10 weirdest things you’ve seen at work

You’ve probably had your share of mild frustrations with coworkers – the guy who takes all his calls on speaker phone, the woman who monopolizes meetings and makes them take twice as long as scheduled, and the other typical characters who show up in the majority of offices on a regular basis.

But when I recently asked readers to share some of the weirdest things they’ve seen coworkers do at work, we ended up with some stories far beyond routine coworker oddities. I’ve rounded up the 10 weirdest of all the outrageous things you’ve witnessed.

1. Living in your office

“The office I used to work in had a bedroom in it – fully furnished, with a bed and sheets and a dresser and side table (but no windows). At one point, the (very scary and extremely hated) manager was living in the office with his wife and their two dogs. She would walk around the office in her house robe and slippers, carrying one of those dogs. She’d page her husband over the loudspeaker to come to his office, where they’d proceed to argue very loudly for the whole office to hear.

When the HR manager tried to call the company insurance company to see how much of a liability it was to have an employee and his wife and dogs literally living in the office, the manager slapped the HR manager hard enough across the face to leave finger-shaped welts and give him whiplash. The manager was not fired or reprimanded in any way.”

2. Undressing in front of you

“My boss, the CEO, has changed in front of me, top to bottom but leaving his underwear on, twice during conversations. The second time I saw it coming and tried to back away, but he followed me because he still had more to say. He does this to everybody, it’s just more uncomfortable for me because I’m a woman and he’s a man and I don’t know where to look. For anyone thinking this is some form of sexual harassment, you have to take my word for it that it’s not – he’s simply the weirdest person I’ve ever known.”

3. Bathing in the showroom

“I worked with a guy who biked to work and felt the need to clean up before going to his office. We had a showroom with lots of plumbing displays, including whirlpools filled with water, working sinks, showers, and toilets. There was even a water heater since some of the displays featured temperature related features. They were set in mock-ups of real rooms, so full bathroom suites were set up in rooms that would look like a typical customer’s bathroom.

He got there a full hour or more before the showroom opened to the public, so he used one of the bathrooms for his morning routine. The kicker was that this wasn’t plumbed potable water. It was all connected to a re-circulator so that we didn’t have massive water bills from running the displays every day. He showered in his own filthy grey water for months before anyone caught onto what he was doing.”

4. Claiming to be your own twin

“At an old job, we had a temp who was fired. A few months later, when everyone from the team she worked on had moved to a new office, she came back as a temp on one of the teams left in the old office. After a couple days, the HR manager recognized her and let team manager know. When he confronted her about it, she claimed to be the twin of the original temp. She couldn’t produce any identification, and it was obvious she was lying. She was fired, of course, but the woman who claimed to be her own twin sister became a company legend.”

5. Eating frozen meals, still frozen

“One of my coworkers eats a frozen meal for lunch every day. And I mean frozen. She doesn’t bother microwaving them. Even when the food in the tray still has a thin layer of ice on it, she will not heat it up. One time she broke the tines of her plastic fork trying to stab it through a vegetable that was frozen solid, but even that didn’t deter her. She kept eating, broken fork and all.”

6. Brushing your teeth at your desk

“I used to work in a cubicle across from a guy who brushed his teeth at his desk. He would go fill a coffee mug with water, then brush his teeth, dipping his toothbrush into the mug, and spitting into it. I was so shocked I couldn’t even say anything at all. I couldn’t figure why, since he was getting up to put water in his cup and then getting up to dump it out, couldn’t he just go in the bathroom to brush? I didn’t know him very well and wasn’t sure how to tell him to quit it because it was revolting.”

7. Aggressively promoting your self-published adult novel to your team

“One of my coworkers wrote and self-published a book. He actually gave out free copies to everyone in our department and all of management. I can ignore the quality of the writing of the book, but what I (and now the rest of the office) can’t ignore is that it is incredibly sexually explicit. It invents euphemisms that are as awkward as they are confusing while describing activities I would not normally advise discussing with your boss.

I hoped the book would become old news, but he is really promoting it. We’re talking emails about book-signing events, telling everyone about how it’s going to be turned into a TV show and a play and maybe a movie, and other things for which etiquette demands congratulations but everyone knows will never happen.”

8. Stripping down in the bathroom

“I used to work with a guy that did triathlons and biked 12 miles to work in the Texas heat. He’d wear his Lance Armstrong wear on the way to work, strip down in the staff bathroom, use a wash rag to take a bath in the sink and get dressed for work. He didn’t wear underwear under his bike stuff.”

9. 10 minutes of cat noises

“I have done some voice work for video games, which includes things like making 10 minutes of cat noises. I spent half an hour once trying to make noises for various deaths in response to instructions like, ‘okay now … like you’ve been stabbed in the stomach’ … ‘umm, can you give me a hit in the head with an axe noise?’”

10. And finally, one thing you wish your coworkers would start doing

“There was a thing at one of my offices called ‘breakfast club’ where groups of people brought in breakfast on Fridays. It started out simple, like donuts or quiche, but some groups took it pretty far. There was definitely a manager in one of the groups that brought in a waffle iron, batter, fruit toppings and bacon for his weeks and set them up in the empty cube next to his desk. Breakfast burrito bars and crockpot oatmeal bars also made appearances. Then that empty cube got a blender and the people in that group started making smoothies regularly. I was just waiting to see what small appliance showed up next in that cube.”

I originally published this at Intuit QuickBase’s blog.

{ 86 comments… read them below }

  1. AnonEMoose

    The story from the person who did voice work reminded me of a story that (at least supposedly) took place during the filming of the “Lord of the Rings” movies. When working on the scene where Saruman is stabbed, Peter Jackson started giving his directions to Sir Christopher Lee.

    As the story goes, Lee looked at Jackson and said “Do you know what a man sounds like when he’s been stabbed in the back? He sounds like this…” Sir Christopher was involved in some interesting things in WWII, or so I’ve been told.

    1. Laufey

      I think that story was part of the commentaries on the discs, and Lee was in RAF Intelligence from 1941 until 1946. Probably more true than some Hollywood folklore. (No, Mr. Rogers was not a SEAL.)

      1. AnonEMoose

        I think you might be right about that being in the commentaries – I should go back and check (oh, gee, having to watch them again- such hardship – LOL!).

    2. manybellsdown

      I think that one was two different comments combined, because I replied to someone who mentioned the cat noises with the “hit with an axe noise”. I also had to do some “background forest spirit/dryad noises” once that was me hissing and moaning creepily into the mike for 20 minutes.

      Sadly, just making noises is not enough to get you a voice credit on the games. You have to have actual lines.

  2. AdAgencyChick

    Dear god. The next time I’m inclined to scream “People are pigs!” because someone has peed on the toilet seat, I will remind myself that at least no one is showering in recycled water at my office.

  3. some1

    I don’t get how the twin one happened unless the temp was using a fake identity. I’ve been a temp and assisted with temp onboarding. HR (or the person who is the contact for vendors) should have at least a name beforehand to check against any Do Not Hire list.

    1. Arbynka

      Maybe she pretended to have the same name as her twin. You, know, taking the identical twin thing all the way :)

      1. some1

        That’s the only other thing that makes sense…she has a twin sister and gave the twin’s license & ss card to a different temp agency.

        1. fposte

          Or she was temping at a place that didn’t do that kind of screening. I think a lot of organizations just take who comes and call the agency if there’s a problem.

      2. EM

        When I was a kid, I wanted to have identical twin daughters and give them the same name, but call them both by nicknames (Caroline was the name of choice).

        Thank goodness I never actually subjected two innocent children to that.

      3. Any Mouse

        I worked for a professional organziation where 2 members were identical twin brothers. They had the same first name, different middle name, different specalities but they lived in the same city and worked in different locations. So it was John A. Tennant and John J. Tennant. I actually spoke to one of them (the wrong one, I was trying to contact the other) and he explained the situation AND that originally his mother wanted to give them middle names that started with the same letter, but she was convinced otherwise.

    2. Chriama

      I think the idea is that HR let her through and she was in a different department, but someone from her old department recognized her. It could be that HR doesn’t keep a central Do Not Hire list for temps, or they just sent her back without telling the agency she was blacklisted.

        1. Chriama

          Maybe a different HR manager handles the temp agency communications. Or maybe they don’t even know which temp they’re getting until they show up on the first day. Or maybe the HR manager didn’t remember the name but seeing the temp triggered her memory.

          1. Witty Nickname

            I was the OP on that one – she used a different name when she came back to the new department. Her original team was one that didn’t really interact with any of the teams that were still in that office, so nobody recognized her.

            When I was hired as a contractor there, I never met the HR manager – only the hiring manager. I think the only reason the HR manager even recognized her is because the issue she was originally fired for was a serious one, and the HR manager was involved. The company used several different temp agencies at that time (most of us were contractors or temps due to a hiring freeze enacted by our parent company. They did convert most of us to permanent once the freeze was lifted, thankfully), so it would have been easy for her to sign up with a different agency, tell them she preferred to go by her middle name, and then use the middle name when she met her hiring manager (I’m not sure if that’s what she did).

            Thankfully, the manager had dealt with some crazy situations before, so he saw through her story!

    3. A Non

      Or their HR isn’t very organized, and whomever handled the paperwork for this temp didn’t see that she’d been employed there before. I’ve seen stranger things happen. (Like managers who went all the way through interviews, chose a candidate, negotiated a salary, and only spoke to HR and payroll after they’d set a start date for the new employee. That went over like a ton of bricks.)

      1. Gem H

        Yeah, at my old company we hired someone who had worked at another branch. Her application went through HR fine (centrally managed -I worked at a large pharmacy chain in the UK), no problems. She had issues and my manager was going through steps to manage this.

        Completely by accident the area manager from another area came to visit (to cover for our area manager who was sick). The other area manager was visibly shocked to see new employee working at our branch.

        We later found out that not only had the employee been sacked (from a branch in her area) for being generally rubbish, she had disputed the sacking and opened a formal grievance with the company (which didn’t go any further). Yet she was employed again (and opened another grievance when she was let go from our branch).

        1. HR Manager

          When I worked for a larger publishing company, we frequently had managers drag someone in on their first day and say hey I hired xxx, can you please get him/her set up? We hired a lot of long-term contractors for certain book releases, and this was usually how these contractors were managed (drove us nuts, nonetheless). Apparently a manager decided to do this with a former contractor who had been fired for stealing. Our head of HR spoke to the management team about that (and not involving HR in any hires), and you can bet that practice stopped then and there.

      1. Loose Seal

        When I was a bank teller, I had a situation where a twin was fraudulently cashing his twin’s checks. I knew the one guy but didn’t know he had a twin so I never checked ID. It was the drive-thru so we didn’t chat much other than “hi” and “thanks” and I just thought the guy, like a lot of people, had two cars. When the situation came out some months later when the original guy checked his balance, I had cashed enough for the criminal twin to have a felony and almost had to testify in court (he pled guilty at the last moment so no trial). I did not get in trouble at the bank for failing to check ID as the higher-ups thought it wasn’t customer-friendly for you to demand ID if the customer had been to you several times already but I was really dreading having to get up in court to explain how I didn’t know there were two identical men.

        1. Arbynka

          Made me think of Arrested Development. “Unfortunatelly for him, you have the wrong twin was a popular excuse” “We are identical quadruplets. You have the wrong two.”

        2. Elysian

          I’m so glad you didn’t have to testify. This was a completely acceptable mistake in my bo0k. Who could know?!

        3. Emily

          The same thing happened to me when I was a teller! Only I was the new teller who had to ask everyone for ID. The woman mistakenly sent her real ID in with a check made out to her sister, which was the name the other tellers knew her by. The next day our fraud department realized that she’d also been kiting checks off her sister’s account.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger

            Aaaand that’s why I’m always a stickler for the rules, especially when it comes to security. I pretty much have to have written instructions threatening to fire me if I don’t take X-shortcut-that-has-a-tiny-chance-of-ending-in-disaster. I’m not completely risk-averse, but it has to be a calculated risk. There’s usually no good reason to violate security procedures for other people.

      2. Summer

        My husband is an identical twin. Once you get to know both guys, they are easy to tell apart, but if you don’t know them well (or don’t realize they have a twin) it can get confusing He and his brother were a little disappointed they both ended up going to the same college, because if they went to different ones and didn’t tell anyone they were a twin, the other twin could then show up and they could have all kinds of hijinks like you see in movies (that never would work in their hometown, where everybody knew them).

        Related – it was very amusing at his brother’s wedding, because the groom and best man (my then-bf, now husband) outfits were pretty much the same and people from the bride’s side kept coming up and congratulating my husband on the wedding. When we got married a year later, we made sure they looked a lot more different!

        1. Loose Seal

          My sisters are identical twins and one married a local pastor, who was well known in our tiny town because he did the local TV religious broadcast. When the other one was dating the fellow who is now her husband, the pastor-husband would get phone calls after almost every weekend with someone who was hesitantly trying to tell him his wife was sneaking around behind his back. He would always cut them off by asking if they knew his wife had a twin. He said they were always so relieved.

          1. Jessa

            Honestly the first time that came up, his next sermon should have included “and my wife and her twin sister, yadda yadda.” Would have saved him a lot of issues.

        2. the gold digger

          I have friends who are identical twins (which I did not realize for the longest time – it wasn’t until I found out that I started having a hard time telling them apart). One went to UT and the other to A&M. For UT football games, Twin 1 would go into the game on her UT id and then pass it through the fence to Twin 2. I always thought that was a nice little setup.

        3. manybellsdown

          I ran up to a friend of mine once in public and gave him a big hug. Turned out he had an identical twin I didn’t know about. Fortunately he was used to it so he wasn’t too confused about why some strange woman was hugging him.

      3. Witty Nickname

        Oh, there were so many soap opera-like situations with that team. That team was a call center, and mostly contractors, so a revolving-door of crazy situations. That was the craziest story though.

      4. summercamper

        My dad has a half-brother, born 8 months before him, who looks EXACTLY like him. (Grandpa was a total loser in his younger years and left his pregnant wife for another woman). Dad and his half-brother grew up in the same town – but at different schools the whole way through. They still live in the same town, but to this day have never met. I think they both recognize the awkwardness that my grandpa’s adultery caused. However, my dad has strangers greet him as his half-brother at least once a month. My dad is a small business owner in the community and probably more well known than the half-brother… I imagine brother gets called by my dad’s name a lot too.

        1. Melissa

          I have a sister who is younger than me by 4.5 years. We’re not identical, but we look a lot alike according to everyone in the world, and I have been mistaken for her at times. In college I kept trying to think of ways to give her my old ID and still get a new valid one because we look enough alike for that to work, but alas, most state governments have figured that one out.

  4. I got punched at Walmart...

    Not gonna lie – I’m a *little* bummed out that my story about getting punched by a library patron in the middle of Walmart didn’t make the cut. ;)

    Great post, as always. Can’t wait for more like this one! :)

    1. MaryMary

      If it helps, I liked your story a lot (and that the only reason you didn’t defend yourself was to avoid being the person who gets in a fistfight at Walmart)

    2. Chriama

      I loved your story and the way you told it. She saw you and ran over to punch you. You have to really hate someone to punch them after seeing them once ;)

      1. I got punched at Walmart...

        Thanks! Even to this day, when I visit WM in my hometown, I still worry about seeing that lady. ;)

        1. Phyllis

          I missed that one somehow!! Can we get a link? Or at least the date it was published so I can search?

            1. Phyllis

              Thank you, Alison. I’m a faithful reader, so don’t know how I missed that one. I notice there’s more than a thousand responses, so I’ll have to save it for another day, but at least now I know where it is!! :-)

      1. I got punched at Walmart...

        Awww, your approval is the highest compliment I could get -thanks! :)

        And yes to a future “weirdest customer” stories post! I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of responses you’ll get.

        1. A Non

          Oooh, I’ll have to dig out my list of weird encounters when I was doing phone support. (Yes, I kept a written list. There were some good ones.)

          1. Phyllis

            I used to be a long distance operator, and I had a few weird, or funny experiences. I guess the funniest was when I answered a signal (call) and it was my youngest child playing on the phone!!

  5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

    To the person behind the Breakfast Club story: Did you happen to work at a mutual fund company in the Philadelphia suburbs? With a ship theme? ‘Cause I’m pretty sure you worked with my husband. Hee!

    1. Anon for today

      Nope. Research and development in Northern Ohio. Fortune 500 company, but a smaller office not the giant headquarters.

  6. ConstructionHR

    OK., few cyclists wear anything under their shorts & jerseys. They are specifically designed not to have seams at the, er, contact areas.

    12 miles for an experienced triathlete is barely a warm up. Even in Texas.

    FTR, I used wet wipes because they gave me that lemony fresh aroma.

    1. Nerdling

      Yeah, but I highly doubt that many of them just strip down in the middle of the work bathroom and wash off their junk after finishing a ride, either. That’s the weird part. The fact that he wore no underwear was mentioned to point out that he was getting totally naked.

      1. some1

        This. It’s not a locker room — you should not be fully nude in the common area of communal work bathroom.

    2. Karowen

      Yeah, a lot of people pointed that out – But I think Joey (OP) just clarified that for people like me, who don’t know this stuff, so we would know that this guy was just completely nude in the company bathroom.

      And I think everyone was of the opinion that it was cool, just…maybe clean up in a stall [by using something like wet wipes ;)]

    3. Chris

      Yeah, it took me a while to figure out why this one was weird at all. I would guess that 1/3 of my office are folks that bike to work and clean up in the bathroom – we are an environmental NGO in a bike friendly city. The article wasn’t clear to me that the bathroom would have multiple people in it at the same time. In the case of my office, all our of our bathrooms are singles.

  7. MaryMary

    I had a client whose core business was designing and manufacturing sink and shower fixtures (you’d probably recognize the name). Some of their engineers really would shower at work, but it was part of the QA process for new designs! The plumbing was set up properly, so the engineers would check water flow, pressure, etc. I was very curious as to how the process worked (did several engineers try out the same shower head and give feedback? Did one try it and the other watch, because that could be weird? Do you think the testers wear shower caps and shower shoes?) but could never figure out a polite way to ask.

    1. Laura

      Maybe they did it in swimming suits? That would still let you test the shower, and not be nearly as weird.

      …okay, still a little weird.

      1. Chriama

        Haha I was imagining how awkward it would be, and swimsuits never even crossed my mind! That would make it better…

          1. Chriama

            Haha I bet it’s part of a hazing ritual where they tell the new guy to shower and ‘forget’ to mention the swimsuit thing.

  8. Jelly

    We have a thing called Snack Thursday and it’s in the afternoon. BUT OH DEAR GOD, “breakfast club” sounds infinitely cooler! Cool name and breakfast foods!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Mena

    I worked for a company that had an employee that lived in the office. We all tried to ignore it and assume that his home-life difficulties were temporary. It went on for months. He’d sleep in his cube and make dinner in the kitchen.

  10. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    #4 – I worked in a company where two men with the exact name were hired for different jobs at the same time – one “resigned” after harassment allegations a month into his job. The other guy was OK. Suspicion was there was some confusion in HR over reference checks, but no one knows.

    In the world of mergers and takeovers, I have seen instances where someone works at, say, Acme Company, and is dismissed for cause or for political reasons. He then finds work at, say, Baker Company. Acme’s big shots decide to buy out / “merge” with Baker Company. The employee is back at work at the company that fired him.

    Interesting question – what do you do in such a situation?

    Do you plot to get rid of the guy?
    Does HR or someone higher up on the chain call everyone into a room and order all to “play nice?”
    Do you merge HR folders? Do you tell everyone of the past, or keep quiet?

    AAM – now that’s a good question – it’s a doozy.. ! Perhaps a topic?

    1. Lynn Whitehat

      In every buyout I’ve ever seen, the buying company just has to live with the employees of the bought-out company. Even to the extent of not requiring drug tests when they normally would and so forth. I’d think the buying company would have to be pretty small itself for the old manager to be bumping into the previously fired employee.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

        Actually – in the IS/IT/software area, it might happen quite a bit. Which is why I always say to be courteous to anyone you reject for a job. Rejecting someone is one thing. That happens and is understandable. Doing so disrespectfully or discourteously can come back to haunt you.

        Or firing someone for political reasons, and then finding out that the person is your new boss a year or two later! Now that’s a kick!

      2. HR Manager

        If they had legitimate reasons for firing someone, and those concerns remained, I’m sure HR or management could find a reason to lay that person off in the case of a merger/acquisition (e.g., position duplication or elimination, change in job and the person no longer has the skills, etc.), but they could make the situation more palatable to the employee by offering severance.

  11. Vancouver Reader

    That must’ve been a difficult thing to do, choosing the top 10 when there were so many good anecdotes

  12. PucksMuse

    How do I not remember the story of the manager who lived on site and slapped the HR manager for daring to question the situation?

    1. Jill-be-Nimble

      It was the very first comment/post! That whole thread was EPIC. Not gonna lie; I spent a good chunk of my Labor Day weekend reading all 1000+ comments.

      1. Newbie

        Whew. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who spent part of their long weekend reading all those comments…

  13. Sudarshan@Manpower Supply From Nepal

    I have worked as an HR before starting my own recruitment agency. Being an HR, the whole perception to see how employees behave in their day to day activities becomes different. The weirdest thing I have seen in my career is about a woman employee. She was hired for marketing assistant who actually used to format the excel data and report to the director. The weirdest thing is that she finished knitting 25 sweaters within her duty time. Whenever I was there, I never saw her working on her sweaters. But later after some months, I was informed about her knitting habits and her accomplishments. This was really a strange incident for me.

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