what’s your worst career sin?

The first time I had to fire someone, I messed it up badly. I had inherited an employee who was painfully slow, made regular mistakes, and didn’t respond to feedback. And like many newer managers, I danced around the issues with him.  I made “suggestions” and expressed concerns, but I never once said directly that the problems were so serious that he would be fired if his work didn’t improve. I was vague, because it felt mean to say “hey, I might need to fire you if this doesn’t improve.” (That’s ridiculous, of course. It’s far meaner not to warn someone.) I hoped he’d just figure it out. And then, when I had inevitably had to fire him, he was shocked. And yeah, you could argue that he shouldn’t have been, but the fact remains that I didn’t tell him explicitly that it was coming, and I should have. That will forever live on in my mind as one of my cardinal career sins.

I want to know about your career sins. Did you flip out on someone at work? Were you embarrassingly arrogant when you started a new job? Did you hide a serious mistake from your boss? Did you steal toilet paper from the office for your house when you were low on cash? Oooh, is there a sin you’re still committing today?

Confess your sins here (and be sure to tell us what happened afterwards, which is often the most interesting part).

{ 536 comments… read them below }

  1. Realistic*

    Second week on a new job, I told the CEO to go to his office and not come out until he could stop having his tantrum.
    Backstory: He was flipping out on a temp who was sending out a fax with the date not centered on the memo. She was crying, trying to unplug the fax, he was yelling at her about it not being company style. I came out of my office, told this mean guy to go calm down and come back when he could act like an adult. He tucked tail and ran. Turns out it was the CEO, who had been out of town the last month and we hadn’t met. Nope, didn’t get fired. And this jerk was a huge bully, who never bothered me once. Other co-workers used to get me to ask him things for them.
    That was the same job in which I accidentally punched my supervisor in the jaw (he was coming around the corner as I was gesturing. BOOM. But that happened at the end of my time there and luckily there were witnesses to it being just bad timing. I did get called “Rocky” for awhile, though. )

    1. Bryan*

      Sometimes I like to imagine people from the other side writing in. My coworker is a bully, they yelled at the CEO and punched someone in the jaw.

      1. Realistic*

        Shoot. I forgot the part of the story where he pulled the fax machine out of the wall and it went crashing onto the floor into a zillion pieces, and he told the temp clean it up. I did get some silent golf claps on my way back to my office, where I started promptly packing my stuff. Ah, dry drunks are always so much fun to deal with. He never said a word to me about “the incident.”

            1. Realistic*

              Glor is right. I totally thought I would be fired, perhaps escorted from the building.

      2. AMG*

        One of my employees yelled at me in front of other employees and also punched someone. I don’t know how to deal with this because I was yelling at someone at the time, so I just try avoid her. What should I do?

        1. snuck*

          Apologise to the employee you yelled at. Explain it was unprofessional.

          Don’t yell at people in a work environment again.

          Discipline the employee who was yelling and punching, not just because they were yelling, but because they *punched* someone. That’s dismissal there for me.

        2. FRRibs*

          Noone should ever be assaulted by a co-worker on the job. If you didn’t fire them, put them on notice; if employees think management won’t defend their physical wellbeing, they may decide to defend themselves or retaliate; either against the other employee or against the company. Not to mention, avoiding the aggresive employee sends them a message that they can act with impunity.

          As for the other part; it’s bad enough to lose it on an employee…but to do it in public makes it also a matter of face, which can be even worse than a physical blow. Self control and confidence should go hand in hand.

    2. KimmieSue*

      This is brilliant. I wouldn’t classify it as a career sin…..I’m actually admiring you.

  2. Elizabeth West*

    I let stress get to me and turned into THAT employee (whiny, bitchy, hot-tempered). I was really a trial to be around. I finally turned it around when put on a month-long PIP and decided, hey, when I leave this job, I’d like it to be for a good reason, not that they fired me because I was a giant asshole.

    At the end of the month, my boss said I had been a genuine pleasure to work with. I ended up losing the job anyway (my position was completely cut, along with a couple of others), but they stressed during the actual layoff that it was NOT because of my performance.

    Though the cause of the stress wasn’t my doing (vendor problems, non-responsive management, not enough people to do what needed doing, etc.,), it was absolutely my responsibility how I responded to it. I’ll never feel good about what happened, but I do feel satisfied that I managed to turn it around. And I learned my lesson.

    1. nep*

      This really hits home. I had a period during which, due to my own ‘issues’ and inability to tackle personal problems head on, I spent a period acting like a big jerk at the office. When I look back and see how self-centered I was…unhelpful, grudgingly taking on tasks, just plain annoying to be around — a burden instead of an asset…Ugh. It’s like it was a different person; I cannot begin to imagine behaving like that now. It’s utterly the opposite of how I work today — and all simply because of a change inside, nothing at all to do with outside circumstances. Thank goodness.

    2. LPBB*

      I had almost the exact same thing happen, except for the layoff. I was laid off several years later, but that was because our location closed. I even got promoted a couple of times! It was really, really hard to hear, but necessary. Thanks SR, who remains the most awesome manager I’ve ever had!

    3. Colette*

      Yeah, I did something similar. It was a rapidly sinking company and my manager was terrible, but I didn’t handle it well at all, and became very negative.

    4. Vera*

      I’ve done some other silly things, but this is also my most critical error in my career so far.

  3. AdAgencyChick*

    At my first job out of college, I didn’t pay attention to office norms, didn’t stick around to get the job done, just figured I could skate the way I had in high school and college. My first review was like being thrown into an ice bath.

    I hated that job, and left after about eight months. And here’s another sin that I have to laugh at myself pretty hard for, in retrospect. After a few months of the next crappy job, I was so desperate to get out that I even wrote an “I made a mistake, will you take me back?” letter to HR from the first job. Needless to say, they did *not* want back a lazy recent grad who left after less than a year.


    1. Muriel Heslop*

      I wonder how many of these stories will begin with, “my first job out of college…”

        1. JM in England*

          It is during our early jobs that we discover what constitutes career sins………and vow not to do them in future employment.

  4. Anonymint*

    I once had a manager who was so terrible that, after weeks of making me eat lunch with him and months of giving me 10-20 page long daily “to-do” lists (then telling me I was incompetent when I couldn’t finish all of the tasks in one day), I had a breakdown in his office. I started sobbing and told him he was giving me insomnia and panic attacks and he was the most difficult person I’d ever met in my whole life. Words kept coming out (worse and worse!) and I knew it was bad but I couldn’t stop.

    I quit a few weeks after that.

    1. Lyda Rose*

      I hope he had the brains to actually hear what you were saying, and start examining his behavior.

      1. Anonymint*

        He did not, and was fired a few months later after the next girl had a breakdown even faster than I did!

        Those aren’t even the worst things he did – just the final straws. It was a bad 18 months!

        1. C average*

          I always wonder how people like this got into positions of authority.

          My sister and I, who watched “The Young and the Restless” for years, sometimes comment, “yeah, he went to the Victor Newman school of management.” Victor was this character who would scream and stomp and pull rank and demand “do you KNOW who I AM??!” and call people names and generally behave like a tyrant. It seems like some real-life bosses got their concept of how to be a boss from exactly this kind of boss caricature. It’s crazy.

          1. Once Anon a Time*

            Just wanted to say I grew up watching The Young & the Restless and this post really made me laugh. I totally agree with you. Pretty sure I’ve encountered some Victor Newman grads in my time.

        2. Cactus*

          I also had a horrible boss who was fired shortly after I quit. It felt so vindicating to see that other people could see that she wasn’t good at her job, and that it wasn’t just me. (I was one of her targets for bullying, for some unknown reason–picture Regina George from Mean Girls as a 40something soccer mom and that’s this lady.)

    2. Not So NewReader*

      He got what he deserved. Sorry. I know that’s not the right response. But it’s this type of boss that causes the PTSD that we talk about from time to time.

    3. Eden*

      Especially if you were young, responding to crazy with emotional doesn’t sound like such a grievous sin.

  5. Muriel Heslop*

    In my first job post-college I was the personal assistant an unpredictable CEO. I accidentally FedExed his passport to the Chinese embassy in San Francisco instead of his son’s. Unfortunately, my boss was leaving for Europe before it was due back. After hours of overtime, dozens of faxes and a ski vacation spent on the phone, I got it back in time. But his EA still told him about it so I would “learn my lesson.” So many lessons learned but I still cringe thinking about it.

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      I eventually quit about six months later, went to graduate school, and became an 8th grade English teacher. Teaching middle school was marginally less stressful.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        There is always someone who is willing to explain to the whole world that we made a mistake.

        1. Golden Yeti*

          I witnessed this just today! A former coworker came to pick up some things, and my manager remarked, “Oh Jane! We were just talking about you, how you made this mistake and did this and we’re dealing with it now.” Before Jane arrived, They had just been expressing confusion over a mistake Jane had made awhile back, but I couldn’t help but think, “Really?? She doesn’t even work here anymore and you’re still going to rub her nose in her mistakes? Really?!” Shaking my head at that one.

      2. Robin*

        We don’t know the context, but isn’t it possible the EA thought she needed to inform her boss that he might not have his passport in time to travel? I’m not sure “telling” was mean in this context.

        1. Nusy*

          It came through to me as the passport made it back in the nick of time for the boss, and the EA was just being a wobble-tongue, but I may have interpreted it wrong.

          Although even in the other case… I don’t think it’s the EA’s place to go lolloping to the boss about this before giving Muriel a chance to explain what happened.

          1. Muriel Heslop*

            The EA told him the story while prepping him for his trip – including giving him his passport. She wasn’t a very happy person so even at the time I didn’t take it personally. In addition, I think she saw it as a way to curry favor.

    2. Ed*

      I don’t know that I’ve done any single thing that bad but we all make mistakes. I always assume it will get back to the person affected so I make a point to immediately tell them myself. 1) Being upfront and honest is the right thing to do (and how you would probably want people to deal with you) and 2) it can often buy you some good will by admitting your mistakes.

      1. Muriel Heslop*

        The CEO had three other assistants, all of whom counseled me to try to undo the mistake so I didn’t have to tell the boss and face his wrath. They were all much older and experienced than I was so I trusted them on blind faith. Your advice is much better!

  6. Anoners*

    This isn’t so much a workplace mishap, but something that has always stuck with me. I was renewing someones membership where I was working. They had contacted me beforehand via e-mail and let me know their child has passed away recently and they needed to get a reduced rate. I said of course, and they gave me a call. They opened with “Hi, how are you?” and I replied, “I’m great! How are you doing!? (in the most cheerful way ever, not realizing). There as an awkward silence as I realized that their child had just passed away and they probably weren’t doing so great. Something about the sadness in her voice just really stuck with me even though it’s been years.

    1. Cruciatus*

      Recently one of the doctors whom I have to schedule and set up in rooms with students cancelled before his first lesson with his group to say he probably wouldn’t make it in the first day. I was a little frustrated. I didn’t say anything horrible but I know I was conveying irritation because he said he was very sorry and would try to make it up later in the week. Hanging up I did manage to say “I hope you feel better soon” but I fear it sounded insincere… Well, that was in mid-March and he went into the hospital the next day and STILL hasn’t come out. He’s been transferred to the Cleveland Clinic and still hasn’t shown much improvement. I found out later about a chronic condition he has (at the time I thought he just had a cold or something), but still, I wish I had been a little more compassionate during that call…

  7. The Other Dawn*

    I accidentally caused the company’s server to get fried.

    I’m in the Northeast and it was October 2013 when Hurricane Sandy hit. Weeks earlier I had done rearranging of the server cabinet at one location. For some reason, I didn’t plug the server back into the surge protector. I plugged it into the wall. The server was already on it’s last leg. When Sandy hit, the power was out for a couple days. Well, when it went back on there was a surge and it fried the server completely. Dead, dead, dead. So when we called an emergency meeting to discuss the need to replace the server, the cost, timing, etc., I just said it was the hurricane and it was on it’s last leg anyway. Never told anyone I had plugged it directly into the wall. Yes, it was going to be replaced the following year, but the company was tight on money at that point so it wasn’t a good thing.

    1. Mallory*

      Oooh, that reminds me of when I accidentally destroyed an expensive piece of equipment at a factory I used to work at. The team to repair it had to come from Sweden and it took them about three weeks. And I didn’t even get fired (!).

      So here’s what happened: I ran a machine that stacked empty cans onto pallets for shipping. Twice a shift, I had to take a “break” and go clean the machine that made the cans while the line mechanic did something else. There was always a metal donut-shaped part that I had to move to clean the machine and put back afterward.

      One day, I moved the part, but I forgot to put it back; I just left it where I had temporarily set it. When the line mechanic turned on the machine, that loose part went flying around and bashed the insides of the machine all to hell and back. It cost over $10,000 to replace all the damaged parts, not to mention the cost of the Swedish repair team’s flights, lodging, per diem, salary, etc.

      I still can’t believe I wasn’t fired. Everyone was actually very nice to me about it. I was teased a lot about it, but it was all good-natured.

      1. Anna*

        I broke the copier at work and we had to call a technician to come in and fix it. I did not admit to anyone how it had happened (I was trying to print on to something that wasn’t fit for a big office copier/printer/fax machine) but the technician was giving me the “I suspect you’re to blame” eyeball.

      2. Mallory*

        Oh — and the weeks of downtime on the line while it was being repaired. *cringe*

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Yeah….and I was the IT person, too. Amateur IT person, since it was a company with only 13 employees and we didn’t have a need, nor the money, for a real IT person.

  8. Anlyn*

    Years ago we had a new director come into our office to talk about the great job we did on a massive project we completed. He was going around to people’s cubes, and I was in a coworker’s cube just chatting about stuff (not work-related). He asked how long we had been talking, and I told him, “hey, we have two 15-minutes breaks we’re allowed to take!”

    Now, I THOUGHT I said this in a teasing tone, but my teasing tone isn’t always obvious. I have no idea why I wasn’t immediately canned. I wasn’t a recent grad, either.

  9. Kai*

    I manage several people’s calendars, including one person who really gets on my nerves. A while back, I had meetings going on in two separate rooms, one of which he was included in. I figured out that he’d gone into the wrong meeting, but I pretended not to notice. (The meeting he was supposed to actually attend wasn’t super crucial, otherwise I would’ve done something.)

    When he figured it out later, I had so much evil pleasure watching him fall over himself with apologies for not being in the right meeting.

  10. Interviewer*

    I was a new accountant for a company that managed commercial properties for several different partnerships. The accounting software had a couple of steps to make all of the entries for deposits and payments, and then post them to the general ledger, and one day I skipped one of them. While the deposits were there, none of the payments had been posted. When my boss asked me for the cash balance, we had a really high amount. I didn’t realize I had skipped a step, that it was way too much money for us to have left after paying the bills – I just thought, whee! Meanwhile, my boss reports to the partnership that we’ll have a big mid-year distribution. They get excited. The next day, I went in to work and followed all of the steps, and now cash was about 10% of that figure. Gulp.

    He called a meeting, and we went through the entire books with a fine tooth comb to see “where all the money went” – he didn’t want to believe me before having to go back to the partners to tell them the bad news. Oh, he was livid. Just that quiet, simmering kind of anger. After that meeting I told him that I knew he was very disappointed with me and if he felt like he wanted to make a change, I would resign. He agreed, and I was out at the end of the week.

    It was traumatic at the time, but what a learning experience. The next accounting job I had was a totally different industry that happened to have the same accounting software, with the same steps to post deposits & payments. I was there 6 years and never once messed up the cash balance.

    1. De Minimis*

      Lesson learned, but I think your boss should share some of the blame for not double-checking before reporting something like that, especially since you were new.

      Glad you were able to move forward!

      1. Del*

        ^Absolutely agreed! With a number that big and unexpected, the first answer should absolutely be “Okay, are we sure that’s correct?”

        1. JM in England*

          It’s a similar story in my field. When I get an out-of-specification test result, the first question I ask myself is “Is this figure genuine?”

      2. Christine*

        This, absolutely. If we had a result this different from what we expected, we’d be required as a matter of process to explain the cause before it was reported anywhere meaningful, and certainly long before communicating a distribution based on it!

        1. Anonsie*

          My thoughts exactly. Why would you report that out without checking anything else first?

      3. Cat*

        Yeah, I’m not an accountant but I’d know if someone gave me our cash-on-hand figures and they were 10 times too high. I’d sure as hell expect our accountant to double check a junior staffer on that.

    2. Observer*

      I totally agree with the others.

      When we first installed accounting software where I work (MANY years ago), our accountant asked me “how do I know the number are right?” I told him that computers don’t generally make math errors, so he could depend on the system. His response was that he wasn’t worried about math errors, but entry and procedural errors. I asked him how he spots such things with the manual system, and he said that he has a good sense of where the numbers are, and if anything is off by more than a little, he investigates. I pointed out that there was no reason for that to change. All that changes is where you look and how. He accepted that and continued to work with us for a good long while.

      The point is, that any sensible accountant gets to know what the numbers are supposed to look like, and investigates if something is off. When it’s THAT far off, it’s a total no brainer.

      1. JM in England*

        There’s an old saying about computers, abbreviated “GIGO”…………Garbage In, Garbage Out! :-)

  11. Lanya*

    My absolute worst career sin was that I stayed in a horrible work environment for 4.5 years and wasted all of that time being miserable and feeling bad for myself, until I finally came to the realization that I am the only person in charge of my own happiness, even in a recession. I found a new job a few months after that epiphany, and I am a much healthier and happier person for it. Don’t be afraid to Make The Change!!!

    1. Adam*

      I’m in the middle of this one right now. I’m coming up on four years at the current job and I should have started looking at least a year ago. Probably two.

      In my defense I had a lot of personal problems going on and trying to conduct a job search in addition to all that was one more stress I couldn’t handle. My job may suck, but at least it’s stable and pays the bills.

      But now that I’m more or less out of that troublesome zone I’ve got the constant nudge that it’s time to take things to the next level, and getting out of this job into a better one is #1 on the list, and now I’ve got no excuse.


    2. LBK*

      Love this! Yeah, it’s not easy to find a new job, but don’t assume it’s impossible until you look. I have a few friends who ended up getting out of horrible jobs in under a month once they actually started putting effort into their job search.

    3. A Jane*

      Yup — agreed here! The lesson here helped me get out of my last job a lot faster

    4. Lanya*

      This was also my first job out of college, and I felt like I had to stay to boost my resume. I got that job in 2008…just before everyone around me was losing their jobs…so that increased my fear of leaving for something less stables. At some point my fear of leaving probably developed into full-blown Stockholm Syndrome…but once I got some sense into me, I was Audi 5000.

    5. The Bookworm*

      “…. I finally came to the realization that I am the only person in charge of my own happiness….”

      Love this. May frame it & hang it on the wall.

    6. Fee*

      +1 except in my case it was 12 years! I even took a career break mid-way through that period and went back :S (why? why??!). I left 18 months ago and am the happiest I’ve ever been in my life since then.

  12. Daenerys Targaryen*

    Fresh out of college, as a new executive assistant, my job responsibilities included booking travel and securing visas for several (non US citizen) members of our executive team. Important Senior Executive asked me to book him on a flight to Foreign Country and secure his Visa to travel there.

    I booked the tickets, filled out the application and sent it off to Embassy of Foreign Country. In my mind — I was done! I mean, this is what happens at jobs, right? You just follow a few easy steps and never think about the task again!

    If I had done ANY research, I would have found out that the country that Important Senior Executive hailed from and Foreign Country that he wanted to travel to did NOT have good relations, and visa applications tended to languish in the paperwork dungeon for months on end. Two days before Important Senior Executive was scheduled to depart, he noticed that he still didn’t have his visa. He called me and proceeded to scream at me for nearly forty minutes until I was nearly in tears. Where was his visa? Why did I never follow up with the embassy? How could I possibly assume that visa applications would just take care of themselves???

    I ended up having to travel several hundred miles to the Single United States Location of Foreign Country’s embassy and beg in person to let Important Senior Executive board his plane in the next twenty four hours. A sympathetic embassy worker took pity on my pleas of “I will lose my job if he can’t get on that plane!!!” and granted the visa, I rushed to Important Senior Executive’s departing airport, and he cheerfully flew off into the sunset.

    He never mentioned the incident again, I learned about the importance of follow up, and two years later I moved career paths to the no-visa-paperwork-required field of IT. A happy ending all around!

      1. Laufey*

        Too much risk of spontaneous combustion, plus the downside that you sometimes become the in-flight meal.

  13. anonforthis*

    I was a manager and became friends with one of my reports. My manager warned me this was a very bad idea and would turn out poorly. I did not listen. We hung out outside of work where she met one of my friends and they began dating. When their relationship soured so did the personal and work relationship between the two of us (through much fault of my own). It got to where I could not correct any aspect of her work without her becoming very upset and defensive. She eventually quit and we lost a good employee.

    Fast forward three years, I had been laid off from that job and was hired at New Job, where she coincidentally worked, albeit on another team on another floor of the building. Within a couple of months I was promoted to be the supervisor on a project that was in big trouble. When I walked in to meet my new team…there she sat, looking like she wanted to die.

    In order to get to know to know my new team members, I met one-on-one with each of them. The first thing out of my mouth to her was to recognize how awkward the situation was for her and to apologize for my sometime abominable behavior during our previous relationship. I didn’t qualify the apology; just straight up said I was wrong. We ended up working fairly well together, although it took her quite some time to trust me again.

    1. KimmieSue*

      I’m glad it worked out. You were in a tough role. I have some similar stories here. I was promoted over a team of “friends”. I learned the hard way that continuing on with our happy hours and venting sessions was a very bad idea. A few years into my role, our company downsized and I had to rank and layoff people that had been my friends for years. It was terrible. While I am friendly with co-workers now, I no longer socialize outside of work. Very hard to manage your friends and make those tough decisions.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      That’s hard. It’s hard to be friends with your reports. I worked with a friend who ended up becoming my boss, and didn’t do well at the job, and it had a very bad effect on our friendship. We’re friends again now, but not anywhere near as close as we once were.

    3. Cath in Canada*

      I had a summer job when I was 20 in a movie theatre in Columbus, Ohio. (I stayed with my favourite cousin and had the best summer EVAH). All employees rotated between various jobs – usher, concession stand, ticket taking, box office/phones. The latter was everyone’s favourite part of the job, because it was air-conditioned, you didn’t go home stinking of popcorn, and you could read a book when it was quiet as long as customers didn’t see you (and there was a second-hand bookstore three doors down! Heaven!)

      Well, I overheard a manager mention that a customer had commented how fancy it was to have someone with a British accent answer the phone. I may have ever so slightly played up my accent in all conversations with management after that (I have a very non-posh, very Northern accent, but that summer I spoke like a posh Southerner). Guess who got to spend twice as long on the box office shift than everyone else?

      In my professional career, the biggest mistake I made was treating the first student I ever supervised the same way I’d treated everyone else I’d ever worked in a lab with – i.e. as a friend. That backfired quickly and spectacularly, e.g. when she thought it was OK to call in saying she was hungover and could I please do her cell culture for her – but I was able to do a boundary reset and haven’t made the same mistake again.

      Funnily enough, my husband is in a totally different industry, but had the exact same problem with his first ever direct report at the exact same time!

  14. VintageLydia USA*

    Complaining. So. Much. Complaining. I also was a super low level manager which was really more of a supervisor position. I was frustrated because I had a lot of responsibility but very little power to actually get the things I needed done, done. I couldn’t even write people up for doing badly–I had to tell my store manager and he decided whether to write them up. The store manager was pretty lazy, though, and just generally incompetent, so you can imagine how that went.

    But I had one employee I hated. She was annoying, smelled bad, gave bad advice to customers, unreliable, sloppy, a liar, and worst of all, her mother would step in and bully the store manager whenever she got into trouble so absolutely nothing was done about anything (she was in high school, but still.)

    I wasn’t the only one who felt the way I did, but I was the only one who behaved the way I did. I gossiped. I complained. I let everyone in the store know how I felt and worst of all, I sabotaged her as much as I could. I wanted her to get fired so badly. In a functioning environment she wouldn’t have lasted more than a few months, so I felt justified, but it was awful. I feel guilty now. Still don’t like her and I wouldn’t give her the time of day today, but I should NOT have acted like I did back then. I should’ve been fired for it, or at least written up/put on a PIP (see: incompetent manager.)

    I still keep in touch with one of my other managers. She agrees I was pretty much a terrible person in regards to this girl, but understood my frustration entirely. Thankfully through her I still have a good reference for that job because in almost every other aspect I was awesome, and she knows I learned from my other mistakes. People now say I’m probably too patient and forgiving, but I rather that than my previous bitterness. Incompetent store manager, by the way, was fired about a year after I quit.

  15. Adam*

    Not sure if this qualifies as a career sin or just a moment of plain jack-assery, but when I worked for a pizza place I once pulled the “I make more money than you” card during a heated argument with a coworker. The cherry on the $h!t sundae was that I didn’t even know if that was true or not. And if it were true it was probably less than a dollar’s difference.

    Really stupid response. I was physically run down that shift and in a bad mood in general and felt like she was bossing me around when I was trying to catch a moment’s rest. We could have had a discussion about it, but I lost my tongue and used the stupid “money” line, which I had never done before or since, and that put a stop to the whole thing. Instead we just worked awkwardly for the rest of the day since we were the only two working at the time.

    I felt like a tool later and hand wrote the coworker an apology note. She appreciated it and we were cool after that.

    1. LBK*

      Oof, I did something like that once – was trying to get people to cover an employee’s shift, and when one person asked why I couldn’t do it, I said something like “I make too much, it’s bad for the budget if I work extra hours” (which wasn’t a completely inaccurate statement, but mostly I was just too lazy and didn’t want to do it).

    2. Eden*

      I am disappointed to learn that I did not coin the phrase, ‘jack-assery.’ Good on you for apologizing later though. Totally mitigates this minor sin, I think.

  16. AMD*

    I started my first job out of college – a retail job between undergrad and grad school – and was terribly shy and introverted, so I never made an attempt to talk to the people around me. I had also come from a very sheltered background, and so got a little indignant when people asked me if I had kids or lived with my boyfriend (totally not meaning to sound judgmental of all the single moms I worked with, but I was too dumb to realize it would come across that way.) So between my never making conversation with people, and seeming really stuck-up and judgmental when I did, I was (shockingly) not very popular, and nobody wanted to train me or help me with my job.

    When I realized what was happening, I repented and am now industriously open and friendly with people, both because it’s socially acceptable and because I have realized how vital it is to working well with my coworkers. Six years later, I’m about to become a manager, which would never have happened if I hadn’t learned how to appropriately interact with people at work.

  17. LBK*

    I shared the full version of this story in another comment thread, but here’s the short version: as a new retail supervisor, my manager asked me to speak to an employee about what was essentially sexual harassment towards one of my other employees, and I let the person who was being harassed sit in on my conversation with the harasser. I completely underestimated how heated this issue was, so it quickly devolved from the harassee watching while I discussed the harasser’s behavior into the two of them screaming at each other like they were on Maury. It was loud enough that customers outside the office could hear and the store manager had to intervene.

    Now I’m much more aware of my limits and I’m more comfortable telling managers when I don’t think I’m equipped to handle a situation, and I’ve certainly learned my lesson about handling interpersonal conflicts at work.

  18. IndieGir*

    I gossiped about a fellow manager (A) to her direct report (B), and then was busted when the direct report got into a fight with the fellow manager and relayed what I had said. I know — grossly unprofessional on my part!

    Here are the mitigating factors. A was being a truly horrible manager, not giving B clear instructions or expectations and then publicly humiliating B by yelling at her in front of the entire department. At the start, I was genuinely trying to help B navigate the situation, and was also offering advice to A as well. But then A made it clear she didn’t want my input and was very offended that I felt I could offer her any advice. At this point, my conversations with B turned more into gripe sessions and I should have butted out completely. And if I’m honest, I was enjoying all the nasty drama.

    In the end, I profusely apologized to A and tried to mend fences as well as I could. We were able to continue to work professional together but never recovered what I had thought was our prior relationship. I say “what I had thought,” because I later found out A already hated me before the kerfuffle with B and had for years been badmouthing me to MY direct reports, who would tell her to shut up because they really liked me as a manager. So, our relationship never was what I thought it was. Which, of course, does not excuse my behavior at all.

    Since then, I have never gossiped about anyone to their staff and have been very circumspect about whom I vent to. (Yes, I know we shouldn’t badmouth anyone but we’ve all done it, because some co-workers are just horrible and if we didn’t vent, the murder rate would be much higher.) I still cringe when I think of this, but at least I learned from it!

    1. AMD*

      I feel like I have seen (and experienced!) that a lot of people enjoy drama and gossip until the one, traumatic time it blows up in their face, and then they settle down afterwards to the more intelligent path of trying to avoid and prevent it.

      1. IndieGir*

        Avoiding is always easier than preventing. In some cases, the drama is just going to happen no matter what you do, so you’d better get out of the way and not (as I did) try to delude yourself that you are “helping” when you are actually just stoking the fire.

  19. CanadianWriter*

    Clearly I’m a bad employee because I can think of dozens of examples. I crashed a golf cart into a flower bed and didn’t tell my boss. The flower bed had a wall of bricks around it so there were bricks everywhere. It was a tournament day and he was spending the day drinking so he probably wouldn’t have cared anyways…

    1. Chinook*

      On my last day at my weekend job before university at a car dealership, I was training my replacement as receptionist. Since there wasn’t enough work for two of us, the boss had me help out the two (younger) boys who were washing cars (who also happenned to be the boss’ son and one of the manager’s sons). I was tasked with backing up a converted van into a wash bay and, well, lets just say I repositioned the mirror in a dramatic fashion. The two boys panicked with boss’ son going “my dad is going to kill you” (since the van was brand new and expensive and boss was known to get angry at numbskull moves).

      I was worried about paying for the damage but reliazed that it was my last day, so what else could he do and sheepishly explained it to the boss, who just looked up from his desk and siad “that’s your one freebie.” Boss’ son, who was there for moral support, was shocked and asked why he wasn’t agry. Boss pointed out my repuation whereas the two boys were knowing for goofing off. I also was rehired the following summer as an office temp but never allowed to drive a new vehicle there!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        …lets just say I repositioned the mirror in a dramatic fashion.

        I did that TWICE with my old car. Needless to say, I don’t back my new car into the garage unless they’re predicting tennis ball-sized hail. And sometimes not even then.

    2. AMT*

      I am so glad that I’m not the only one who has had workplace-related golf cart problems. After a summer job that involved incompetently shuttling museum patrons to and from the parking lot, I think I qualify for a Florida driver’s license.

      1. Fore!*

        When I was new to my first museum job, I was working an event late at night and was responsible for putting the golf cart away at the end of the evening. Only problem was the only way I knew to get from the event location to the charging stations was via the main roadway in front of the site (I typically walked a pedestrian route). I was so determined not to fail at my task, I drove the cart out there at like 9pm and was totally caught on security camera. Boss came up to me the next day with this incredulous look on his face and asked, “Did you take the golf cart out on the ROAD last night?” He then talked me through the behind-the scenes, and actually safe, way to get to the maintenance buildings.

        Needless to say, that story traveled pretty quickly through the staff — though in my defense I never got into an accident over 4 years of driving those things around!

    3. kdizzle*

      Awesome. It reminds me that no one should ever have me drive a car as part of a job, ever.

      I’m an analyst, but they needed an extra body to pick up one of the fleet vehicles at the mechanic. Of course, the fleet vehicle we picked up was a diesel Ford F-350….not exactly the coupe I was used to driving. Something didn’t seem right with the truck while I was driving it on the interstate, and I couldn’t believe they had paid for someone to repair a truck that handled like junk. I was ready to park the car and tell my boss that he got ripped off when I realized I had driven the whole way with the parking brake on.

      Cue woman driver jokes.

  20. Pyoko*

    It actually happened rather recently.

    I’ve messed up once or twice… But never really multiple times in a row.

    On this one project, I was just incredibly stressed out, so I kept on dropping the ball for this one project. I would try to come back, but I don’t think I did enough.

    I’m not really sure of what to do next, to be honest. I’m dreading what’s going to happen at my official review, which is basically in less than a month.

    1. Julie*

      On the first project in which I had a lead role, I made a lot of mistakes, so my manager and I had a “lessons learned” meeting afterwards, which was really helpful. I was worried that she was going to be angry, but even though she wasn’t thrilled about my mistakes, I think my taking responsibility for them was what she needed to hear. I knew what my mistakes were (I’m pretty sure she didn’t need to add any to my list), and we talked about how to do better next time. I used to be mortified when I made mistakes, but now, even though I don’t love it, I am not so terribly embarrassed, and I can definitely learn from them.

  21. anon-2*

    1) Staying in a position too long when there was a legitimate salary dispute, and attempting to diplomatically negotiate through it. Learned something = it’s better to negotiate by speaking softly, and carrying a big stick. And acting quickly. The situation will be resolved one way (counteroffer) or another (better job & more money elsewhere). The longer you let it languish, the more time you give your superiors to yank your chain.

    2) Once I refused a promotion, but was given the raise/increase that would have come with it, to stay in a position. Wound up getting pigeonholed.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, I have worked in places where if you do not accept the promotion then your career is basically over. So you find out that you are Assistant Garbage Manager you basically paste a smile on your face and keep going.

      1. anon-2*

        – it wasn’t quite that bad. My refusal of the promotion was my management’s suggestion. I had applied for a higher , better paying position in another group and my manager wanted to keep me. So I got the money by refusing the promotion.

  22. GoodGirl*

    Several years ago, I dated an intern. In my (admittedly weak) defense, I dated him AFTER the internship was completed, nothing romantic happened until after the internship was over, and we were always professional when he would occassionally visit the office.

      1. GoodGirl*

        I don’t really anything *terrible* wrong with it either, but boy – I was sure a hot topic around the office for months to come. My frenemy at work took it upon herself to tell everyone that I was dating him, so I didn’t even let the cat out of the bag.

        During my 360 review, someone brought up my “inappropriate” relationship with the intern. :/ I think that’s why I still feel bad about it. My boss just laughed it off – he knew my character and knew the “real story” and he didn’t care.

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      Thanks for reminding me of another screwup: I stayed out late drinking with my COO on a work trip and hooked up with him. We both just pretended it never happened but it definitely put a chill on our easygoing relationship.

      It was so stupid. I usually manage to block it out of my mind.

      1. JM in England*

        It’s for this very reason that I NEVER date anyone from work. If it doesn’t work out, you still have to see them, which I would find too awkward.

    2. Lily*

      gee, I hope there isn’t anything wrong with this, because my former boss and I are now friends and we also didn’t start sharing personal information until she was no longer my boss.

  23. AR*

    I have two times in my life where I took an instant and unfounded dislike to an individual, both times I was very young and I handled the second time better. In my early years of retail I encountered an individual that I took an instant dislike to. This was the first time that I had ever had to deal with disliking someone for no reason at all. She was actually pretty nice. Unfortunately I made a nasty comment under my breath in response to something she said on the phone to someone else. She called me out on it and ….. being the young age that I was, I lied about what I said and she called me out on that as well. Fortunately we only had about two more hours to go on shift and I never had to work with her again because she was subbing from another store. I learned my lesson in those two really uncomfortable hours. One, don’t make stupid comments. Two don’t lie about them. Three never ever let a coworker know that you can’t stand them. I have the pleasure of being able to say that the second time I worked with someone I instantaneously did not like, she had no idea that I didn’t like her. When she left the company and came back in to visit, she made sure to visit me, introduce me to her baby and tell me how much she missed working with me.

  24. So Anon for This*

    I was almost fired for posting things about my job on a message board, anonymously (self and company not named). Someone at work figured out it was me, alerted management, they audited my computer and I was almost fired.

    There was also personal stuff in there about my thoughts on my boss, relationships with people in my life, etc.

    Mysteriously a week later an employee reporting to me went to my boss and asked to be moved off my team. Turned out she hated my guts and hated working for me and I had no idea. The rumor mill pointed to her as the person who outed me. She was yanked off my team with no discussion and I was vilified for being a “bad manager.”

    I basically had to grovel for my job, ended up staying 3 more years but even when the company owners said it was forgiven and forgotten, my boss brought it up all the time including when I resigned.

    One of the worst periods of my working life and one that makes me leery of posting personal info online, and of managing, ever again.

    1. Anon*

      Yikes! This makes me almost panic because I just wrote a review of my company on Glassdoor. I didn’t include my title or location, and I edited the heck out of it to remove anything that couldn’t also be attributed to someone else, but now I’m getting paranoid about it. I did not use my work computer, so maybe it’s OK.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        How would they be able to track a non-work computer? I think you are fine.

    2. JAX*

      This is horrifying! Anonymous postings on a message board are almost like venting in a support group. It can be healthy just to get it out of your system, and get that validation from others that you’re not alone/crazy/whatever.

      We all contribute “anonymously” on the internet, so to have the trust broken like that would be awful.

      1. So Anon for This*

        It was terrible–like walking around naked at work.

        That event fundamentally changed my personality. Before that I was an open book; now I’m intensely, weirdly private.

        The worst part was my boss commented on stuff I posted–giving his opinion. “You know, what you said in this post on page 43 of the audit trail makes you look like a terrible person. I can’t believe you said that about your mother in law.”

        Also I may or may not have posted something about being in my boss’s office when he farted and how embarrassing it was and the whole executive team read it as part of their investigation, so that didn’t help my case.

        I don’t post ANYTHING from my work computer that matters now, and I don’t post anything but the most innocuous facts about my job.

        1. Poysidia*

          Hey, he deserved what he found. Sounds like your company is majorly into snooping. 43 pages? That’s excessive.

    3. Steve G*

      Jesus Christ, some infractions need to be forgiven and forgotten. And if any of us here worked for such a company, we’d all be in trouble!

    4. lets-not-give-a-name-on-this-one*

      I think I shared that experience.

      Except 1-I was let go 2-I know who outed me, and 3-I deleted things before *everyone* read them.

      But it also means my former co-workers found out about when I bitched about them.
      I screwed up on this one and was goofing around excessively on the job. EVERYTHING about that job was a bad fit for me (and after a brief stint unemployed, I found a job that I’m mostly happy in and have been at the new place more than 5 years, so, a good fit), but that doesn’t justify me acting foolish and leaving a breadcrumb trail that was so easy to follow and out me with.

  25. JustMe*

    Hmm, where should I even start with my toxic ex-job with a fortune 500 company.

    Sin 1: Harboring Resentment.

    I had just moved to a new team and the manger mentioned to my then boyfriend that my daughter had more personality than I do. Of course then BF mentioned it to me. (My mother died like a month or 2 prior and I was dealing with all kinds of family craziness). Manager didn’t bother to ask if there was something going on. I think old manager mentioned that my mother had died. But at that point, any attempts to talk to me about anything was pretty much a doozy. It definitely was a career killer for me because I harbored such resentment toward him. Eventually we were re org’d and I got another loser type. But my relationship with that particular manager was never the same. A friend mentioned a team opening where he was the manager and I knew I wouldn’t have applied no matter if it was a promotion. Instead of harboring ill feelings, I should have mentioned it to him, or look for another job immediately.

    1. Blue Anne*

      Ouch. It is so, so hard to let go of things in that situation. Yes, it’s better to move on, but not easy by any means.

      My father died when I was in high school, and I was back at school after only a few days, but not exactly turning everything in. Our English teacher (who was a fantastic guy) was in charge of making sure we wrote good essays for college applications, and I was already late on turning in a draft to him, while I was usually one of his star students. So he really gave me grief about it. Asked me for a reason why I hadn’t done it, and I just mumbled. None of my classmates knew that my dad had died and that was NOT the way I wanted to tell them. But he pressed, and I ended up bursting into tears and leaving the class.

      It turned out, all the staff had been sent a heads-up email about my dad, but it had bounced from his email. He had no idea. When he found out, he completely tripped over himself apologizing, obviously felt absolutely terrible, and tried to go out of his way to be supportive and helpful for the rest of the time I was at the school. But I just didn’t want anything to do with him. It was irrational, but even now, I just can’t let that go.

      1. JustMe*

        Blue Anne, I’m sorry about your dad. I definitely understand the feeling. And yes, it is soooo hard to let go of that. It happened almost 8 years ago, and just thinking about it still brings tears to my eyes.

        If anyone is a manager here, take heed…get to know your people. Ask questions when you sense something is off. People go through so much. We try to focus on the company bottom line, but things happen and we’re human. If you take care of your people, they will take care of you!

  26. A.*

    1) When I was right out of college, I used to be very, very good at b.s.-ing my way through interviews, claiming to have lots of technical knowledge that I had just read about in the time leading up to my interviews. I speak with a lot of confidence and come across as totally on top of everything, even when I’m definitely not. I absolutely thought that reading about something and absorbing the theoretical fundamentals was good enough to get through and that actual experience was secondary. Of course, I often ended up a floundering stressball when my supervisor didn’t think she needed to train me on these things. I was never let go or anything, but I’m sure it eventually occurred to them that I wasn’t as skilled as I came across in my interviews and I was a bit of a disappointment.

    2) At the same job, I wore dresses, heels, and blazers every day even though it was an extremely casual office (think t-shirts and jeans) until a co-workerd actually pulled me aside and told me that I looked silly and “up my own ass” (I believe was the exact wording). I’m sure my arrogant attitude from #1 didn’t help my case at all!

  27. Bill*

    When I was first starting out in non-profit fundraising, I worked at a small and dysfunctional organization that had a decent sized silent auction. I was the only fundraising staff, and had been there for about 4 months. One of our donors gave us a bunch of time shares because she didn’t want to pay the horrendous annual fees anymore, and the ED enthusiastically accepted them and entered them into the silent auction. Four different donors paid between $1,000 and $7,000 for these crap-tastic timeshares.

    After the auction, the ED asked me to handle all the legal paperwork for transferring the deeds and titles and whatnot. The process was incredibly confusing, and no one at the various county governments were helpful, only advising that we hire a real estate attorney to do the paperwork. The agency refused to do so, saying “you’re smart, just figure it out!”. When I asked for help, I was ignored. I spent about two weeks trying to figure out what to do, but each county was different, the timeshare companies were notoriously unhelpful, and I had absolutely zero knowledge about quitclaim deeds and titles and all that stuff. After a bunch of reading and studying, I mailed off the documents only to have them rejected for legal reasons I didn’t understand. On two of them I tried again, only to be rejected a second time. At this point, the auction had been over a month an a half ago and nothing had been resolved. (I also had about $500,000 to raise to make budget, but was spending way too much time on these stupid timeshares).

    After about a month of intense anxiety, insomnia and occasional stress-vomiting, I told the ED I was going to the post office to mail all of the various legal packets to the counties for what should be the final approval. Instead I drove down a dirt road, pulled over, threw all the documents in a big pile and set them on fire.

    About a week later, I contacted the original donor and purchasers and explained that there must have been a snafu with the counties, because the transactions weren’t being processed correctly. I told them I would try to get their donations back, but they all graciously declined and said we could keep the money. The original donor was pleased too, surprisingly, because her knew husband liked to travel and she had regretted giving away the timeshares.

    I worked for the agency for 9 more years, and I still have terrific relationships with each of these donors as well as my old administrative team. I never told anyone about what I did, and no one ever found out, and I still cringe when I think about it to this day.

    1. OriginalYup*

      Holy cow. You win. I remember the sh*tshow that was my first fundraising auction, and I can’t even imagine how stressed you must have been through this whole scenario.

      Looking back, do you see any different options for how you could actually have completed the transactions? (Other than the bonfire, of course.) Like advice that you would give to someone who came to you now as a friend with this same problem?

      1. Bill*

        I should have asked the Board for help. Someone would have known a lawyer who could have pointed me in the right direction, I just didn’t think of it at the time (I was 20 years old and kinda clueless).

        1. OriginalYup*

          I didn’t think of it now! (Why I asked.) You’re absolutely right, I can absolutely see how it simultaneously wouldn’t appear an option at the time and would also be the best course.

        2. Pip*

          They had you do complicated real estate transactions when you were just 20!? Talk about throwing you in the deep end of the pool. I would have set fire to the office and fled to Canada or something.

    2. Interviewer*

      I cannot tell you how much I love this story. How many of us get to literally set fire to our mistakes and have everyone be gracious about it? You solved the problem! Please stop cringing. I am in awe of you.

      1. De Minimis*

        My favorite part of this is that he held the job another 9 years and no one ever knew what happened!

        1. Bill*

          I think I felt so guilty about it after the fact that I worked extra hard for a long time… I was terrified that someone would find somehow out and that I would lose my job. So, in a way, it probably helped me learn what it takes to be an above-and-beyond style employee!

    3. KitKat*

      I think this is the only story I’ve heard that ended with something being set on fire and everything turning out okay.

    4. C-Suite Diva*

      THIS is my favorite. I would probably only fantasize about that, but that you actually did it AND it worked out. Just goes to show that sometimes the best way to deal with stress is just throw it all in the air (and set it on fire).

    5. Eden*

      This is a great story. I wish I could say I had ever set something work-related on fire.

    6. Paloma Pigeon*

      A pox on the person who invented the silent auction. I hate, hate HATE them. They create endless amounts of work for staff and there are so many of them now that their impact is less. Can we call a time out on the silent auction for the rest of the year?

    7. Crow T. Robot*

      “Instead I drove down a dirt road, pulled over, threw all the documents in a big pile and set them on fire.”

      I absolutely love this story!

    8. Muriel Heslop*

      This story is greatness! This might be my favorite!

      Oh, silent auction wrangling…I’m impressed you limited your fire-starting to the paperwork!

      1. Poofeybug*

        I don’t know, it’s close between this story, the full body hugger and the sleepover for the best stories of ALL TIME.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      Can you come to work with me for a day or two? I am having a couple of difficulties……

    10. Aisling*

      Wow – you totally win! I am in awe. Sounds like you handled it the best way you could, with the information and help you weren’t given – seriously.

    11. Melissa*

      This is the best! I love this story :D I love when stress culminates into a ridiculous document bonfire on the side of the road, like it just came out of Office Space or something.

    12. anonymouse*

      So, the mistake is that you waited a month for your celebratory bonfire, right? Right?

  28. Not an IT Guy*

    Mine is taking the concept of “at – will employment” very seriously to the point where I’m deathly afraid to speak up or ask for something I need for fear of getting fired. It’s actually ruined my chances of finding work else where, I was afraid to ask a manager for clarification on my position so I went three years without a job title/description until he kicked me out of his department (try explaining that one on a resume).

  29. BB*

    I was doing an internship in college at a ski resort in the boondocks- closest drug store was 20 mins away. The whole culture there was really bad- poor area, a lot of older employees didn’t like me and the other intern and called us snobby behind our backs. We were bored out of our minds and obviously made friends with the 10ish staff members our age. My boyfriend had just dumped me, I was feeling lonely and within a week, was ‘hanging out’ one of the staff members. My other staff friends told me he was bad news but of course I didn’t listen. He found out what the staff members said and pulled crazy stunts(maybe threatened to kill one of them?) that got him fired. They called me into HR and had to change my rotation schedule around because it wasn’t okay for me to work with the people he made threats towards. I broke down and cried in front of the GM, Assistant GM, Guest Services manager, 2 HR managers- pretty much every person with authority at the resort. I asked to have a meeting set up with these other friends to show them I wasn’t bad news and cried in front of them too. I was so upset I called my college internship manager saying this wasn’t fair that they were alerting my rotation schedule and said I wanted to leave- he told me to do what they said, give it a week or two and I’m happy I did.

    After a couple weeks, most of the storm passed and I was hanging out with my staff friends more than ever. We still keep in touch on facebook. My internship manager never mentioned the incident once everything cleared up. Thankfully I was only 21(and an intern) so I think my mishaps were forgiven. However, I like to just pretend that whole incident never happened and only remember the good stuff from that time. So basically don’t date anyone you work with(definitely not right after you start working there), listen to people who’ve been at your job longer than you and if you have to cry, do it in front of the least amount of people possible

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I am not saying that one should cry in front of everyone but in your case I think you did what was needed to get everyone to calm down. I think your genuine upset over the whole deal is what saved you.

    2. A Non*

      Internships are deliberately a time and space for people to make major mistakes and not be haunted by the consequences. And as Not So New said, getting emotional when there’s a situation involving death threats is perhaps not an unreasonable reaction.

      When I was doing desktop support, my employer brought in an intern who ended up doing most of my (not very difficult) job while I studied higher-level technical stuff. Not a problem, except that the intern apparently felt resentful about this. He got drunk at a coworker’s going away party, and told me so.

      There was no permanent fallout for him, he just got a lesson in not getting drunk with coworkers (even when they’re getting drunk too) and a reminder from our boss that yes, interns are supposed to be doing work usually done by other people. He apologized to me profusely, I laughed it off as a childish mistake that he’s far too intelligent to repeat. He got hired by the same people after he graduated, and I was happy to work with him again.

  30. Allison*

    Alison one of my former managers did the exact same thing. He beat around the bush, trying to implement solutions to my performance problems without actually admitting there was a problem (“no no you’re fiiiine, stop worrying! why are you always so paranoid? I’m just trying to help”). I think he was afraid that threatening to fire me would hurt morale. He was young, he was relatively inexperienced, and his intentions were fine but his strategies were off. Poor guy probably had upper management breathing down his neck, I’m glad for his sake he finally got out.

    But that caused me to commit my sin. Unfortunately I felt very frustrated and stressed out under his management, and one afternoon he was breathing down my neck about a particularly difficult task, and I was trying to set his expectations but didn’t feel like he was truly comprehending that what he wanted me to accomplish wasn’t realistic. I finally grumbled, “easy for you to say, you’re not the one doing it.”

    He pulled me into a conference room and told me it was unacceptable, and I completely broke down. Yet he still convinced me I hadn’t just blown it and I still had a chance to turn things around. I was fired for the incident a week later. I don’t think it was his decision though.

    1. Lily*

      My first employee and I had a terrible experience. I still haven’t figured out who contributed what and I still don’t know if I was too wishy-washy or too blunt or maybe alternating between the two poles. I was really influenced by people’s intentions and believed all excuses. I actually allowed her to discuss MY thoughts and intentions with me! It took me a long time to learn how to judge performance instead and I’m still learning how to speak up about it!

      I cringe when I remember how I thought I was going to be the best boss ever! How else could I have hired someone who had been taken advantage of by everyone else in her life? At some point, I realized that I was just going to be the next chapter in the story of her life, with each chapter ending in disappointment. There is a good reason to avoid hiring employees who complain about their previous employers!

      I also cringe when I remember that I was so committed to giving people another chance that I really didn’t get it when they refused to answer emails and missed appointments. Now, I take a refusal to communicate as an indirect “no, I don’t want another contract”.

      I cringe when I think how many cringeworthy moments I have had as a manager …

  31. Lizzy Bennet*

    I am still embarrassed and annoyed to this day about this situation. The business I was working for was closing our office. We had ample time to find new jobs, and our managers went well out of their ways to make our remaining time useful, and even let us job search on company time. If something bad had to happen, you’d want it to happen in that way. But. My coworker wasn’t dealing well with it. She flipped out at me on three occasions when we were alone together- she raised her voice, called into question my ability to do my job, and said things that were very hurtful (both to my professional reputation, and to my personal one). The only response I could get out of my quivering voice was, “This is crazy. Where is this coming from?” She heard this as me saying she was crazy, which made her even more angry. What she said had no basis, but I was so shocked and hurt each time it happened that I basically ran to my managers in tears. I tried to pull it together before I met with them, but it was so out of character for her, and so hurtful. I can’t believe I cried in front of them, like school girl who needed help with a bully. The memory of it is humiliating to me even to this day. And since this woman was generally so mild manner, I don’t think they actually believed she said the things I said, so I must have sounded like a lunatic to them. They thought I must have done something to provoke her. Also, coworkers were asking me why I was fighting with her (especially because they saw her as a mild-mannered, lovely person who wouldn’t hurt a fly, and that made me sound like a monster for accusing her of such things), and that made me even more upset, because I wasn’t doing anything that I knew of to bring on these episodes. She just went into rants because she couldn’t cope, and she decided I was the easiest target. Or at least that’s my assessment of the situation. I even apologized to her on several occasions for whatever it was I was doing to make her so angry. During these conversations she just laughed at me like I was an idiot and walked away. I even went so far as to always be around a coworker when I was with her. The coworkers thought I was acting like a child, I’m sure, but it was the only way to make sure I wasn’t continually targeted.

    In the end, I think my managers have forgotten about the incidents, and they’ve given me great references…but I still haven’t totally forgiven this coworker for creating such terrible drama during an already difficult time. She’s tried to call me two years later to apologize (I think?) but I can’t bring myself to even want to deal with to her. I think how I reacted to her behavior (i.e. practically bawling in front of my managers, and getting annoyed with co-workers over it) will forever haunt me as the most unprofessional thing I’ve ever done. People can make mistakes in their work flows or projects, and eventually it will get ironed out, but their behavior sends such a message. And regardless of what she said to me or what she was going through, my behavior was not professional. I could have handled it better.

    1. Crow T. Robot*

      I think you’re being a little hard on yourself. I probably would have reacted in a similar way. It’s especially crazy-making when the person you are having problems with is so nice and cordial with everyone else. It starts to feel like gas lighting, and it can be very frustrating.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      She will do this to someone else sometime. What she did was too well-planned, almost crafted.

      1. Lady Sybil*

        Sounds like sociopathic behaviour on her part. Very manipulative and laughing at you too? Woah. I’m glad you’re outta there.

      2. Mallory*

        This reminds me of how Mr. Martin got rid of Ms. Barrow in “The Catbird Seat”.

  32. Liz*

    Not a cardinal sin but a good lesson for me that could have gone differently with a different boss.

    Fresh out of college in my first professional job I woke up 30 minutes after I was supposed to be at work, I had been there about six months. I threw on some clothes frantically, get in the car and call my boss rambling “I’m so sorry, I overslept, I was up late last night at a birthday party for my best friend and must have forgotten to set my alarm, I’ll be in soon, I rushed straight out the door, barely even brushed my teeth, and skipped breakfast”…and went on and on with rambling nonsense.

    I get to work, and he calls me into his office. He sits down and goes “you know, next time this happens, because it will, you should just calmly call whoever your boss is and DO NOT frantically explain you were out late the night before and imply you haven’t showered. Calmly call, say you got a late start that morning, give an authentic apology, and say it won’t happen again”.

    Luckily for me he was a great guy and really mentored me in entering the professional world. But rest assured, the next time that happened about a year later (because of course things happen!), I took all the same steps except when I called my boss I took a deep breath, gave a genuine apology, and the boss said “no problem, see you in a few minutes”. Then I got to work, he called me into his office and complimented me on a lesson well learned :)

      1. Anon*

        Me, too! I like the phrase “late start.” I kind of nerdy, so I never think of these cool and polished phrases that make it seem like you have everything under control. In fact, I’m so nerdy that I’m going to start of list of these phrases.

    1. Eden*

      You have to love those moments.

      I once fell asleep early in the evening (I blame Benadryl) and failed to go back to the clinic I was working at, and give pain meds to some cats that had been declawed earlier that day.

      I woke up gasping with the realization at 7 am (meds were scheduled for 8 pm night before). I called my boss to let her know as I pulled on clothes to race into the clinic. (I was picturing howling painful animals with blood-smeared kennels. I got there: they were all asleep.) Regardless, I have never felt so awful in all my life. I was in tears, apologizing to the cats and my boss.

      I thought for sure she would yell at me (pretty volatile temper she had). But she just looked at me calmly and just said, “Eden, I know you won’t ever do it again.”

      1. Liz*

        He was a great boss, I really miss him! I wouldn’t be where I am today without his mentoring and training. He would constantly give me the sort of matter of fact professional advice that all too often managers won’t give young people in their career. He could tell I wanted to learn and had potential so really took me under his wing.

        I can think of a dozen other examples but this was the most notable because I acted so unprofessional in my frazzled state and said about 10 wrong things in the phone call!

      2. Canadamber*

        For some reason, I’m just laughing so hard right now at “howling painful animals with blood-smeared kennels”. I am an awful person! :( But poor cats… :$

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Oh my goodness. That triggered my “career sin” memory.

      It was my first year as an assistant teacher. One night there was a power outage overnight in my neighborhood, which reset my alarm clock. I am GOOD at sleeping, and at about 9:30 I woke up to the sound of the telephone ringing! It was the principal, worried about me because I just hadn’t shown up at school. Fortunately I was only an assistant and thus there hadn’t been a class of kids unattended for over an hour, but my heartrate still goes up when I think of the moment.

  33. GigglyPuff*

    While I’m not sure how career sin worthy these are, I feel like sharing.

    My first day, of my first job ever, at a doggie daycare. I was doing my end of the shift cleaning, which included changing the trash bag in the yard. I started this job in summer, so we got quite a few dogs, and the bag got pretty heavy and I wasn’t used to any of the associated labor with the job yet. I tried to sling it over the six foot privacy fence that enclosed our yard, it caught on a couple of the fence slats at the top, and completely snapped off the top of a couple and another slat in half. I was completely horrified, first day on the job and I damaged company property. Luckily my manager and coworkers thought it was hilarious, once they learned the bag hadn’t ripped, so they wouldn’t have to help with the clean-up.

    When I worked part-time in the library’s digital projects during graduate school, one of the collections I worked on, was scanning women’s veterans personal photograph albums, they loaned to us for this purpose. Usually they were the horrible sticky backed albums and we were unable to remove the photos, so we’d scan the entire sheet, but occasionally the glue would be old, and they could be gently peeled off. One of the photos was the official portrait of the veteran in uniform and it appeared to be coming undone from the glue, so I attempted to remove it, and promptly ripped the entire corner. I almost started crying, and while I let my manager know, who understood these things happen. It sticks out in my mind because it turned out the photograph had already been scanned and no one had marked it in the workflow, so it was a completely unnecessary action that shouldn’t have happened.

    So pretty much damaging property seems to be my habit, because there are a couple more, like dropping an original document on the floor and rolling over it with my chair. Oops.

  34. Jen*

    I was a toxic employee at my second job. I had signed a contract to work at someplace for 3 years and never had a lawyer review it (big mistake). The contract was terrible and pretty much didn’t allow me to quit without having to pay a fee. I’m sure I could have gotten out of it but I was broke and couldn’t afford a lawyer.

    So it was a bad job with a toxic boss (who screamed at people and called them names) and I felt trapped. BUT I didn’t deal with it well. I was a complainer. I complained constantly. I whined about everything. I was the employee who could sniff out when people were unhappy and I’d feed into, riling people up, getting them even more upset. I cried a lot at work. I would shoot off angry long e-mails to management about their mistakes. I took tons of smoke breaks.

    I took a bad situation and turned it into absolute misery.

    In retrospect, I should have had someone look over the contract initially. But even without that, I should have found a mentor in the office, worked hard, kept my nose out of the drama and been a better employee. I’m sure I would have been able to kill more flies with honey than with vinegar and I probably could have been allowed out of my contract. The job wouldn’t have ever been a great fit for me, but I could have been a better worker.

  35. CPA Type Person*

    At a big firm, everything was going well until we had layoffs and everyone that remained was completely overworked. My manager suddenly became a giant @ssh*le and I cracked under the pressure. I spun into a depression and just stopped going to work. Usually, “working from home” but getting very little work done. At the time, I felt entitled to do so, because the environment was so toxic that it was damaging to my mental health.
    I was able to quit before I got put on a PIP but I made matters worse by sending a semi-snarky goodbye email, probably burning that bridge for good. Ugh, 20-something hubris.
    Now, I still struggle with depression and anxiety, and also work in a new toxic environment. But I’ve learned to work through it and that I don’t get to skip work because of my depression.
    *This is my personal situation. Not judging others that are unable to work because of mental health issues.*

    1. A Non*

      I’ve also struggled with the line between cutting myself some slack in a tough situation and feeling entitled to do poor work. Likewise with the line between acknowledging an unfair situation and spending too much energy complaining about it. I hope it’s a skill that can be learned.

    2. Nichole*

      Thanks for your disclaimer. I’m also a longtime sufferer of depression and anxiety who has finally got it under control over the past few years. It’s easy to forget those days when taking a deep breath, some introspection, and a strong cup of coffee weren’t enough to get back to functional. Remembering what it feels like to be so sad or anxious that you can’t get out of bed humbles you right out of the “I did it, why can’t you?” attitude.

  36. Aunt Vixen*

    I’m pretty sure I dozed off in a small meeting once. To be fair, this was a couple of springtimes before I realized how bad my allergies were and got them under control, so I was kind of constantly very slightly ill for months on end in those days and not sleeping well at all ever. Used up all my (combined) leave on sick days. But falling asleep in meetings is Not Cool, and it shouldn’t have taken me so long to realize I had a health issue.

    1. Ack, me too!*

      I’d forgotten about this one. I’m now a diagnosed narcoleptic, but the only reason I know that is because my then-boss, who is not the type to get on people’s cases, called me into her office more than once to tell me I had to fix the problem. She knew I wasn’t falling asleep out of laziness or boredom, but man, it has to have frustrated her that it took me so long to see a dang doctor.

      Now I have a diagnosis and meds, and I don’t doze off IN FRONT OF CLIENTS any more.

  37. itsame...Adam*

    We were in a company luncheon for a new employee (15 people or so). Company owner talks about a project and I am being asked where the drawings I created are (construction drawings). My response to the owner: “What do you mean. On the server of course!” … My supervisor jumped in to explain the save patch where I saved them. I was called a smart ass a bit into the luncheon :)

  38. HistoryChick*

    I was in charge of scheduling field trips for the museum where I was working and one particular teacher was very demanding and hard to please. After several emails back and forth (with more and more demands) and several tense conversations, I finally forwarded her emails to my boss. My forwarded message said something like – I just can’t deal with this teacher, she is so needy. What do you suggest. Except…you guessed it…I didn’t forward the message. I replied to the message and it went to her. Mortification. Groveling. Awkwardness ensued from that point forward (especially when she ended up being on a teacher advisory committee that I had to lead.) I was so glad when I left that job and could put that behind me. Lesson learned: never write snarky emails because you can so accidentally send it to the wrong person by mistake.

    1. BritCred*

      Done that…. suggested to my bosses we took *big communication company* off credit terms and made them prepaid because their systems are so complex they seem unable to manage a credit terms account appropriately….. yes, the client contacts email address was in the message too. :(

      Never got called on that one…..

  39. Kay*

    Just recently I feel like I made a pretty big mistake. I’ve been at my current workplace for 3 years now and for the past year I’ve been pretty miserable. I thought the kinder thing would be for me to be “subtle” about asking for things that would make me happy. So, thinking that I ended up creating projects and proposals for new programs rather than going over to my boss and saying “I would really like to move into a position with more responsibility, if not imma leave” (or something similar). I guess looking back I don’t feel like I took charge of my own happiness at work, and haven’t really given them a chance to keep me around before I decided to leave.

  40. OriginalYup*

    Hmmm. I’ve made a ton of unbelievably stupid mistakes on particular tasks, and I’ve certainly had my share (more?) of painfully embarrassing moments. But in the spirit of the question, the one mistake that I made repeatedly over a long period of time was:

    Not being responsible for my own career for the first portion of my full-time working life.

    I worked really hard, took direction, and all that. But I didn’t have a plan or a goal (other than ‘pay rent and eat’). I didn’t think holistically about what kind of work I wanted to do, I just took what came my way. I didn’t seek out mentors. I’d interview for jobs hoping to get picked, rather than figuring whether this was actually a good job to have. I didn’t evaluate a anything as pro/con. I just did everything I was assigned full-bore and hoped that was enough to keep me employed. In my own defense, I was just grateful to have a job while trying to finish my degree at night school, but I really goofed in the early days on taking charge of my own career.

    Frankly, I was lucky to have some great bosses and colleagues who helped me along and looked out for me. Through them, I did start to learn about advocating for myself: seeking raises, tracking my accomplishments, asking to be part of particular projects, getting more training to develop skills. I did finally start to understand the big picture and treat career development as a thing you do, not something that falls out of the sky. So it’s not like it’s haunted me forever. But it’s something that if I could do it over, I would do very differently by taking responsibility for myself more.

  41. Dax*

    All four years of my undergrad, I worked at the same university office, where I was really good at my job and made great relationships with the people who worked there. I knew I wanted to continue working there after I graduated, but there wasn’t a position open. I worked terrible odd-jobs, waiting for a position to open. After a year, they got a new director (whom I’d worked with, but not often and not necessarily well) and two entry-level positions opened up. I applied, and waited for my coronation. It never came. When I found out they had completed first-round interviews without calling me, I was LIVID. I emailed him and cc’d his boss, telling him how awful he was and what a huge mistake he had made. He immediately responded with an email telling me that he was very sorry I had sent that email because they had decided to push me straight through to the final round of interviews and that I had, up until that point, been their top prospect. I didn’t get the interview, and never set foot in that office again.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      On the one hand, ouch indeed. But I will say they suck for not giving you a heads up so that you were put in the position of assuming the worst.

      1. AMD*


        I mean, you recognize that you made a terrible mistake, and got burned for it, but they could have been in communication with you about it.

    2. cecilhungry*

      Obviously you were in the wrong here, but they really probably should have given you a head’s up. Not doing so was kind of asking for trouble (maybe not what you actually did, but I can definitely see starting a job hunt).

    3. Lily*

      I was on the other side once. I had decided to hire someone and encouraged her to join a workshop. Well, she decided to confront me in public on a topic we had already discussed in private and she had never told me she had a problem with it. I didn’t offer her the job because I thought I don’t need someone who privately agrees with me and then publically disagrees with me.

      I agree you should have been notified, but misunderstandings will happen and it is a lot easier to work with someone who you can count on to ask questions instead of immediately (over) reacting. But I’m sure you have figured that out already!

  42. L*

    I cried A LOT at my first job when I was 22. I also got completely wrapped up in workplace drama with the other 20 year olds and would bring really stupid things to my boss (think “she called me a name”). It’s really embarrassing to think about now, but they were putting up with this crap from me and the others. Nobody ever told us we were being unprofessional.

    I left that place after 3 years. My coworker was throwing things at me and yelling at me almost daily; another thing they were simply not addressing.

  43. Jamie*

    I have one from a couple of weeks ago – and how weird I was just discussing it with someone before I read this.

    It’s not an ongoing thing, but an out of character one off…damn. I need to come up with an anonymous name and come back on lunch to confess.

      1. Bill*

        YES. After I posted my story I had to frantically go into picture-deleting mode!

        1. Julie*

          I didn’t know you could do that after the fact! So if I tell Gravatar to start using a picture, it will change all of my previous posts (that have email addresses) to the new picture?

  44. JEC*

    After high school but before college, I worked for my (then) best friend’s parents’ very small company, where she and every other member of her family also worked. I was also in love with her, and while it wasn’t an issue most of the time, when things were on the downward leg of the roller coaster I’m sure everyone knew it. I didn’t realize for months how uncomfortable it made everybody and how much it interfered with the work.

    Of course there were some humiliating incidents involving emails accidentally being distributed to people who shouldn’t have seen them and a lot of moping and walking on eggshells around various people. I tried leaving the company at one point to spare myself some of the embarrassment but her dad had to ask me to stay because of some work I was doing on a giant project. Finally when I did leave she and I weren’t talking and most of the company knew everything about why. It was awful.

  45. De Minimis*

    When I was in my 20s I told a tasteless joke at work that offended a co-worker to the point where she quit on the spot. The joke made light of child abuse [as I said, it was tasteless] and I am guessing it may have triggered something for her. She told the boss who gave us all a stern talking-to, but did not fire me–I probably should have been let go over it, honestly.

    I never did anything like that again…thankfully it was a part-time job I worked at for extra money, so it would not have been a disaster had I been fired, but it still put a scare into me about what’s appropriate at work. I still feel really bad about it.

    1. De Minimis*

      Same job….it involved hosting and taking information for teleconferences, so it required a lot of contact with people calling in. You normally took their name and maybe some other bits of info. One of our regular clients was a company that did conference calls giving info to cancer patients. I was a very callous young man and would get frustrated with these poor people calling in, many were ill and/or elderly and did not hear well and I would get frustrated with having to raise my voice and repeat myself. I also don’t always have a good idea of how loudly I am speaking anyway, so I was practically yelling at some of these poor people over the phone. After a few of these calls my boss started instructing us to use “extra TLC” so I guess there had been complaints.

      That is another one I still feel awful about. I also have a plethora of bad habits that still more or less are ongoing, but they’re more about actual work habits instead of being a jerk to people.

    2. EE*

      Wow! As a fan of tasteless jokes, that’s quite the cautionary tale. Who knows if the person you’re saying “What’s worse than ten dead babies hanging from a tree?” to has suffered a miscarriage or worse.

  46. Christy*

    I quit not one, but two, jobs by just not showing up anymore. I was old enough to know better too. One was a server job at 19 and the other was a retail job at 22. I avoided that part of the mall for years.

    1. CanadianWriter*

      I did the same thing, but it was a horrible call centre so I’m not sorry.

      1. De Minimis*

        I’ve quit numerous jobs without notice, some of them well into adulthood…I’ve also walked off the job on my last day of work, at an employer I’d been at for seven years. It wasn’t a case where I got angry or anything, I just planned on skipping out after lunch and not telling them about it.

        One time in college I made a big show out of not showing up for an on-campus job and then leaving campus for a long weekend without informing anyone as to where I was at and what I was doing, so my poor boss was afraid that something had happened and was on the verge of calling my family.

    2. Sunflower*

      Ohhh I forgot about the job I stopped going to. I was filing and sending out mail after school. I was a senior in high school and between work and after school sports, I was so tired. I gradually stopped going everyday and then started just showing up after practice in my sweaty gear. And then one day, I just stopped going. I think I felt worst because my dad’s friend girlfriend had gotten me the job. I felt worse because the job was down the street from my house next to a huge shopping center and I spent years fearing I’d run into one of my old coworkers at the store!

    3. Mallorie, the recruiter*

      Oh man me too! When I tell people about it now, they generally don’t believe I would do something like that. I just stopped showing up after like 2 months at a restaurant. I think I might possibly still turn bright red even THINKING about that now.

    4. I hear you*

      I never quit without notice, but back in my retail days I’d give notice and then not show up for my last shift. This was, unsurprisingly, during the same period of time where I went through about 6 jobs in 8 months.

    5. LV*

      This happened all the time at one of my former retail jobs. I was there for a year and a half and lost count of the number of employees who would not only quit by failing to show up for a shift, but quit by never coming back from their break!

      1. Mallory*

        Oh my, I remember that about a job I used to have — we kept having to re-fill a position because, for several times in a row, within the first week of work, the new hire would go on lunch break and never come back! It was shocking the first couple of times that it happened, but by the time we got to the person who ended up staying in the position long-term, everyone was so used to the no-return lunch break that we were surprised every day when she came back.

    6. Former Bookseller*

      After college I spent a few months working at a chain bookstore in a college town where it was an ongoing problem that people would go to lunch and just not come back. It was a running joke and once when I was late coming back from lunch my manager told me he was just glad I’d come back at all. In retrospect I wonder if it wasn’t also a self-fulfilling prophecy – when I finally gave my notice, I know I spent more than one lunch thinking longingly about not going back. XD

    7. Elizabeth West*

      I did that too (well, I called), but I was 16 and had the maturity level of a 12-year-old (sheltered child). I still feel kind of bad about it, though.

    8. Crow T. Robot*

      This makes me feel better because I’ve basically done the same thing at one retail job. I was also old enough to know better (23) and I did feel really bad about it. At least I gave some notice: I called the day before my next scheduled shift to say I wouldn’t be coming in the next day… or ever again. *Cringe*

    9. Lizzy*

      I have a couple post-college job abandonment situations I am not proud of. One scenario involved leaving a sales job one month in because a.) I hated the culture and b.) I suck hard at sales (never again will I take a sales position). I think I took the job because it was my first and only job offer after college and we were heading straight into the recession, so I assumed I had to nab a job before they started disappearing. In the scheme of things, me staying wouldn’t have mattered since the company did massive layoffs 3 months after my departure.

      I then took a street canvassing position for a nonprofit organization — you know, those annoying people on the street who try to get you to sign up to sponsor a child or save the whales? I lasted a whopping 2 days before walking off the job. It was also the middle of winter, so I also used that excuse to further justify my decision.

      In hindsight, me staying in either position wouldn’t have mattered since I wasn’t very good nor cut out for that type of work. But the bigger picture is I shouldn’t have sought out those positions to begin just for the sake of having a job.

      1. Lizzy*

        I also wanted to add that in spite of me being terrible in these positions (and shouldn’t have agreed to do them), I should have at least tried my best anyway and attempted to learn something. Instead, I ran for the hills.

        1. A Non*

          Running for the hills is not necessarily a bad response to finding yourself in an unworkable job. It could be done a little more gracefully than you did, but there is no prize for trying to stick it out.

  47. Sunflower*

    I was working my first serving job at a golf club. There was a big tournament the last weekend of summer(also my last day) and I was working in one of the corporate sponsor tents. It was pouring and no one really showed up so I guess the corporate rep was pissed they spent all this money and didn’t get much. The bartender walked away for a couple minutes and the rep told me he was taking a couple bottles of scotch and wine from the bar an gave me 60 bucks. It was uncomfortable because I literally had no clue what protocol was here. I told the bartender and he said he wouldn’t say anything because the client had tipped him big too. I did the bad thing and just kept my mouth shut. However, a couple hours later when they were shutting down the bar, they were counting bottles and guess what was missing. They spent about 15 minutes looking for both before I confessed what I knew. The tent manager yelled at me pretty bad but never told my overall boss. I also never told him about the tip.

    I was 20 and was mostly confused(and poor). People bought bottles of wine and left the restaurant with them all the time so was this also stealing? Would the club give it to him anyway? I didn’t realize at the time how big of a liability the whole thing was and the fact that he tipped me should have been a sign that what he was doing wasn’t right. Of course, I soon realized how many inventory measures are taken into play at restaurants and clearly knew if this ever happened again, the first thing I need to do is tell a manager.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I would not have understood this one, either. Matter of fact, decades later I still bump into situations I do not understand. I appreciate it when companies/bosses tell me BEFORE something happens that this is not SOP and do not do this. Like you are saying, I am much quicker to bring in a reliable third party before finalizing anything if I am not totally sure. This used to embarrass me because I felt I should know these things. Now, I no longer care about being embarrassed.

  48. money lady*

    OMG-Was totally stressed at work, has some sort of semi-emergency like no of our phones were working (I am the finance director at a social services agency), everyone was calling me, etc, etc. Then had a government funder come to one of our other locations saying we had stolen money from them and wanted the check back (someone from her office had given one of our employees a check to take in error). No leadership (ex and assoc ex were not in) was there to handle. I tried calling funder to explain and rectify the situation. Had to use some one else’s cell phone to call because our phones weren’t working. She (funder) was being a real bitch so I asked to be switched to her supervisor. Unbeknownst to me, she did not switch the call even though she said she was going to and stayed on the line and heard me tell someone else what an effing bitch she was. I thought I had put the call on mute but she heard me. I was mortified. Was suspended for 2 weeks without pay. Fortunately, my boss talked the board into not firing because he said he could not run the agency without me. Lesson learned.

  49. Suzanne Lucas--Evil HR Lady*

    I was brand new in the working world–about 2 months into my first professional position. I was also the only HR person who could do statistics, so as a result I was asked to sit on a VERY IMPORTANT COMMITTEE. All the senior HR leadership, with the exception of the head of HR was on that committee.

    And me. With 6 months of HR temp experience and a the ability to do statistics and no clue about office politics. None.

    So, because of my statistics knowledge, I also had a weekly meeting with the head of HR in order to develop some reports for him. (Super nice guy! And what an amazing opportunity for me!)

    So, anyway, I’m in this meeting where I’m the only junior person, and at the end, someone says, “Who should go to Jerry [head of HR] and update him?” I did not recognize that there were politics in this statement, so when nobody immediately volunteered, I said, “I have a meeting with him on Tuesday. I’ll do it!” Thinking I was being helpful.

    8 or so death stares from 8 senior directors. (Or is that 16 death stares?) My boss wasn’t even in the room ( it was me and the bigwigs) but someone reported to him how inappropriate it was for me to try to take on that task and he talked to me about politics.

    I literally had no clue. But, I learned that day about levels!

    1. teclatwig*

      Levels are the bane of my existence. I mess this up all the time. :-(. I have recently begun to suspect ADHD (poor social skills, overly concrete thinking) may be a contributing factor.

    2. A Non*

      I haven’t heard the term ‘levels’ used in that context – could you elaborate?

    3. AnonLondon*

      At my old workplace I moved from a call centre role to a sales support one.

      1 – I was told to tell my manager nothing. So I interviewed behind his back, and the first he knew of it was when the division manager announced that I’d be switching teams… the next morning. I then apologised to him and explained why I didn’t tell him. (He proceeded to bitch, to the whole team, about how I was the only one that did any work. Yeah, ouch.)

      2 – Then during my first month on the new team (just me and my new manager), my manager had an idea. She decided that my old team should now be responsible for a nasty data entry job that sales support usually did. On the one hand, my old team was bigger, on the other hand I knew that they would not like this – at all. I also knew that it didn’t fit with the rest of their work. She was basically landing them with this work because she could, as no one had any regard for the work that the team did, and their manager (while a great guy) was bad at pushing back.

      I was in the first few years of my career and knew nothing about the horrors of office politics. When she sat us all down in a meeting room and announced the change (there was no consultation with my old manager, who was at the same level as her), the team and manager were not impressed.

      Old manager started questioning her, and I said something like “yeah, I’m not sure this task really fits with what they do.” By the end of the meeting, she had successfully dumped the work on my old team.

      Hours later, she stood up from her desk and said “You must be wondering why I’ve been giving you the silent treatment”. (I raised an eyebrow at her, for I am an introvert and had no idea that she had been giving me any kind of silent treatment.) “What you said in there was completely out of line. You need to be on our side, not theirs.”

      I resisted the urge to say what I thought, which was that I didn’t think there were any sides here, just people trying to work.

      That place taught me a huge amount about office politics, and keeping my mouth shut!

  50. Rebecca*

    Years ago, I worked in an office with an IBM mainframe, complete with those giant dot matrix printers. We printed on green bar paper, 3 part purchase orders, etc. It was common courtesy, and an IT requirement, to sign off to the log in screen when you were done. The system also had the ability to send a message from one user to the other.

    One woman never, ever did this. You’d go to the print room to change paper and release your forms, and you’d have to always take the extra steps to log her out first.

    One day, I had enough. Still signed on as her, I quickly sent one of the Vice Presidents a message saying how sexy and hot he was. Then I signed on as me, released my stuff, and went on about my day.

    A few minutes later, I heard him bellow her name from down the hall. I heard her frantically trying to explain herself as well.

    Bottom line – she got a reprimand for not logging off, and she never left her computer logged on again. I never told her it was me. Problem solved.

    1. Stryker*

      Is this terrible that my first thought after reading this was, “I bet her name is Beatrice”? I have no idea why, but I love the thought of your president just hollering “BEATRICE!!” after getting that message.

      And while I’m not sure if I wouldn’t have done what you did in that situation–surely it wasn’t THAT big of an inconvenience to log her out–we certainly love the story!

    2. OfficeGirlCB*

      This reminded me of a case many years ago where a staff member was actually fired for sexual harassment after a prank gone wrong. The man who was fired was traumatised and from what I remember, he never did regain his reputation.

      When I was teaching, I used this case as a reminder to my students to lock your PC every time you leave your desk – and I have never forgotten it.


  51. Annie O*

    Oooh, I have two. One was a colossal screw-up on my part, but didn’t have repercussions. The second didn’t seem all that terrible, but has followed me for too long.

    The first sin occurred years ago. I was doing some simple data analysis but I didn’t notice a large number of duplicate entries. My totals were way off, and the fault was 100% mine. When I finally realized the mistake (months later), I was too scared to confess so I quietly fixed the numbers like nothing had happened. I think I would feel less crummy if I would have gotten caught.

    The second sin occurred last year. I was leading a project and one of the team members had a reputation for being a PITA to work with. He attempted to throw me under the boss in a project meeting with the CEO. I rudely interrupted him and said we’d discuss the concern offline. Co-worker muttered that I was bossy and wouldn’t listen to feedback. My boss wrote me up for my unprofessional conduct and it has been discussed in *every* performance review I’ve had since.

    1. The Real Ash*

      I wouldn’t work in an office where my boss allowed me to be thrown under the bus by a crummy coworker, who then insulted me, and then I got in trouble and had it mentioned in every performance review. Why are you still there?

      1. Annie O*

        The project team was cross-departmental. The co-worker is in another division and reports to another boss, so I’m not sure if/how the co-worker was reprimanded. My boss never defended the co-worker’s actions. Instead, it was stressed that I need to be responsible for my actions no matter what. And I was rude in the way I reacted in that meeting. I could have handled that far more professionally than I did, and I totally admit that.

        Still, it bugs me that this will probably never go away, at least not while I’m reporting to my current boss. It’s the one negative critique I’ve gotten, and maybe that’s why my boss keeps bringing it up.

        1. The Real Ash*

          It’s the one negative critique I’ve gotten, and maybe that’s why my boss keeps bringing it up.

          That’s still not a good reason to do it though. If you’ve taken steps to fix your error and everything is fine now, repeatedly reminding you of one single error for at least a year when you have a career full of good behavior and many successes (I’m assuming here ;) is just weird and slightly abusive to me. “Hey, good job on that last project Annie! Hey, remember when you did that one bad thing over a year ago? Yeah, just reminding you.”

          1. Kelly L.*

            I had a job like that. Every review, they’d rehash something minor I did in my first few months there. Even three years later. I think they may have just been getting out the same performance review each time instead of writing up a new one.

            1. Annie O*

              Yeah, I suspect the boss keeps using the same review doc and just adding new information as needed.

              I should also add that my boss doesn’t have technical experience or understanding of my area. (Not unusual in my specialization area, except maybe in the largest companies.) Since the rude incident isn’t technical in nature, this seems to be the one opportunity for my boss to advise me on something I did wrong. And that’s why I don’t think it’s ever going to go away.

  52. Betsy Bobbins*

    I work in an office of about 20 employees. We routinely give paperwork to clients, and on one of the forms as a joke I modified it to include something very unprofessional. I included a form of the f-word so the first line read “you are scheduled for this fuken procedure.”

    Ok, so it wasn’t me, but I thought it would be awesome if the culprit did confess here. :)

      1. De Minimis*

        I had a scare last week where I thought a co-worker might be posting here.

      2. Lizzy*

        I have to admit, I sometimes get amused at the prospect of someone writing to Alison about his or her office conflict situation, while the co-worker in question is perusing her blog (and is perhaps an avid reader). I have only been aware of this blog for a few months now, so I wonder if something like this has ever happened and if the spoke up about it.

  53. AndersonDarling*

    I was on the opposite side of the intro… I had a boss who was a super bully and was insinuating that he hated me and I should leave. But I just didn’t get it. I didn’t think I could be fired from a Fortune 500 just because my boss didn’t like me. (I had great performance reviews and was given awards from the organization, so I really was a stellar employee.)
    I eventually left after being put on a PIP with no way to complete the requirements. It was a messed up situation and they were breaking the law in how the handled the situation, so I got an attorney and received a settlement. It sounds like a happy ending, but it would have been better if I just knew when to move on.

    But on a funnier note… I once had to send a business letter to the Tiki Bar Tanning Salon, but I put “Titti Bar.” I also sent one to the “County Pubic Library.”

    1. Anne*

      Oh yeah! I used to work at a place, and we sent out 1000s of paper surveys to people with our program labeled as: “The Institute for Pubic Research.”

      I’m glad I wasn’t responsible for proofreading that one…

      1. A Non*

        It’s possible to remove words from the MS Office spellchecker so it no longer recognizes them. Take out the word pubic and it’ll always get flagged for you!

  54. Jake*

    I had been working my first job out of college for two years when mine occurred.

    I had written up repair procedure for the client for some work that was not done properly. After submitting it to the client and reading the comments, it was clear that they didn’t actually read it, so I reworded some things and added a lot of “as stated in paragraph 2.x.y…” lines to it. After the resubmission, a different engineer with the client reviewed it (one I worked closely with and respected greatly) and we argued back and forth on an item or two until we reached a valid compromise. I resubmitted the third revision that everybody was very happy with. This proposal cut the cost in half compared to the original procedure the client wanted to implement.

    We spent weeks considering cost effective alternatives. Literally weeks. The contract we had was cost reimbursable + a fixed fee, so the only benefit to us as the contractor for finding the most cost effective alternative was a cost savings for the client.

    Well, I was out in the field inspecting the repairs to make sure they were going well. I saw two people from the client out there (that I’d never seen) talking to my general foreman. I walked up and asked how it was going and the general foreman gave me a “I’m going to snap if you don’t do something” look, so I asked them what they were looking at. They started making comments about how my foreman was intentionally putting in faulty work, so we’d have to come back a repair it.

    At that point I was frustrated, but I professionally explained the situation, and how we had come up with the best possible fix for the solution, and that the faulty work was a result of shoddy craftsmanship several years in the past. They laughed and walked away.

    Well, our offices were about a mile from the site, and they didn’t have a ride, so I told them to hop in my truck and I’d give them a ride back. On the way they said (and this is a direct quote because I’ll never forget it or what I did afterwards), “well, you guys are on a cost reimbursable contract, so you don’t give two s—s about this repair procedure, you’re just sucking up the money. If we told you to build a rocket ship and send the rebar to Mars, you’d do it for more money. You don’t give a f— about quality or money.”

    Keep in mind that I had just spent weeks saving them tens of thousands of dollars at no additional revenue for my company. I slammed on the breaks and said, “get the f— out of my truck and you f— yourselves” about 3/4 of a mile from their office.

    I went straight to my boss and told the story to which he laughed hysterically and said something along the lines of, well, I knew you always spoke you mind, but I didn’t know you would do that to him.

    Well, it turns out that one of those two gentlemen was the head of the engineering division for the client (think the equivalent of a senior VP that is second in line to be COO of a fortune 500 company). Also keep in mind that I was just a lead field engineer, about 125 levels beneath him.

    I then was called into the Executive Project Managers office and told, “good job.”

    Our workplace was so toxic and messed up that I was not disciplined, I was not talked to about future behavior, in fact I was told that I did the right thing! I’m very happy to say I don’t work there any more.

    1. Aisling*

      I know there are better ways to tell someone that, but if it works, it works. Sounds like they needed to hear something like that!

  55. Another Liz*

    I feel so much better about my own work screwups knowing I’m not alone. Thanks guys. :)

    In my first real job after grad school, I managed two college interns…terribly. I had no idea what to delegate to them, gave them vague projects in the hopes that the interns would make something useful out of them, and probably gave them no practical skills or mentoring at all. Worst, when my new boss started cleaning house, I reassured the interns that they had a job there as long as they wanted. Oho, so not true. When the boss found out I promised them that, he was livid. And he was right to be. That was a good way to learn I’m not cut out for management.

  56. ClaireS*

    During the summers while in university I worked an agricultural job that required lots of work with a quad bike. I had my own truck to tote the bike around. Within my first 2 weeks on the job I lost the keys to the bike. The company didn’t have a spare set (what were they thinking!) and needed to replace the entire ignition. The following week, I crashed into a tree branch and took the GPS unit off the bike. They has to order a replacement cable that took a week to arrive. A week in-season when you work on agriculture, is a lifetime. I thought I was going to be fired. Fortunately I wasn’t, but my boss still thinks I lied and that I actually full on rolled the quad bike- I swear I didn’t. It was just a branch.

  57. ashamed*

    Oh god. I still cringe.

    I was let go from a temp assignment. I was super excited to get this assignment, and considered myself VERY lucky in landing it. I was really enjoying the actual work but I had performance issues that were brought up but I never really got to explain why. (I was really nervous and desperate to do well and sadly, my nerves got the better of me and I made small errors). I got unfriendly vibes from the admin, but I got along with the other people in the office. Well, I got a call one night and was told by my staffing agency that my assignment was terminated. Despite the issues I had posted above, I still hadn’t seen it coming. I thought there would be some sort of discussion/final warning. (As I learned…that’s not hte case when you’re working through an agency).
    I’m ashamed to admit but I texted my boss, and she unloaded on me all my transgressions basically saying it wasn’t my performance but bc of my personality that they got rid of me. I was stunned since I had always gotten along with her….and again, super ashamed to admit, it ended with me begging for one more chance. Obviously there wasnt and I’m still embarrassed to even think that I lost my dignity and self respect for that.

    TL;DR — I was let go frm a temp assignment bc of my personality rather than my performance. I begged my boss to give me one last chance.

    1. Nina*

      I had a very similar situation like this. Don’t be embarrassed.

      After working two soul-sucking jobs, I finally tried my luck with a staffing agency after being laid off. The first position they put me blew me away. It was perfect: great location, lots of people my age, a solid paycheck, and I actually enjoyed the work. The position was temp-to-hire, but the supervisor told me they didn’t hire temps without the intention to keep them, and while I tried to keep my distance, everyone encouraged me to settle in like I was permanent. I had my own phone line, email address, etc. I went around telling my friends and family that I finally found a job that made me happy, and my mood improved tenfold. I even said that if they decided not to keep me, the temp position was for three months so I could make some decent money during that time.

      Then one morning (one month after I started), I got a call from the agency saying that my services were no longer needed. I was stunned. And the only reason they could give me was “they didn’t think I was a good fit.” The company apparently had only nice things to say about me, so the generic response only confused me further. The work hadn’t been an issue, either. I wasn’t even allowed to go back and get my things; the agency would mail them to me. During that week, I pressed them for a real reason about why I had been let go, they said the company would not get back to them.

      I spent the next few weeks angry at the company for ditching me, but angrier at myself for getting attached to something that was even more temporary than I had initially thought. I went back and forth about what I must have done wrong. A friend finally told me to stop obsessing about it because I would never know the answer and to just move on.

      After that, I was wary about any job the agency tried to place me in, and it showed in the interviews. I felt like a jilted girlfriend.

  58. Lora*

    Last job. Took it only because the money was so good I couldn’t resist. Wasn’t crazy about the job, but needed the money and the boss seemed like a nice enough guy.

    One month into it, they gave me a new boss, reorganized the department, and changed my entire job description. I should have bailed RIGHT THEN. I had an offer from another company, for a more interesting position IN HAND. I could have taken it then and there. Instead, I decided to be nice and stick with the job to see how the new boss was. I should have bailed INSTANTLY.

    He was HORRIBLE. I knew this from the first day I met him. You know how some people just rub you the wrong way? He was like sandpaper on my nerves from Day 1. He was condescending, arrogant, rude, and just all around nasty to everyone he felt was beneath him, which was pretty much anyone not a director. I KNEW he was trouble. Within 3 months, several people had quit, citing him as the reason. I should have done so myself. I will not stop kicking myself for this, ever, it was such a total waste and hurt my career because he and I could have left on civil terms if I’d left early, and by the time I finally left we were sworn enemies.

    The other job offer didn’t have quite as much money, but it would have had enough to get by. It would have been working with people I’ve previously worked with, who are awesome. It would have been in a good department of a good company. WHYYYY didn’t I trust my instincts?

    The guy made a huge mess of the department, complete with lots of HR investigations into complaints made by nearly every woman in the group. HR told me their hands were tied, that the director felt it was just a personality conflict and we would all have to put on our big girl panties and deal. Eventually there were so many complaints (the vast majority from other ladies, not me!) that we had a big meeting in which I was offered a very generous severance package to shut up and go away and he was offered the opportunity to quit being an asshat.

    He’s still there, although several more women have left, and the regulatory agency in charge is really unhappy with him. I hear he’s gotten worse, if anything. They’re constantly hiring in both that department and all the departments he touches, because nobody wants to work with him.

  59. lachevious*

    Oh so many mistakes.

    Worst one had to be the most recent – about a couple of years ago I sent my manager my resignation. At 10:30PM. By a text message. I was going through a lot of awful stuff at that time, I did not have a good relationship with my manager (at that time) and was just overwhelmed with stress and feeling desperate to just end it all. Didn’t end up quitting that time though. Quitting that job “for real this time” took another year and a half.

    At a few other jobs I found it hard to keep my business and personal life separate. Before my professional jobs I worked mainly blue collar jobs, so was coming from a very casual mindset and a skewed perception of what working in an office would be like. This was all pre-AAM.Caused a lot of drama that could have been easily avoided if I knew then what I know now.

    There are a million other mistakes, but these still haunt me the most. I am still learning – and guess that’s all anyone can do.

    1. Chinook*

      I once got so angry at a co-worker who complained about something she read in my email that I quit on the spot. I was the receptionist and, when someone covered for me, I had to leave my login open so they could see room bookings, courier information, etc. I had complained about how insecure this was and how I had a lack of privacy for HR issues (i.e. they could rea dmy emails) but was told this was no big deal and just part of the job as receptionist. Then the woman complained about something she read in her email (ironically, to my office manager about my lack of privacy because people were going through my stuff) and I was called into a meeting with the manager and her boss. I lost it – got angry and tearfully quit on the spot, letting it bleed out that it meant not being able to make rent but it would be worth it because of how toxic the place was. I picked up my stuff and was heading for the elevator when our HR lady and Office Manager cornered me, calmed me down and talked me into not quitting and promised that the woman at issue would never work at my desk again. I refused to stay until the promised to get my my own personal login (which meant a new computer with a new OS so we could switch users). It took them 2 days to get it installed and I eventually got promoted to an AA position, but I am still embarrassed with how horribly I handled it.

      1. lachevious*

        Oh my gosh that’s awful! I am sorry that happened to you, but I am glad that the powers that be were smart enough to convince you to stay.

        That’s kind of what happened (the aftermath) with me – except it was the attorney I supported that convinced me to stay, and to rescind my resignation, assuring me that my manager had already been told to let me do so and that all I had to do was let her know. But – when I called her, she was extremely rude, even rubbing the two-week maternity leave I had taken earlier in the year in my face to show me how much she had ALLOWED me to get away with. Basically she made me beg.

        Actually – almost resigning wasn’t my worst mistake – rescinding was. My relationship with my manager became tolerable eventually, but it left me so OVER IT that I just didn’t care about anyone there anymore – even the attorney that I really did enjoy working with, and still kind of miss.

  60. Not saying here*

    Mine is ongoing. I’ve made poor, emotionally driven decisions and haven’t done a good job of dealing with and managing the consequences.

    Three years ago, I received some very harsh feedback through an unauthorized channel. Short version: I’d applied for an internal job for which I was well-qualified on paper and hadn’t gotten an interview. I’d wondered aloud about it to a colleague I trusted at the time. She revealed that the hiring manager, a friend of hers, disliked both me and my work. She forwarded me a scathing email chain from the hiring manager detailing my shortcomings. Some of the criticism was valid and I’ve worked on it since then, but I was devastated at the time and didn’t react well.

    Anyway, to extricate myself from having to work with the person who had offered the feedback, I pursued and was hired for a role I really wasn’t qualified to do. I realize, looking back, that I enjoyed and was generally good at the job I was in, despite the feedback from this one person. I don’t think I should have stayed in that role, but I should have been way more strategic about which career path I did pursue. Instead, I took the first thing that came along, and I know now it was the wrong thing.

    I am now in a job I know I’m not that good at (no feedback needed) and I don’t know how I’ll ever escape. I’m not incompetent enough to get fired (I sometimes wish I were), but I’ll also never excel. The work is a struggle for me, and I bring sadness and bad energy to my team every day just by being here. Because I’m mediocre in my current role, it’s hard to make a case for being promoted elsewhere. It’s also hard to find the energy and interest in pursuing other roles when I’m so miserable where I’m at.

    1. Eden*

      I hope that you are looking outside of your current company for opportunities also. It really sounds like you need a fresh start, and a different job. Despite what you’ll hear, there are jobs out there! I hope you find the energy to start looking, because just reading this post makes me very sad for your current headstate.

    2. Jean*

      Does your life give you any opportunities (evenings, weekends) to build up a record of interest and experience in another area (by volunteering or blogging) that would help you to transition into another area of work?

  61. Yuu*

    I had recently moved to Japan to teach English, and for the first few weeks met a large number of people with titles in Japanese and it was very hard to keep track of who was who.

    One day I was told that I would be doing a special kind of “volunteer” service and would be starring in my own English language TV show. Since the former English did this, it was assumed I would jump at the chance. Lucky me, and there was really no chance to refuse. Later that night I was brought along to a dinner get together in my honor, and with that fact brewing on my mind, I told the folks about it – and how mortified I was that I had to appear on this thing, as if I was the town mascot.

    Turns out those folks were the staff of that local TV station! Oops.

  62. Holly*

    At my internship, I frequently – uh – had a bit too much cleavage rocking. I mean, it wasn’t intentional, but even in the most business casual clothes out there it’s hard to completely cover DDDs. My biggest problem is that the tank I wore under most tops would ride down.

    Anyway, my boss called me into her office and told me it was a problem, and while it wasn’t the most … uh, sensitive way of telling me, it still didn’t excuse my reaction. Mainly, I was so embarrassed that I pretty much pointed right at her and said what she was wearing was just as revealing, so I didn’t get why I was being singled out. We went back and forth, her saying “no, this is nowhere near as bad as what you’ve been doing lately” and me saying “I can see your cleavage!” ….In hindsight, I still want to hide under the table anytime I even think about that internship…and I still have to use them as a reference. Facepalm self.

    1. Harper*

      Ha! When I had my first “real” job in my “real” field, I was helping a higher up with his computer and he kept looking at the ceiling. Or out the window. Or at the corner of his office. I couldn’t figure it out … until I looked down and noticed that my blouse, which was a tad on the low-cut side anyway, had a extra couple of buttons unbuttoned. And I was, of course, leaning over the desk.

      I was so embarrassed. Kicker? A year later, that guy became the director of the whole place. :/

    2. Mints*

      Haha I imagine you starting out “your shirt is a little revealing too” then ending up “your boobs are everywhere!”

  63. Sadsack*

    Oh dear, I actually was one who stole toilet paper. When I was young and first moved out on my own, I worked for a small mom+pop type store that was only about 3 doors from where a lived in an apartment above a restaurant. If I was especially poor one week, I’d take a roll of tp home with me. For shame, for shame. However down i get about my current job situation, I can be glad that I now can least afford all the toilet paper I need.

    1. Anon for this*

      At one job they had a giant box of free tampons in the ladies room. I didn’t buy tampons for the entire year I worked there. I would stuff handfuls in my purse every time I went in. Whenever I buy tampons now, I always think “Man, remember when I got these for free!!”

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        As they say…there’s just too much month left at the end of the money.

    2. Me too*

      I’ve done this too. It’s sad when it’s Wednesday and there’s just no more money until Friday.

      1. De Minimis*

        I did it once, just because I found out right before work that I was running out of it–I worked at night and didn’t want to have to go by the store at 4 AM to buy any.

    3. Katie*

      I still have a roll of TP from an my husband’s old job as a bartender. I asked him to bring it home because we were almost out of TP and neither of us felt like going to the store. We could have easily afforded a new roll. We were just lazy, and as it turned out didn’t even need the TP. The roll is about 4 years old now. We’ve moved it to new houses twice! Now we keep it out of sentimental reasons. I kind of smile every time I open the closet and see that roll of cheapo bar TP.

  64. Vanilla Bean*

    Tw0 of my “finest” moments, both from my college days:

    1. In college, I was hired to work at my school’s bookstore as a cashier. The first day of work, 30-40 other students showed up as well. We were all told that only a handful of us (like 5 or 6) would actually end up working as cashiers. They then put us to work unloading trucks and boxes for a couple of hours. After that, they said that we would have to do this kind of work for a month or so and the managers would pick the best employees to be cashiers during the school year. It felt very “Hunger Games” style.

    I left at lunch time and never came back.

    2. I was hired as an intern at a my college’s fitness program. On my first day of work, my boss sat me down and said in no uncertain terms that I would need to lose some weight if I wanted to be the program’s intern. Keep in mind – this person had interviewed me a couple of times in-person before hiring me for the position, so she knew full well what I looked like.

    I came home from work and cried. I had been suffering from an eating disorder for several years at this point, so it was especially painful hearing that I needed to lose weight.

    I sent the boss an email that night and said that I would not be able to continue the internship and apologized for any inconvenience my sudden departure may caused them. The boss tried to get in touch with me several times via email, saying they couldn’t understand why the sudden change of heart, and I just ignored them. Looking back, I wish I had just been honest with the boss about my feelings.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      Honestly, that second one? I wouldn’t fault you for it. If they wanted someone very fit, they should have hired for it OR asked you before your first day of work if you would be willing to lose some weight. I don’t think I would have even waited to email, I’d have probably taken my things and stormed out.

      1. Vanilla Bean*

        Thanks. :) At the time, it was really disheartening. I did end up getting healthier that summer and losing some weight though. Oddly enough, I ran into my former boss at the gym several months after it happened and they were super nice and commented how great I looked.

    2. Bookstore*

      I did the exact same thing as your #1. I wonder if we went to the same college. I also assume that’s why they hired 30-40 students, knowing half or more would drop out. I’m not proud of it either.

        1. Bookstore*

          Haha it does, but not because its my alma mater! Funny it happened at different colleges

    3. Lizzy Mac*

      I don’t blame you for either of these. If I was hired for one job and on day one was told, actually we’re going to have you do other job while you compete for job one, I’d be gone so fast. That’s not the way to treat employees and it signals that you probably won’t be valued moving forward.

      As for the second, I don’t have words for how clueless and cruel that is.

    4. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      While I think it would’ve been good if you had told them exactly why you were quitting, I don’t blame you at all for that one. What they did is not only unkind but demonstrates that their definition of “fitness” was entirely looks-based, which makes them a place I wouldn’t want to work whether or not I met their appearance criteria.

      I also doubt your weight had *anything* to do with your ability to do the job well, unless it involved, say, spelunking through very very narrow caves.

    5. Diane*

      Your boss #2 was incredibly out of line. There’s no reason your weight or appearance should have come up at all.

  65. F.Lo*

    1. In my newness at (partial) management, I gave my assistant way too much power and worked myself into a corner because of it. I was so excited about treating her like a “co-teacher” that when she started getting out of hand (doing things like undermining my instructions, taking credit for things I did, and just plain not working very hard anymore) it was almost impossible to get control back over my classroom because I’d given her too much influence. I eventually had to have her transferred out of my room just to get things running smoothly again. With my new assistant, things are much more structured and I feel more comfortable every day.

    2. I once yelled at an entire classroom of coworkers and told them to leave the room. Granted, they were acting inappropriate (a client had hit another client who was having a behavioral challenge, and the staff were making comments in front of them almost egging them on), but I probably could have handled it better. Though, actually, it worked out well because I am notoriously level-headed, so nothing like that has ever happened again because they knew they were in serious trouble if it got me to yell.

  66. Pat*

    Much like everyone else, this was the first job out of school. I was in a meeting with my boss discussing career goals when I mentioned a desire to go to grad school soon. He asked where I was applying and I responded with the names of a few prestigious private universities. He asked why I didn’t apply several for profit colleges and without thinking I said “Because I want to go to a real school” – pretty hard to clean that one up. Turns out not only did he graduate from one of these for-profit school, he made it a point to make my work life very hard from then on.

    1. Julie*

      I did something like this once. I was talking with a manager about a PowerPoint presentation that was being used for training, and I said something about how bad it was before I cleaned it up. When he asked (with a certain tone of voice) what was wrong with it, I realized that he had written it. Oh no! I backpedaled as much as I could and tried to just mention a couple of small things that I changed. I always feel terrible when I inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings. And every time I think, “well, I just shouldn’t make critical comments about things,” but then I do it again about something else, and I feel terrible again. I really need to learn this lesson once and for all.

      1. bmainwaring*

        I don’t think you need to avoid saying anything critical, with practice you can develop better skills at it. Like, rather than “This presentation was awful before I fixed it,” something like “I found some areas I felt could use improvement.”

  67. Tasha*

    Mine is pretty recent. I was utterly terrified coming in to graduate school, and when I met with my incredibly prestigious, busy, top-of-the-field adviser, I was too shy to talk about the topic I actually wanted to work on. It probably didn’t help that I had issues with depression that made me generally unenthusiastic and not really creative. Also, I had next to none of the technical background required and was too scared to ask for help, because I thought I’d be fired. People were nice, but didn’t want to work with me closely over the 3-4 years that being on the same team would entail.

    I’ve tried to work it out, but have been bounced between teams ever since, and now I’m the only student in my year without an ongoing project. I did get my professional act together due to some intensive help in my private life. Three months of acting constantly happy, being meticulously prepared, being first in/last out, and accepting any kind of work whatsoever haven’t helped, so…yup. First impressions count. (It’s definitely going to take longer than that, and I know I might have ruined my chances in a program full of go-getters, but I’ll keep trying.)

    tl;dr–If you need something, ask. If you have serious mental health issues that are impacting your work, get help.

    1. Not saying here*

      How did you know you were depressed?

      One of the phrases you use here–“generally unenthusiastic and not really creative”–really resonates with where I currently am professionally, and I’ve felt for a long time that if I were more mature, had a better work ethic, read the right blog or how-to book, etc., I could mind-over-matter my way out of this place I’m in. Depression hadn’t occurred to me as a possibility.

      1. Rayner*

        Depression doesn’t always manifest as crying and feeling really in the black.

        Apathy, long term, can also be a symptom of depression. One day of it, maybe, not so much but long term, it certainly be. I would suggest going to see your doctor just to check on it if you feel that way.

        If, however, it’s just a case of you being generally unhappy with your workplace because it’s not good or it’s not condusivie to a positive mindset (lots of pressure, screaming, etc), then maybe you want to start there.

        1. Nina*

          Depression doesn’t always manifest as crying and feeling really in the black.
          Apathy, long term, can also be a symptom of depression.


      2. Marina*

        The turning point for me was when I realized I was unenthusiastic about EVERYTHING in my life, not just work. Food, my favorite TV shows, hobbies, friendships, everything felt like it was more stress than it was worth. If you’re just having a tough time staying enthusiastic about work projects, there’s hopefully something in your work environment that could be changed to address that. If you’re unenthusiastic at work, and also your rock climbing equipment is gathering dust in the closet, your best friend has started leaving messages wondering why you never return her calls, you’d rather eat cereal than a top quality steak because it’s easier to make, and you find yourself thinking that your cat is just so goddamn NEEDY all the time… that might be a good time to find some help. :)

        1. No Name*

          This sums it up. It’s one thing to be bored with your work or frustrated that there are no better opportunities with your company. But depression can feel like stasis. For me, I often wanted to do creative things or accomplish tasks, but the thought of doing them felt like lifting lead weights. And I’m not talking about launching the next tech company, I’m talking about taking out a pen and pencil to draw, or make a simple telephone call.

          FWIW, if you’re seeing a doctor, you might want to ask about nutrition level testing. I had incredibly low Vitamin D levels, and I can’t be sure (lots of things happened around the same time), but I think those supplements helped a lot.

    2. Marina*

      Ugh. Really worried I’m doing this now. I was recently diagnosed with depression, and received a major promotion just a few months ago to create a very visible new program. Everything is running behind, I have no motivation or focus, and I haven’t even told my boss what’s going on because I’m worried she’ll take me off the project. I’m getting help, finally, but help takes some time to kick in. I guess I’m just crossing my fingers I don’t make any major errors (or, to be completely honest, crossing my fingers I don’t get caught) until I start getting better. I know it’s not a good situation, but at least from in the middle of it, it’s not clear what I should do.

      1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

        Talk to your boss. Let her know what you are going through. If you “get caught” it will be so much worse! Most (good) bosses will understand and help you out as much as they can!

      2. Not saying here*

        I have spent the past two months smack-dab where you are. I was given this project that initially sounded like an awesome opportunity, but then my collaborator resigned, funding disappeared, the format changed twice, and two would-be replacements to my collaborator were considered and rejected by my manager’s manager. The only piece of the project that hasn’t changed is my assignment to create a source document for the visual experience. I’d expected to do this work as part of a collaborative creative team; instead, it’s been a lonely, dreary, confusing experience with eve-shifting parameters. I’ve procrastinated and avoided, I’ve stared at my blank screen, I’ve wept in the ladies’ room, I’ve read motivational blogs, I’ve fantasized about being struck by lightning or deported. My manager stopped talking to me when I missed the first deadline. I’ve felt the force of her fury from across the room while I’ve twisted slowly in the wind. It’s been possibly the most unpleasant experience of my professional life.

        Earlier this week I went for a long walk with a trusted colleague and spilled my guts to her. She gave me a pep talk, asked how she could help, and provided some suggestions for getting restarted. She invited me to check in with her, since my manager isn’t communicating with me. (I think the not having any obvious accountability beyond the deadline was really hard.) She advised me to find a different space to work in temporarily, where I could focus and not feel the toxic force of my manager’s anger.

        I took her advice and, after working for two days straight and most of the night and literally not looking at ANYTHING else, finished my part of the project and delivered it to my manager.

        She’s still not said anything to me. I know the work I did was good, though it’s past deadline. I don’t know what the repercussions are going to be, but just knowing I finally did what I was asked to do is such an immense relief that the potential consequences no longer seem as scary. It’s wonderful just not to feel paralyzed and pressured anymore.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          It’s wonderful just not to feel paralyzed and pressured anymore.

          Waiting for the end of the school semester because THIS IS EXACTLY HOW I FEEL. In retrospect, I should not have taken these particular two classes together. :P

          Yay for being done with your project!

          1. Persephone Mulberry*

            Amen, Elizabeth. After failing one class last semester and barely pulling through the current semester by the skin of my teeth (I hope – still 3 weeks to go), I really need to accept that I can no longer handle the workload of three classes at a time, even if it does mean pushing out graduation by a semester.

          2. jesicka309*

            OMG me too! Been studying for 2 and a bit years now whilst working, and have just under a year to go. I feel like my life is on hold! I can’t take extra responsibility at work because it would involve working from home. I can’t plan holidays because what if I have something due then? And I even put off doing assignments to the last minute because I just can’t find the motivation any more. Studying online is awesome and I’m getting my degree done quickly, but the semester after semester with no holiday breaks has worn me down to the point of stasis. My SO asked when if I’m going to help decorate the house we just bought, and I told him next year when I can actually think and plan and be creative again.

    3. Major depression*

      I was diagnosed with major depression in February. As I recover from it, I realize that I didn’t notice what I was missing:
      Reading has been a hobby all my life. I thought I had outgrown it when I couldn’t concentrate on very simply written novels. I have now recovered to the point that I can no longer stand the simple novels which were too difficult for me several months ago.
      I lost the ability to critically judge what people said and took all remarks completely seriously. I was clueless when my psychiatrist wanted to know my opinion of a potential therapist. I didn’t even understand why my opinion would matter! Now, I understand why my psychiatrist starts off being very, very polite to his patients and gets blunter as they recover.

  68. Julie*

    I was the assistant to an executive who usually went to stay with his family on the weekends at their summer house. One time I forgot to make a reservation for him on the jitney (bus that takes executives back and forth between Manhattan and the Hamptons), and they were all full. I couldn’t get a seat for him on any jitney for that Friday. I felt terrible because it was his only time to see his family for that week, but he was strangely nice about it (not the usual for him). I guess he drove there, or maybe he was secretly happy to stay in the city that weekend…?

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      I am now picturing a greyhound bus full of men in three piece suits, pecking away on Blackberries. For some reason this strikes me as intensely funny.

      1. AMT*

        The jitney is kind of like that, though it’s a very nice bus with free snacks. Pretty much the best you can get while still, uh, riding a bus. My uncle works for them and drove Alec Baldwin out to the Hamptons once. (And now you’re picturing Jack Donaghy in that three-piece-suit-wearing Greyhound crowd…)

  69. Laura*

    I started my very first job as a junior law clerk fresh out of college when I was all of 19. One of the partners I had been assigned to work for was fond of insulting, berating, yelling, and generally freaking out when something went wrong. Not surprisingly, he had gone through 5 clerks in 3 years.

    We were working on a tight deadline with a complicated labour relations matter, and I had made a few minor mistakes. Well, he swooped by my desk all morning telling me what a terrible job I’d done, that I would probably louse up his client, etc. and when I returned from my lunch, he left me a nasty string of e-mails telling him how I’d “embarassed” him with my ineptitude. Then, when he came out to my desk to reiterate the point, instead of telling him to back off I burst violently into tears in front of him and the whole office. I was utterly mortified!

    His behaviour didn’t change and I suffered through it daily for nearly two years. It ended up being a good thing for me in the end, however, because I finally stood up to him and told him not to dare speak to me like I was sub-human, and informed him that if I was so detrimental to his practice, he’d better find another toady (this may have been a sin also).

    In the end, my employer stepped in and found him a new clerk whilst keeping me on with another lawyer, who was a sweetheart. Mr. Petty Tyrant was always nice to me afterward, even extolling my competency to others. As trying as it was, working for him toughened me up and strengthened my work ethic, and I no longer tolerate any verbal abuse from any of my superiors. All my working relationships are respectful today, and ironically, it all comes from a workplace sin committed while working for a jerk!

    1. Laura*

      One other sin I committed at this same job that is actually hilarious in retrospect:

      I scheduled an arbitration hearing for a senior partner I worked for and put the wrong location in his calendar. The actual location was about 3 km down the street from the one I sent him and his clients to.

      The reason I found out was because opposing counsel called her assistant, who called me, and said “Boss just noticed your boss and his clients walking up the same street, but ther wrong way…”

      Luckily, he didn’t kill me. He sort of found it funny, too.

  70. anonyMOOSE*

    On my first day of my first internship ever working in the CEO’s office, I knocked over a candle that was sitting in a candle warmer spilling hot wax everywhere. Everyone was nice about it and helped me clean, but, boy, was I embarrassed.

    In that same internship, I spilled the CEO’s lunch while bringing it into him during a meeting with the executive team. Truly, I should be kept in a giant bubble I’m so clumsy.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Ha, boy oh boy can I relate to this!. I have accidentally mooned coworkers, sat on a cupcake at work, grabbed my boss’ crotch trying to stop myself from falling, and fell down the stairs in front of about 20 people. I’m no longer allowed to help set up food for events because I drop everything. It’s mortifying to be so clumsy.

      The candle thing on your first day, ouch. But it’s pretty funny.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        I… I… can’t! MOONED coworkers?! HOW does that happen? (See how capsy it makes me?)

        1. Lily in NYC*

          It was worse than it sounds! I was sort of squatting/crouching in a short skirt fidding with a/v equipment that was near the floor. I tipped over in slow motion and fell onto my side and didn’t break my fall because I was holding expensive equipment. The skirt hiked up to my waist and I had a thong on. Hello Butt! This was at a board meeting for a very well-respected non-profit. Maya Angelou was in the room and saw my ass! Everyone else tried to laugh it off but she was actually angry at me and glared at me for the rest of the day. She was horrible to deal with – everyone despised her. I know people love her but she’s a mean one.

          1. Human Resources Manager*

            This is one of the funniest klutz stories I think I’ve ever heard. I’m one too but this is awesome!

    2. OriginalYup*

      You will have much company in your bubble.

      I once needed to set up lunch for 30 Very Important Executives in a meeting area I’d never been in before. While carrying a fools load of sandwich trays with water bottles tucked under both my arms, I used my backside to bump open the door to what I *thought* was the lunch area. It turned out to the board room, where the CEO was in mid-speech. All 30 execs turned around to see me standing there with the enormous deli tray and dangling drinks. One of them had to get up from his chair and open the door for me to get back out.

  71. Anonym-ish*

    I almost stabbed my boss. I got lost trying to find a meeting, making me late. There I am, sprinting along in too-tall heels with my legal pad and pen around a blind corner and started to trip and fall forward. Luckily, I managed to stop myself from falling. If I hadn’t, my uncapped pen would have gone straight into his shoulder and I would have been thrown to the ground by two members of the Secret Service. Why the bodyguards? He was just about to become governor of New York. Even thinking about it today, my stomach does a flip and I have the desire to melt into the floor.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      LOL, but would he have been able to tell it was you? (sorry, lame Paterson joke – it probably wasn’t even him!).

  72. Ed*

    My first “real” job was at an extremely dysfunctional organization. There were no defined boundaries between management of staff. As I worked my way up through my 10-person department, literally every position had turned over due to a firing (sometimes disguised as a layoff/restructure) at least once. After 3 years I finally got the job I wanted the most which happened to also be the one with the most turnover. The boss was very incompetent, but instead of falling in line and gently making suggestions, I eventually started working against him with other staff members. I don’t think I was even doing it consciously at first and just thought it was the way to get things done. In hindsight, I was absolutely a major part of the dysfunction.

    I was pretty good at my job duties but things eventually came to a head as nobody likes to be undermined. We went head-to-head in HR and I lost (as I should have). I was asked to resign, partly because I was so well thought of in general but also because we had a bad rep for so many terminations at that position. I worked out a decent arrangement with how future inquiries would be handled so I got a (much better) job in a reasonable amount of time. To be honest, my director was so happy I was leaving that he gave me whatever I wanted. On a side note, he was fired a couple of months later.

    I learned a priceless lesson and have never had an issue since. I could have handled the entire situation differently, been successful and possibly made the entire department a little more functional as a result. I would now probably just leave if I found myself in a highly dysfunctional workplace. Either way, I would certainly not become part of the problem.

  73. Jill-be-Nimble*

    This is so embarrassing…I cringe to this day. First job out of college, I had (and still have!) A great relationship with my manager…very buddy-buddy. So, when I signed up for a scam dating service that drained my bank account, the only way I could get out of the contract was to literally die or move somewhere they didn’t have any offices (and they have them all over the US!) So I asked my boss if he would sign a document staying that he was moving me to China for work. (He said no. This is obviously illegal.) To this day, we still go out for coffee when I’m in town. He always asks for more crazy stories and is disappointed that I’m now a functional, professional human!

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I really, really thought you were going to say that you showed up for a blind date only to find out it was your boss.

  74. Diet Coke Addict*

    I Was A Bad Employee.

    I took a retail job to bring in some supplementary income while I couldn’t find anything in my field. It was indeed a poorly-managed retail chain with a ridiculous upper management structure, but my real sin was that I felt it was beneath me. I had more education than everyone else, including the managers, and I thought that qualified me to be snarky, eye-rolling, and know-it-all. I bitched endlessly and somehow retained my job AND transferred to a different store when my husband was posted out. At the new store, I continued to be snarky and thought it was “beneath me.” I quit (fully knowing better) by calling in two hours before my shift and saying I quit.

    There was a lot of dysfunction there–an outstandingly racist manager, extremely poor practices (like said manager hiring her underage niece and falsifying papers), allowing an employee’s boyfriend to set up a chair at the back of the tiny boutique-style store to eat fries and spread out magazines, and other weirdness. But I had no excuse not to be professional and to treat that job like any other job, and do the best I could. I began reading AAM and found a (slightly) better office job, but still. STILL.

  75. AnonforThis*

    Arrogance is my cardinal sin. This is weird because I also have a pretty bad case of imposter syndrome, but what seems to have happened a couple of times (hopefully I’ve learned my lesson now), is I get over the imposter syndrome and start to get comfortable, and that’s when the arrogance raises its head. Examples:

    – Early in my career (so maybe more excusable and I haven’t made this particular mistake ever again) I had moved from staffing a person who had power (so by extension I had power) to being part of a team that needed to get things done/get information by building collegial working relationships. When I asked for some information of one of the team’s outside relationships, and they didn’t hop to it and give me the information, I left a pretty snotty voice mail. The recording of which the person I’d left it for forwarded to the team lead. I got a very stern talking to and have never committed this error again. But…

    -A couple of times I’ve gotten too comfortable and been too strident about what I will and will not “put up with.” (I’m cringing.) It sometimes has to do with workplace conditions – so one time I declared I couldn’t work where my employer wanted to move me within the building because it was in the basement, with no windows, and the lack of light would make me very depressed (it would, but not really their problem and not the hill to die on). Another time (and different employer) they hired a new person a level above me and she wanted part of my portfolio. It was my favorite part and I didn’t want to give it up. In my arrogance, I thought I could stake my claim and fight for it and my boss would back me up because I was “so valuable”. Nope.

  76. SQL Rebel*

    I’ve made some rally big mistakes with some SQL updates. I was meant to move about 30 jobs to a new department, but the lack of a where clause meant I moved nearer 600,000 jobs the knock on impact to the accounting system took me 3 weeks to fix.

    A slight flaw in the column heads in a report I distributed last week resulted in one departments fee incne being understated by 67,000,000 .

    I got really drunk at the Christmas party a few years back and tried to hit on my boss.

    1. cuppa*

      I’m another drinking at work party offender! I managed to get off much better than I could have, but I still cringe to think about it.

    2. MaryMary*

      I used to work for a company where the tech folks would use My Biggest Mistake as a ice breaker. Lots of stories about test jobs run in prod, queries that ran for days and killed servers, and wiped out databases. My favorite was a guy who forgot to wipe out customer’s actual email addresses in test, and accidentally mailed a former Secretary of the Treasury that entire account balance had been withdrawn. Whoops!

    3. Laura*

      We had a client get so drunk at a Christmas party she made an outrageous play for one of our lawyers in front of everyone. He was gorgeous and constantly had women after him, so it was somewhat understandable, but she was mortified around him forever after.

      I got drunk on White Russians at that same party. Thankfully I was astute enough to leave before I made more of a twerp of myself, although I did stumble into the coatrack and laughed so hard I had to be helped out of it, then, quite literally, put into a taxi.

      1. Eden*

        I got drunk at a Christmas party, to the point that I have no recollection of having won a raffle for a rolling cooler, which I promptly gave away. I had to be driven home by a co-worker and her husband, who was a police officer. On the way home, I puked a little into my gift bag. There’s still a stain on the silk-wrapped ornament box. Overall, a very cringe-worthy night. Never again.

  77. anon 4 this*

    I got laid off after being continuously employed for 14 years. I accepted a position that was a step or two down for me professionally but had a great salary, because I needed the income.

    I promised myself I’d resume my job search in 6-12 months to hopefully land a role matching my experience-level, but I never did. The work was incredibly easy and I eventually got so bored with it that I started slacking, made a mistake and was let go.

  78. Student Affairs Program Coordinator*

    My first job was in HS, as waitstaff at a country club. My first night on the job was working at a huge wedding and we had a few people call out sick, so it was all hands on deck, even though I was supposed to be “training” and really just shadowing people. There was apparently a scramble to get all the champagne out for a toast – a large, heavy tray of champagne flutes was thrust into my arms and I was told to offer it around the party. (can you see where this is going…) I had no idea how to properly carry a heavy tray. I teetered about three steps into the ballroom and CRASH! Spilled the entire tray, breaking half the glasses in the process. At least everyone seemed to have a good sense of humor about it, but oh, it was mortifying.

  79. Anna G*

    Ooooh, so many. The one I remember with the most shame is from one of my earliest jobs out of college. I’d just been promoted to manager to a branch library. We had a semi-rotating staff made up of 3-4 regulars and then 2-3 temps from the main library who would work shifts at our branch as needed. One day we had a temp who I’ll call Lucinda working with us at the front desk. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I know I spent most of the morning blathering away very loudly, very self-righteously to one of the other regulars about politics and how some local so-and-so was a gigantic d-bag and who did he think he was running for city council when he couldn’t string two sentences together in a newspaper editorial, and etc. And all the while my coworker is “Mmm-hmm”ing in a studied, noncommittal way, and Lucinda is being very, very quiet. It wasn’t until about an hour later that Lucinda finally went on break and my coworker told me that the guy I’d been abusing was Lucinda’s uncle and they were very close.

    Worst of all: I never apologized! I was so embarrassed that I tiptoed around her for weeks, and then felt that bringing it up that much later would’ve been awkward. But I wish I had anyway. For her part, she was so nice to me before AND after that; she was really the best example of professionalism at work.

  80. Ann Furthermore*

    My first semester in college, more years ago than I’d like to admit, I worked in the dorm’s dining hall. I washed dishes, served food, cleaned up after meals, etc. I hated it. Haaated it. With a passion. It was not hard for me to come up with excuses for not showing up for my shifts, and then telling my supervisor I’d been sick, or had to study, or whatever. And I didn’t do a great job when I was there. Very, very bad behavior! After the winter break I called her to see if I could get on the schedule for the next semester. She took that opportunity to tell me that I’d been unreliable and my work had not been that great, so no, I couldn’t get onto the schedule. Then she hung up. Ouch! I’m sure putting me in my place was enormously satisfying for her, and rightfully so. My only defense is that I was 17 and didn’t know any better, but that’s still no excuse. My 16 year-old stepdaughter is far more responsible and together than I was at her age.

    It was a great lesson though. If you take a job, you show up every day without fail and do everything asked of you, and whether or not you like it is irrelevant. If it’s so detestable the way you handle it is to find yourself another job, not blow off your responsibilities.

  81. anomnomnomimous*

    My biggest sin was making jokes about everything, definitely.

    My first job my freshman year of college was as a test administrator in a psychology lab on campus -basically I administered psych experiments on the participants and recorded the results. I always tried to keep the workplace fun – I brought in cookies, made jokes, etc. The department head (who ran the lab and was the one who suggested I apply) thought it was great. His second-in-command (my direct manager) was horrified, and thought that such a dignified profession had no room for humor.

    Most of the time, he just rolled his eyes and ignored me, but there were a few times that I really crossed the line. The first was following a particularly strange participant – like so many others, he had shown up wearing cargo pants with tons of pockets. Unlike the others, he had apparently seen fit to stuff them all with cheeseburgers on his way in (we didn’t know what was in his pockets – we never asked). We watched him take the test (all subjects were on camera), and throughout the whole thing, he just kept pulling cheeseburgers out of his pants! I think by the end he had produced and eaten nine of them. In my mind, he became an instant legend. The next day, I showed up for work with a brightly-colored, hand-decorated “Hall of Fame” list, with “Cheeseburger-Pants Man” right at the top, and taped it in our office. My direct manager was, understandably, furious that I was mocking our participants.

    The second instance wasn’t quite so bad. As part of the psych majors’ senior thesis, they were required to train goats at the zoo to perform a task. When I found out that my coworkers’ task was to train them to bow, I spent the next week begging them to teach me how they did it. When they asked why I wanted to know, I replied “So I can go visit the zoo and say, ‘Goats! Bow before me!’ and have them actually do it, and make all the children think I’m the goat goddess.” Yeah, that didn’t go over well.

    Needless to say, when my direct manager was promoted that summer, I was no longer welcome. My only excuse for my behavior is age – I was still a freshman, though that doesn’t really make it better!

    1. Lora*

      I have dairy goats, and teaching them goofy commands is still entertaining. They’re about as smart as dogs, so train them accordingly, using raisins and pieces of carrot or apple as treats.

      Bowing is kind of what they do when they’re getting ready to lie down–they put their front knees down first, then the rear end afterwards. You just sit down on the ground, wait for them to come over to you, then when they start to lie down, say “BOW” and give them a treat.

      More likely they will sneeze at you the first few times, though. Sneezing is the all-purpose expression for goats, meaning, variously, “I disapprove of this hay,” “Your fence is a joke,” “Watch out, there’s a wolf” or “I got water up my nose” according to situation.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      I actually think you sound like a ton of fun and don’t understand why your coworkers were so humorless about the goats.

      1. anomnomnomimous*

        Thank you! :D I didn’t get it at the time either, but now I think I do – it was their senior thesis, a culmination of four years of very hard work, and there I was making light of it. I think my manager also often felt like I was mocking the profession.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I’m getting a cheeseburger for lunch today in honor of Mr. Cheeseburger Pants.

          1. anomnomnomimous*

            So much the better if you can smuggle it into your clothing, then pull it out when those around you least expect it.

        2. Anonsie*

          That’s silly. I bet they just didn’t want anyone else to be able to look like Goat Gods.

          1. AMT*

            “Reason for leaving prior position: Supervisor hoarded all of the goat respect.”

          1. Mints*

            Agree! I mean, fainting goats are the funniest thing. (We’ve all seen it, right?) How could you be so serious about them

  82. VictoriaHR*

    I had undiagnosed sleep apnea and a 4-month-old who wasn’t sleeping through the night yet. I was working from home – which was typically ok but my manager, who worked remotely, wasn’t aware that I was at home that day – and I fell asleep and missed a conference call. I woke up to frantic IM’s from coworkers telling me to “get on the call right this minute!” The manager and I didn’t get along anyway, so I was fired for this incident. Sucks but ya know. I use a CPAP every night now and the kid is 4 years, not 4 months, so things are going much better.

  83. Manders*

    This is horribly embarrassing, but on one of my first days at my first job out of college, I was reprimanded for something pretty minor and broke down sobbing in her office. My relationship with my supervisor never recovered, and she was always on my case about my “attitude problem” after that. I quit without another job lined up just to get away from her.

    I was going through a really rough time (alone in a strange city while the person I’d moved across the country for was studying abroad in Asia, finally landed this job at a famously lousy call center after months of searching in the middle of the recession) but that wasn’t an excuse. I still tear up easily, but now I always know to go to the bathroom until I can get myself under control, and I’ve gotten better at appearing calm even when I’m freaking out internally.

    That supervisor was fired shortly after I left, by the way–it turns out her communication skills were lousy and she’d been treating everyone on her team the same way. Still not an excuse for my behavior!

  84. Ms Enthusiasm*

    At one of my old jobs I was so buried with work that I couldn’t get everything done. It was also such a toxic environment that I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone that things weren’t getting done. I ended up telling them that this one important thing was finished when I really had never even worked on it. I kept up the lie for months. Then I went on maternity leave. My supervisor actually called me in the hospital after having a c-section to ask where this piece of work was. I told her I couldn’t remember exactly where I had saved it. The day I came back from maternity leave I was fired. I feel like I learned a great lesson from this. Mainly, if I can’t get my work done I need to speak up about it. I can never let myself get into a hole like that ever again! And also, if I am ever a manager one day, I hope I can earn the trust of my team so they feel like they can tell me if they are ever in this situation.

  85. Ms. Anonymity*

    I worked as an Office Manager/ Executive Assistant (to the owner) in a previous position. My boss had a bigger than Texas ego and personality. He was forever foregetting things, losing his phone, rearending people in his truck, etc… Personally, I believe he was unmedicated ADHD and bipolar. It was completely impossible for me, and everyone that had ever held the position before me, to anticipate his needs and keep the office running successfully. I hope that paints a picture for the little story I’m about to tell you. One day, I went into his office to find something he’d lost, and there was a crumpled up, oozing fast food bag on his desk. For whatever reason, probably intuition of never knowing what could be possible with this particular boss, I looked inside the bag before throwing it away. Much to my surprise, there was a very large baggy of weed inside that fast food bag. That morning he had called and demanded I get him a last minute appointment at our go to auto detailer. I realized that he forgot about the pot, and didn’t have anything else he could put it in to bring it into the office, hence the fast food bag. Well, I took it back to my office and placed it gingerly in my trash bag. I no sooner put that in the trash, then I saw him fly past my office door. After realizing it wasn’t on his desk, he came to my office and asked about it. I then had to produce it from my trash. He went on his merry way to catch an international flight. So here’s where my “sin” comes in. I couldn’t resist the urge to let him know that I knew. Trust me, if you knew the amount of sh*t this man put me through, you would probably do the same. I responded to an e-mail he sent shortly after leaving the office and told him to have a nice flight. Although he was an ass, he was the type of person you could joke around with, so I went on to tell him if he took that fast food bag on the plane, not to call me to figure out how to bail him out. I received no other e-mails from him until a few days later when he was in Amsterdam. There was no real information in the e-mail, and I could tell it had been sent basically to tell me where he was, and that he was having a good time… complete with little smiley faces. Looking back, that really could have back fired on me. It didn’t, so now it’s just a fun story for the time I worked for that crazy boss!

    1. wanderlust*

      I am going to pretend that this is my former boss because it sounds a lot like him, and the thought of him having a secret pot habit makes me very happy inside.

    2. Turanga Leela*

      Why would you bring pot to Amsterdam, though? Wouldn’t you just buy it there?

      1. Ms. Anonymity*

        I don’t think he actually planned to take the pot with him. I was just giving him a hard time about it.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        I meant, it makes sense that he would be traveling to Amsterdam since he seems to like pot. Not that he would be taking it with him.

  86. Ruffingit*

    I had a boss (who also owned the company) who was abusive to those she worked for and to her husband, who also worked there. One day, I had just reached my limit and said to her “You should get on some medication.” She replied that she was already on meds and I said “Up the dose, it’s not working.” She then followed me around the office that whole day trying to convince me that her meds were in fact working for her.

    I ended up quitting that job a few months later.

      1. Ruffingit*

        I sure hope not Holly because I would hate to think anyone else was put through the misery of that situation. The company I worked for folded after a ton of problems (no surprise there considering they couldn’t keep a staff and had shady financial practices), but I heard through the professional grapevine that they started another company.

    1. Holly*

      Oh, I also once went sneaking through my old boss’ files looking for proof of how much my coworker made, because I’m a curious jerk. When I complained to my new boss about how ridiculous the difference was considering he’s always gotten low marks on his projects and I’ve gotten stellar reviews, I had to say I “found the file inside files for X event.” She had to go to HR and complain to them about not being more secure over hiring information. It was awkward.

  87. Lily in NYC*

    I used to wear my skirts WAY too short at my first job. I heard the CFO commented to someone about it and I acted like a petulant child instead of taking it seriously. He had a favorite that wore her skirts just as short and he didn’t care so I decided he could f*** off and I just kept wearing them. We ended up having 50% of the company laid off, and I’m sure this is the reason my name was on the list. He left two months later and they hired me back, so I know it wasn’t because of my work. I learned an important lesson, though.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Replying to myself: I can’t believe I forgot the time I caused my workplace to lose $50,000! I had such a cool job at a national magazine – one of my duties was to read all of our articles very carefully to make sure nothing conflicted with an advertisement (for example, you can’t have an article about divorce or domestic violence within 3 pages of a DeBeers ad. Car ads have to be at least 6 pages apart, stuff like that). Keep in mind things move around all the time – stories change because of breaking news, layouts get changed, etc. We went to print without my noticing that we had a story about a plane crash next to an ad for an airline. GULP! I panicked and felt physically ill. I somehow didn’t realize the page had moved closer to the ad about 30 minutes before we went to print. We had to give the airline a free ad (50K) to make up for the mistake. I can’t believe I didn’t even get in a tiny bit of trouble. Probably because it was my first mistake in 5 years and I beat myself up for it more than they would have anyway. My boss was supposed to read the articles as well for backup and she didn’t, so that probably helped save my butt.

  88. Student Affairs Program Coordinator*

    So, my last story was probably more of a “most embarrassing moment” job story, but here is my real career sin.

    In grad school, we had to complete internships as part of our degree requirement. Most were unpaid, but a few were paid, so they naturally became quite competitive. I’m a competitive person by nature, and I decided I just had to be selected for a certain position, which I heard several other of my classmates were applying for.

    I interview well, so I turned up the charm and BSed my way through the entire interview. I couldn’t have even told you what the position was really about. When asked about my familiarity/skills in Excel, I said “Oh, I’m very good with Excel.” In my head, I thought this was kind of true. I knew how to write a simple formula to make cells add up. I figured I could just learn whatever I needed to learn.

    Well, I got the position. Turns out it was basically data mining and summarizing the results to then make recommendations to various agencies. You needed a very high level of understanding of statistics and Excel functions, and I simply didn’t have it. My supervisor traveled a lot and mostly left me by myself. I spent four long months crying in my cubicle and feeling overwhelmed. At the end of the semester, we both agreed I needed to move into another internship!!

    1. Mephyle*

      But this was also an interview process that should have been more diligent about testing the technical and statistical skills and knowledge they were looking for!

  89. Betsy Bobbins*

    Many years ago, when I was in college I had a job as a waitress. I really hated the job for many reasons, like they would pay me under minimum wage if they cut me before I got any tables but after they had me do an hour of side work. A good friend of mine lived close to the restaurant and had asked me to help with her with a few things that day before my shift started. We met at the restaurant where I parked my car since she was going to drop me back off for work later that evening. Well, one thing led to another and we ended up in a Mexican restaurant known for their delicious margaritas. I declined to have one, but she ordered a pitcher anyway and then told me many compelling reasons why I should quit my job. I caved and had a few margaritas and that was pretty much it for me going into work and/or putting in my notice like I should have done. Instead much merriment ensued and I ended up crashing at her house for the evening.

    The next morning I was laying by her pool nursing a headache when the police arrived. What I hadn’t factored in when making the terrible decision to just not show up to work, was that recently a women had been kidnapped by her car and it was all over the news. The fact that my car was in the parking lot but I hadn’t shown up for my shift was very alarming to all those I worked with, so after calling my entire family, including my mother, my grandparents and my brother they finally called the police. My friend was also listed on my emergency contacts, and while they had tried to call her in the morning in question, she too was in the pool with me so they came to her house instead. I’m not sure which was more humiliating; calling my family to let them know I was alive and an idiot, or the moment I was laying on a raft in a pool while an officer of the law stood at the edge looking down on me to say that while not showing up to work is not a crime it is incredibly irresponsible.

    Lesson learned officer, lesson learned.

    1. Confused*

      Wait, I feel like I’ve read this somewhere else before. Did you post this story to AAM previously?

      1. Betsy Bobbins*

        Yes, in comments to a post awhile back. I can’t remember which one though as I probably would have cheated by cutting and pasting.

  90. Eden*

    Too many to count!

    The workplace sin I committed that had the largest financial repercussion for me was not addressing problems in the workplace due to the assumption that nothing would change.

    I worked for a manager who was maybe a year older than I was (I was 29 or 30) who was truly terrible. This was 1997 in the field of “new media” back when we were more excited about making CD-ROMs because the interwebs were just becoming a thing, so in her defense, it was all new. However, this lady made no attempt to learn about what we could and couldn’t do, or how long anything took, she just BS’d her way through everything. She’d make up timelines for projects to tell sales staff and clients, she’d make up capabilities we didn’t have. It could be painful in client meetings, where we’d have to behave like Japanese diplomats, saying “no” without ever actually saying no. There was a lot more badness, but you get the general picture.

    It was very frustrating, to say the least. But, I never said a word to anyone other than my co-workers, because it never occurred to me that something might actually help. I assumed an attitude of massive, debilitating torpor on the side of the corporation. It was a mistake.

    At some point, she did something particularly egregious (don’t recall what) that started my co-worker on a tear. He had been with the company about 10 years at that point, and he went to the President (who we regularly met with), and gave him an earful.

    It was the biggest surprise to me that instead of what I expected, which was a nicer version of ‘shut up and deal,’ the President asked, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner? I’ve had so many problems with her, but I assumed that since you all never said anything, she must be doing something right.”

    She was dismissed. But I had already made another huge error, which was based on the ‘nothing ever changes’ assumption, and bought a medical billing software business package, to the tune of like $9000 (yes, I was ripped off). I was going to work for myself so I wouldn’t have to work with people like her. But I never did anything with it, because after the silent, awkward moments of watching her fling her stuff into boxes and flounce out, my urgency to do anything entrepreneurial dissolved.

    I think of this as my first $10,000 mistake. The other was buying a refurbished 1989 Jeep Grand Wagoneer (my dream car), but that’s not a work-related story.

    1. cuppa*

      I did something similar. My company brought on a guy that treated me like garbage (he wasn’t inappropriate, but he would ask me to do things that weren’t in my job description, just to make himself feel important. Like answer his phone, that was a direct line, that sat on his desk). I was young, and he wasn’t above me, but was a higher level than me, and I didn’t think I could say anything about it. He was eventually transitioned out of my office, and when I heard, I made an offhand comment to my boss about what a jerk he was and all of the things he did. My boss was shocked and horrified, and really surprised that I didn’t say anything about it until he was gone. I, of course, assumed that they knew and didn’t care. Lesson learned.

  91. Mishsmom*

    i was working in a scientific institute as a department admin.

    one of the scientists, world-famous, had a new admin of her own. i was so unhelpful and quite nasty (i was mid-twenties and had a bad attitude, but because i lived in a foreign country and had my English language advantage, they put up with it – needless to say much has changed with me and my attitude!) this admin would ask me for help or information and i could barely be bothered to help or be nice about it.

    cut to a year later and this scientist recruited me as her admin. i was going to sit in a different office – at her biotechnology company. my first day i walk in and who is the main admin but that woman i was horrible to. my heart sank and my thoughts were how now she could get back at me and i would deserve it. i figured i was done, and i’d just have to suffer for a few years. talk about karma!

    to her great credit she was nothing but helpful and nice to me (which made me feel worse of course.) months later i apologized to her about my previous behavior and treatment of her and told her how grateful i was that she was such a kind-hearted person. she treated me so much better than i had deserved. we even became friends! i am forever inspired by her attitude and try to emulate that in my work and personal life today. i learned it always pays off to be the bigger person. (it doesn’t always happen LOL but it does pay off.)

  92. BadPlanning*

    This one’s not super serious, but it was an interesting lesson.

    In college, I worked for a professor (sort of like their cheap personal admin). Normally this was was making copies, correctly quizzes, etc. One day, she wanted to crunch a bunch of data to make a presentation about the freshman papers all freshman have to write. Basically, it was to tally the grades on papers and review the spread (and, I presume, see the grade spread compared across professors, as several professors taught 1 or 2 sections of the same class).

    I no longer remember whether I was following detailed instructions or made an assumption, but I did the graphs by straight letter (so As, Bs, etc and not A, A-, B+, B, B-, etc). I remember while I was doing it thinking that it really stood out that some teachers were giving a lot of As and Bs. I did not stop and talk to my professor that I was working for and verify this is how she wanted the data to be presented.

    A couple days later, I was doing the data again — this time broken down with the +/-. From what I’d gathered around the dept. office, reviewing this data had been very contentious because it looked like some teachers were giving out As like candy. I guess that still might be true — but there is a spread between an A and a B- (at least how we did grading). And it could make a difference if you gave out 1 A and 6 A- versus 7 A grades.

    I learned a couple important lessons. Numbers are not absolute as people like to think. You can do all sorts of creative things with them. If something seems off, you should stop and consult instead of blindly going forward. In this case, maybe the professor did want to do the data this way (straight A, B, C), but I feel like I should have double checked.

  93. Kasia*

    I’m an HR Assistant at a non-profit and was in charge of sending rejection letters to people who had applied and were phone screened but we decided not to bring them in for an interview. We have an automated (or so I thought) email that goes out to these candidates through our application software. The email template looks like this:

    Dear XXX thank you for applying to XXX position. Unfortunately… blah blah blah

    I thought the XXX’s were automatically filled in by the computer and sent this out to MANY rejected candidates. I didn’t realize I was supposed to manually type those in until I received a very rude email from a rejected candidate who thought we didn’t have the courtesy to call her by her real name

    1. Laufey*

      And then some things actually do mail-merge, and you blow up the template by manually inserting someone’s name…

  94. Who are you?*

    I was really young but still old enough to better with this one. I had recently graduated high school, had my first full time job, and also had my first boyfriend. I was stupid at the time and boyfriend was trumping all other things in the way of priorities. This was before computers or texting and girls my age communicated primarily through note writing. I wanted a day off, had asked for it off, and my request had been denied. During a slow period at my job I started writing a note to my boyfriend and outlined my plans to call in sick and how I didn’t care if it messed things up for my employer. (Can you see where this is going yet?) At the end of my shift, I left the note on my desk. The next day I called in sick and then, after the weekend, came back to work. My manager pulled me into her office and proceeded to read the note out loud to me. My stomach dropped, my face flamed, there was a whooshing in my ears, my hands went cold…it was bad. Luckily for me I was a good employee beyond this horrible lapse of judgement and instead of getting fired I was put on a PIP, denied days off for a long while, and personally, I made sure my boyfriend wasn’t the only priority in my life. OMG…just remembering that moment where she read the note out loud was enough to illicit a similar reaction.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      What a great description of the physical reaction we have when we realize we got caught or are about to get in trouble!

      1. Chicagonon*

        I know! That’s exactly how I felt in my post below, but I couldn’t articulate it nearly as well.

  95. KnitWorthy*

    In college I worked with a museum curator. I started as a volunteer, then picked up a paid position as an intern so my responsibilities were upped. But once my internship formally ended I decided not to stay on. My boss shared a bit too much of his personal problems with me than I cared to hear, I had another campus job that I loved, and it was my senior year.

    But I did say I would help out with any forthcoming publication…”just keep me in the loop.”

    So later on I was sent some materials to keep. Then a flash drive, asking to get to a few things when I had the time. “Oh, I will, thanks for keeping me on any future pubs.”

    Then I went to grad school. I STILL didn’t say I had to drop out of this collaboration…so I just faded out.

    I felt horrible about it, but didn’t learn how to be straightforward. Apparently I’m still really bad at it because I’ve faded out of two other collaborative efforts with others since then.

    I’m also removing myself from working with academics entirely, so I’m hoping to stave off these weird collaborations/favors that crop up so easily with them. But I do have so much guilt over them all that I know I need to cut the crap in the future.

  96. hmm*

    I’ve made a variety of mistakes in my career, especially in the beginning. None of them ended up being huge deals, I’ve recovered/improved since, but had they become a serious habit they would have greatly hindered my career opportunities.

    – Worrying about other people too much/taking work too seriously. I’ve always been a solid performer, but used to be quick to point out when others weren’t holding up their end/working slower/did things wrong. This mostly manifested itself by complaining A LOT to my supervisor about why so and so couldn’t complete such an easy task on time. That had to have been annoying for my supervisor, probably made me more difficult to work with than what is ideal, and made me appear pretty naïve.

    – Thinking that I would/ could/ should move up the corporate ladder quicker than what I learned is realistic. I viewed every little extra duty I took on as an entitlement to be paid more money and thought about my career in months versus years. This eventually spilled into the workplace, it was relatively minor, but I’m still horrified at the attitude I had.

    – Not being clear on expectations. I had a job where I was responsible for a variety of things, but I focused the most time on the duties I was most familiar with from a previous job. I put the company in a somewhat bad but completely recoverable position due to not sufficiently monitoring something, which I knew was part of my job, but at the time I didn’t realize it was a big deal so I didn’t make it a priority.

    – Not really knowing how to deal with senior level staff (in general), and not catering to the specific personalities/preferences. This one is more recent as I’ve progressed in my career to the point where I am a new member of a senior leadership team. I’ve learned just how prepared I need to be when talking about a subject (a lot), that I’m much better off having data/information/evidence to support my stance/recommendation/idea, and to make recommendations rather than just present options.

    There are probably more, but these quickly came to mind.

  97. Abby*

    My first job was as a secretary. My boss was pretty demanding and she asked me to do something that shouldn’t have been a big deal but I didn’t know how to do it. Instead of asking or getting help, I just didn’t do it. I just kept justifying putting it off in my mind. Of course, my boss finally asked for it. I cried in her office and fixed it. I am now much better about not putting off tasks that intimidate me!

    The worst sin I have ever committed was hiring someone who wasn’t right for the job and who the others in the office did not want me to hire. She was not the right fit, her coworkers (my reports) hated her, and she couldn’t do the job. I fired her within the first few months but that mistake still bothers me. I tried to make a square peg fit in a round hole. It just didn’t work.

  98. Apple22Over7*

    I became Negative Nancy at an old job. I’d been there 3 years, nothing had changed since day one, the company was poorly managed from the top down and it was a nightmare – but I responded the way I really shouldn’t have. I brought everyone down, rolled my eyes at every email that came to my inbox, moaned loudly about new procedure X or new report Y. Frankly, the company could have told me they were doubling my salary and cutting my workload in half and I would have moaned about it. My co-workers must have hated me, but I was too involved wallowing in my own misery.

    I didn’t even notice it at the time, I thought I was justified in my complaints. It wasn’t until 6 months into my new job that I noticed my coworker was being really negative about everything and it was dragging me down – and then realised I had been doing the same previously. Since then, in every job I’ve had I’ve made a concious effort to not be that person, but boy do I feel bad about how I treated my coworkers at that first job :-/

  99. Colette*

    This one happened to a friend of mine – I was only peripherally involved.

    He was on loan to the Paris branch of the company. A mutual friend was there visiting him, and one Sunday night my phone rang.

    He’d managed to delete the password file from his UNIX workstation back home. He had an IT person helping him, but he needed someone to go in to the office because they couldn’t fix it without someone physically at the computer. (Luckily, we worked for the same company, so I could get access to his desk.)

    I felt extremely awkward going past security in a building I didn’t work in at 7 on a Sunday night.

  100. Grey*

    At one of my earliest jobs back in the ’80s, my boss handed me a large check and asked me to go deposit it at ABC bank. I was so excited to get out of a boring office on a sunny afternoon that I casually zipped through the drive-thru at ABD bank and gave them the check. A rookie bank teller accepted the deposit.

    It took my boss forever to get his money back and it was a very long time before I was sent on another errand. It certainly taught me to be more careful with other people’s money.

    1. I hear you*

      Once, about 10-11 years ago, I accidentally threw away a $50,000 check. It was in a cardboard flat rate envelope with a bunch of papers, and I think it must have staticked itself to the inside of the envelope, and of course nobody noticed it was missing until the next day, and the trash had already been emptied. In my defense, I didn’t KNOW there was supposed to be a check in with the papers, but it certainly taught me to triple check every envelope when I was opening the mail.

  101. Rayner*

    My sin?

    I was working my first job, front desk, and it turned time for my break. Unfortunately, we were slammed and my relief was getting later and later and later.

    So I told the next customer – “I’m sorry, I have to go. It’s my break.”

    I didn’t get rollicked by the manager too much but she was very clear that I wasn’t supposed to do that again.

    …I was like, sixteen, and you know. Hopefully, I’ll never make that mistake again.

    1. LV*

      It is so frustrating when you have to wait for your replacement before you can go on break if that replacement is unreliable!

      I was in that situation at my previous job. My replacement (who was also my boss, so I didn’t feel comfortable speaking up in instances where she was late) would take her lunch break, then come back and relieve me so that I could take mine. One day she came back from her break and said, “I just have to go to the corner store and get some bottled water!” and disappeared for another 30-minutes. No idea why she couldn’t have done that during her hour-long lunch, or why she even wanted bottled water that badly when we had water fountains and a water cooler in the office…

      1. De Minimis*

        I was guilty of something like that when I worked in retail.

        I’d been there all day, it was time to go home, and the guy relieving me [who had only been there an hour] wanted to go on a smoke break. I waited a while, then went ahead and left. I saw a customer looking for help and just kept walking…it was terrible!

        1. De Minimis*

          Same job….there was this obnoxious guy who worked the coffee bar and was wanting to move into other duties at the store. We were both working at the register together…and I just couldn’t stand working with the guy. Fortunately, he cursed while in conversation with a customer. I ratted him out to a supervisor and I guess he was banished back to the coffee bar for the rest of his time there.

          I don’t feel quite as bad about that one…no one could stand the guy.

    2. squid*

      My first job, also at 16, was at a dollar store. The place was absolutely swamped on our first Saturday. I’m talking, all cash registers open, lines 10 people deep. I was an hour behind in when I was supposed to be taking my lunch break, and had so much trouble closing down my line since customers kept shouting at me. Eventually the store manager told a bunch of them off and pretty much escorted me to the break room. I was pretty much on the verge of tears. She told me, “Customer service is not our biggest priority,” and it was so reassuring to hear.

    3. Canadamber*

      I DID THAT TOO!!!

      I was at my cash register, and I was waiting to clock out, when I realized that it was already almost time until the system would prevent me from doing so. So, I told the next customer, who already had her groceries on the belt and was looking at me expectantly, that I was really sorry but I had to clock out or else I would get in trouble (which wasn’t actually true, but I was new and it was just what I had assumed). So, she loudly and with a sigh, THREW all of her groceries back into her cart and stormed off. My coworker at the next cash looked at me strangely, and I just walked off all awkwardly. Oh, and I missed the time to clock out and had to use the sign out sheet.

  102. TotesMaGoats*

    I can think of a couple and it’s the earliest ones that still make me cringe.

    1. My first job at 16 at a big box home improvement store. They had a drive thru lumber yard. I was pulled from cashiering to work the entrance booth to the yard. No training whatsoever was done. What I had to do was write down what the shoppers “declared” as their property. I thought I would be helpful to the cashier at the other end and also write down the SKU’s and quantities. Other cashier, maybe two or three years older than me, ripped me a new one. Of course then I was “trained” on what to do. The next car that comes through I follow procedure and write a little note that says “happy now” on the paper that the customer hands over. Managers pulls me in after other cashier shows the note. I cry. Explain that he’d yelled at me earlier when I didn’t know what I was doing. I think I escaped any punishment because I was cute and I cry really well.

    2. First professional job working in higher education. I was advising a student and told her to add a minor in history. I had to fill out the paperwork but she was taking all the right classes. Realized that I never filled out the paperwork until the semester before she was to graduate. Then agonized over submitting it for a week. Had nightmares about it. Eventually turned it in. It got processed. No one questioned it ever.

    3. Second professional job. Had already gotten off on the wrong foot with boss. Some mistakes were my own but others were on her and her micromanagement and yelling. It seemed that I could never do anything right with her. One day, I see her calling me and as I’m picking up the phone I’m sighing. I sigh expressively apparently. First words out of her mouth, “Did you just sigh?” I immediately lied. No, I was just catching my breath from coughing…allergies and all that. Not sure she bought it. What I supposed to say that every time your name pops up on my phone I break into a cold sweat and start to wonder how I’ve screwed up now? Took about a year but once we got on the same page I was golden.

  103. Liz in a Library*

    I spit water allllll over a coworker once. Obviously that wasn’t intentional, and I still feel terrible.

    More seriously, I once accidentally displayed some pretty confidential customer information to a large group of other customers in a meeting. I thought that we had permission to use it…we didn’t. I thought for sure I was getting fired immediately after that meeting, but my boss and management team were great about it. They launched damage control, and I’ve never heard one critical word about it.

  104. Who are you?*

    Thought of one more…this one I have mixed feelings about.
    I worked in retail for a while and had established a professional relationship with my district manager at one company. When she left and went Company Y she asked if I would be willing to work on one of the stores in her district. The plan was that I would train under the current store manager and take over the store when she was promoted within the following six months. I was so excited until I actually worked with the current store manager. She was horrible. She was lazy, played favorites, was verbally abusive, and a total suck up. From day one she went out of her way to make my life difficult and went so far as to start telling our boss that I was making critical errors. A complete lie! The store manager was currently planning her wedding and she spent a lot of company time on the company phone working out her vision for the perfect non-company wedding day. One day I got a personal call at work, very rare to happen for me, and once I’d hung up this woman proceeded to chew me out for 15 minutes straight about taking personal calls. She actually spent more time chastising me for it than I was actually on the call. Later that day she announced that she’d had to make a change to the schedule and lo and behold! she had the weekend off while I was suddenly scheduled every day. That was the straw that broke the camels back for me. At the end of my shift that day I handed her my keys and told her I wasn’t coming back and that she should mail my last paycheck to me. Her eyes got really big and she said, “But-but-I’ve got plans to do a cake tasting and do dress fittings this weekend” To which I replied, “Well, that’s your problem now, seeing as I don’t work here anymore”
    Part of me loves the way I quit because who hasn’t wanted to stick it to a crappy boss. The bigger, more responsible part of me hates the way that I burnt the bridge with a person who I honestly respected personally and professionally. I did email her and outline my experiences while working with the current store manager. I never got a response though I did later learn that the store manager never got the promotion she was promised and was actually given a co-manager (so not a demotion, but definitely not a carte blanche for her to run wild the way she was doing previously)

  105. Cajun2core*

    I once meant to forward an email from a customer to a co-worker which said, “This customer has reached a new level of stupidity.” However, I hit “Reply” instead of “Forward” and did not realize it. The email went to the customer I had just insulted. The bosses of the customer called me on it. I groveled to the customer and explained that I was totally out of line and that I was arrogant and should not expect customers to have the same knowledge that I did. Luckily he accepted my apology.

    Lesson learned: Don’t put anything in writing that you would not want printed on the front page of the New York Times.

  106. Cringing Anon*

    Much like my user name suggests, I still cringe when I think about this. A few years back, I landed basically my dream job making a ton of money as a contractor for a company I had been dying to work for. I was super motivated and happy to get started…except there was NO work. This bothered me because in the interview, it seemed like there was tons to do. I ended up constantly asking people for any side projects, if they needed help with anything, and made it a recurring topic in my 1-1’s with my manager. Each time, she rebuffed me saying work would be coming. 6 months later, nothing was changing.

    I was bored to tears and there was only so many times I could read the employee handbook or stare at the clock, but the money was so good and I had been there for such a short time that I wanted to stick it out. Side projects were dwindling as people went on vacation (it was summer). So, I committed the cardinal sin of not looking busy and ended up web surfing. I couldn’t help myself after all that time of just nothing to do. Eventually, I would open a word document and type out a blog post for my personal blog and email it to myself from Gmail to post later. Here is where I made my mistake…I logged into my personal blog once to change a typo. Someone must have seen me, gotten the address, and then started leaving me anonymous threatening comments about losing my job, being lazy, accusations about my character, etc. I tried to ignore it but it kept happening and only got worse. Then the person actually printed out pictures from my blog and left them on my desk one day for me to find. I was getting so creeped out. Because I was contracting (and because my direct manager was kind of odd and I wasn’t totally convinced it wasn’t actually her), I made a judgement error and went to the “wrong person” about it due to politics. She didn’t want to deal with it, threw me under the bus, and I was gone the same day without even getting a chance to explain my side.

    Ugh. The worst part is, the person continued to leave me anonymous hate comments through my blog mocking me for being fired. I wish I had the same IP tracker that I have now so I could have potentially found out who it was.

    Needless to say, I don’t do anything blog related online anymore during work hours.

    1. anonyMOOSE*

      Printing out screenshots and leaving them on your desk? That’s the workplace version of Fatal Attraction.

    2. Eden*

      I actually GOT a job once by goofing off.

      I had just moved to the area and was temping while I looked for a perm job. One assignment was answering the phones for an executive who was out of the office for 6 months. His phone never rang, and the lady supervising me could think of nothing for me to do. This was before offices had internet (I know), and I was going crazy with boredom.

      So I wrote a whole fake newsletter in Word, complete with cheesy clip-art pictures. Supervisor saw me reading it, and wanted to know where I had gotten it. I said I made it up. She looked at me for the first time and said, “What is it you want to do, really?” I told her graphic design. She called a former co-worker that day, and the next day, I had a new job.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Haha, that’s awesome.

        I used to make PowerPoints when I was bored at Exjob. One time I horsed around and did one about our sample shipping procedure and ended up using it in a meeting!

        Another time, I made one called A Harry Potter Primer. It was so awesome I emailed it to myself so I could keep it.

  107. Cathy*

    In MY first job out of college (I was an intern with the possibility of getting hired) I did something that still makes me cringe. I didn’t have vacation days, but since I was still an intern, I could ask for days off without pay. I asked for some time off and though I never specified how much, it was implied I would be back on Friday. I was having so much fun & turns out was able to stay the weekend, and I never called to say I wasn’t coming in Friday. When he called me to find out where I was, I said I thought I hadn’t told him when I would be back. We smoothed it all over, but he eventually did show me on my out of the office auto email reply where it said I would be back Friday.
    I cringe now at how juvenile this was. Why didn’t I just call & say, “Is it okay if I take Friday too, and I’ll be back Monday?” How hard would that have been . . .
    But forgiveness is a virtue: he did hire me full time, and when circumstances forced me out for a few years, he hired me back again. Mistakes are sometimes redeemable.

  108. Erin*

    I was still in high school and trying to find a part-time job. I decided to take a job at an Italian ice place/deli. The place was truly gross in the back and I didn’t like all the things I was going to have to do (making the Italian ice seemed too hard to me at the time aka I was just too lazy to learn) so instead of calling to schedule another training/start day I just never showed up again or called.

  109. AnotherAlison*

    When I was in my first job in engineering, a coworker/mentor gave me a paper file from his project as a go-by for something I was doing on my project. I kept it for an embarrassingly long time, and he came looking for it one day when they were closing the project out, and I told him I didn’t have it. I don’t remember why I said I didn’t have it at the time, but I ended up throwing it away later rather than getting it to the right place. This is definitely something you should not do in project engineering work, as keeping the documentation is a huge deal, but I was really embarrassed about making mistakes when I started out. I have not thrown out any official project files since, or tried to cover my mistakes.

  110. Harriet*

    I was in a horrible job, where I was great at the work but being picked on by my boss’s boss. I truly did not realise I was as stressed and anxious as I was, until the day my boss’s boss summoned me and spoke to me about a minor error I’d made and I spent the whole rest of the day pretty much silently sobbing at my desk. People were asking if I was okay and I was just saying yes and turning away. It was so stupid – I should have gone out for a walk, even going home with a ‘headache’ would have been better – but I just could not see how upset I was all the time. It was so unprofessional. The day I got a new job, it was like I’d had a personality transplant.

  111. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

    My first office job was horrifying and I had this boss who was just a major turd (sorry, couldn’t think of a better word). He was, amongst other things, a total sexist. He made inappropriate sexual comments to me all of the time! I complained to the HR Manager who told me that oh well that’s just the way Mr. Turd has always been. My sin is that I should have reported him to corporate and I should have quit that job way sooner than I did. By not speaking up, I allowed him to continue to harass others until well eventually (after I left) someone did report him to corporate and put up a fuss and he was fired. I have to say though, that crappy HR Manager and my awful manager were what prompted me to go into HR myself! I figured that I knew how to treat others with respect and wanted to be in a position where I can protect my company and the employees from jerks like them.

  112. Just thought of another one...*

    In college, I had a pretty good job working in an office on campus with my friend. The work was easy, the people were nice to work with, and the pay was pretty good too.

    I, however, was really irresponsible at the time. I would routinely blow off work because I was hungover from the night before or just wanted to goof off watching “Real World Chicago” episodes with my roommate.

    When it came time for summer break, I of course assumed that they would need help during the break and told my supervisor that my summer schedule was wide open and would be happy to work for them as much as they needed me to.

    Yeah, they politely told me that they wouldn’t be needing my help. My friend was a lot more responsible than I was and ended up working there full-time that summer.

  113. NameIt*

    Sorry to veer off slightly, but….. If you approach people at work by saying, “boo!” and trying to scare them, then you are committing a workplace sin. Where I work there are numerous people who greet others by walking up beind them in their cubes, and getting their attention by saying a quick “boo!”. It’s bizarre. If only one person did this I would think it was a fluke, but it is really common at this new place I work. Please people, scarring the **** out of me when I’m concentrating makes me really, really not like you.

      1. NameIt*

        Omg. Carolum. Please explain why you do this. It comes off as so… I don’t even know. Childish? I just can’t comprehend why in the work place someone would be trying to startle me. I guess I’m just too uptight? I’m pretty focused at work, but then again I would never say boo to someone in my personal life either (maybe playing with a baby…). I guess I just work with a bunch of goofballs.

        1. Carolum*

          Did it where I was interning – I thought it was fun, but my supervisor said an office is not an appropriate environment for that.

  114. JK*

    The time I mooned my coworkers just as my boss walked in comes to mind.

    Keep your pants on at work, people. Well, unless it’s your *job* to remove your pants. . . .

  115. Chicagonon*

    There are a few major work missteps in my past, but there are two particular ones that still makes me cringe even though they were years and careers ago.

    I used to be an executive assistant, and the biggest part of my job entailed overseeing my boss’s email–basically pretending to be him and conducting correspondence in his voice. He actually managed his own calendar for the most part, but would enter appointments based on information I provided after these exchanges.

    One time when I setting up a lunch meeting with him and a colleague who was coming into town, I somehow got the date wrong–it was mentioned further down the thread, but then there was an extended back-and-forth where it was just “Tuesday” (or whatever), and I ended up thinking it was (say) Tuesday the 6th instead of Tuesday the 13th.

    Now, you might be thinking, “well at least you messed up by making it earlier, because at least he didn’t stand the guy up.” And that was a silver lining. But my boss also had a broken toe at the time when this happened, so he ended up walking to a restaurant several blocks from our office, waiting around for a while during a busy workday, and then (after calling me to see what was going on and then learning that I’d screwed up) had to walk back. Probably wasted nearly an hour of his time all told, not to mention the physical discomfort involved.

    …there was also another incident (in a different position) when I totally blanked on making a superior’s hotel reservation for a business trip and didn’t realize it until I was typing up their itinerary. Fortunately, even though it was only a day or two before they were leaving town, their preferred hotel had rooms available at the typical rate, so that one managed to go unnoticed. But I still remember searching my email for the booking confirmation number, and then breaking out in a cold sweat as soon as I realized there wasn’t one. And considering how quickly hotels can fill up in major cities (I think this trip had been on the calendar for months), I was REALLY lucky that it wasn’t a much bigger disaster.

  116. Snarkus Ariellius*

    I had no idea this was illegal, in my defense.

    When I was in high school, I worked at a crappy restaurant job. The manager and his family were jerks. In retrospect, they weren’t that bad, but I never thought anyone else but my parents could yell at me. This guy and his wife were the first so I didn’t like them.

    I repeatedly spit in their food whenever I could. It was the only power I had against them.

    Now I realize how wrong that was, and it was miraculous I didn’t get caught. If I did I’m sure it would have been awful. Today, I’m much more direct.

  117. super fake name*

    Few years ago I was having lots of anxiety related to financial transactions, banking, that sort of thing. I don’t often deal with finances in my job. But, was sent on a conference, and I had expense forms, purchasing card, things like that.

    When I got the card statement, I never attached the receipts, had it approved, anything. Just let it sit on my desk, for about 2 years, doing nothing with it.

    Nothing happened. I still have the paperwork, filed away, will be destroyed in a couple years, the likelihood of audit at this point is infinitesimal.

    Still feel sick thinking about it though. How to say, “I couldn’t get a sign-off on several hundred dollars, because I was afraid.”

    1. Turanga Leela*

      I really sympathize with this. One possible out: could you “find” the form now and get it dealt with? You could say something like, “Hey, I just found this in an old file and it looks like I never got it approved.” After two years, you can say you thought you had dealt with it, but you must not have, and you’re not sure what happened.

      I’m not generally a fan of lying, but guilt is awful, and getting this out into the open would probably be a relief, even if you don’t explain why you didn’t get it done.

  118. Isabelle*

    I pushed my employer to include me in a voluntary redundancy scheme because I was pretty much done with the job and I wanted a break of several months before looking for another one. They were reluctant because the scheme was aimed at older staff but my request was eventually accepted.

    It started off great, a nice long break with a decent amount of redundancy money. Fast-forward 5 months or so and I started looking for work. Only there were very few vacancies and plenty of competition and I just couldn’t get the kind of job I wanted. As time went by I was getting desperate and I’m sure that came across in interviews.
    I had to settle for a more junior position with a huge pay cut.
    It also took me years to get back to the salary level I had before the break.

    Lesson learned the hard way: you don’t leave a job until you have something else lined up.

    1. De Minimis*

      I did something like that too….that’s how I came to leave public accounting. I just kind of quit trying to make it and decided I was either going to quit or get them to fire me, because the job wasn’t right for me. Ended up being let go. I thought I wouldn’t have a hard time finding a job, but it was 2009 and I didn’t work again until 2o12, working part-time as a bookkeeper. I did move to my current job after that, but the bad start and long stretch of unemployment has meant I’ve had to move onto a different career track than I’d originally intended.

  119. Carolum*

    An elected official came into our office (not even from our state – he was in town for other reasons!). It was October – playoff time in baseball – and my favorite team growing up was playing a team from this politician’s state.

    During a Q-and-A discussion, I blurted out (didn’t raise my hand, just blurted out) something like, “looking forward to [your team] getting trounced?”

    A few weeks later we had another person visiting the office – and I was warned not to pull that kind of thing again. I didn’t.

    I wonder if that didn’t contribute to my being terminated a few months later (for performance issues, supposedly – but I think that incident might have been a spark…).

      1. De Minimis*

        I think it might have been that it was during what sounds like a more official Q&A discussion.

      2. Carolum*

        I guess you had to have been there… that, and the fact that he was a visitor and what I did might have reflected on the company.

  120. Katie the Fed*

    In grad school I sent a scathing, mean email ABOUT my advisor (you know, the one controlling my grants and recommendations and career prospects)…

    TO my advisor

    by accident.

  121. plynn*

    I dropped a painting.

    It was about eight feet tall, three feet wide and really heavy. I was a gallery intern, unpacking a travelling exhibit to check the condition before repacking it and sending it on it’s way. Instructions were to unpack the smaller pieces and then go get someone to help when I needed it. I got it in my head that it would be terribly impressive if I unpacked the whole thing myself. So I kept moving on to bigger and bigger pieces, far past the size that should be handled by one person. The very last one was part of a triptych and I had managed (with great difficulty) the first two panels. This one, though, slipped off the edge of crate as I was trying to maneuver it, the corner crashed down and the impact created a five-foot long crack in the glass frame.

    I had a brief fantasy of just sealing it back up and pretending it happened in transit. Instead I had to go to the gallery head and tell him what I had done. Unsurprisingly, they were not impressed with my initiative and independence. My supervisor my nice enough, but it might have been because I already looked like I was going to pass out from the combination of shock and utter shame. Painting was not damaged, but I looked like an irresponsible moron.

    I always remember this when I try to take on too much, or don’t know how to do something and I’m afraid to ask. Asking is better than dropping the painting.

    1. Steve G*

      I walked into a job interview once and a pretty big picture in a glass frame came crashing off the wall, and there was glass everywhere. 2 minutes later he tells me the job is something more salesly that I thought it would be, and that I would need to be cold calling in Czech (this was in Czech Republic). OK, I can work in Czech, and chit chat and write reports in Czech, but it is not my native language and I can’t even cold call well in English. So that interview was a flop….but the picture coming crashing down in the beginning just made it all the more humiliating.

      1. Eden*

        Oh, goodness, this reminds me of another.

        Because I was a Russian major, the DC law firm I worked at decided it’d be a great idea for me to act as interpreter for a member of the Supreme Soviet who was coming on some weird legislative exchange program. I protested pretty vehemently, but the associate who proposed it kept telling me it’d be fine. I can’t talk about intellectual property law in English, and at the time, I was 21, brand new to the professional world, and easily embarrassed.

        The initial meeting I “interpreted” for was, without hyperbole, an unmitigated disaster. This was a meeting between the firm’s top partner, and this SS Deputy Director guy, plus some other partners. I could just barely make the most rudimentary gist of comments comprehensible. My face was flaming red and I was so embarrassed, hoping no one would think I had volunteered myself for this task. Never felt more vividly the desire to simply disappear.

        I think the worst part is that people tend to use idioms MORE making this kind of conversation, and there is no “bottom line” or “ballpark” equivalent in Russian…I felt very “off my plate” (out of place–Russian idiom).

        They promptly hired an interpreter for all subsequent communications. She was very nice, and I never heard a word of criticism of my horrible failure.

  122. sophiabrooks*

    My first job out of college I worked for a very small theatre company (I was the only employee) for several years for an incredibly toxic and selfish person who was not paying me overtime and I suspect doing some monkey business with the books/her taxes.

    After several years, I think I lost my mind, and I was very full of anger, and also sick of protecting this woman from her mistakes. One of the things she would do is bring me letters she had typed herself, and ask me to copy and send them. They were incredibly poorly written and typo filled, and they were things like agreements with actors or marketing pieces. One of the actor’s assumed I wrote them and always ribbed me about it, so one day, when I had to send one of those letters to him, I included a handwritten notes telling him that I did not make all those errors, the boss did! I had just found out that my position was changing and they were hiring a new person full time to be a marketer, but they wanted to keep me on part time as a stage manager, and I was livid. I had been told that I could come back Monday and make and argument for my position to remain full-time, but I was, of course, fired.

  123. shaky bacon*

    I had very little self-awareness in my early 20’s, which meant I was a pretty Bad Employee at some places I worked. Thankfully those were mostly temp jobs overseas, but it still makes me cringe when I think about how badly I conducted myself. At one in particular, I started off really enjoying the work and building great relationships with people I worked with. I even got an award for my outstanding support to the team. I think that must have inflated my ego a ton, because I started to feel like they weren’t appreciating my awesome talents, blah blah blah. I became incredibly negative and openly complained about issues to anyone who would listen. I’m sure I had brought so many people down with my negativity and I’m shocked they didn’t just give me the boot. I ended up quitting before the assignment was over and on my last day, I left without saying goodbye to anyone; just packed up my stuff and walked off triumphantly. Ugh, I was such a petulant child.

    More recently, I had a major panic attack when I sent a letter with very confidential information to the wrong person (same first name, so the “to” field in the email automatically populated and I didn’t double check it). I instantly got the pale face cold sweats while I frantically tried to figure out how to recall the email. Thankfully, the person it went to was on vacation so I was able to recall the email successfully. I now quadruple-check the “to” field before hitting send on anything, even though I should really know better by now.

  124. Tasha*

    I was late to my first day on a job. The weird official start time was 7:45, and I kind of knew that, but I showed up about 8:10 because I had to give my boyfriend a ride that morning. Later that day, my boss asked if I was aware that 7:45 was the correct time to be there.

    1. anonyMOOSE*

      Oh, I’ve done this too. I work at a large university and I couldn’t get a good parking pass to park close to my building, so I had to take the campus shuttle. Well I didn’t account for just how much time the shuttle took to get to my office, and I was late. The worst part was, my first task that morning was to go to a meeting with everyone from the office including the dean of the college. I think my face was red for the majority of the meeting.

    2. Canadamber*

      Don’t worry, I’ve done it too! The first time was a volunteer gig that I had for a co-op over the summer, last year. I decided to take the highway (it takes about half the time to get there if it’s not busy), and, uh, somehow managed to get on the southbound highway instead of the northbound highway… and then got stuck in traffic trying to turn around at the next exit… Whoops!!! Luckily, my manager was very understanding. :)

      And then I was about a minute late to my first “real” job, on the training day. Heh. Everyone was already there, so I looked like rather an idiot walking in at 4:01 PM.

  125. manybellsdown*

    I had a job at an in-house childcare facility at a huge tech company. It was touted as an amazing family-friendly place to work with the onsite daycare. I’d wanted to work there for years and was thrilled when I was hired.

    The job ended up being horrible for so many reasons, but the final straw was when my supervisor asked me to lie to a parent’s face. Our class had a biter that we just could not control even with one-on-one supervision. A new parent was taking a tour and mentioned that she’d heard we had a biting problem in our class… and my supervisor said “no, no not at all, right Bells?” Put on the spot like that, I stammered out something incoherent.

    That night, as I was closing the classroom, I left a note saying I quit due to personal reasons. I dropped my security badge in the parking garage and never went back. I made it 8 months there. I obviously don’t put that on my resume.

  126. LAI*

    When I first graduated from college, I didn’t know how to handle a job offer or that asking for time to consider was an option. I accepted a job, then two weeks later got a different job that I wanted more and quit the first one. They were very nice about it, although obviously shocked and disappointed, and even gave me a nice plant as a going away present. I still cringe when I think about it though.

    1. Canadamber*

      For some reason, I started laughing at the whole “and even gave me a nice plant as a going away present”. :P

  127. Name change ( to protect the guilty)*

    I worked at a hotel where the following might have taken place
    Wrecked the van while messing with the CD player
    Flipped off a very famous musician (Sammy Hagar)
    Utilized my all access key to access the liquor cabinet to drink with guests
    Caused another celebrity to be late for filming for the above reason
    And got fired for dating too many of the front desk girls… And finally stole the employee of the month sign because I never won it :)
    There is of course longer versions of all these

    1. Just thought of another one...*

      LOL…okay, now I’m dying to hear more about this hotel and your work experiences. Continue.

  128. Anon today*

    I didn’t say no when I was re-assigned to a job I didn’t want. It was not presented to me as a choice, but I am sure if I would have said “not interested” in an appropriate way I could have gotten out of it. In retrospect, even if I left the company because of it I may be in a better job now, but there were opportunities that I passed up because I thought things would change here. Instead I passively raised some concerns about the move to my boss (who was also moving and remaining my boss); but just accepted her arguments for why I should move and be happy about it, though inside I actually disagreed with her. Then I was unhappy and had a poor attitude for almost two years because things didn’t go the way I wanted. All my predictions about the job and department proved true. It is extremely boring with no growth opportunities. Three years later I am still doing the same job. People that were at a lower level than me in my old department have passed me up, while I am in a position where I can’t get a promotion without our group growing significantly or my boss leaving. I have finally admitted that I am in this position because of my mistakes and have a much better attitude than I did before. At least I have finally realized my mistake and will advocate for myself better in the future, and not pass up an opportunity again if one should presents itself.

  129. tesyaa*

    I sulked when I came back from maternity leave and found that most of my work had transitioned to another employee. I made my displeasure clear, even though my manager was eager to work with me and had a plan to give me other work. Postpartum hormones definitely played a role. I ended up leaving to stay home with the baby, but I regret my unprofessional attitude.

  130. Anon for this*

    I don’t have a specific instance, but I’d say my worst sin is operating as an individual, instead of a team.

    When you’re in school, your work is your own, and (for the most part, I think) largely independent. You do the work, and you suffer the consequences if you’re sloppy or negligent. Work is not like this. In work, if you neglect something, it doesn’t just bite you in the ass. It bites your boss in the ass (who’s held accountable for her team) and maybe your coworker in the ass (who now has to help make up difference) and maybe even someone who’s doing an audit of account, four years later, who will have to spend extra time tracking down details because of something you neglected to do. This seems so obvious, but I think it’s difficult for people to recognize, and I certainly struggle with it. Especially when there is a lot on your plate and you feel like others aren’t pitching in, it’s easy to imagine that their workload is lighter than yours, and only see the portion of their job that overlaps with what you do…but the reality often is that they’re seeing the areas where you’re not being helpful to them. It’s remarkably easy (I’ve witnessed nearly everyone do it, myself included) to dismiss other people’s work as less stressful or difficult or time-consuming than your own.

    I have a vivid memory of making a mistake early in my job, and my boss, the next day, letting me know (gently and polity) that she stayed four hours late fixing the damage from my absentminded error. In that case, it doesn’t matter how well-intentioned I was…I still made a mistake that knocked out four hours of someone’s free time.

    It’s surprising, the ripple effect that small errors can have in a workplace. Telling the difference between vital processes and buracratic processes is difficult and even now I still struggle with that. Every once in awhile, I’ll discover an account I thought wasn’t super important, or a procedure I thought was outdated, is actually affecting someone in other department. And the reality is, I had the opportunity to make their job easier, and make the company run smoother, if I had recognized that.

    I think remembering how your work fits into the larger puzzle, and having respect for the time your bosses and coworkers spend on their own jobs, is a constant current in my professional life, and definitely was my biggest workplace sin. I think people out of school still struggle with this, because you’re so used to be held accountable for how hard you tried, but in work it’s more about how much you’re helping the team- and, frankly, your good effort alone doesn’t cut it.

  131. Nope, Not Even*

    First job, when I was 16, was at a radio station. I was a typical teenager. The job was on Saturday nights. I had to do an hour of regular programming and then switch to a satellite broadcasting show which ran for 6 hours without interruption. I would run the station ID at the top of the hour, but then if there were no local commericials (and there often weren’t) I could get away with no work for the rest of the hour.

    So sometimes I’d invite friends over to study with me, which soon became “party with me” at the station. This was actually ok with the people who ran the studio; so long as the gatherings were low key.

    I pressed my luck once, because I held the job for almost 3 years. My friends had a graduation party one Saturday and urged me to go. I ran the Station ID, ran out of the building, drove to her house (about 10 minutes away.) I attended the party for 30 minutes, all while listening to the station in one earpiece through headphones, in case the satellite show went down. It never did. Returned in 10 minutes to run the ID at the top of the hour.

    I don’t excuse this type of behavior, but at least I was paid minimum wage, and this was back in the day when it was hard to get people to work minimum wage. There were never any complaints about my performance, and in fact when I went to leave the job, the station owners were pressuring me very heavily to stay in the business. However, I had very strong plans to attend college.

  132. Alysia*

    I tend to accidentally say the worst thing possible in random moments. My mouth apparently thinks its writing bad softcore scripts and my brain only catches up a few seconds after I’ve already said it. The last time was after a higher-up spent most of the day in and out of meetings in my office. When he finally left for the last time, he said “Alright! I’m done! I won’t harass you anymore!”, which I immediately followed with “That’s okay! You can harass me anytime!”

    Yeah, I work in HR.

  133. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    What does it mean that I could tell 20 stories? O.o

    Job in high school at Bambergers, Fine Dresses. A customer was offended that I was having a conversation with a girlfriend at the same time I was ringing the customer up. Instead of apologizing, I rolled my eyes at the customer and told her she was being unreasonable because I was clearly capable of doing both things at the time.

    SO many management mistakes. One that stands out was a gentleman who wasn’t a good performer. (This was early on in my management career and I’d had no training but anyway….) The options to deal with an issue like that include sit down warnings or intentional retraining, but I did neither of those.

    What I did was leave post it note corrections on all of his work, all after hours, so he came in every morning to post it notes all over his stuff.

    Unfortunately for me, he overreacted and accused me of bullying him and made such a giant stink with the principals of the company that he was the one who looked crazy, and I didn’t take the message that my methods were awful

    I think it was five years later that it occurred to me how really, truly badly wrong I’d been. Which. Is probably why it still bothers me today.

  134. Anon For Now*

    My biggest career sin: lying about a mistake.

    I was leading a small research project for a well-respected primary investigator at my institution. I was in charge of designing the research, collecting the data, and analyzing it. The data included responses from two groups: Group A and Group B (for the sake of clarity).

    Except, when I entered the data, I mixed up the codes for Group A and Group B. The analysis I reported for Group A was really about Group B, and vice versa.

    The PI realized something was up, and called me out on it. Instead of doing the right thing (admitting my mistake), I lied. I said the software must have mixed up the codes, essentially taking no blame.

    I shouldn’t have been too surprised when I was kicked off the research project a couple weeks later and had to switch to working under another PI.

  135. Using a different name today*

    A few years ago, I left my safe and well-run school district in a very poor, rural area to teach 7th graders in an inner-city school. Not realizing that the discipline plan was different here (translation – nonexistent) and that the principal’s philosophy on teaching were at total odds with the materials supplied by the district (which were in line with my philosophies), my classroom quickly grew out of control. The boys loved to tell inappropriate “Yo mama” jokes, and sometimes wanted me to play along. I had seen other teachers engage in the joke telling and get away with it, even seeming to bond over it. (I failed to realized the other teacher was male, and I was female and not of their culture.) In the meantime, they insulted and cursed at each other in their native language, and one boy in particular would frequently invade my personal space in a very threatening manner. I often went home in tears.
    One day, in an effort to try to bond, I was telling the students where to find the information. There was a picture of some goofy-looking monkey, so told them to look for the page with the picture of “your mom” (to no one in particular). One boy freaked out on me and yelled out something to the effect that I was a prostitute in his language (I had certainly learned enough of those words by that point.) I was so angry, frustrated and quite frankly fearful, that I mumbled, “So’s your mother.” as the kid stormed out of the room. I was disciplined for it, and my next review I would have been on a PIP, except that I resigned. I had to stick it out the entire rest of the school year or risk losing my certificate. It got worse and worse from there. I taught one more year in a different district where I was equally miserable but for different reasons. I had always known I was not “that one teacher”, but I have finally found my niche in life and now have an amazing job that I excel at.

    1. De Minimis*

      Ooh, I got another one…I quit a job tutoring kids once because I just couldn’t deal with some of the kids. Not the ones I was tutoring, but the ones that I had to walk past on my way into the school building. After I started having words with them, I decided to quit—again, with no notice. I just knew I was heading for a blowup and was going to say something that would turn into a big fiasco.

  136. Piso Mojado*

    This isn’t a particular incident, but my main sin right now is just that I really only work as hard as I have to, and don’t do a whole lot over the course of the day. I work harder to get the regular monthly projects completed, but there’s a lot of things I continue to let slide because no one ever checks up on it.

    I’m not a lazy person, but I am still making a transition to “professional” work and have a hard time breaking away from the mentality of having really clear tasks that get accomplished on a daily basis, the way you tend to have in factory work. I find myself goofing off a lot at work because I just don’t have really urgent stuff to do on a regular basis. There’s work I could be doing, but I tend to just stretch things out. I did go to my supervisor not long after starting here and ask for guidance, but they weren’t that helpful. This is on me, though, because they have assigned me things to do in another department and I hardly ever go over there to work, because it seems like I am not really needed there. I could be busier if I chose to be.

    Some of it is unhappiness with the job and the location, but part of me just can’t shake the idea that I was probably better suited to more menial tasks like straight data entry or factory work….

    1. KnitWorthy*

      I’m currently in that boat. I move my bits of projects along in a timely fashion, but everything else has a lack of urgency so I just stretch those projects out. There’s so little supervision, but when I do get feedback it’s all positive so I don’t know if they really want that much more out of me. Like you, I could be busier, but it also seems like no one cares.

      I’m starting a new job next month that is all about rules and regulations, and I honestly think I’ll really enjoy it. When I worked in fast food and retail I was frickin’ fantastic at keeping pace. Something about excelling within the confines of a framework is easy. I can do the menial/urgent tasks effectively and efficiently, and have no problem being creative in how to do things better…but when it comes to “oh, just come up with some projects for yourself” in my currently research position, I’d rather not and just go home and do my own creative things.

  137. Digophelia*

    I work at a library, and I recently got new bags for transporting books to and from campuses and was quite excited to laminate new labels for them. I spent about 30 minutes laminating away until one sheet managed to wrap around the roller. There was a horrible grinding noise that started to smell like burning. We dismantled the laminator and tried to get the sheet out, but it has been over a week, and it is still in there. It is the only one we have and other departments come and use the one in our area. The company was really great and is sending a new machine, but needless to say I will not be laminating anytime soon.

  138. Piso Mojado*

    Oh….how could I forget. And this is really bad.

    Years ago, I worked as a medical coder, and spent my downtime looking at all my co-workers’ medical records! So I violated HIPAA and the privacy of everyone I worked with.

    I’ve since had the opportunity to work with medical records again [not coding this time thankfully] and just want to cringe anytime I have to look at the file of someone I know, even though I’m not doing anything wrong.

  139. Liam*

    I escalated an issue with my manager to his supervisor before really addressing it with my direct manager first. But I’m actually really glad I did that.
    We got a new time keeping system, moving from time sheets to actually punching a timeclock. As with any change in habits, no one was perfect, so there were errors. Unfortunately, unlike the time sheets, we had to go through my manager to get them fixed, and he was rather shit at it.
    I would e-mail him a list of exact dates and times that needed to be fixed. He would either tell me “I’m done!” and have fixed only part of them, or I would hear nothing as the payroll deadline approached.
    When they finally admitted that the corporate payroll had a different deadline than the satellite offices (which I was going off of) they are all cloyingly cutsie about not telling me exactly when it was.
    Hello? This is my paycheck? Which you have to get as correct as possible or there are legal ramifications?
    Breaking point came in the 4th payroll period after the transition, I was gone for 2 weeks of vacation, and e-mailed him specific instructions of how I wanted vacation applied. (Basically, pay me everything I had accrued.) He instead paid me vacation for the entire period, which put me in the hole vacation wise.
    I e-mailed him, detailing my frustration, every point where he’d not done something and I’d had to fight to get my paycheck right, and made some suggestions (intending to be helpful) about how he might tackle it in the future so I and the other employees weren’t worrying about getting paid properly. And I CC’d his boss.
    Bad thing to do, yes, but it did get his boss involved, and saved me a write up, AND I never had to fight to get my paycheck right again. So, lesson, um … learned?

  140. anon for now*

    This is a recent career sin story. Many people in my organization have a difficult relationship with my boss, but ours has been particularly fraught for whatever reason. All of this came to a head a few weeks ago, and he called me on the phone and started yelling. Because I sit in a cubicle, everyone around me could hear our conversations. Although, I stayed very calm, it was clear who I was talking to and, generally, that it was not going well.

    Despite staying very level and calm on the phone, afterwards I was furious and very embarrassed. So I started talking loudly to my colleagues about what had happened; it was the classic move of someone who was embarrassed. (“I’m insecure about having a big nose, so I’m going to make a lot of jokes about it before you can!”)

    Anyway, once the dust settled between my boss and I, I really wish I had kept some of my feelings under wraps. Everyone was very understanding and supportive, and I had enough common sense to pull myself together/stop talking a few days later, but in the future I will not dump all my feelings on my co-workers in such a public way again! It’s just not professional.

    (The happy ending of the story: I start a new job in 2 weeks!)

  141. BW*

    I started dating a co-worker with whom I worked with very closely. In fact, he was one of the team who interviewed me. And when I started the job, he was the one who trained me. Technically, we have the same job title, but he has years’ more experience, so he was also in somewhat of a supervisory/mentoring role to me and another co-worker. We managed to keep our relationship on the down-low for the year-and-half that we both were working at that company.

    Surprisingly, it was a lot easier than I thought it would be–dating, working together, AND keeping it discreet. No one found out, not even the co-worker who kinda-reported to him along with me, not even after we moved in together, a year or so into our relationship. We were careful to not arrive at or leave work at the same time, to very rarely eat lunch together, and only interact at work for work purposes.

    We are still together and plan to get married, but we both work at different places now. Neither of our respective job changes have anything to do with our relationship.

  142. JJ*

    a couple of years ago i posted some pretty nasty things on facebook about how our management sucks and the sales people’s pay is insane for how little they do. and bitched about our and our increased workload in the middle of a recession instead of being thankful for having a job. Little did i know that our HR person printed out my entire facebook profile with comments and brought it to our CEO. I didn’t get fired, but i got a warning on my permanent record, and i’ve since blocked everyone i work with, changed my name and google myself on a regular basis so my internet presence is squeaky clean!

    1. Carolum*

      While you made a mistake, the HR person made an even bigger one. Why bother the CEO with something like that? And why put it on your permanent record?

      They would’ve been right to warn you – not to do this.

      1. JJ*

        the whole situation was insane- the HR person went to the CEO, and then it came back to me back down through 3 levels of management. when i found out, my my immediate supervisor called me into her office, along with a peer coworker as a “witness”, and her boss was speaker phone screaming at me while she sat there and cried. and the coworker chimed in and screamed at me too. it was insane. I can’t believe i’m still there. i’m the OP that had the company hide the christmas party from some of us because lower level employees weren’t invited. after 9 years at this place, it’s a wonder i’m not in a padded room.

  143. DogLady*

    Years ago when I was young and still in school and working as a dog trainer part time to earn some extra money, I signed up with a store to offer training classes. They sent me to observe a training class offered by a current instructor. One of the students had asked a basic question about how to get their puppy to stop chewing on things in the house, and while I don’t remember the exact answer the instructor gave (this was a LOOOONG time ago), I do remember the instructor didn’t mention anything about crate training or closely supervising the puppy and containing the puppy in a puppy safe area when direct supervision isn’t possible. I spoke up after class to the student, basically contradicting the instructor, and the instructor called me on it afterward. I received a call from corporate to ask about the class and that they “heard” there was an issue, at which time I explained how little I thought their instructor knew. I still ended up teaching for them, but to this day I cringe inwardly whenever I think about how I handled that. Whether the advise was right or wrong, I was a complete know-it-all jerk and try never to repeat that offense.

  144. Tinker*

    The job right before I went to grad school was a glorious, glorious disaster.

    I was a bit dissatisfied with the job I had before that — in retrospect, I probably should have started a serious search, but it was mostly the sort of vague lack of great fit thing that I didn’t really recognize as a legit issue back then. I didn’t recognize a lot of issues as legit back then. Thusly, to a great degree, the disaster. Into this funk, basically, came an expression of interest from a consulting firm who’d put my resume on file from my last job search over a year ago, and had resolved to keep me in mind when next they had an opening. At the time, I had a romantic attachment to the sort of work I thought they did, and I liked the president of the company, so long story short, I took the offer despite that it was a significant pay cut that was difficult for me to afford.

    So I start out there doing the thing that you do when starting out at a place like this, which is to say cranking out these little fixed-price projects that are somewhat formulaic — go out to the site, get the data, fill out tables, produce plans, repeat. First one I get I do it together with someone else with more experience and, like two days later, it’s done. Great! So he says, this is great, you just need to get it down to… oh, for this project 2-3 hours.


    So then I start cranking out these projects — 2 hour, 4 hour, sometimes for a really generous project that involves a lot of work 8 hours… and every time I completely blow the budget. It’s not hard with a project of that size, when some of it is dependent on travel time (and, e.g, not getting lost on the way to the building) to get completely screwed by very small things. But I figure, I will get this to work. I do not get this to work.

    The thing that I realized later was that this consulting firm had 40-hour weeks, yes? There was a word in there I did not get: “billable”. 40 billable hours. For one such as me, that probably would have meant 80 hours with butt in chair — for the more experienced folks, and in retrospect I saw evidence of this, maybe 60.

    So I kept on trying to make it work according to the way I think it’s supposed to work. Go faster, errors occur. Can’t have errors, therefore go slower. Blow the budget. Can’t do that, therefore go faster. Therefore errors. And all of this is simple stuff. Failure — over and over and over again, and after enough of this my brain kind of folded up like a lawn chair. By this time I had the idea somewhere in my mind that I should probably be staying later, but at that point about the only bright point of my day was the prospect of leaving work and I was averse to give this up. I beat myself up over that, in addition to all the other things I was beating myself up about.

    Eventually I got so stressed out and exhausted — and by what, I asked myself, because it wasn’t as if I was doing anything — that I could barely get myself together in the morning to get to work on time. And I did, but often times I would forget one thing or another. Little things. Like, for instance, my thyroid medication.

    Trivia fact: the symptoms of hypothyroidism are clinically indistinguishable from those of moderate to severe depression. And those symptoms, likewise, are clinically indistinguishable from those of being a worthless piece of shit, at least according to my perspective at the time. Which was, in retrospect, something less than a fully rational perspective.

    By this point it was clear that I should have started a job search, but the economy had crashed and it was clear that nobody was getting jobs — and I was in absolutely no shape to try and convince anyone else to hire me. Finally ended up getting this project that involved a lot of complicated elements, the client changed their mind a lot, I made a couple mistakes that the client then hung the delay on… huge mess ensued. I had an extremely vivid dream of walking into the president’s office with the plans rolled up, throwing them on her desk, quitting on the spot, and walking out the door. Then I got up and worked for half a day before thinking “Huh, I’m at work so I guess that didn’t happen.”

    Finally, I figured out that if I played my cards right I could get back into my alma mater for grad school through an expedited process, if I applied to start the next semester. So I kicked that process off and went to my boss, and we had this very tactful indirect sort of conversation where I said I hadn’t been accepted to grad school yet but it was a strong possibility, and she was visibly extremely relieved and said that sounded like an excellent idea and she was so glad I thought of it, and the day I got my acceptance letter was the day I gave my two weeks notice.

    Eventually I largely got over the tendency to beat myself up… mostly largely… okay, maybe I just do it with a safeword now. But I’ve got better about that, and about dealing realistically with my boundaries and preferences with regard to work. And I bought me one of those plastic old folks pill containers with the daily slots. These things were probably the most important and useful accomplishments of my twenties.

  145. Biff*

    1. I do not have a good mouth-brain filter and I often have my foot in my mouth.

    2. I have never worked with a good boss, so I’m not sure I know how to be a good employee. I’ve gone from a micromanager to the other extreme. My current boss is a really, really nice guy, but he’s not into being a manager.

    3. I’m not very good at figuring out what to do without some feedback. If I start something and get no feedback, I’ll drop it.

    4. I am a TERRIBLE dresser. I keep trying to come up with more office-appropriate wear, but I constantly fail.

  146. Shortie*

    Oh, dear. I have two big ones:

    1. Got my first full time job out of high school in a small family business. I had the most financial sense of the bunch even though I was still in my teens, so offered to handle accounts payable, receivable, and payroll in addition to my other duties. They accepted. I actually did a great job . . . collected on tons of old past due accounts, paid off company credit card debt with the owner’s blessing, kept the checkbook balanced, and so on . . . until one day when an official agency sent a letter saying that one of our employees’ wages was being garnished.

    I followed the instructions, entered the amounts into our accounting software, and carried on. But, oh yeah, oops, I had entered the money into additional withholding for TAXES, so the company was paying the garnishment, but the employee got all the money back at the end of the year in his tax refund. He spent it all that night, so could not pay the company back.

    2. Several years later, I was working at a small nonprofit. I had some tech savvy, and we had no tech people, so I offered to take the lead. They accepted, and one of my new tasks was to pull lists for donation request mailings. The bosses asked me to pull a certain list one day, and they wanted me to combine two databases that did not have matching unique IDs. In other words, there was no good way to de-duplicate names that appeared on both lists. I alerted them of this problem and told them that I planned to do a really tight de-dupe and take out any first+last name matches. They said no because they did not want to unnecessarily de-duplicate people who weren’t actually duplicates (they wanted to mail to as many people as possible to get more donations). I repeated my misgivings several times, but was eventually worn down and told to “make it happen.”

    So, I combined the two databases, pulled the lists, did a really loose dedupe (only first+last+city+state matches), eyeballed it to remove any obvious duplicates, and sent the list on. About a week later, the complaints started pouring in from potential donors who had received two and three of the same letter and were angry that we were wasting money like that. Our mail house estimated we had wasted thousands of dollars, and the bosses pulled me in to the meeting to play gotcha and tell me the problem “I” had caused.

    Sigh. Can you tell I take responsibility for the first, but not the second?

  147. jesicka309*

    I’ve cried at work in response to poor feedback and missed promotions.

    I wish it was only once, but sadly, I’ve done it at multiple jobs. The worst was when I once felt I was being bullied and set up a meeting with my manager in which I bawled my eyes out and told him how mean all the other coordinators were to me.

    Needless to say, I was treated with kid gloves for the next 2.5 years I was there. I’d go for a promotion, and miss out because they didn’t think I could handle the stress. Or get an average review on my yearly review because they were concerned I didn’t get along well with the others and that meant that all my above average work waas dragged down by one negative. After missing out on a promotion to an advanced role two times (first because they thought I didn’t have the confidence to do the role, the second time because they didn’t think it aligned well with my professional goal of working in marketing, a sidestep that the company was also refusing to let me do), I started applying elsewhere.

    When I handed in my resignation, I think my manager sighed with relief to finally have gotten rid of a ticking timebomb (and was probably panicking that the meeting was going to be another tearfest). Moral of the story: crying at work is bad, but crying to your manager at work about the mean bullies is harmful to your career.

    1. Other Jess*

      Oh my goodness, are you me? :)

      I was a chronic crier, during the four months I lasted at my one and only student teaching job. I was in my mid-20s and getting bullied by street-smart nine-year-olds who didn’t want a fat white lady with glasses telling them what to do all the time (which is basically what a student teacher does). And that was the least of my problems. The biggest of my problems was that I was supposed to be responsible for a number of students’ Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), a job for which I was untrained and unqualified. The school was in violation of so, so many rules (by having an unqualified assistant teacher supervising these IEPs) and I was constantly told that if I did anything wrong the school would be sued and it would be my fault.

      A year or so after that, I had moved on to a new job that was a much better fit. And I found out the hard way that I had PTSD from the teaching job. Ordinary day-to-day corrections by my boss and boss’s boss were fine, no problem. But I dissolved into tears in my first performance evaluation, just from the feeling of being Sat Down By Ourselves In An Office And Talked To Very Seriously About All The Ways My Mistakes Could Have Cost [New Job] Lots Of Money.

      I’m still at New Job, thirteen years later, and am so happy with what I do here that I don’t much care if I spend the rest of my working life here without a promotion. I’ve learned to manage my expectations of what performance evals are like, and to manage my supervisors’ expectations about how I respond to things like government audits and to making major work-related mistakes in general.

      It’s worked out okay, but, yes, if I had had hopes of someday being promoted to my boss’s job, I would have had to make some very different choices than what I’ve done so far in order to avoid being seen as ‘the neurotic one who gets upset when she makes mistakes’.

  148. Carrie in Scotland*

    I probably have many to recount but my sin was after a close bereavement I went back to work after 2 the weeks off I got for it and re-interviewed for my job (they were re-structuring) How I managed to secure an almost full time job I don’t know. I shortly after couldn’t cope (it was retail) and took 2 months unpaid off, handed in my notice, worked my notice and left. Christmas that same year I worked seasonally but that was a similar type of scenario – I just couldn’t seem to cope with the public. So I probably wasn’t a very good sales associate during those months (understandably). I don’t know how I got through it. I shouldn’t have gone back to work so soon in the first instance and I shouldn’t have taken the other job in the second instance.

    I now work in an office. I can cope with the public just fine, as they are on the end of phone usually but I do seem to go from “being on good form” (direct quote from someone I support) to not being on good form (my words) and I have a bit of a resistance to change.

  149. AVP*

    I can never, never, never manage to manage client / vendor expectations correctly. Either I undersell them and people get annoyed, or I oversell them and we people won’t agree to what I need them to.

    Part of the issue is just that there are certain people who probably would say no to what I want them to do, and probably SHOULD say no, but in my business “no” isn’t an option so I have to do everything I can to get them to say yes. And then they get angry, and my client gets angry.

    This is the ongoing thing about my job that I hate the most, and I’ve never been able to solve. My boss is a genius at it, I need to learn better from him.

  150. Still cringing over this*

    When I worked in advertising, I had to speak to a client in his new restaurant so we could go over payment methods. I figured I would try to schmooze him up a little.

    Me: “This looks great. I really hope it does well.”
    Client: “Thank you!”
    Me: “The last restaurant was so boring. Seriously, no one ever came in. Like a graveyard!”
    Client: “You mean ‘X?'” (the restaurant that used to be there)
    Me: “Yep!”
    Client: “That one was mine, too.”
    Me: “…”

    I was so mortified, I wanted to crawl under a chair. Luckily he was a good sport about it, but it certainly taught me a lesson in keeping my mouth shut.

  151. A Nanny Mouse*

    I quit my first job out of college… Without notice… By email. I was running a branch of a large before/after school program, with no daily direct supervision and no support from the higher ups. Parent interactions, drama with supervisors, staffing issues, and the constant screaming of 40 children led to me crying at the end of every shift (twice a day, since it was a split shift).

    My spouse and I talked about me quitting, but it seemed like it would be something to happen at the end of the school year. By the last week of October I had to take a week off because I just couldn’t handle it anymore. On Saturday night at the end of that week, I sent an email to my supervisors quitting. They were not happy (obviously), and I kind of felt bad, but more so for the kids’ sakes than anything else.

    After that, I was unemployed for three months. I did some soul searching, figured out what I actually needed out of a job- direct supervision, a manager who gives ME feedback instead of letting it get to me through the grapevine, and less than twenty kids at a time. I got what I wanted in a nanny job that pays more, has better hours, and only has two kids. I think I won, even though I royally messed up!

  152. fposte*

    I may have destroyed a nice old lady’s plumbing.

    I was for two horribly misplaced days a home health aid, due to my ability to test like I know something about subjects I don’t know much about. And the bedridden old lady I took care of pointed to the folded tissues next to her and said that the toilet was old and finicky and that these couldn’t be flushed down it.

    To this day, I’m not sure if I was in willful denial or just misunderstood (it may have been a progression from the latter to the former) that the folded tissues weren’t Kleenex but toilet paper, and she was telling me not to flush used toilet paper down the toilet.

    I’m sorry, ma’am. I hope I did not actually break your plumbing, but I was so out of my depth in the job that I quit before anything really horrible would probably have happened so I still don’t know.

  153. Phyllis*

    I called a former co-worker an empty suit to his face. What made it worse is that he looked at me with a genuinely puzzled expression and asked “What’s that?”, and I responded ‘My point exactly’. Whenever I think of it, even ten years on now, I feel like dirt.

  154. C average*

    I was a social media specialist for a big company just as social media was becoming A Thing, and part of my job was to screen our user-generated content–text and images–for inappropriate material, mainly porn. I had to keep a record of everything I removed from our site in case our users objected to the removal and we needed to defend our decision. I had a huge spreadsheet of pornographic images up on my great, big monitor . . . when a group of kids on a Take Your Daughter to Work Day came by my office wanting to learn more about my job.

    I got to explain to them that if you put something inappropriate on the internet and it gets removed, an actual human probably saw it, removed it, and maybe even laughed while doing so. I think it may have been one of the more educational parts of their day.

  155. The Bookworm*

    This is a story about someone else’s “work sin”.

    Years ago, a new employee where I worked had a string of extremely bad luck. Multiple family members died in the space of a few months. He had relocated to our state from Texas (about a 12 hour or more drive). So for every death, the company gave him bereavement and extra days off because of the distance.

    His job was over when the HR Rep called to find out how the employee was holding up, and the latest “deceased” relative answered the phone.

  156. mirror*

    I have two that I can think of:

    The first happened a couple months ago and I’m still kicking myself. I’m a freelancer and I was meeting another freelancer for lunch to hang out and chat. I’d worked with him a couple times but this was our first time “doing lunch.” I’m sort of an outgoing introvert, and making friends and networking is tough for me. In unfamiliar situations I sometimes misread or miss altogether social cues.

    We had a great lunch together and the check was dropped off and we ignored it for a bit. Then he picks it up and puts his credit card in it and sets it back down. I dont know WHAT I was thinking, but I took that gesture as a sign that he was paying for my lunch. I thanked him and told him he didnt have to do that, and he (God why did he have to be so polite!!) sputtered out that it was no big deal and he was happy to pay it. Immediately it hit me that he was just ready to pay, and I should have stuck my card in there as well. God, I still feel so stupid and embarrassed!

    After the fact: I’ve asked to have lunch again, and he was very friendly and open to it. But when I asked if he was free on the 17th, he said “hmmmm, it looks like I dont have anything going on.” Um, so is that a yes? :-/

    The second was my first job in high school that continued into college. I was a swim instructor and I had worked at the pool for several years til the incident. During a class, I was supervising the other teachers and one of our newest instructors was breaking a cardinal rule: no more than 3 kids for 1 instructor (these were 3 and 4 year olds who could not swim on their own). I told her she needed another person in the pool with her to help her out. We had several instructors-in-training (not certified yet to teach a class on their own) standing around so I told one to get in the pool. A few minutes later, I find the instructor-in-training sitting out on the side of the pool. I ask her why and she tells me the instructor didnt want her to help.

    I told instructor again that for safety reasons she needed another person with her but she kept saying over and over that she was fine and didnt need help. I tried to discuss it with her after the class and she starts arguing and yelling. I was so flabbergasted by her disrespect for authority and safety that I argued and yelled right back at her. In front of the other instructors and parents. It was also completely out of character for me because I’m usually the very quiet, laid back type.

    After the fact: I got my boss up to speed on what happened, since he was not present during the incident. He heard my story but didnt really seem too concerned (about safety or disobeying). I dont know if he ever talked to the instructor and later on we were cold but polite with each other. It still pisses me off to think about, but that could be because instructor was boss’ best athlete on the high school swim team (which he also coached). I witnessed a lot of favoritism like that and it really hurt to know that someone cared less about me because I was not a star performer on the team.

    1. Elkay*

      Throw in a “my treat this time” or “I still owe you for that last lunch” to assure him you’re going to repay him picking up the tab last time.

  157. The Bookworm*

    Another Career Sin – but not my story –

    Again, many years ago, the company I worked for had employees in multiple sites. One worksite was extremely remote & it was set-up & run like a small town.

    One night the Fire Chief went by the station & couldn’t find the employee who was supposed to be on duty. He went looking for the employee, and finally found him …. on a bench that backed up to the runway (which had the lights on) …… with a minor.

    The fireman filed for unemployment. When the unemployment hearing officer called to get information, I told her to tell the employee that he’d be under oath & we (the employer) would protest & have witnesses. He decided not to pursue unemployment.

  158. jenniferm*

    Oh my. I was working on a proposal for a huge project for two local governments. I had the fee estimate in excel. Enormous. So many tasks, several subconsultants, a third party managing the project for the governments. My boss kept changing stuff: make this task more, etc. But it wasn’t that simple because the totals for each task were the sum of hours for 5 different employee categories based on each person’s billing rate. I just couldn’t get it to add up to the correct total (we knew how much the grant was for). So I just entered the total at the bottom and sent it off figuring we wouldn’t get the job. Of course we got the job and of course the client went through and called out the mistakes. I had to figure out how to explain my “error” and now im stuck with tbis project that has a budget that is thousands of dollars less than it should be.

    1. jenniferm*

      Im afraid im also about to commit a bigger one as im planning to pitch the idea of doing pro bono work at my office. I really believe we should be doing it. But I think im going to be known as the girl who hates to make money. And probably laughed out of the room.

  159. Smilingswan*

    I was working as a bank teller, and I left my cash drawer of $10,000.00 out and unlocked overnight. Either the cleaning crew didn’t notice, or they were very honest, because everything was still there when I got in the next morning. I was fired that day, although they said it was not for that reason, but for a lack of “cultural fit”. I was apparently too gregarious for them.

    I should note, that the supervisor who was supposed to verify that all the cash drawers were stored in the vault at the end of the day did not get in any trouble that I know of. In my opinion, her error was just as bad as mine.

  160. HR "Gumtion"*

    Lots of big oops in my early jobs, I’ll share 2 that were into my career path(s).
    1- In my Production Manager days we had a Russian ship berthing at our dock on a Sunday night that we were to load with 10 mil lbs of frzn chicken beginning the following day. I had to bring in a small crew to tie it up and offload pallets from her hold. This was a Union job and we were to be paid minimum 4 hours even if we could rap it up in an hour, everyone was anxious to get the job started.

    The vessel owners Shipping Agent and a uniformed man came down to the dock as well waiting with us on the vessel. When the vessel came along side and dropped the gangway I quickly ran up to the hold boss and explained our mission. The uniformed man said I had to immediately leave the vessel, I waived him off needing a few more minutes. As I came down the gangway he said “It’s a $30,000 fine for boarding a vessel that hasn’t cleared customs yet”
    I replied “Yeah, I’ll pay cash”, and laughed it off. Unfortunately Customs Officers don’t take well to that type of humor and my boss game a strong talking to the following day.

    2-I started in HR as Staffing Manager for a seafood company and had a vessel porting in Dutch Harbor to fuel and receive some replacement workers. It was going to only be in a short time so there was a very small window to fly the employees up from Seattle.

    We had a group ready but were in a car accident on the way and weren’t going to make it time so we called around and readied a 2nd batch of 4, one returning employee and 3 newbies.

    We met them at the airport and when it came time to do the I-9 form the 3 newbies produced documents that were questionable. Since we already had paid tickets ($1,000 each) and the vessel was only in for a short time I turned a crossed eye and sent them up.

    Unfortunately, Immigration Officers work the Dutch Harbor area during certain busy times and met everyone as they got off the plane.

    The 3 newbies were immediately turned back, return airfare at our cost of course, and the vessel sailed short handed. Hard lesson learned.

  161. Urbanite*

    I’ve made a lot of mistakes. A funny and minor one – while an intern on Capitol Hill, my supervisor instructed me to send all people calling and asking to speak to the member of congress to voicemail. The supervisor would check the voicemail whenever she got the chance. Dozens of people called, and when a person named Joshua Bolton rang and requested to speak with the member, I of course said he was unavailable and sent him to voicemail. A few hours later, I got a one line email from the supervisor – “Moving forward, please do not send the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to voicemail.” I was mortified, but it gives me a good laugh now.

    1. Carolum*

      Hey, you did what you were supposed to do! And I wouldn’t expect my congressman’s interns to know the heads of every office.

    2. Chinook*

      I have another similair story about someone else following instructions to a tee. At the National Defense headquarters in Ottawa, one of the non-military security guards told me about what happened her first week there. The rule was that, if you don’t have your pass to get you past the front gate, you had to get a temporary pass from the visitor sign in or have someone come down and let you in.

      Well, one guy had been out for a run on the canal in workout gear and had forgotten his pass. He tried to convince her to let him in and she refused, pointing him to the visitor’s gate. While she was talking, her supervisor ran over, swiped his card through the gate and said “sorry General” and let him through. Turned out it was the Chief of Defense whose picture was hanging right behind her! Later (presumabley after he showered and changed), he called her boss to make sure the newbie didn’t get into trouble because she was following security protocol because she didn’t recognize him. Her boss did request, though, that she study the pictures of the “big bosses” when it was quiet so she could recognize them on sight.

  162. Feed Fido*

    There are sins of commission and omission. What do you wish you would have done?

    Me- I have never been politically savvy and still have no idea how to be.

  163. Orange Bottle*

    My first job out of college: my office had a major leak in the ceiling that was activated whenever it rained. One morning I came into work during a torrential downpour, and as usual, water was dripping from the ceiling into a huge puddle on the floor.

    I WISH I could say that I have some kind of logical explanation for my thinking in this moment, but there is absolutely none. I just figured it wasn’t my job to deal with the leak, and everybody already knew about it (and, to be honest, I was resentful that they knew about it but hadn’t bothered to fix it). So I sat down at my computer and started working.

    My boss walked in about 15 minutes later and she was (understandably) LIVID to see me sitting at my computer, typing away, while the water pooled on the floor just a few feet away from me (again…I really have no clue what I was thinking. First job out of college…utter stupidity…). She immediately did what I should have done, which was to arrange empty garbage cans under the leaks and call maintenance – but she made sure to SLAM everything down as she went.

    That afternoon she called me into her office and told me calmly that she had been so angry with me that morning that she couldn’t even speak to me. And that she NEVER wanted to see me do anything like that ever again. I definitely learned my lesson – there’s no such thing as an innocent bystander at work (or, arguably, anywhere).

  164. Marcoms Coordinator*

    Crying. So much crying. I was very very emotional for months after my mother died unexpectedly – so much so that innocent requests from my manager like “can you please switch out the image in that brochure for this one, the one you put in isn’t quite right” would have my eyes welling up.

    1. Marcoms Coordinator*

      Addendum – most people were very understanding given the circumstances, but I think it’s still haunting me – 12 months on, I think certain people still treat me with kid gloves, just in case I start crying on them.

  165. Shimshum*

    Ugh. I lied to my boss once years ago and it still eats me up.

    I was early 20s and in charge of taking care of a high profile visitor who had been invited to meet with our bigwigs. Little did I know that visitor had a…challenging…relationship with our CEO.

    Me, being so caught up in my first big exciting role, didn’t adequately brief the visitor prior to meeting with our CEO (that the CEO was chairing the meeting and would introduce the visitor etc, instead I spent the drive from the airport talking about their country, and other pleasantries), so the visitor walked into the meeting and began to jump right into it, not knowing the agenda that the other bigwigs had in front of them.

    CEO took offence to this and walked out of the meeting in anger. I nearly died.
    But, when my boss later came to talk to me about what happened and explained the backstory of the CEO’s dislike of the visitor, instead of owning up to my oversight I let them think I had adequately briefed the visitor and that the visitor had just either been over excited or (in the CEO’s eyes) rude and disrespectful.
    Our relationship with that visitor was never quite the same, and I felt incredibly guilty about it the rest of the time I was with that company.

    Lesson learned: if I’d admitted my mistake I really doubt my boss’ response would have been any worse than the internal punishment I inflicted on myself. Integrity is my new best friend!!!

  166. Larisaus*

    Arrogance! Knowing “what’s best” for the gym!

    When I was in college, I worked in the sales team for a local gym. Our gym really prided itself on having a very welcoming, community atmosphere, where members and staff developed quite good friendships. I was great and building excellent relationships with members and helping them meet their goals, but I took our focus on keeping a community vibe WAY too seriously.

    Ie. if you came to enquire about joining but were in any way rude or overly pushy with me, I’d do everything I could to deter you from joining (“I’m sorry the $300 joining fee is non negotiable. Oh and did I mention there will be a $200 cancel fee in the first year?” I would say this even though we had quite a bit of flexibility on the size of the joining fee-most never paid more than $50!).
    Similarly, if any members were in any way rude or pushy (read: I felt the way they asked me to cut them slack was entitled, rude and pushy!), I would dig my heels in and become a stickler for process for the sake of process, and if we kept butting heads on it I would let them know if they didn’t like it there were plenty of other gyms to join!
    If however you and I connected instantly, I would do everything I could to help you join! Discounts? No problem! Extra time to hold your membership? Absolutely! Nervous about being in a gym? How about I come and train with you a couple of times as a buddy and introduce you to people!
    I’m lucky my overall sales (and proportion of members who renewed) were pretty great, and so management had made it explicit that they were comfortable giving me quite a long leash, but I’m pretty sure management would have been horrified if they’d ever caught me in some of these circumstances!

  167. Hazel*

    I once threw up in my manager’s office. It was my first job and I was, for some reason, very anxious that people might think I wasn’t a hard worker. So, I’d worked too hard in a very hot environment without drinking any water, and I got really faint and woosy. My manager spotted me and made me sit down. He got me a glass of water which I drank, and then- … Yeah. I was so, so embarrassed.

  168. S*

    1. When I went on my first business trip to one of our satellite locations, I was taken out to dinner by a very nice local colleague. She was my age, we got along great, and I excitedly promised her that if she ever came to our office, I’d take her to this great local Indian place for dinner to return the favour.

    Well, six months later, she was due to visit our office, and my team was tasked with entertaining her. The SVP decided that he wanted to come along and that he wanted to take her to his favourite restaurant. Someone piped up and said, “Oh, but S already promised to take her to restaurant C!” The SVP replied, visibly miffed, “Well, sounds like has already sorted that, then!” – but he still decided to come along.

    We had a great time at the restaurant, even though it was clearly a bit too indie and casual for the SVP’s more, um, refined tastes.

    The next day, the SVP called me to chew me out. Apparently, when he had got home the night before, his wife had refused to let him into the house because he had been smelling SO BADLY of curry – and instead made him strip to his underpants in their back yard in -5C weather and snow… He also called the colleague and apologised for my horrible choice. She was utterly surprised at that because she had had a wonderful time at the restaurant.

    I haven’t been allowed to choose restaurants for company dinners since.

    2. My first business ever was an 8hr road trip with my boss. We have a very casual relationship, and I had decided that I didn’t feel like spending 8 hours in the car in business clothes, so when he picked me up at my apartment, I was wearing jeans, a band t-shirt, a hoodie and red converse. He didn’t say anything.

    … But when we arrived at the hotel at about 10pm looking and feeling utterly fried, I realised that there was a management board meeting at the same time at the same hotel, and I found myself having to walk past them sitting at the bar grinning in my rock concert clothes…

    My boss still jokes about “that time you went on a business trip in your pyjamas”.

    1. lonepear*

      I hope the SVP isn’t that obnoxious all the time! This sounds more like his career sin than yours.

  169. Blue Anne*

    Background here: My husband and I are poly, and my co-workers in this story all knew him because he used to work with us. They knew we were dating, but not that we had an open relationship. At the time I was also dating a very cute girl who had gone to London for a few months for an internship.

    First business trip. We were visiting London for a trade show, and I had made all the arrangements (trains, marketing handouts, booking a stall, hotel, getting signs printed, everything) and would also be actually working on the stall to help with sales. We went down the night before the show, all had dinner and a few beers together, and then the rest of them headed back to the hotel, but I said I wanted to pick up a souvenir for then-boyfriend (now husband) and would see them in the morning.

    Instead of souvenir shopping, I met my girlfriend in a pub nearby, had a few *more* drinks, and then smuggled her into my hotel room. Whups.

    The next morning she subtly left while I was getting ready for the show, and I took a heck of a lot of painkillers for my hangover, then got to work. No one ever noticed, apparently. I got a lot of praise for my work with prospective clients at that show. If only they knew how hung over and sleep-deprived I was at the time…

  170. KayDee*

    I have a situation that still bothers me. I was a supervisor of group homes that support people with intellectual disabilities in the community. I was in my twenties, had a huge case load and was on a steep learning curve.

    One of my staff came to me to tell me that she was leaving her husband and had concerns about her safety at work. I totally under reacted to her concerns and in effect belittled her situation. I wasn’t able to look beyond my own sheltered existence and see her situation for what it really was. After repeated requests for assistance, which I blew off, she approached my supervisor. Thankfully my supervisor reacted as I should have and put some safeguards into place for the staff, her coworkers and the people living at that house. My supervisor never approached me about this but I really didn’t need anyone to tell me I screwed up. It was glaringly obvious.

    The ironic part is that in my current position (different employer) I am the one who delivers the violence in the workplace training to all staff. I think of my former staff every time I deliver the training.

  171. Colorado*

    I had an affair with the Vendor (salesperson), who was engaged. Our biggest commodity, huge sales volume. I lied through my teeth ( I don’t lie). Big corporation, huge conflict of interest. I was 23, he was gorgeous. Yes, it was twenty years ago and ridiculously irresponsible.

    Wow, I feel so much better after getting that off my chest! Whew..

    1. anon*

      I had an affair at work with a married senior sales executive which ended my marriage and nearly theirs. no one to this day in my family (who know him) or at work knows about it but it came so close. This was over 13 years ago and went on for 10+ years! I live in constant fear of my ex H telling my kids and my parents. My current H knows all about it though so at least I don’t have to worry about that! Work affairs. NO! Seriously, do not EVER go there :(

  172. Shame*

    I will admit I was a boss’ nightmare employee. But she was a nightmare boss too. It was my first “corporate” job in the big city. Okay, it was a small branch of a corporation based in another state.

    1) I had an affair with a married manager from another department and my boss found out about it.

    2) I would drink too much on office bar outings and behave totally inappropriately with any male around.

    3) I would take smoke breaks multiple times a day. I know I abused break time for sure.

    4) I propositioned a employee from our corporate office when he was in town to work in our branch. I was drunk and “showing him the town.”

    5) Jamie, don’t hate me please. I was part time IT support and I would hack into other peoples email to entertain myself. I did get caught and written up for that.

    6) My attitude was so bad that literally, if people heard me coming down the halls (stomping on tile with my heels) they would leave their work area to avoid me even if I was coming to fix a computer issue for them.

    I have tried for years to get over the nightmare of that office and my attitude.

    1) They had a 35% turnaround in staff every year. That was shocking until I realized after I left that my boss had 4 people reporting to her and including me, she had gone through 10 employees in those positions in 3 years.

    2) My boss hired me at the beginning of the year, I was to be a back up for another person while training. Three months after I started, my boss went on maternity leave, but 1 week before she left, she FIRED the person who was training me and who I was doing back up work for. Then she refused to take any of my calls if I had a question while she was on maternity leave. In the meantime we were down two employees and I was drowning in the work load.

    3) My boss was so inappropriate with her management. She asked me why I didn’t get a breast reduction since my chest was so large. (I never said anything about my chest, ever! She just blurted it out, more than once!) She repeatedly accused me of thinking I was better than her because I had a 4 year college degree when she only had a 2 year college degree.

    4) I had emergency surgery and I was supposed to be off work for 2 weeks but she made me come back to work after 1 week off. I didn’t know any better so I came into the office in severe pain.

    5) I had to work on the weekends to rebuild a server and the manager of the office (my boss’ boss) asked if I could take Thursday and Friday as my days off during the week so when I worked Saturday and Sunday they wouldn’t have to pay me overtime. I said no.

    I have no defense but I do want to say that I am better now but it has been a long, long road. At the time, in addition to it being my first corporate environment, I was 6 months into grieving my boyfriends passing, I moved to a new city and knew nobody and I did not have a therapist and had not been prescribed medication for my depression and chemical imbalance.

  173. Shell*

    I was…17, I think, and working at my high school’s night school program as an admin. In doing this job, I had a master key to every room in the building.

    During the day, I’d left my calculus homework…somewhere. I think I thought it was in my psych class’s classroom. So, being the clueless idiot I was, I decided to use my key to poke around in the psych classroom to see if I could find it, since I wanted to study (I was allowed to do homework on down time).

    A daytime teacher caught me. Didn’t say anything. Next day I got called into the principal’s office. The teacher had told my psych teacher, whom rightly suspected I was abusing my access to dig around for exam papers (and she was especially livid since I had a psych exam that day!).

    I basically broke down crying in the principal’s office. This would’ve been a suspension-worthy offense, but I was a model student so the principal let me off with a written warning (on school letterhead and everything!) to be delivered to my parents.

    Only the day principal, the two teachers, and my direct supervisor knew. There wasn’t that much fallout, although I wasn’t allowed to work my next shift (the girl who worked my alternating days was asked to take an extra shift for me) since they had to give me the strong warnings and put the fear of god in me first. I don’t know if it even made it into my permanent record, if there was such a thing. It could’ve been worse! I apologized up and down to my principal and my psych teacher and to all and sundry.

    The next year after I graduated, I stopped by the school and personally thanked the principal for second chances.

  174. Kacey*

    I had recently been hired at a new school, which had misrepresented the position I had taken. I went to my department head and administrators for help, and ended up getting talked past and berated. Later, when I was called in for a meeting, because I was nervous and a new employee and wanted to make a good impression, I said that the administration had been very helpful when I went to them. Which, of course, made me look incompetent and the administrators feel that they had done their level best by me. I left that job eventually, but I really regret not being honest in that moment.

  175. Tara*

    I’m doing a paid internship right now (I’m still in high shool) and in my first couple of weeks someone corrected me on a really basic error I had made. Rather than apologizing and fixing it, I started giving them a long list of excuses as to why I had done it. “I didn’t know how to do x and y at the same time! It was an accident! It didn’t occur to me to do it that way!” It was pretty bad. Within an hour I felt moritifed and made a very embarassed apology. Luckily she seemed more amused than annoyed!

    1. Smilingswan*

      Good for you for realizing your mistake and taking ownership by apologizing. That shows a lot of maturity. Many people well into their careers find it hard to do. Also, it’s natural to try to justify why you did something, even though it may be best not to do it. I’ve found that if I genuinely don’t understand why something I’ve done is wrong, instead of trying to excuse my error I say something to the effect of, “this was my thought process, can you help me understand where I went wrong”? I think that’s less confrontational, and shows that you are open to criticism and guidance. Anyway, good luck to you; it seems like you’re off to a great start!

  176. moving on*

    I had a job at a bank in highschool the summer after Highschool I kept the job and informed my manager that I was going to go to the local community college. Instead about a month later a friend and I decided one weekend that we were going to move to Chicago. I put my teller keys and a note that said “I’m moving to Chicago, I quit” in the over-night deposit box and never looked back… fast forward to being home for Christmas a couple years later and one of my supervisors was serving at the pizza restaurant my family went to and she wouldn’t even take my order

  177. Anonymous*

    Some people are very careless with documents. If there is something left on a copier or printer and I pick it up to move it, I just can’t help reading it! Even when it’s clear I shouldn’t see it. I have seen evaluation letters, medical documents, 1040 forms, all kinds of stuff. I don’t tell others what I’ve read, but I can’t stop my eyes from proceeding, even though I know what I’m reading was intended to be private.

  178. anontantrumthrower*

    I had worked at my last employer for 20+ years. I had an extremely difficult yet close relationship with a co-worker who was a prima donna and drama queen. We had worked together for upward of 15 years since we were 19 and thus were more like temperamental sisters. One of her parents was senior, though my parents started the company but had retired some 8 years ago. She thought she was above everyone else and thought nothing of belittling people for fun with criticism thinly veiled as “jokes” along the line of, if you said you needed to knuckle down and do some work, she would sneeringly say that it “would make a nice change”, that kind of thing.

    One day, she had been particularly mardy and during lunch accused me of doing something quite serious that I categorically hadn’t done. I was so flabbergasted that I absolutely flipped out! I don’t mean just shouted, I absolutely lost it. It was the final straw and I’d been suppressing rage on a daily basis, especially that week. I was shaking so badly that I couldn’t form a coherent sentence and grabbing my bag told them I was leaving. The “boss” (also drama queen’s parent) tried to grab me and pulled me into a meeting room. They tried to calm me down but by then I was a crying wreck. The DQ refused to come down to apologise and I said I was going home. Long story short, I told the MD I was not ever coming back. They said what did I want to come out of it. I said I wanted paying for my months notice without working plus holiday pay. They agreed. I think they were worried I’d sue for bullying in the work place as this worker had been instrumental in getting a few people into trouble by lying and exaggerating other disagreements.

    To be fair, I had been unhappy for many years and this was the push I needed to get out. I now have a new job in a fantastic new company and am really excited about it. It’s a massive corporate company and there is a proper management structure and no nepotism!

    However, this is definitely my bigges sin. I quit a secure job with great benefits with nothing in the pipeline. It was un professional to blow up like I did and I am pretty ashamed of myself. I left the company in the poo as I was a key member or staff. Put un acceptable pressure on my fellow workers who I loved dearly and really wish I had handled DQ in a more mature way. But JC it felt GOOD!

  179. anon*

    In the early days of my career, attention to detail was not my strong point. I once sent an email to an Account Manager and when calling them an Account Manager, missed the “o” out and didn’t spot it until after hitting “send”. Fortunately they were more amused than offended. Brilliant ! Not to mention the time I sent a mailshot out and instead of Whitehead in the signature I put an “S” at the beginning instead of “W” !!!! Woopsie!

  180. Anonymous*

    So the ramifications of my career sin came raining down on me as recently as last week. I have deep and resounding shame about the mean spirited and immature shenanigans that I took part in but I am posting it in case it might serve as a cautionary tale to those that may be naïve to the fact, or need a reminder that, we don’t own or have ultimate control over our company generated email. That delete button might seem final but it only makes things disappear from your immediate sight. Those embarrassing emails still live, forever and ever, in corporate watchdog land.
    Some background: I was initially very excited about my job when I first started 3 years ago. It seemed like a dream and I was a battered and bruised job seeker who was finally finding reprieve from a non-existent job market. It paid well, had the creative aspects I need and seemed very stable as it is a BIG corporation. I was given an enthusiastic and warm welcome by the onboarding staff but when I came in the next day the cheery onboarding fairies were gone and it was a completely different atmosphere. A pall had enveloped the office. It was like a tomb. No one spoke to anyone! Not even casual chitchat. Nothing could be heard except the clickity click of keyboards. I soon became apparent that morale was very low due to poor management, crazy workloads, expected but uncompensated overtime etc. Nobody ever went to lunch together or socialized. They just stayed hunched over their keyboards day in and day out. Sometimes the more bitter project managers would act out in meetings or display fits of insubordination but hey, it helped break the silence at least.
    While I realize that work is not happy hour it was none the less a very weird, culture shock type of situation and it wore on me. I became very stressed out and resentful and honestly, somewhat depressed. Until one day, a coworker across the floor sent me an email that contained a photo of a coworker with a text bubble saying something ridiculous and spot-on representative of their more annoying qualities. It was a little ray of humorous sunshine in my cubicle of silence within my workplace that was a stalag of gloom and unfriendliness. I laughed (quietly) and I shot an email back with a different picture and another snarky text bubble. It became a daily thing between us – sometimes several times a day.
    I am not a technically ignorant person. I knew in the back of my mind that these were eventually going to get me in trouble but I couldn’t stop. Last week an HR manager showed up at my cubicle and led me to a conference room. My manager was also there. They had a stack of about 5 of the emails that they considered the most representative of discrimination and harassment. They explained that the firm has decided not to dismiss me but that it was important that we “find a way to help me be more respectful to the team” and then made me sign a paper for the permanent file. While I’m grateful that I didn’t get the immediate axe (despite deserving it) I see it as a temporary reprieve and also clearly see the writing on the wall (albeit, not in a text bubble over the HR rep’s head). I am now furiously working to update my resume and go into full on job search mode while I still have one.
    So to wrap up this long winded confession I will just add that this lesson learned will benefit me in a couple of ways: It’s given me a wakeup call that I’ve stopped living life with respect, humanity and compassion and need to make big changes and it’s also giving me the impetus to not stay stuck in an unhappy situation. Going back to my cover letters now…

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