the 10 worst coworkers of all time

We read a lot of questions here about weird or annoying coworkers. But some people cross the line from annoying into truly terrible.

At Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I take a look back at 10 of the worst coworkers that we’ve heard about here — including last month’s charity hoaxer, the person who tried to frame a coworker for misusing company funds, and more. It’s a stroll down memory nightmare lane! You can read it here.

{ 129 comments… read them below }

  1. Annie O*

    I can’t decide who the horrible employee is in #10 – the 18 year old with poor performance, or the manager-sister who won’t do their job because of a personal relationship.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Agreed. She needs to be fired ASAP. And that last line could be applied to the sister OR the manager. Neither is doing a good job.

    1. Jamie*

      I need to reread that one.

      Not for amusement – but I’m thinking of implementing it as a strategy and need some tips.

        1. Jamie*

          I love your gravatar so much I cannot even tell you – Barbie always makes me smile!

          You may be on to something with the costume. Not that it would have powers, but coming to work in it just might scare people into compliance.

          I totally need a magic wand.

    2. Anon*

      Would you believe we just had a similar situation at my office? I thought of this post right away and showed it to the manager involved. What are the odds?!

    3. Pam*

      There was a recent local news story in my area of a very small town whose newly elected mayor was locked out of City Hall because she went around the offices leaving ashes and things like that as part of some voodoo ritual. The employees are all scared, there were some protestors in the street outside, quite the big deal for a tiny town. It immediately brought that post to mind! Like, this is a thing that actually happens, apparently!

    4. KC*

      Also my favorite–and I’m so bummed that we haven’t had an update! Perhaps the OP was cursed? ;)

  2. Sunflower*

    7- ‘If someone’s upset about not being invited, they are really childish — this is not middle school.’-

    Actually this is exactly middle school

    1. OriginalYup*

      That one will always hold a special place of WTF in my heart.

      “They should do some soul searching to think about why they were excluded.” Because of course casual get-togethers should be referendums on your worth as a person.

      1. TK*

        The updates for that one took it to new levels of bizarre. A lot of dysfunction going on there.

      2. fposte*

        I think the only soul-searching anybody did was searching in the soul of the party-giver, aka “What the hell is wrong with her?”

    2. Clever Name*

      Heh. I also loved the comment about people being able to enjoy themselves “drama-free”. Yeah. I’ve noticed that most people who claim to hate drama or loudly proclaim they are “drama-free” are anything but.

  3. BB*

    I just re-read the lunch stealer and her update and the fact that they put lock boxes on their food and he kept making jokes about it! A lot of people said maybe there was something deeper going on with the boss and I wonder if anything else ever came to head

    1. Ruffingit*

      Something else is definitely going on with that guy. Thinking it’s OK to steal from your employees is a major problem.

      1. Jeanne*

        I agree there’s something else. He’s not just hungry. He’s taking joy in taking away her only food for the day. What kind of person is happy that an employee has no lunch? Or he’s one of those who believes you must be lying about food allergies. He’s trying to prove it by leaving her with the choice of going hungry or using the vending machine.

        1. Jamie*

          I agree with both of you – this isn’t about food. It’s some psychological thing – but he’s got other reasons for doing this beyond being peckish.

        2. Lanya*

          I think this boss might actually be a food addict. It seems like he can’t control his impulses to eat other people’s lunches, even after they’ve confronted him about it. It’s not appropriate for him to laugh it off…but clearly, something deeper is going on here, and I don’t believe it’s coming from cruel intentions. I hope this boss can get some help.

      2. some1*

        I worked with a thief who stole food, newspapers, magazines, etc. (And that’s only one example of his glassbowl behavior.) I think he just felt entitled. He had a very, very niche position that not many people have knowledge of (think Chocolate Teapot Designer — he was an expert on Chocolate Teapots and designing) and I think he let it go to his head. He was eventually let go.

        1. TrainerGirl*

          I worked with a particularly aggregious food thief (we’d had others, but this guy took it to a new level) and we eventually “persuaded” him to stop by making him a lunch he did not want.

          After stealing a lunch (but leaving the cookie and soda because they were generic “store brand” – our thief was apparently a label snob too), we strategically placed a beautifully made turkey sandwich in the fridge, right in front. It was bursting with fresh tomatoes, cheese, and of course, the bread was moistened with the finest horseradish money could buy.

          We hung around the kitchen that day, and sure enough, we discovered our thief when he came running into the kitchen coughing, sputtering and eyes red and runny. He couldn’t admit why he was in such a state, but he never stole another lunch again.

          1. Vicki*

            He couldn’t smell it? He ate a big bite without noticing?

            He deserved what he got (and kudos to you for using horseradish and not something nastier.)

            1. TrainerGirl*

              Vicki, the food thief was too busy stealing that sandwich out of the fridge to notice the smell of horseradish. This guy would wait until no one was in the kitchen to case the refrigerator, but I guess he was in a hurry that day.

              He was the worst, but one of my teammates caught a girl eating his lunch (brought in a storage container with his name on it), who lied and said it was hers. I guess when some people are caught red handed, they still aren’t going to admit it.

            2. Jazzy Red*

              Yeah. I was thinking of grated soap in place of grated cheese. Horseradish is much easier to explain later on, though.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t remember seeing that one. I would totally be tempted to tell my manager not to touch my food or he was going to be eating out of his back end. I hope the OP reported him to someone–she needs her food and can’t eat anything else!

  4. Chocolate Teapot*

    2. The lunch stealer. I seem to remember an update involving lockable lunch boxes and a bemused new HR person.

  5. VictoriaHR*

    The snorer probably suffers from sleep apnea and that’s why she falls asleep at work. I suffered for years before doing a sleep study and getting my CPAP machine, and I don’t get sleepy at work or snore any more.

    1. simonthegrey*

      I wondered about that, and if that’s the case, that may be why no one does anything about it. What kind of accommodations does a business have to make for someone with sleep apnea?

      1. VictoriaHR*

        Nothing, that I am aware of, because it’s easily diagnosed and easily treated via CPAP. The snorer’s manager should address it with her and urge her to talk to her doctor. In any case, someone falling asleep at work is serious – I should know, I was fired for it back before I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. My husband was fired for being really crabby at work due to lack of sleep from the same thing.

        1. Joey*

          There are plenty of accommodations like depending on the severity like:
          Shift change
          Adjust breaks
          Allow a radio
          Allow alarms
          There’s also something called Doze alert that goes in your ear and rings when your head starts drooping

          1. Laufey*

            There’s also something called Doze alert that goes in your ear and rings

            Good gods, “Harrison Bergeron”

            I mean, “Yay for medical technology,” but geesh, unexpected.

            1. Jamie*

              That’s certainly an interesting invention.

              Given my crazy startle reflex and my penchant for dropping my head when I type I’d spend my entire day like one of those fainting goats – just startled and falling over.

              (Actually happened today – btw – which made me draw the correlation. Getting a soda out of the fridge the kitchen phone rang (receptionist out today so phones are on all office) and it was so loud and I was kind of crouched I actually yelped and fell over. Just like a fainting goat – although not sure if they yelp.)

              Regarding the sleeping thing though, I’m not sure just waking someone with an alarm as they nod off is helpful because if you’re that exhausted you won’t be productive anyway. If I have to force myself to keep my eyes open I can barely think much less work.

              It seems like the only solution is to address the root cause.

                1. Jamie*

                  I know exactly what you mean. When my husband got the CPAP machine for his sleep apnea it changed his life – it’s amazing what a decent night’s sleep can do.

              1. Jazzy Red*

                The fainting goats! I love them. I used to actually see a herd of goats on my way to/from work, and I always looked to see if any were collapsing.

      2. some1*

        When I worked for the govt, a woman in another dept sued for the right to take a nap at work due to chronic fatigue.

        Govt settled and said she could take a nap at work as long as she made up the time.

        Then she sued so the govt would provide her a place to nap.

        1. Joey*

          Yeah, the difficulty with govt and large corporations is its pretty hard to hit the undue hardship threshold given all of their resources

        2. Joey*

          And just to clarify, technically they probably weren’t allowing her to sleep on the job. They were adjusting her schedule to provide her a medically needed unpaid break.

          1. some1*

            I agree, but suing was second step after asking her sup her told she couldn’t take a nap (and the medical issue wasn’t brought up). No going over her boss’s head to her boss’s boss, no asking HR, no asking her union.

      3. OriginalYup*

        The fact that it could be medical makes the boss’s “just drop a book” plan all the more bizarre. Like if you see a coworker regularly passed out on the floor and the boss says, “Yeah, Susan does that. Maybe diabetes? Just pour some orange juice on her as you step over her prone body, she’ll be fine.”

        1. Jazzy Red*

          My friend almost did pass out in the coffee room, due to her diabetes. Fortunately, the only person who was there recognized it for what it was, and got some chocolate into her. Much better than the people at work who would have really stepped over her body on their way to the coffee pot (no exaggeration).

  6. alma*

    The lunch-stealing boss made me so mad! That it continued even after she locked her lunch in her desk drawer was appalling. If someone were stealing out of my car I could call the cops, but it’s supposed to be permissible at work?

    1. Tina*

      I know, I was indignant on OPs behalf! Talk about socially unacceptable behavior, but even worse given all OPs allergies and food needs.

    2. Thomas*

      Yeah, I’d forgotten just how angry that one made me. I’m blown away at how clueless that manager would have to be to keep doing this like it’s perfectly normal behavior.

    3. KJR*

      The part that got me was when she mentioned that she had real allergies vs. being rude. Why is it rude to demand that your lunch be left alone?! I am very possessive about my food…and would probably not have reacted quite so nicely.

      1. Jamie*

        I get why the allergy issue makes it worse for her, because she doesn’t have the same kind of extemporaneous options as someone without them, but I totally agree that it’s not the reason the boss is so awful.

        This is so bizarre I still can’t wrap my head around it.

        1. Arbynka*

          Another thing too is that some of the “allergy free” foods can be quite expensive. I developed lactose intolerance (what fun). It was quite I shock because I love dairy. Then came another shock when I found out the price of lactose free milk and other products. And I need my daily milk. I pity the fool who would decide to drink my lactose free milk….

          1. Jazzy Red*

            My doctor suggested that I start taking probiotics for my accursed yeast infection (the brand is Flora Udo’s Choice, and it’s called Super 8 Hi-Potency, and it’s refrigerated. A bit expensive and it was hard to find, but I’ve seen some that cost much more.) Within two months, I was no longer lactose intolerant. I eat dairy all the time now.

            The yeast problem has not changed, though.

      2. Arbynka*

        I agree. Why should it be rude to ask someone to stop stealing your food ? I don’t understand how some people can think it’s ok. You are taking something that does not belong to you.

      3. Apostrophina*

        I haven’t read the actual letter for a while, but I thought the OP meant allergies vs. being rude in a “Why won’t you try my cookies?!” way, if food was going around the office. Or maybe she was afraid people would think her rude for not sharing something interesting from her lunch, since her food had to be carefully chosen?

        Anyway, I didn’t think that particular phrase had to do with the food theft as much as being part of the background for why the food thefts might be affecting her more strongly.

        1. Julie*

          That can definitely be a factor. When I was doing Weight Watchers, I put my lunch together with exact portions of what I was going to eat. If I gave any to someone else, (1) I wouldn’t know exactly how much I had eaten (so I could account for it) and (2) (even worse) I would feel cheated because I didn’t get to eat the whole amount I had planned.

      4. Katieinthemountains*

        Oh, I took that to mean she explained why she wasn’t participating in office potlucks, etc., lest coworkers think she was too good for the food they brought. So everyone in the office, including the boss, would know that stealing her food meant she absolutely could not eat until she got home from work at the end of the day.

  7. simonthegrey*

    Dealing with the lunch thief – I think I would try to develop a taste for something really strange or gross or smelly, like kimchee or Dave’s Insanity Sauce, and just bring that for as long as I could stand (in the case of the sauce, drown my food in it) and see how long the boss would keep trying to graze from me.

    Or I’d pack two lunches, one over-spiced to gross (too much salt, chili powder, whatever I had on hand) to put in the fridge and the other to be left in my desk or a cooler in my car if possible, and try to get the boss to eat the bad lunch.

    1. Sadsack*

      I was thinking the same thing – leave the real lunch in the car and bring a sandwich of canned cat food on a kaiser roll for the boss.

      1. CC*

        I was thinking ex-lax brownies for dessert, myself. Easy enough to not eat them if the lunch thief happens to not strike…

    2. LizNYC*

      People used to steal stuff out of the fridge at HellJob (oh, the memories!). I once brought in a large fruit juice because I had a cold/sore throat and it was the only thing that tasted good. I didn’t want anyone to steal it, so I made sure to note in indelible ink “I’m sick, so if you want it too, feel free to share with me! I drank straight from the bottle.” Surprisingly (it WAS HellJob), no one touched it.

      1. TrainerGirl*

        Great idea Liz! I did that once with my ginger ale that people kept stealing out of the fridge. Before I had my gallbladder removed, I was often nauseous, and ginger made me feel better. After a week of finding no ginger ale in the fridge, I waited in the kitchen until a good number of people were in there for lunch and announced to a friend, “I hope whoever is stealing my ginger ale enjoyed it today. It was special…I spit in it.” It was left alone after that. Such a shame I had to say that to get people to have common decency.

        I will say that a lot of people in that department were young, in their 20’s, and perhaps were in their first jobs. I have to hope that they stole food because they didn’t know any better.

    3. Liz in a Library*

      I don’t know…someone who is already ok with eating someone else’s food, knowing nothing about it, might not be too easily grossed out.

      At my old job, we had a ridiculous thief. One time, they even finished a co-worker’s half-eaten quesadilla (while generously leaving the second whole quesadilla in the same box alone). People are weird.

      1. Tina*

        I’m now remembering the Friends episode where Ross’ boss ate his favorite, Thanksgiving leftover sandwich, and Ross pitched a fit.

        1. Jamie*

          Well it did have a piece of gravy soaked bread in the middle which Monica called “the moistmaker.”

          Which to this day sounds so disgusting to me I don’t know how anyone could eat it, much less want to steal it.

    4. kd*

      I ‘enhanced’ the salad dressing that I was keeping in the fridge that kept being drained empty. Nothing illegal, they just won’t be stealing my dressing again. ;)
      Gotta love ghost peppers.

      1. Jamie*

        My eyes started watering just reading the words ghost peppers.

        You are an evil genius.

    5. lavendertea*

      My mom uses creamer in her coffee, but other people kept taking it out of the work fridge and using it. So instead of bringing in an entire bottle, she started putting it in a small Rubbermaid drink container with a post-it note on it that said “Breast Milk.” No one ever took her creamer again! (Although she did have some explaining to do to a coworker who saw her making coffee once…)

  8. lachevious*

    Ugh #1 – the rest of these are awful, but it’s so much worse when a grown person exploits children. I hope that person gets help – I hope they all do.

  9. ExceptionToTheRule*

    The dietitian and the weight lifter will always hold a special place in my heart.

    1. TK*

      What really made that crazy was learning in the update that it was actually a whole agency of dieticians trying to swoop in on this workplace. I always remember it as “the dietician cult.”

    2. Adam*

      That’s one of my favorites too, probably because the end result was just so satisfying.

    1. MW*

      That was supposed to be in response to the dietitian with ethical and boundary issues and the weightlifter.

  10. Overkill*

    My nightmare colleagues are always the same, the ones who know for a fact that, were I not so allegedly shy, I’d want a more personal and intimate relationship with them, when the truth is decidedly the opposite. I’m just being polite, that’s all, or at least that’s what I think. A former boss, however, blamed me for not being blunt enough. Perhaps he’s right, but he’s French.

  11. Jamie*

    You know it’s bad out there when the prostitute turning tricks at work in the company bathroom doesn’t make the top 10.

    I’m trying to figure out of these who would bother me the most – because they are all horrible – but for me it’s between the hugger and the framer.

    Gross porno guy would take it hands down, if my job wasn’t such that I’d shut that down in a second. And supervisor banging on house would also make the cut, but my husband would shut that down even faster than I’d kill the bandwidth to the porn feed…so…

    I have to go with the framer. Hugger would skeeve me out on a personal level but if I couldn’t jump out of reach I have no doubt I could establish boundaries that even the most oblivious person would be afraid to cross.

    People who use the system for sabotage and fraud – that would keep me up nights.

    1. Chuchundra*

      Lunch stealer would be the worst for me. Seriously, after a couple of days of that I could see it ending in workplace violence.

      One of my co-workers was always taking other people’s stuff. Not the whole thing. A bit here and and bit there.

      So one of my other co-workers left out a ziploc bag of pretzels and of course, stealer guy ate some. He even had the stones to say to other co-worker, “Wow, great pretzels. I never had pretzels without salt before. What kind are they?”

      Other co-worker says, “Regular pretzels, I Just licked the salt off of all of them.”

      So…that ended that.

      1. shaky bacon*

        That is simply amazing.

        The lunch stealing would be worst for me too. I treasure my food so if anyone thought they could help themselves to it… get ready for WAR.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      I agree about the framer being the worst (in my opinion) with lunch stealing boss not much better. I forgot about a lot of these so it was fun to revisit them.

    3. Adam*

      Strangely the porno guy doesn’t really bother me. I wholly agree that it’s inappropriate and must be stopped the moment such behavior is discovered, but this is one of those things that so many people do it just isn’t shocking to me. I’ve known guys who have freely admitted (around just a group of guys of course) that the first hour of their work day is “porn time”.

      1. Jamie*

        Really? Watching it at work is common? I’m glad I’ve only worked places where it’s an aberration.

        In this case, though, he was watching it with other people including the OP (who is a woman) and looking at her while rubbing his pants. That can’t be common anywhere…please tell me that’s not common anywhere.

        1. Adam*

          The first point is common. Many people are brazen enough to do it, even more so now that smartphones are so common and thus it’s easier to hide.

          But the second point? Yeah that’s a guy who’s mental faculties lapsed or he was just openly pervy. I think for a lot of guys watching porn at work adds an extra layer of forbidden exhilaration. “I really shouldn’t be doing this right now,” adds to the thrill. But to make it SO obvious and skeevy means the culprit crossed the social decency barrier some time ago.

        2. Karyn*

          I worked somewhere once where one of the proposed clients the head honchos were thinking of taking on dealt in… well, let’s just say the only reason I heard the behind-closed-doors debate about this client was because the CEO yelled, “BUT WHAT DOES A RABBIT VIBRATOR DO?”

          I couldn’t look him in the face for about three weeks after that.

      2. some1*

        Calling in sick when you’re hungover is pretty common, too, unless everyone you work with is a teetotaler. That doesn’t make it okay.

      3. Jax*

        Um…maybe they are admitting to starting their day with it at home? Or on their phone? I can’t see this being done on a work computer and the IT department shrugging it off like, “Eh, it’s a guy thing.”

        1. Adam*

          Nope. One freely admitted it was a work computer, as this was just a few years before smartphones became both so functionally useful as well as ubiquitous.

          I don’t know if he ever got in trouble for it but he worked as part of a mechanical engineering firm where there were very few female employees, so I imagine that made it at least a little bit easier for him to get away with it.

          1. Jamie*

            It’s funny – whenever I set someone up on the network for the first time after they read our usage policy I give them the easy to remember rule of thumb:

            Don’t go anywhere online you don’t want me to pull up in a meeting with you.

            Maybe that’s a more of a deterrent and less of an aside than I thought?

            1. Adam*

              Do you guys actively monitor employee internet usage? Whether you actually do or not giving the indication that you do and could find out anything an employee looks up online may add a healthy dose of logic/paranoia to their internet choices.

              1. Jamie*

                By actively do you mean I look every day to see what people are up to? I do not.

                However, the details are collected and should there be a reason to look into it I can pull up a long history at any time.

                I make it very clear that there is zero expectation of privacy on the company network and the information is instantly accessible.

                But if I’m not getting suspicious activity on the firewall alerting me to potential security issues and I’ve gotten no complaints…let’s put it this way. I need a business reason to care – but if I care…I can get the information I need.

                But honestly I question a network with lax enough security to allow access to the porn sites – not that one can’t slip in now and again – but overall those things are filthy from a tech perspective and if you’re protecting your network you’ll see all kinds of attacks blocked in the logs (which is the fastest way to get me curious about your browsing history) and if you’re not protected those machines have to be crawling with bots and trojans – I’d be surprised they would even be functioning if they were being compromised like that every day.

                1. skipping girl*

                  I work in IT in a university and nothing on the internet is blocked per se – some academics may be researching online porn or whatever. But when a complaint is made about inappropriate usage, yes we have logs, and we have a trusted team that follow the links and can recommend action.

  12. Jeff*

    I must work in a crazy office, all of these are common occurrences. LOL.

    Where is everyone from? Post it here! 28 from Indiana! Hoot Hoot

  13. Adam*

    Most of these, while aggravating and counterproductive, are things I figure everyone will encounter at some point in the working world and interacting with humans. #’s 1, 2, and 8 though to me are on a whole other level of insanity/brokeness. If I had exhausted all other options those would be grounds for job searching to get away all by themselves.

  14. Crow T. Robot*

    I’ve read the food stealing story before on here and it makes me mad every time!

    1. alma*

      Did you ever get the power to decide who lives and who dies? Now is the time to use it!

  15. Anonymous*

    Just today, one of my barely-functioning coworkers called in sick, knowing other people are out and we are going to have to scramble to cover for her. Wouldn’t be so bad except she calls in a lot, and we are FB friends and I know she was at a bar at 1 a.m. this morning. She could really be sick, but I doubt it.

        1. Anonymous*

          She is FB friends with the boss and it’s a passive-aggressive workplace so I doubt anything would happen. She also gives off some destructive narcissist vibes and I don’t want to mess with that, so I just minimize contact and deal with the few things she does that effect me without making a fuss. Just wanted somewhere to vent today!!

  16. Lamington*

    DH had a #3 coworker that snore like a lawnmower. no medical issues just uberly lazy, took like 6 months to fire him.

  17. Erik*

    #2 – the lunch stealer.

    I worked at a biotech company where someone decided to steal the lunch of our chief chemist. It stopped quickly enough, but when you think about how stupid it is – you have a PhD chemist with a full lab at his disposal. Think about what he could lace some “lunch bait” with…

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