because she spent so much time socializing with all of them on her breaks and lunches, and before and after her shifts. One day, Steve mentioned to my husband that he was going to need to take some time off, because Carol’s father had passed away in another state and they needed to attend the funeral. Later on, my husband ran into Carol alone. He immediately told her that he was sorry about her father, asked her if there was anything he could do, etc. All the normal stuff.

    Her response? Something along the lines of “Oh yeah, that’s not me. I just heard about it. That’s Carol’s father, I’m Alice.”

    My husband was totally flabbergasted, and utterly embarrassed. Turned out, Steve was having some sort of workplace dalliance with Alice while engaged to Carol, who also worked there – and in the same department as Alice, no less. My husband had never actually met the real Carol; all along, he had been assuming that Alice was Carol, and had no reason to believe otherwise. In retrospect, he realized that Steve had never actually called Alice by name, and when he spoke about his personal life, he only ever talked about a “Carol,” leading my husband to make the natural – but very wrong – assumption that he did. He wasn’t the only one in the department who’d gotten the women confused, either.

    It could have been a lot worse. Alice already knew about Carol, and Carol was apparently fine with the situation. My husband’s still not sure if there was actually anything openly untoward going on between Steve and Alice; they were definitely very friendly/affectionate with each other, but no one was sure if it went any further than friendship and flirtation. Alice still came by and remained friendly with my husband until she was transferred, and we both eventually met Carol and were even invited over to Carol and Steve’s place for dinner one night, which was a wonderful experience. But I still think back to that and cringe. If I were in my husband’s shoes, I don’t think I would have ever recovered.

  142. Suz*

    Years ago I worked for a very large, privately owned company. The headquarters was in another state than my office. The 1st time I have the privilege of meeting one of the owners, he was visiting our site. I came around the corner just as he was coming out of the men’s room. I crashed into him and knocked him flat on his ass.

  143. Jan*

    Four/five years ago, I worked in the call centre of a railway company processing orders for the catering staff onboard the trains. One guy rang in at 0830 when I was still half asleep and hadn’t had my coffee yet, and also it was a really bad line. He asked me for four pints of fresh milk and I blurted out “Did you SERIOUSLY just ask me for four pints of breast milk?” before realising. Everyone sitting next to me pissed themselves laughing, including my boss. I was relieved to know he had a sense of humour and wouldn’t sack me for that, even if it was embarrassing.

    In a more recent job, I nearly made a cringe-worthy typo when sending out an email to a Mr Mahboob. Guess what letter on the QWERTY keyboard is underneath the H? Thankfully I caught and corrected it before I hit Send.

  144. Becky*

    Okay, so this happened to me. I have a boss at work who basically rescued me from another department and hired me as his Technical Writer. I trusted him immediately from the onset and we’ve had friendly chats about our families (he’s married with kids and I’m in a relationship with a kid) and lives and such and all was normal for probably the first three months. I harbored a crush on him, which I thought was no big deal, really. I mean, I wasn’t about to pull an Anne Boleyn on him or anything. I just found him very amiable, trustworthy, and yes, attractive.

    So one fateful Monday morning, I’m in his office talking about work stuff and I kind of started flirting with him (?!?!?!), not overtly..but in a subtle way. Mortified, I later raced to his office to apologize. I MEANT to apologize calmly like an adult but I had a full scale panic attack instead. It was a rather comical, shrill apology. I worded it exactly like this “I just want to apologize because I realized how our earlier interaction could be interpreted..and I wasn’t trying to…*NERVOUS LAUGHTER*…do anything inappropriate.” So his face…oh god, I’ll never forget it…he looked so CONFUSED and worried, like I was telling him that his kid was in the hospital or something. Then he says “OH..well, no hard feelings”. That last part made me realize that I was apologizing for nothing, so I started hyperventilating and then I went “YEAH? OKAY!” and then promptly left and slammed his office door behind me (I hope you’re all feeling my pain and embarassment right now). It took me a good two hours for my breathing to go back to normal.

    So he’s been weird around me ever since. Okay..maybe not ‘weird’ per se but definitely not as friendly and share-y like he was before. Now its just strictly professional. He’s still a nice guy, though he seems to explicitly avoid being in the same room with me. I’ve responded to this by being ‘normal’, work-focused, and professional around him. I hope you guys can tell me what he’s thinking and what I should do. Honestly, the whole avoiding thing kind of hurts my feelings a little bit. Give it to me straight, how bad did I fuck up?

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