ask the readers: what past work behavior do you now cringe over?

A reader writes:

The more I read your column, the more I cringe because I recognize various periods in my work life where I did the sorts of things AAM readers write in about without realizing the impact my actions may have had. Eek. And since your post soliciting weird intern stories, I’ve been wondering about other AAM readers’ stories re: mishandling work situations and/or being the weirdo at work beyond the intern stage. 

I guess the idea of a group confessional appeals to me, because if my newfound embarrassment can amuse others, it could take the sting out of not being to change the past.

This seems perfect for a Thursday “ask the readers” question. So, have it: What did you do at work in the past that you now cringe over?

{ 1,020 comments… read them below }

  1. TatttoedInDC*

    I remember wearing some very tight/short dresses as a intern with a blazer on top (zip, ponte) and thinking that made it 100% okay… and I wasn’t even somebody who went out to clubs so had that stuff in my closet, I just bought it at F21 and thought it was fine! *cringe*

    1. Fuzzy Pickles*

      Oof… I did that too, not as an intern but because I forgot to do laundry. It ended up looking like a clingy pencil skirt. I got compliments from female coworkers but I still cringe because… well, it’s a club dress!

      1. Van Wilder*

        I used to wear 4 inch heels that I couldn’t even walk in. Some of my female managers tried to encourage me to get sensible loafers like they had but I just thought they were so old and I was just too cool for them.

        Fast forward 12 years: I have one pair of flats and one pair of sensible pumps under my desk, and wear sneakers for the commute.

    2. Emi.*

      I wore a spirit jersey and leggings to work. It was casual Friday, but I was a civil servant, not an intern … and they were really tights.

    3. Cassandra*

      I had a wardrobe semi-emergency while temping: a calf-length skirt of mine had a slit in front that opened to knee-length… until the seam holding it closed from the knee up started unraveling at work. I got a talking-to about it, and was too embarrassed to explain that it hadn’t been intentional!

      Still cringe about it.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I had something similar – I was doing what was effectively an informal internship during my summer break from university, and trying to look profession I bought a suit which had a narrow, wrap-around skirt. Unfortunately it was cheap and they skimped on fabric. It was fine when I was standing up.
        As soon as I sat down it gaped, showing everything up to mid-thigh.
        I ended up aiding the first aid box for safety-pins to hold it closed.
        I was mortified, and furious at having wasted money I didn’t have to spare, on something I couldn’t wear.

      2. Kelly AF*

        When I was a 19 year old college student and part-time bank teller, I had very little money for the “professional” clothes we were required to wear…. and then I gained the Freshman 15.

        Yeah, I got written up for wearing “belly shirts” to work and I was WAY too embarrassed to admit that they hadn’t been belly shirts when I bought them!

        1. Oh. I won’t.*

          I went to a job interview flashing serious cleavage that hadnt been there 30lbs ago.

          Im forever grateful that my new boss hadnt lost the point blank Chinese style of feedback. “You are showing too mich cleavage. Dont wear that shirt again.” It was a great real world example of having people know your abilities giving you a chance to correct stuff. I doubt they would have chanced it on a stranger.

          1. kdoo*

            I also got an embarrassing talk from a manager about too much cleavage. It was a pretty casual dress environment for an office and I never really noticed my shirts were too low. I’m sure it was awful for my male manager to pull me aside and tell me there had been “a few complaints”. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye for weeks because I was so scared of which people disapproved of my clothes.

          2. Anon-y-mouse*

            I find this stuff pretty weird and sexist. It makes me pretty disappointed that this kind of body-shaming and slut-shaming sexism continues to perpetuate itself in “professional” environments under the guise of “feedback” about what it means to dress “professionally” and also express a feminine gender identity.

        2. MissHoneychurch*

          Yes, I’ll forever cringe about the talk I got in college about the tank top I wore to my campus job. I had gained some weight, too. I still also remember a much thinner girl wearing tank tops and not getting that talk…

      3. Anon for this*

        Not me, but a former coworker wore a goofy-looking sweater dress that stopped at the top of her thigh – really, really short, so not really a dress. She wore white tights and boots with it. She used to sit like a guy with her knees wide apart and one day had a huge tear in the seam of her tights. It was where underwear would normally be, but I guess she didn’t wear any because it was a peep show. I still can’t unsee that!

        1. Van Wilder*

          I’m guessing that was not an accident. Too many mistakes had to be made to get her to that point. Maybe she enjoyed the thrill, with or without knowing anyone had caught on.

          1. Anon for this*

            Good point. Never thought of it that way, but now that you point that out, she was probably trying to show “it” off. I’m so naive sometimes.

          2. amanda*

            Gosh I hope people didn’t assume that about me recently… I work in a teaching field where we spend a lot of time on the floor with students, so appropriate dress is often a long tunic and leggings. I had a pair of leggings that split near the crotch (somehow I didn’t notice in the morning, or they hadn’t split yet at that point) and, thinking I was covered by my thick leggings and tunic like always, I sat “criss cross applesauce” – after that group activity, an adult came up and politely whispered I had a hole and I was mortified!

            It certainly wasn’t to “enjoy the thrill”even though my knees were wide apart – and I hope other women with wardrobe malfunctions get similar leeway.

      4. Office Gumby*

        I learned the easy way to always carry a needle and thread in my wallet. Many’s the time I’ve rescued a wardrobe malfunction–mine and others.

    4. chocoholic*

      Back in the mid-90’s I had what I thought was a cute outfit – a shorts suit :0 It was a blue plaid color. I am tall and have long legs, and the shorts were really just….too short. :o This was a job that *did* require pantyhose to be worn, and I thought I was so fashion-forward when I wore regular shorts with hose under them. Oof. Oh my.

          1. MaybeJustAPrude*

            I work with some women who’ve started in the last year and wore short shorts to work over summer, including denim shorts that are arse-cheek baring. We *do* have a pretty casual dress code… but maybe there’s a line..?!

        1. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins*

          Our dress code was last updated in 1994 and it states “…formal shorts may only be worn with a coordinating top..”

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            Formal shorts! It’s like the Fug Girls wrote your dress code! Does it also say “anything worn by a Peldon sister is not permitted.”

          2. Van Wilder*

            Omg I wish! I was really trying to bring trouser shorts to the business casual world circa 2006 but it didn’t seem to take.

        2. Business Shorts*

          In Australia in the 80s and early 90s it was pretty common for men to business shorts, short-sleeved shirts and knee high socks. Things have become a lot more conservative since aircon has become standard for all offices…

          1. Clay on My Apron*

            That sounds like the Aussie equivalent of South Africa’s “safari suit”, which popular in the 70s, and is now only seen, I believe, in very small towns. The shirt and shorts are made of the same fabric in either brown, green or pale blue. And the socks are the same colour. My name links to a family snap with dad and son wearing matching outfits (not my family snap I hasten to add).

            1. PhyllisB*

              I remember visiting San Francisco in the seventies and seeing men wear suits (jacket, tie, ect.) but the pants were shorts!! Never saw that anywhere else.

      1. MJ*

        I know this was inappropriate but honestly it also just sounds SO CUTE.

        (hi can you tell I work from home and can wear whatever I want even when I’m in the office ;) )

    5. Kramerica Industries*

      Been there. I thought that just because a skirt passed the fingertip rule (like in high school), it was long enough…

      1. Coconut Oil*

        I did that too, I remember checking in the mirror every morning before work and touching my toes to make sure I count see my underwear. Anything with a blazer was work wear. I could die now.

    6. pony tailed wonder*

      I had heard that a little black dress was appropriate for every occasion so I wore a black mini dress with black stockings and heels to my first day at work at a library. So if you have ever had to shift books around and reshelve materials at every shelf level, you know my embarrassment.

      1. Snack Management*

        Love it! One of my first jobs was in a library and I remember learning that lesson about proper attire for shelving (the biggest eye opener was the mistake of the half shirt with a little midriff exposed that became super embarrassing when it shifted while putting books on high shelves).

    7. DataGirl*

      I went on vacation to Spain and bought this outfit- a bright purple mini skirt and what amounted to a tube top with a silver collar around the neck. Totally thought it was fine to wear to my office job. >cringe<

    8. Allison*

      Yeah, I did that too. In hindsight my button-down blouse from H&M would have been fine had it actually fit, and some of my dresses were too short as well. What I don’t understand is why no one said anything to me. I was an intern, clearly new to the workplace, trying my best with what I had, and I might have been embarrassed if they’d mentioned it, but it would have been *so* helpful to know that stuff early on!

      1. Parenthetically*

        Well, as we frequently see around here, most managers seem not to know how to discuss appropriate dress issues! Bless ALL our hearts, really.

      2. Say what?*

        Or it could have been that they cut you some slack if it was an unpaid internship with the thought “She’s doing what she can with what she has but money is probably a little tight for a formal wardrobe.”

    9. Chrysanthemum's The Word*

      At my first job out of college, I would wear my tall platform goth stompy boots to work on casual Friday. I thought it was totally appropriate to wear what I was wearing out that night to work because it was “casual to me.” *cringe*

    10. Kate*

      I have the opposite cringeworthy story. My office was/is a very conservative, pantyhose type office, but it was also freezing cold and I hated wearing heels.

      So I wore dress pants, cowboy boots, and a giant Cowichan sweater everyday.

    11. EddieSherbert*

      My first job had a “no blue jeans” rules…. I thought I was SO CLEVER getting around that rule by wearing various colored jeans instead of anything actually professional (bright red, bright blue, mustard yellow… at least black jeans were subtle…).

      1. Bee*

        Hah, I do this now. But to be fair, it’s a casual office where the “no blue jeans” rule is pretty arbitrary, and my boss wears stretchy pants on a regular basis, so. It’s not like I have to wear dress pants, and blue jeans have a certain casual air that changing the color actually does diminish.

        1. Bee*

          (Also, we share office space with another company in the same industry, and they can all wear jeans, and the industry in general is very jeans-welcome, and we get very, very few visitors, so this is really about my boss’s preconceived notions and not about the inherent casualness of denim. I could look perfectly appropriate in dark jeans, a nice top, and a tweed blazer, but no.)

      2. TakingTheFifth*

        Our office has always had a rule about no jeans except on Fridays. Years ago my boss (who was in her 40s, not a naïve intern) got into a protracted battle with her boss. She wore jeggings under tunic tops & insisted that since they weren’t actually denim jeans she was abiding by the dress code.

        1. amanda*

          I would fight this battle! I work in special ed. at a school where we aren’t supposed to wear jeans except special occasions. My students crawl on the floor, spit on me, run away, spill things constantly – I think I have earned the right to wear my navy blue/olive/tan jeggings with a nice top, especially considering something is going to spill on them by the time the day is over! Technically, we all follow the same dress code and I should get in trouble. If admin ever addresses it, I’m fighting for a clothing allowance!

      3. Amethyst*

        Every so often in my call center, they’d re-read the dress code and decide to enforce bits of it, but hadn’t gotten around to that one. My first supervisor told me “Black jeans are okay”, so I wore those to work for 4 years.

        PS: My Entry is from the previous job where I repeatedly wore my favorite torn up re-patched college jeans as a receptionist temp. They probably showed a third of my leg, and most of that above the knees.

      4. ElinorD*

        I temped for about a year after I graduated from college in the mid-90’s, and I wore black jeans to work thinking, “my shirt is long enough that no one will notice.” They noticed. They were really nice about it, but I’d still like to kick my younger self.

      5. MM*

        Lol, I did this when I worked at a grocery delivery company. There it was really more like evading a high school dress code, though–it’s not like customers were seeing us, we worked in a warehouse, it didn’t actually matter at all except to the degree that the managers wanted to feel like their discipline over us was meaningful. (What was meaningful was the scanners on our arms telling them if we took unauthorized breaks between picking orders, or the cameras making sure they could know if somebody shoplifted. The rest was all weird psychological crap.) I found every possible way to wear my uniform shirt other than actually just wearing the thing the way it was intended.

    12. Punk Ass Book Jockey*

      I would wear a cardigan or blazer over my “going out” shirts (usually sparkly and low cut) to make them business casual. *cringe*

    13. Where’s my coffee?*

      Yes on the clothing. I remember outfits that make me cringe now. But I also remember when I began to realize they weren’t ok but I just had NO money for clothing.

    14. CynicallySweet7*

      I had to talk to an intern who dressed similarly. I wasn’t her manager or anything, but her manager was 2ce her age and male, and wasn’t comfortable having that conversation. The conversation was soooo cringy. I did not practice what I was going to say at all, just blurted it out when we were alone in the bathroom. At one point I think I said something about not flashing her *waves hand at chest area* at work. Not anyone’s finest moment, least of all mine…also when I asked her where she got her idea of what business casual meant, she said Suits (from TV)

        1. Ann O.*

          I had forgotten, but yes, at my first corporate job I had an Ally McBeal style suit that I got at a Forever 21 type store. I felt so grown up and responsible in my suit. Ah, the cringe!

      1. Artemesia*

        I was the highest level woman in our operation for many years and always got stuck having this conversation with staff or interns who were not dressed appropriately because the men didn’t feel they could do it. Not fun but easier than the hygiene talk. With clothes it can be ‘looks great, but not the right setting for it’ — with hygiene, there is no pleasant way to spin it.

      2. SS Express*

        TV shows present such a terrible example of corporate attire…and yes it’s fiction, but it can be misleading to people who don’t have any real-world experience, especially when fashion blogs and magazines hold up those same shows as examples of how to dress for work (in fairness, fashion editors probably don’t have typical corporate dress codes either). I’ve seen so many listicles and “shop the look” pieces about Suits – Rachel’s low cut shirts and super tight skirts are bad enough but Donna’s cocktail dresses, while gorgeous, are just ridiculous. Bold colours yes, backless dresses nooooooooo.

      3. Itsa Me*

        One of my (male) co-workers was trying to address dress code with a female employee who was showing a very large amount of cleavage. He wasn’t sure what to say and so mumbled, “You need to put those away.” We now have a rule that a same-gender manager addresses sensitive issues like that. Lol

    15. Shark Whisperer*

      This whole thread reminds me of the interview for one of my first real jobs. It was an entry level position at an environmental non-profit. When we got to the end of the interview and the interviewer asked if I had any questions, I said, “Yes, what do I wear to work?” To the interviewer’s credit she laid it out for me and hired me. It was a silly question for me to ask during the interview, but I am glad I did. I avoided a lot of mistakes on this thread that I’m sure I would have made otherwise.

      1. jay*

        A good interviewer would realise that sometimes people early in their careers need guidance. I wouldn’t judge anyone for asking that (well, as long as they were new to the working world) and would actually appreciate that they were self aware enough to consider it.

      2. Rebecca in Dallas*

        I think it’s perfectly fine to ask that in an interview! Some places are business casual, or business, or casual, or casual Fridays… and you can’t always tell by what the interviewer is wearing. (We are business casual but I always try to dress a bit nicer if I’m interviewing someone that day.)

      3. MM*

        I don’t think this is an inherently silly question! Though it can be presented differently. But especially in slightly ~alternative work environments, and just in general nowadays, it can be hard to know. I had an interview a couple of years ago where I went in in a suit, and everybody in the office was wearing a button-down and slacks, no ties, etc. So one of my questions to my interviewer was, “Is the office always this casual, or is this special for [Friday, a holiday, I can’t remember what it was but there was something about that day that made it plausible it was unusual]?” I was really grateful to get the answer! And I still got the offer to fly out for a finalist interview. (As it happened, a different issue arose and caused me to decide the job wasn’t for me.)

      4. Observer*

        Not a silly question at all. At least you realized that you had a gap in your knowledge and were willing to address it.

        As you said, it kept you from making some embarrassing (and possibly costly) mistakes.

    16. Alex the Alchemist*

      Same. I also wore super short-shorts to a work picnic when I was a 19-year-old intern. I truly didn’t realize how short they were until I got there and was like, “oh.”

      1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        I was chronically late by 15-20 minutes almost every day. I was living with my first boyfriend and he ran late all the time for everything, he just didn’t care. BUT he insisted that we leave together for work even when I was ready to go.
        So I slowly adapted his cavalier attitude to being on time and surprise, surprise my contract was not renewed even though my work was good when I finally showed up. Lesson learned, don’t be late ever.

        1. puppies*

          Yes same about the lateness! I’m so into being punctual and professional now but when I was in my 20’s I was chronically late to my job and then wondered why they hated me so much

          1. octopod*

            Oh gosh, I’ll never forget strolling into the office late one morning, and the Big Boss had gathered all the admins together to collectively chew us out for being late all the time. She went down the line and everyone had excuses like missing the bus or bad traffic or whatever. Eventually it was my turn and she turned to me and said, “and you! What’s your excuse?” And I held up my bagel from the cafe down the street and said, “Breakfast!” Even as it was coming out of my mouth I knew it was deeply stupid.

        2. Ego Chamber*

          Dude, what the actual fuck. You do not have enough context to call that out with no other details.

          I’ve dated people (and had roommates and family members) that were late everywhere because they just had no concept of time somehow—including the late roommate I was giving rides to who refused to leave earlier and got really pissed when I stopped giving him rides after getting fired for my 3rd strike late. Get me fired once, shame on you. Get me fired twice…

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            This sentence triggered alarm bells for me.

            “BUT he insisted that we leave together for work even when I was ready to go.”

            The guy knew the commenter was going to work. Yet he made the commenter wait until his late ass was ready to go as well. Unless he had the IQ of soggy lettuce, he also knew perfectly well that being on time is a basic requirement of work. That, plus his refusal to let the commenter leave the house when they needed to, scared me.

      2. sheworkshardforthemoney*

        Same here! I have a photo of me at the office picnic wearing baby blue short-shorts and knee high socks. My idea of casual. I was fine with the picture at first and years later I found it and thought OMG. Lucky for me it was the only copy.

    17. Kelly AF*

      I regularly wear thick ponte leggings to work. (I’m wearing a pair now, in fact!) What do you guys think? Work appropriate or not? (I’m an analyst in the marketing department of a bank. Some of the men wear suits — like the CMO and the guys who work with sales, and the women wear anything from lovely skirt suits to leggings and flip flops. So I’m not worried I’m violating a dress code or anything, but am I making myself look very casual or unprofessional?)

      1. WizzardOzz*

        I think it depends on what you wear over the leggings. I’m not a fan of leggings, but as long as the rear end is fully covered I find them perfectly okay for a casual work environment.

      2. Birch*

        I think this is what I wear? I have a pair of what I call pants that are thicker than leggings but cut like leggings and with a stretchy waistband and no pockets. IMO if they fit you well and don’t show cracks or pantylines they’re OK in a more casual office. I usually wear mine with blousier blouses and cardigans so it’s not a ton of a** in anyone’s face. I think if you pair them with nicer shoes, a nice blouse and a nice blazer you can get away with them looking like very tailored black trousers.

      3. Lily B*

        A rule for leggings that has served me well, is that they’re fine in casual work situations *as long as your bum is completely covered up*, like by a tunic top or long sweater, or shorter dress. Otherwise they do tend to look a bit unprofessional.

        1. Parenthetically*

          This is also my rule. I think a nice tunic/cardigan/leggings combination, especially with a belt, can look very office appropriate. Just keep the booty under wraps.

      4. Prof. Kat*

        I think they’re fine! I wear thick ponte legging to work (academia, but a fairly traditional, conservative field), but I generally follow the “cover your butt” rule. I usually throw on a long cardigan or blazer to balance it out.

      5. attornaut*

        I dress super casually at work (so this would be fine for me) but I a) work in a casual office, and b) have put in the years building up a professional reputation, so am at the point in my career where I feel like, I’ll wear what I want and if they don’t like it, trust me, some other company will accept it just fine.

      6. Charlotte*

        I’ve been looking for work appropriate ponte leggings (I have a very casual office). Where do you get yours?

        1. Kelly AF*

          Old Navy, Target, Eloquii, Torrid…. I really like leggings! My name is a link to the Old Navy pair I’m wearing now.

          I only like ones with the center seam in the front or front and back. For some reason, those read as less legging-like to me.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Fwiw, Torrid markets themselves as a plus sized retailer but their sizes go from 10 – 30. I buy my size medium s/o things from Torrid all the time and we’ve never had issues with fit.

        2. Amanda*

          Loft! Wait until it’s an extra 40-60% off clearance. I have some with some cute seaming. I don’t work in a business environment, but I wear them for church.

        3. Gnome Ann*

          Charlotte, I’ve found a few different places – Amazon actually has a house brand called Daily Ritual, and they have the ponte leggings; for a different (not necessarily better) feel, try Lastly I’d point you to Betabrand – they have pants in this material in a few different cuts. They’re all extremely comfortable and look a little more professional because they have fake pockets, belt loops, and a fake fly with button.

        4. lurker*

          Kohl’s Simply Vera Wang line works well for me. Also J. Jill, if you can spend a little more or wait for a sale.

      7. Maple*

        In general, as long as your butt is covered, I think they’re fine. Unfortunately, my officemate has not gotten that memo.

        I remember reading a rule on the “Go Fug Yourself” website years ago that I took to heart and have used as a guiding principle on the matter:

        1. lurker*

          I’ve noticed that the very thin, very close-fitting yoga/exercise leggings, often without a behind-covering shirt seem to have become the most default form of “pants” for young women at the college where I work (possibly even more common than jeans). I’m wondering if style norms will change as this generation enters the workforce.

          1. Dahlia*

            I’ve been in the workforce for many years and work at a pretty high level job and this is what I wear on my days off. At work- tailored suiting and sheath dresses. My days off- leggings which cover everything (no panty lines, thick and opaque) and which I consider pants (no need to wear a top that covers my butt- regular tops). For those of us who have been wearing these since high school, we probably aren’t going to change now.. these are the jeans of our generation!

          2. Ego Chamber*

            If you want kill leggings forever, repeat after me: “OMIGOD, I LOVE YOUR STRETCH-PANTS!” Repeat it again every time you see someone wearing leggings and I swear the trend will eventually die.

            1. Loud Noises*

              This made me laugh but even if someone said it to me every day I would definitely still rock my leggings everywhere but to work.

              1. Say what?*

                Same, I’d flash a smile and walk away in my leggings. It’s a staple that allows me to be anywhere (playground, living room floor, up a tree) with my 3-year-old. I’m not giving them up. Sorry.

    18. Ghost Pepper*

      Same here. I remember wearing a tight, white, sleeveless, ribbed shirt with a burgundy bra underneath and the straps would visibly veer to my shoulders. Another time I (regularly) wore suit blazers with nothing underneath but a bra. Not to mention the skin-tight pants and button-ups I would wear, where the last button was right above where my bra-line ended. These are just examples. It’s not I was even trying to make a statement or “attract a man.” I just thought it looked cute at the time. (smh)

      1. Life is good*

        This reminds me of my very first big-girl job at 19. I wore a burgundy sweater with a white bra. We had pictures taken that day for a promotional ad for our grand opening and when we looked at the newspaper the day it was published, there I was with a perfect outline of the bra showing through the sweater. I was mortified. Don’t have white bras anymore.

        1. MM*

          I haven’t bought a white bra since I was a tween. I don’t know why they make them. Even under white clothes they stand out!

    19. Serin*

      In retrospect, when I got my first job, it would have been perfectly fine to ask my parents if they could take me shopping for work-appropriate clothes, but it didn’t occur to me. It was 1986 and I’d spent the last four years in leggings and big sloppy Shaker sweaters.

      I managed to assemble enough clothes that I never had to wear the same thing twice in one week, and I think mostly it was all neutral enough not to draw too much attention to how small a collection it was. But I had this one drop-waist dress in a tie-dye pattern (… 1986 …)

      One of my co-workers, in passing, mentioned to me “that dress that you wear every Thursday.”

    20. MCL*

      This was in my early 30’s (!). My academic department was all-hands-on deck on a Sunday (we are not open on Sundays). This is the only time I remember this happening, but it was because an outside accreditor was coming to assess our department and for some reason Sunday was the time that we had to meet up with the accreditation team. I was so pettily annoyed about coming in on a Sunday that I wore ratty weekend jeans, and a football team t-shirt. My department chair didn’t say anything to me directly at the time, but I could immediately tell that she was not pleased, and everyone else had pretty much made an effort and dressed nicely. I really had embarrassed myself because I was the only one who had under-dressed, and I had only hurt myself. My chair brought it up only one time, several months later, but it did let me know I had made a lingering negative impression and I never pulled a stunt like that again. I should have absolutely known better – we’re a pretty casual work environment, but that would have been one of those days where everyone stepped up their outfits a notch instead of down several notches. Cringe!

    21. OP*

      Omg, yes! A couple days ago, I was remembering the olive green and yellow patterned polyester micro mini I wore at my first legal secretary gig. Sadly, that was not my only, or worst, wardrobe malfeasance (think men’s v-neck undershirts without a bra, sometimes without a jacket, yikes). High fives to all the office fashion don’ts here!

          1. OP*

            Can you describe the sweater? With all the unisex dress options these days, it’s not registering as cringey to me.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I am picturing something like my father’s old sweater. The first thing you notice is the sweater screams, “I am 70 years old.” The next thing is that it goes around me twice. Then there’s the sleeves. If I roll the cuffs up four times, I can actually use my fingers. I look like I am already to do fall yard work.

    22. Save your forks*

      I wore a super-short jersey H&M dress (not even very flattering) to my first real office job where I had very little interaction with anybody. My boss e-mailed me from the next office over to say “That dress is very cute but not appropriate for work.” I melted in shame. This was the same (hourly) job where I regularly showed up 1.5 hours late and thought that because my boss never said anything about it, it must be OK. I think she e-mailed me about that one too, probably after the tenth+ time I did it. Hoo boy…

    23. Cookie Monster*

      I remember wearing a pleated plaid skirt, like what a private school girl would wear and it getting a lot of attention. Also, I remember wearing a satin dress that I also wore to a wedding and not thinking anything of it…

    24. Anon nonprofit worker*

      LOL, so guilty of the same thing. My very first job out of undergrad: I remember my first manager never said anything about it which reinforced it being “fine” in my head, but literally the day the assistant manager took over she pulled me aside and said that my clothes were not appropriate.

    25. Sam Yao*

      I had absolutely no idea how to handle myself at a workplace. At one summer job in an office during college, I: wore all my flowy goth clothes, hung up artsy 1940s photos of movie stars and a Cthulhu for President poster, sang loudly in the hall, and was surprised when I was not asked back the following year. I am mortified at all of this now, but man, if somebody had been kind enough to take me aside and sit me down and explain professional norms, it might have made a huge difference.
      I struggled for a long time with undiagnosed/untreated mental illness, too, and had a couple of nervous breakdowns that made me behave WILDLY unprofessionally. I was rightly fired for those, but once I finally got treatment and medication, it’s all been OK.

      1. Samesies*

        Oh, thank you for this, it reminds me so much of my first office job out of post-secondary. I thought I was being “quirky and fun” and was also dealing with some personal stuff. I was let go during my probationary period. I’m still mortified 20 years later.

    26. Temporarily nameless*

      Oh, god, I definitely did this. I even got an inkling of it while it was happening at that job–I came in one day a bit more conservatively dressed, and somebody (clearly trying to encourage me in the right direction) said “You’re looking more professional day by day now!” to me. I absolutely understood what they meant by it at the time, but I didn’t do anything about it.

      In my defense, though, I was in the grip of an eating disorder at the time and incredibly obsessed with how newly thin I was. All I wanted to do was wear the things I’d always felt I wasn’t “allowed” or “able” to wear before (and it was never really SUPER revealing, just some shorter skirts than advisable, usually with long sleeves). And I was 19. Still. I cringe when I think back on it.

      (There were a million other things I did wrong at that job, honestly, mostly nothing to do with my clothes. I still reel that I got a good reference out of it. I think it was because it was a job they usually filled with grad students and I was an undergrad, so they decided to be forgiving of immaturity and blame it on themselves for making an exception, especially since the substance of my work was good.)

    27. xms967*

      Augh. I remember thinking I had a small enough chest that I could get away with not wearing a bra to work. Spoiler: This was false from start to finish.

    28. Elle*

      Oof. I did kind of the opposite. I interviewed for an internship at a startup on a Friday and everyone was wearing jeans. Thinking, hey, this must be startup culture! I blew all my new ‘work wardrobe’ money on some slightly dressy jeans and casual tops to go with them.
      Showed up my first day, a Monday… everyone was wearing dress clothes. It was only then I made the Friday connection. But then I had to keep wearing the jeans until my first paycheck cleared 3 weeks later. I felt like I could melt into the carpet every day I had to go into work and sit down next to people in dress pants. In retrospect, I should have just explained the mix up to my boss.

    29. BigHairBigDreams*

      I had an intern who would wear *slightly* longer tops over tights as if the tights were leggings or pants. It’s possible that the tops were actually tunics meant to cover her whole backside (still would have been too short), but this particular intern was tall, and the tops usually ended mid-bottom like a regular shirt. You could see her underwear through her tights. It’s worth noting that we were not an office that allowed leggings as pants either. It was odd and nobody knew how to handle it.

      For context, we were a small, incredibly unorganized, and inefficient nonprofit, so the junior staff–myself included–who were 21 and 22 year old were responsible for managing interns around or just under the same age. We were also a feminist advocacy nonprofit that honored a fairly casual dress code (as to not police what women wear) and this particular intern had openly shared her struggles with body image tied to her experiences as a survivor of sexual assault. Needless to say, we had NO IDEA how to have a conversation with this intern about her frankly inappropriate clothing.

      I cringe when I think about it. We never said anything, and I regret failing my intern in this way. She most certainly went on to other organizations that had less casual dress codes and likely a less gentle, for lack of a better word, approach to correcting her behavior.

      Learning lessons.

  2. ELK*

    Was executive assistant to the president of a local college. She left for a business trip, after sternly telling me that I needed to be more proactive “managing” the things in her office (like Christmas cards, etc.). So while she was gone, I rearranged the items in her desk drawers. I don’t think she ever got over the shock of finding that I had straightened out her entire desk, and I sure wish I hadn’t done it. I believe my time was limited after that. But on the other hand – it was a good job but she was a terrible boss, and in retrospect maybe it was, after all, not a bad idea. Never mind! :)

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      This is why you tell people what to do, not how to be. Telling someone to be more proactive is meaningless unless you follow it up with specifics!

      You may regret it, but I think she got what she deserved.

      1. Lance*

        No doubt. Make it actionable and to the point; being vague like that, well, she got what she asked for.

      2. AnotherKate*

        “Tell people what to do, not how to be” is probably the best managerial advice I’ve ever heard. (Probably not bad for teaching or coaching, either).

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Yep, people don’t do what you WANT, rather they do what you SAY. It’s a good idea for bosses to think things through. I was helping my MIL. She said to vacuum the way I do at home. She was beside herself that I did not move all those heavy pieces of furniture. I vacuumed the way I do at home.

    2. kittymommy*

      LOL, this is awesome! I have a boss who is always saying that he wants me to keep him more organized, so I started with his desk that has mail he hasn’t gone through since 2016. That did not go over well, but he hasn’t mentioned the organization idea again!

    3. ThankYouRoman*

      I’ve had messy desk bosses I can imagine this happening to. I used to have to watch out for coffee cups that would start to grow if it were up to the boss to deal with. The other stuff, that wasn’t touched lol

  3. Official Rabbit to the Queen*

    Ugh. Early in career I told a coworker about comments boss had made about coworker’s recent project/performance. Learned that one the hard way.

      1. Not A Morning Person*

        Just guessing, but the boss was probably unhappy that the opinions were shared with the employee; and the employee who was critiqued was unhappy hearing it from a coworker.

      2. Official Rabbit to the Queen*

        Open floor plan, the boss was ‘letting off steam’ by holding address the general room, but not anyone specifically. (So the boss wasn’t expecting me to do anything with the information, other than be part of the audience). Young me wanted to warn coworker about the hidden storm. Coworker felt they had done nothing wrong and was instantly angered by boss airing her dissatisfaction to the room in general. It was a hornet’s nest that I had kicked over.

    1. chocoholic*

      At my husband’s first job, the boss told him he was going to be laying off a co-worker. Before he told the co-worker. He was not sure what to do with that information. Thankfully, he took my advice, which was to do nothing with it. That boss was crazy though, and he learned all kinds of information about others that he should not have learned.

      1. Rika*

        I used to work for an organization that did that as a rule. More than once I was in the awkward position of knowing about someone getting fired before the person concerned. It got particularly uncomfortable one time when the person actually came to me for emotional support, because they were fearing for their job. I knew they were being let go and had to keep my mouth shut while trying to comfort them!

        1. Torrance*

          Yikes. That’s something I’d definitely find hard to deal with. Keeping your bosses’ secrets makes you a good employee, sure, but withholding information like that– I don’t think I could do it. Most people I know are one or two paychecks from losing their homes, their cars, their dignity. Giving people time to find new jobs or the ability to get out of a bad situation before having to tick the ‘have you been fired’ box seems like the right thing to do. :/

        2. Artemesia*

          Yes but then you were also in a position to be able to say — well when I get nervous about stuff like that, the first thing I do is get my resume in shape and begin thinking about what I would do IF it happened. Things are a little shaky around here and all of us would probably be well advised to think about what out plan B is.

      2. Charlottemousse*

        I worked at a place like that out of college. The office manager told me that the assistant was going to be let go. It didn’t happen for another 6 months after that was said, but it was really awkward for me to know that! I said nothing to the assistant, though.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I think I met this boss’ sibling. My own boss would spill the beans on everything, speculate about people’s sex lives, their mental health, their finances and so on. I just assumed she was talking about me the same way behind my back.

      4. SusanIvanova*

        Best Boss Ever called us together. “I’m not supposed to tell you this, but IncreasinglyDysfunctionalCompany wants to cancel our project (which was near completion and highly anticipated by customers) and reassign you to maintenance programming. They don’t want you to know because they think you’ll quit. I’ll help you with your resumes.”

        This was at the height of a tech boom; recruiters were already circling our company like vultures spotting a dying cow. And I’m not dissing maintenance programmers – they just have different skills and interests from project designers. They wouldn’t like our job any more than we’d like theirs.

  4. Amber T*

    I had so many ideas! That I wanted to share! Everyone was inefficient! And if they did it this way it would be better!

    Thankfully I wasn’t *obnoxious* about it (I don’t think), I just made a lot of suggestions that were met with some stares and “you’ll see why we do it this way.” And I did. And it makes sense now!

      1. Amber T*

        It seemed inefficient to my then-untrained eye – I didn’t realize *why* we had to do everything a certain way, which seemed silly. As someone who implements a lot of the rules now, I totally get it.

        1. Birch*

          I find this dynamic really interesting. I’m co-managing some young people now with Lots of Ideas and Lots of Ambition but no drive to do the things I’ve actually asked them to do. I have always had tons of ideas but I would have NEVER said them to anyone, done anything without explicit permission, or made unsolicited suggestions about processes because I would be sure there was a reason they were done that way that I wasn’t qualified to know about. Personality differences?

            1. rogue axolotl*

              I don’t think it’s generational so much as dependent on what messages you receive prior to entering the workforce. Even as an intern I was pretty conscious of my place in the hierarchy and was pretty cautious about making any suggestions (sometimes to a fault), and I only graduated a few years ago. I’m actually not sure where I picked this up, maybe from service jobs where I was never treated with any respect. But I can see how someone might have a hard time transitioning from a school environment where your thoughts and opinions are always encouraged to a work environment where you have to be a lot more strategic about how to deploy them.

            2. SusanIvanova*

              Only in the sense that every new generation goes through it. Where do you think all those well-meaning grandparents got their “gumption” ideas from?

          1. Amber T*

            I was in the middle really… tell me to do X and I’d do X, but might I also suggest trying to do Y instead because that seems quicker? And have we ever tried to do Z? And I’m not involved with Project A at all, but from my limited perspective, if we try D and E instead of B and C, that might more efficient (again, with 0 knowledge of why anything is done).

            Now I’m at the point in my career where I’m comfortable bringing up with my boss suggestions, mostly because I’m better at asking why do we do X and why can’t we do Y, and I have a greater understanding of a lot of our company, our industry, and my role itself overall.

          2. Justin*

            It is taught, young people are told that they need to be proactive and willing to speak up and improve things…and those are good traits but I think younger people don’t know exactly how to do it.

            1. Artemesia*

              They should all be told — do it the way they tell you and then after you have that under control and see how it all fits together THEN think about trying shortcuts or suggesting new approaches that might save time and money.

              People get really ticked at the newbie who makes the dead obvious suggestion which often is ‘the way we used to do it and it lead to the Carstairs contract disaster that cost the firm half a mil.’

          3. Not So NewReader*

            Personality differences?

            I think that goes to what you have seen in life. If a person has examples such as being told in front of an entire class that they are stupid, etc., then that person might be less apt to speak. But there are other reasons why a person would not speak up.

            As far as Lots of Ideas and No Drive, in some cases that could be because it’s not their specific idea that you are talking about. I caught myself in this pitfall. I had all the energy in the world for my ideas but other people’s ideas left me tired and deflated. On the good side of this story, is that I caught what I was doing, and took deliberate steps to stop. Once I started my new habit, I realized how many other people get caught in the same pit. It’s pretty easy not to realize what we are doing in these cases.

          4. MM*

            I’d bet educational differences, which may map onto generational differences to some degree but not universally. For example, I was taught from the earliest age that participating and doing my part meant contributing ideas and engaging in discussion. It took me a while in my first professional work environment to figure out that the boss didn’t actually want to hear what I thought about the massive off-site strategy meeting just because I’d been in the room. (I was an intern; specifically–I’ve had a few different kinds of internships–the low-level, warm-body kind.) I really wasn’t trying to give him my thoughts because I thought I knew something everybody else was missing, or that I knew better than anyone; I just assumed that if I was present for a discussion, I was expected to reflect on it and express the resulting thoughts. That had been my life experience up until then. (I was 18.) He was very polite about it, but nonetheless I did figure out from his reserved reception that actually my thoughts were not something anybody was looking for–though I didn’t figure it out on the spot or even right away thereafter.

          5. JB*

            I’ve seen this happen. One time I was in the middle of performing a certain task for my work. The task required a very specific procedure, had no margin for error, and was enforced by actual laws. If someone failed to follow the procedure they would probably lose their license. So we’re in the middle of the procedure, and the supervisor is walking us through the steps, and all of a sudden the (least-experienced, least-educated, least-competent) new guy says, “I think we should do it this way…”

            And we all just stared at him like, “What… The… F***…”

    1. Key lime pie*

      I was this young professional, too. Except, in retrospect, I was often obnoxious. Cringe cringe cringe. I had a great supervisor/mentor who, again in retrospect, was a freaking saint. My penance is that I now manage young professionals and am on the receiving end of, “Why are we doing this the stupid inefficient way when we could be doing it the way I learned in grad school/ the way we did at LastJob/ the way I dreamed up on the bus?”

    2. Cassandra*

      Nod nod. I did this in a blaze-of-(in)glory exit letter.

      I do know better now. I should have then.

      1. Drago Cucina*

        Yeah, tell us how bad we are always makes us want to hire someone. {Insert big eye roll here.}

    3. Faulty Knees*

      So glad to see that it wasn’t just me. “At my old job we…”
      My manager suggested to me that I learn the way they did things, and once I had it down, then bring up ways to improve. It was a good lesson that I’ve been able to pass forward.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Yep – learn the rules and reasons so that you can really see what’s important and what’s fluff.

  5. Justin*

    I dressed really poorly (wrinkles etc), though I did that outside of work too. It was not a good look (literally).

    I was hungover a couple times when I worked in Korea but that was both acceptable and encouraged at my school, so….

    1. Cosette*

      I definitely went to work at least a little hungover at least a few times… Dear Younger Me: Don’t do that!

      1. WhoopsThereItIs*

        About a month into a new job I had a few too many glasses of wine and no food at a farewell party for a colleague. Needless to say, I was in no shape to be in the office the next day, but I was horrified that everyone would know why I took a sick day (WHY do they have these parties on anything other than Fridays??). So I went in – and got sick in a trashcan and in the subway. I managed to somewhat hold it together at work, but definitely had more than a few “are you OK…?”s!

      2. Random Commenter*

        I definitely did that. I went to work after having slept only like 2 hours, too. And then I was annoyed at my boss for treating me like it was any other day, and actually EXPECTING ME to do WORK when I clearly was TIRED.


        1. Cookie Monster*

          Ahhhh. I went out after work WITH MY BOSS and stayed out too late drinking and missed the last train home. I was on vacation the next day, so, I went back to the office and slept under my desk (!!) where I conveniently had a sleeping bag stashed that I has won from a vendor and hadn’t brought home. I woke up when the fax machine started going off in the morning, got up and hopped the train home…

      3. Katie*

        My very first office job I went to hungover pretty much every single day (3 days a week) for the first 6 months. All my friends worked in bars, we’d only just graduated, so I thought this was normal and acceptable. My manager would ask pointed questions but my naive ass just thought she was jealous of my incredible social life. It wasn’t till I got put on a PIP at my 6 month review that I realised she actually wanted me to stop. Like, DUDE. I’m so mad at myself for being such an idiot, but I’m so mad with her too for not just saying after like 3 weeks very specifically to stop coming to work hungover, when I clearly wasn’t getting it.

        1. Beth*

          I had a job working at a dry cleaners my senior year of high school. During the week, it was 3-7, no problemo. Saturdays were really bad, though. I had to work at the main store, (which was 15 minutes further out) from 8am-2pm. Not once did I show up sober, and many times I hadn’t slept. There was a guy on the same shift that operated identically to me. So, when we got there, whoever was worst off could go and take a nap in the giant carts of clean but not pressed clothes for an hour or so, then we’d switch off all day. Customers thought that there was only ever one of us there.

    2. Dankar*

      I called out with a hangover when I was a graduate assistant. My supervisor , who was not that much older than I was (and had actually been an assistant before moving up), just said, “Sweet. See you Monday.”

      Not my finest moment, and not something I would ever do again!!

    3. TakingTheFifth*

      One summer I had a job in the admissions office of my college. I kept a pitcher of screwdrivers in my fridge at home & sometimes worked the post-lunch period drunk. Nobody noticed.

      1. Catleesi*

        The pitcher of screwdrivers too me WAY too long to figure out. I was not picturing cocktails, and it was a very confusing mental image.

    4. Kelly AF*

      I was doing a weekend training in DC for a part-time job. I got crazy-drunk on Saturday night, got up first thing Sunday morning to walk from my hotel to the training, barfed real quick on the lawn of the Chilean Embassy, and showed up to the training on time and ready to work. (I don’t think I’m welcome in Chile, however.)

      Ah, to be 25 again!

      1. FaintlyMacabre*

        I love the idea of your face plastered on a sign at all the entries of Chile with the words “Deny Entry. Barfer.” all over them.

        1. Kelly AF*

          That is EXACTLY how I’ve always pictured it.

          I must have triggered some sort of alarm, because a security guard popped out to check on me while I did that holding-up-a-finger thing that means “just a minute!” (not the other holding-up-a-finger thing) while I puked and tried to figure out why it was red! (Don’t eat red velvet cupcakes when you’re drunk if you don’t want to panic yourself the next day.)

    5. fwsezdjhtyc*

      i don’t iron my clothes and no one seems to notice. it’s too much effort when they’ll just get worn.

  6. INeedANap*

    So, my only defense is that this was my first job ever.

    I was 16 or so, working at a locally owned casual restaurant by a lake. I was kinda useless to begin with, not a great worker. On July 4th I was scheduled to work and they had stressed to me it was very, very busy and I needed to really bust my butt that day.

    That morning, some friends asked me to go to a local beach town. I asked my mom to call in an excuse for me because I was too embarrassed to do it myself. Ditched work and went to the beach.

    My mom never called in for me. I got sunburned.

    Showed up the next day after pulling a no-call, no-show, on the busiest day of their year, sunburned from having a fun day out while they all had an even more miserable day than they would have due to me not showing up.

    I still cringe with shame thinking of what they must have thought of me.

    1. seller of teapots*

      I kind of love your mom in this story. I’m definitely filing this away for future use. (My son is 2.)

    2. Amber Rose*

      I definitely called in sick to work once from the middle of a party. I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear it, but I was fired not long after. I was 14 or 15 at the time working at a theater, so it’s not like it haunts me, but I still shake my head thinking back on it.

    3. saltheartedbarmaid*

      Oooof, I worked at a cafe my senior year of high school, and that summer I decided I deserved a week off to spend with my friends before we all went off to college, so I pulled THREE no-call no-shows in a row.

      Two years later, I desperately needed a summer job, so I went back to that cafe and basically prostrated myself in front of the owner and apologized. They actually re-hired me, but for the 6 – 11 AM shift only. One of the co-owners refused to speak to me after all that time. What a mess.

    4. Amber T*

      I flat out told my boss at old retail job that I wouldn’t work Black Friday. Not negotiated, not asked, just said I wouldn’t. Thinking back, it was a really dysfunctional place (that was a ton of fun). She didn’t schedule me, but wow, what an ass I was.

      1. Zona the Great*

        Nah—more people should put their foot down in this way. Otherwise we end up with Black Friday on Thanksgiving day.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          If there’s a corportate office they are the ones deciding the hours not the Store Manager who is in charge of covering those hours. And the powers that be aren’t going to accept “but everybody refused to work” as an excuse. They are just going to say get out or get your people under control.

          1. Marina*

            I mean… that’s how collective action works, though. You do have to be a little more organized than “everyone decides on their own that they don’t feel like working” but “everybody refused to work” is why we have overtime laws. The costs of hiring and training aren’t negligible, even for low skill jobs.

          2. Observer*

            They may say that – or they may realize that this costs more than it’s worth. And if it happens multiple times, then SOMETHING is going to change.

            If enough people kick up enough fuss, bosses wind up listening or they pay the cost one way or another.

        2. zapateria la bailarina*

          i was hired as a holiday temp at a big department store. it was made clear that i would be required to work black friday, which i understood and agreed to. they scheduled me to start at 5pm on thanksgiving day. i spoke to my supervisor and complained since it wasn’t what i agreed to and i would be having thanksgiving dinner with my family at that time, and she basically said too bad. so i finished my shift, walked out to my car, called in and quit with no notice. they told me i would never be allowed to work in any position in their entire parent company ever again and i said, no problem, see ya never!

          i understand the black friday thing (kind of) but when it starts on thanksgiving day, during the time my family would be sitting down for dinner, i’ve got to draw a line.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            You made the right decision (f#ck ’em). I only wonder whether they intentionally didn’t tell you about working on Black Friday Eve (that’s what my last seasonal retail job called Thanksgiving) because they were having trouble finding someone that would work that day, or if the evening before was just so part of Black Friday to them that it didn’t occur to them to be really, really clear and say “You’ll be required to work Black Friday Weekend, which begins on Thursday evening.” Either way: messed up.

        3. Observer*

          The thing is you don’t just refuse to work – you get together with your workmates and refuse as a group.

      2. MM*

        Meh. At my last hourly job, we were asked for our availability on the application. I put down, among other things, that I could work Friday or Saturday nights but not both. After a few weeks, they started scheduling me for both (and Sunday mornings–though the Sundays themselves were fine, it was something we’d agreed upon as a way to get me paid more–but Friday night plus Saturday night plus Sunday morning, when a night shift can end and 1am and a morning shift starts at 7, is a no). I protested to them verbally several times. I warned them that if they kept doing this I was going to not show up at some point. And then finally one Saturday night I “called in sick” and they had to handle their shit themselves. I still have no regrets.

        (I suppose I should note that I was pulling way more than my weight at that job and that’s probably part of why I got away with it–they knew damn well they needed me and it was worth putting up with one shift’s worth of truancy–but still, ugh. I didn’t like being put in a position where the only way to get a reasonable outcome was to be a jerk.)

      3. laughingrachel*

        Eh, I think that’s pretty common in retail and food service. Those jobs are pretty notorious for ignoring availabilities and overscheduling people into burnout – at least in most places. I worked at a family-owned bar/restaurant/brewery for 4 years while I was in college. Because of high turnover inherent in a food service with mediocre management by the time I was there for a year, I was the most senior waitress and I was highly reliable (never called in sick, never came to work hungover) and one of their best servers. I basically picked my own schedule by just telling my manager when I would be working and about any schedule changes – I never asked because to me it was non-negotiable. I always prioritized my schooling. We had a lot of students that started working there who wanted 15-20 hours and got scheduled ~37 hours every single week, some quit, some made it work, and a solid amount just dropped out of school because they couldn’t handle it. You have to stand up for yourself a lot in those types of jobs because your managers absolutely will not and they’ll fire you the second you’re not useful to them anymore anyway.

    5. DCGirl*

      My sister skipped school to go to the beach and came home beet red. Mom was not amused.

      When I worked as a bank teller in college, I was once hauled off the teller line at my branch one Monday morning, thrown in a cab, and sent to another branch post haste. All three tellers had gone to the beach together the day before, gotten severely sunburned and (apparently) deeply hung over, and all had called in sick. I arrived to find the branch manager manning the one open teller window and a line of pissed-off customers snaking out the door.

      1. Lance*

        Oh boy, that must’ve been fun. The wait to see a teller can already be long enough with a short line…

        1. DCGirl*

          The manager hadn’t been a teller in a while and was a bit slow. Between the two of us, though, we eventually got it under control. I was told those three tellers got a stern talking-to when they returned to the office the next day.

      2. Jennifer Juniper*

        I worked the polls in June 2016. I did curbside assistance, which is helping elderly/disabled voters vote in their cars. The shift was 15 hours long. I was supposed to be outside the whole time. I forgot my sunscreen – and it was the first day I’d gotten any sun that year.

        Fast forward 10 or 11 hours. My co-workers noticed I looked like the catch of the day at Red Lobster and pulled me into the shade, then inside. *shakes head at self*

    6. DataGirl*

      My first job, I left work early with a headache. I really did have a headache! But when I left I felt better so I went to my friend’s house then we went out to party and I didn’t get home until past curfew. My parents were waiting up: my mom had called my work for something and found out I left “Sick” but knew I didn’t come home- boss found out that I had not gone home sick. I was in trouble on both sides.

      1. Kelsi*

        I faked sick a lot as a kid, so I knew the routine of making sure I didn’t do anything that made me appear to be too healthy. That stuck so well that even when I was living alone in a different state from my job, the most I EVER dared to do on a sick day was drive to the grocery store for medicine and soup. I was always convinced my mom would appear out of nowhere and go WHY AREN’T YOU AT WORK? (And I still feel guilty when I stay home, even though as an adult I take, you know, vacation days instead of sick days when I just don’t want to go in)

        1. lonestarbrooklyn*

          So much this! I faked sick all the time, including getting to school and deciding to bail and suddenly “coming down with something.”
          Now, when I’m sick I don’t post *anything* on social media, even about being sick, to avoid saying something that might be misinterpreted, and I similarly don’t even run sick-person errands.

        2. Amber T*

          Adult me is still so paranoid about being seen at CVS or the grocery store when I’m out sick. I could have nothing in my fridge and my thought process is “oh well guess I’ll starve” before I run out and buy food (before I remember take out is a thing). I still follow the rule that if you’re too sick to go to school/work, you’re too sick to do anything fun… I really need to realize that picking up meds isn’t “fun” but kinda necessary, and I’m not under house arrest.

        3. OP*

          This whole sick thread is amazing.

          In college, I was new to faking sick (no pesky parents to get past), but I hated calling out because I never knew how to convincingly sound sick. Cough? Put on a gravelly voice? Pinch my nose while talking?

          So instead, before I showed up to work the counter at a vegetarian restaurant, I patted my roommate’s face powder (her skin was way lighter than mine) all over and drew red lip liner on the insides of my bottom eyelids. I stood slumped behind the counter, moaning about how I didn’t feel great and moving very slowly when I was asked to do anything. They sent me home pretty quickly. I’m surprised they didn’t fire me right then. Anyway, I wish I had a photo, because there’s no way it looked legit.

          1. Jake, but not from State Farm*

            I JUST did the holding my nose trick myself last month. Never occurred to me before that. Not sure how well it worked but work never said anything.

          2. Beth*

            I had a friend in college that was an amazing makeup artist, and she could legit make me look like I was deathly ill. She’d even grease my hair up to give me bedhead. She really was an artist.

        4. rogue axolotl*

          I also feel guilty whenever I’m sick, despite the fact that I usually just have to take the day unpaid anyway. I didn’t fake sick when I was a kid but my mum always accused me of faking so I guess it stuck anyway.

        5. Arya Parya*

          A few years ago I threw my back out. I couldn’t sit without pain and couldn’t stand for very long either. Since my job couldn’t be done laying down, I was home sick for nearly two weeks.
          One of the things the doctor told me to do, was go on walks. This would help strengthen my back again and would keep everything at least a bit mobile. So every day I went on a prescribed walk around town, each day a little farther. This felt so wrong, especially when I ran into someone I knew. When one asked if I had a day off, I really didn’t know what to say.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        One place I worked, if you called in sick then went to the mall you would find most of upper management shopping, too. They did not see a problem with shopping while on the clock and did it routinely.
        Needless to say the bosses were laughed at and make jokes of all the time.
        For my own part, if I called in sick even just a mental health day, I went back to bed. No worries about running into people any where.

    7. Doug Judy*

      When I was a teenage I worked for a big retail store. Store closed but there were things we needed to do before we went home for the night. My boyfriend and I had been fighting and I was sooooooo upset, so I just went home. And then never went back because I was too embarrassed.

    8. Sevenrider*

      I called out sick to a retail job when I was 18 saying I had been in a car accident. The real reason was because I used to get horrible, cold sore type breakouts that were hugely embarrassing. I later found out I was allergic to sunlight and at that time in my life, I never wore sunscreen. My manager ran into my friend and asked how I was doing. My friend knew nothing about my “car accident” and told my manager I had never been in an accident and was fine. When I finally went to work a few days later my face still looked so bad that my manager took one look at me and said “Oh wow, you really were in an accident.” She sent me home to recover and I didn’t have to go back until I was fully healed. Thank goodness I don’t get those type of breakouts anymore and I wear sunscreen religiously.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Good boss, she filled in her own blanks perhaps incorrectly but she came to the right answer any way. I am glad you are not dealing with that so much any more.

    9. PSB*

      That reminded me of something that happened in a previous job. It was one of those call centers that was more like an extended high school, culturally speaking. Most of us were in our early to mid 20s and it wasn’t exactly the kind of place that inspired much loyalty or professionalism.

      One of the guys I worked with desperately wanted to go to the lake with some friends. I don’t remember if his day off was denied or it was too late to request it or what, but he ended up calling in sick and going to the lake. He was riding a jet ski when another boat or jet ski crashed into him.

      He lost his leg. On a sick day.

      I don’t know if anyone ever said anything about calling in sick, but he kept his job and worked there for several more years. And I guess maybe he wasn’t completely wrong since he did end up in the hospital that day.

      1. OP*

        Holy crap. That sounds like a scene from a movie. And yeah, I can’t imagine giving someone beef about a sick day when they return to work missing a limb.

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        That happened to a classmate on senior skip day, except I think water skiing and getting run over by that/another boat was involved. IIRC he managed to keep the leg but wasn’t at graduation or anything like that. Spending your post-high school summer in intensive recovery could not have been fun.

  7. RJ the Newbie*

    My neverending tendency to put being liked over being efficient. It kept me from career growth and affected my self confidence for too many years. So over it now.

    1. Wicked Witch of HR*

      This is so funny to me because for me it was the relentless drive for efficiency at the cost of relationships that I had to overcome!

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same! I like to think I’m pulling it back to a more balanced approach, but I will still choose efficiency/project success over someone liking me as a person.

        I have said some truly cringeworthy things to coworkers over the years, though, and am totally that person who rolled my eyes or muttered, “Fine, I’ll just do it myself”, or flat out told someone they were doing it wrong. On the up side, when I see people on my team making the same mistakes now, I can give them the been there-done that-try this instead speech from a position of credibility!

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Oh god, me too! I do still keep in touch with several people from each of my last few jobs, and I’m still invited to team building events for my most recent previous job, so I guess I’ve succeeded in being well-liked. But I cringe about how long it took me to change my focus from ALL relationship focused to at least some task focused. I mean, I always got my work done enough that nobody hated me for that (except maybe one or two hardworking, task-focused people who wondered how they were working so hard and I still had better relationships with people), but when I think about how much I would procrastinate actual work and focus on chatting with my coworkers — ugh! Even in my work focus, I would prioritize the tasks that would make people like me above those that more urgently needed to be done.

    3. Clay on My Apron*

      I was a people pleaser with (undiagnosed) ADHD. So at one point in my career, in an effort to make myself invaluable and highly regarded, I’d agree to anything that was asked of me (poor impulse control) resulting in an impossible workload that I couldn’t possibly deliver on. And without the ability to prioritise, plan, and all that. I was frequently having to tell people that there’d be a delay. Luckily I stopped doing that but it took me a while to recognise my behaviour and do something about it.

  8. Master Bean Counter*

    I picked side in an office clique one week into a job. Yeah, I ended up on the wrong side of office politics.

    1. Faulty Knees*

      Same! So easy to do. Especially when nerves and inexperience are in play. I look back on how I behaved with some of my office “friends” and cringe. The gossiping, bad-mouthing, slacking off. The completely inappropriate conversations on company IM. God I hope those never surface.

      Oh – And the shorts that I tried to pull off as a skirt. Ew.

    2. Kelsi*

      Even when I wasn’t picking sides, I definitely cheerfully blundered into some major office politics back in the day. EVERYBODY was mad at me lol. That was when I learned to ask “Is this public knowledge yet, and if not, am I supposed to pretend not to know?” about things other people told me.

    3. Prof. Kat*

      It’s honestly a relief sometimes that my field (academia) is widely known for horrifying office politics, because it has (so far!) helped me avoid this kind of thing many, many times in my 3.5 years as a faculty member. Not to say that I haven’t made a few enemies — it’s honestly unavoidable — but it helped that I had some idea of what to expect. My Ph.D. advisor was really honest and open with me about the crazy departmental politics at my alma mater (like a faculty member suing the university repeatedly, losing repeatedly, and taking out his dissatisfaction on his colleagues), and it definitely prepared me for dealing with all the bickering over territory and grudges and whose turn it is to teach which class.

      1. Robot With Human Hair*

        I worked in academia for 17 years (started when I was 20!) and you’re not kidding. It’s a minefield, but after enough time, it almost becomes a game, balancing on the tightrope between all the different “factions”.

      2. ElinorD*

        Yes – I work in academia after many years in corp America (banking, communications, etc) and I am always stunned at what people get away with. Including my supervisor.

  9. Jennifer*

    Sent emails making fun of the boss. In my defense they were really funny and would crack everyone up, but I didn’t think about the fact that my boss could see them if he wanted. One of my coworkers printed an especially funny one (!!!!) and left it on the printer where another manager saw it. And that was that.

    1. karou*

      Oh yeah, I made the mistake of writing complaints about another department in email to one person, and then the chain ended up getting forwarded to said department. It’s a hard and embarrassing lesson to learn to never put certain things in email!

      1. Jennifer*

        Yes! I also learned to read the entire email chain before forwarding or sometimes just starting a new one. I’ve read ones where people were talking crap about me somewhere in the middle. I laughed so hard.

        1. Madcap*

          Oh gosh, the other month the research fellows association at the medical center where I work sent out an anodyne e-mail to their distribution list inviting members for donuts and coffee for research fellows week.

          One of them was salty about a recent (and admittedly poorly thought out) IT policy change that would make it a lot harder for a bunch of the fellows to do work.

          So naturally he wrote a five-paragraph rant about it, addressed it to the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Administrative Officer, and Dean of Research, and hit “Reply All.”

          Three or four of the other fellows hit ‘reply all’ to say “I’m with stupid,” which was bad enough, but they never noticed that the original ranter added the CEO, CAO, and Dean of Research to the “To” field.

          So a whole bunch of them were spamming the CEO and CAO of a multi-site, 50,000+ employee research institution with unprofessional griping about an IT problem, and carbon copying about 500 other people to watch the train wreck.

      2. Prof. Kat*

        Oh man…my husband learned this lesson recently, in a weird backwards way. He emailed a particular team to say how impressed he was with their work on a specific project. The email got passed along to some higher-ups to say hey, look what a great job we did! Except the higher-ups (correctly) read between the lines, realized that my husband was praising one team because all the other ones sucked, and then came down hard on those other teams. It kind of needed to happen to fix some systemic issues, but everyone knew it was my husband’s email that kicked it off, so he was inundated with sad people who wanted him to reassure them that THEY weren’t the problem, right? (Except they usually were, so…)

    2. Lady Blerd*

      Similarly, I replied instead of forwarding my thoughts about a colleague to another colleague (or better yet, keep those thoughts to myself). To this day there is a part of my extended network that I’m frozen out from because of this.

  10. Adlib*

    At my first job out of college, I griped openly about not being invited out to lunch with management and some others. Person I was griping to told my boss who yelled at me after they got back. I cried, and she started crying while/after yelling at me. It was pretty immature of me, but I learned to keep things to myself after that. I’m still cringing to some degree.

    1. Adlib*

      Oh, and I’m on the fence about this one, but once I wrote up a scathing complaint post about a coworker and posted it on an anonymous (now-defunct) website, and the owner found out because he tracked our internet usage constantly. That was on my way out of that job although I didn’t know it at the time.

    2. Roja*

      I can’t say your boss comes out of this looking great though, to be honest. Yelling at you and crying seems really excessive for a conversation that should have boiled down to a few stern sentences.

      1. Adlib*

        True, this was probably 15 or 16 years ago so she was much younger than I am now and not much older than me at that time either. I’m sure we’ve both grown tons since then!

    3. ella*

      Oh man, I didn’t think I had anything to contribute to this thread, but you just reminded me of the time I totally invited myself along to an out-of-office lunch that was probably intended to be managers only. My boss didn’t say anything to me about it being inappropriate, I only realized in hindsight.

      1. OP*

        I love this! Were you able to enjoy the lunch? I hope they took you somewhere delicious and/or high-end.

  11. WellRed*

    At my quick print/copy shop job, I would feel personally annoyed if customers (there was a regular one in particular) wanted to speak with my boss instead of me (I’m capable! I can help you!). I cringe because I let it show in my voice and he eventually said something to the boss.

    1. Amylou*

      yeah that’s annoying at first! This also happens if you’re in low-level sounding office roles (“assistant” in the job title)… I got over it/stopped caring, and I would just forward the email / (fake) transfer the call (yes, it works wonders) to my manager while doing an evil laugh at sender thinking “he’s gonna tell you EXACTLY. The. Same. Thing. Or refer you back to me.” If they’re happy to waste their own time getting an “authoritative answer”, please do!!! :D

      There’s just something pleasurable when boss will email back and cc you: “Amylou in Cc will assist you with this”

    2. WS*

      One thing I particularly enjoy about having all-female management is when That Guy only wants to speak to “someone in charge” or “someone who knows all about this” (i.e. a man) it’s straight to the next woman. At least they’ll now usually believe a woman on the phone who says she *is* the manager!

  12. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    I avoided speaking with anyone senior to me unless I had to. I did not want to look like a “brown-noser” or “suck-up” to my peers. What I missed was that other colleagues were finding mentors, learning about leadership, and building advocacy for their future roles–all while continuing to do their jobs well. And the “cool kids” who studiously avoided having contact with senior management? Many got stuck in their careers.

    Nowadays, I tell people early in their career to NEVER turn down a networking opportunity. You can avoid being a suck-up AND communicate often with your leadership

    1. BF50*

      I did this too. Not because I was trying to be a “cool kid,” but because I was treating management like my parents and/or teachers.

      1. Alienor*

        One of my no. 1 annoyances at work is colleagues in their 20s interacting with me like I’m their teacher or their mom. I don’t know if I did the same thing when I was their age or not, but if I did, I wish I could issue a blanket apology to everyone who was my current age/level of seniority at the time!

        1. Ri13*

          As a woman in her 20s, I can report that the opposite- older coworkers at internships treating me like I’m their child or student- is also extremely grating and hard to get around. I try to ask everyone similar questions- how was your weekend? how was x thing you attended? did your child’s dance recital go well?- and the number of times I get condescending replies as if I’m a cute lil puppy doing a trick is far too high.

          1. Offlebump*

            If a colleague asked me something like that, I would be startled that they were that tuned into my life, a bit put off, and I’d have to scramble to find a polite response, because it’s just not a wavelength I’m prepared for at work. Maybe what reads as condescension comes from something similar.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I didn’t know how to act around management when I first started working in my late teens / early twenties. I was still stuck in the mode of “all adults are parents or teachers” and it was so awkward to relate to non-peers. Now I treat everyone like we’re all the same age, whether they’re twenty years older or younger or whatever. The only time I really notice an age difference is when I can tell a really young coworker is treating me like I’m the office old lady.

        1. Artemesia*

          It is shocking when that finally happens isn’t it? I was ALWAYS the young bright thing, usually working with somewhat older men who enjoyed having a young bright thing around. And most of my career I was the only woman in the group or one of a very few. After a few decades of course inevitably one is no longer the young bright thing — but the sudden realizing that you went almost seamlessly from youthful and bright to old crone

          1. SpellingBee*

            Oh yeah . . . I still remember when I first realized that grown-ass people in my workplace had been born AFTER I GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL. I felt so incredibly old.

    2. P*

      Yeah, early on I had the notion (spurred on by an internet “friend” that later turned really ugly) that doing things for one’s own benefit (ie, volunteering to have things to put on a resume) was selfish/dishonest/disingenuous etc.
      Now I see how redic that is; as long as you are doing a good job volunteering, it doesn’t matter if it’s for 100% altruistic love of [folding towels for hospitals] etc, or because your school required you to, or because you wanted experience in Y before you pursued a career in Y, or because you thought it would help your application for [competitive thing]. The volunteer places still get a good volunteer, the people are helped, you get experience and maybe do something you wouldn’t otherwise have thought of. So it’s JUST FINE if it’s for resume fodder etc as long as one does a good job.

      1. Kelsi*

        I think this is a good way to approach life, honestly. Your motivations–good or bad–don’t matter in the end. Your actions matter. If you half-ass your volunteer work because your heart isn’t in it, the problem still isn’t the motivation, it’s what you actually did (i.e. a bad job).

        1. P*

          One of the first major volunteer gigs I had at the behest of a high school requirement ended up being helping paraplegic people eat. (there were a variety of things to chose from and I picked that one, but I wouldn’t have done it without the impetus, it just wouldn’t have been on my radar and I already had a several hobbies I was working at) It was still an amazing experience I remember to this day; ultimately beneficial for everyone even if the initial motivation was not purely voluntary.

      2. TootsNYC*

        in fact, often that’s part of the bargain the charity place is making with you: You give us work, and we’ll be a reference for you later, and maybe teach you some stuff along the way.

    3. Tara S.*

      There can be value in not spending too much time with higher ups, especially if there’s a gender thing going on. All it took was one joke based on a rumor about my college boss sleeping with students and I made a point to try and never be alone with him. (He was fine as far as I know, I never saw/heard anything definitive that makes me think he would actually do that, but the point is the joke/rumor was enough for me to be cautious.)

      1. SS Express*

        I think that’s pretty harmful advice that disproportionately affects women, who are already at a disadvantage.

    4. Oh, naive me*

      I was in the same boat as you in Old Job. I remember seeing a Junior Teapot Coordinator getting coffee with New Teapot Sales Manager and thought “I have no idea why they are together, their jobs have nothing to do with each other.” *shrugs*

      Fast forward a few years, according to LinkedIn, Junior Teapot Coordinator is working at another teapot company as Teapot Sales Coordinator and then moved up to Teapot Sales Manager.

  13. jay*

    I was temporarily sitting in the senior admin assistants desk while she was on vacation, logged on as her, performing receptionist duty. I decided to rearrange all her shortcuts.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I’m…not entirely sure that your youth and naivete would’ve saved you if I’d been that admin. *eye twitching*

      2. sub rosa for this*

        I did something similar, at the wise old age of 27, and (in retrospect) not for good reasons.

        It was pre-Windows 95, and I was by default the office IT expert (very small company, and I was the only one who knew about “turn it off and back on again”) and I had figured out that our desktop computers were networked.

        So I got into the VP’s Control Panel every day and changed something – background, text color, whatever – until he tried to delete the Control Panel from his system and ended up borking everything.

        I felt justified by the fact that he was a VP at 22 (son of the owner, natch) and I was a $4 an hour temp barely struggling by, and the company had made a string of broken promises to me about permanent jobs, more hours, higher pay, etc. that had resulted in nothing.

        But still. I was SUCH an idiot. *sigh*

    1. Not Tom, just Petty*

      There was a letter like that here. A LW said that his coworker was showing him a process but he didn’t like the way she accessed the print command, so he deactivated keyboard options or something. Yeah, that’s a big one. As Alison writes, “don’t mess with someone else’s flow.”
      of course, sub rosa, or sub(mit) alisona, I put linked together all the paper clips (a good few BOXES) at my internship in college because I thought it would be funny and I’d be “ha ha, oh THAT guy, hilarious!” Which is also Latin, for douche.

      1. Tara2*

        I remember that! I think it was that she was using capslock instead of shift, so they disabled the capslock button.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I worked at my small-town DMV between my junior and senior year of high school. My high-school aged coworker and I thought it was hilarious to link together all the paperclips in the office so that when our bosses went to paperclip a customer’s papers together, they would pull up a six-foot long chain of paperclips. They kept telling us to quit doing it, and the more they told us to quit and got aggravated about it, the more funny we thought it was. I bet they were glad to get rid of us that summer! Although they did have me back the next summer . . . but I didn’t do the paperclips anymore, because my new coworker wasn’t as “fun” as the old one, so I no longer had a partner in crime.

    2. xarcady*

      I was out for a day once, and someone’s computer crashed, so they had him use mine.

      He used my computer for 7 hours, max. He did the following:

      Hid the task bar.
      Deleted shortcuts.
      Moved contents of several folders to the desktop and then deleted the folders.
      Renamed my computer. (Why?)
      Viewed p0rn.
      Downloaded malware and a virus.

      He also stole a pair of scissors clearly marked with my name, rearranged things on my desk, and yes, messed up my chair.

      I was his manager. It was his first job out of college. His performance review was in 2 weeks. We had a little discussion about professional norms.

      1. KE*

        I’m sorry, you waited 2 weeks and THEN had a conversation? I feel like the inappropriate website(s) should have resulted an immediate dismissal… Was he fired?

        1. Xarcady*

          I was not allowed, by the owner of the company, to fire him. He got a talking-to from her the day I came back. And I was allowed to use this stuff on his performance review.

      2. The Tin Man*

        At least you were his manager. And you seem to have learned why his computer probably crashed…

      3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Did it shadow how you viewed him forever? Because if someone did that to me I would quietly resent them for the entire time we worked together. And I’d call them something like ‘shortcut hater’ to my husband.

      4. ShameFace*

        I once snuck into my boss’s office and switched the mouse from right hand to left hand commands. I also changed her “pointer” from a regular arrow to an arrow that left a trail whenever you moved it. Thankfully I never got caught, but what was I thinking?!?!

      5. JSPA*

        At least he didn’t convert your keyboard to Dvorak. I have a…friend?…who does that when he’s spending a few minutes on people’s computers “because he can’t use QUERTY.” And he doesn’t change it back after, because “Dvorak is better, you should learn it.” Pretty sure he’d do same at work (if he worked).

        1. Flash Bristow*

          Oh, this made me laugh (in a frustrated way) because today I looked at a note I typed on my phone last night and could not make head nor tail of it. I figured I must have been very tired!

          Then I realised that somehow the keyboard map had switched from qwerty to Dvorak…
          Given that autocorrect “helped out” in making complete words, I have no hope of ever working backwards to figure out what the note was even about.

          Keyboard maps are a thing! And now I know :)

      1. OP*

        Ha! If you do that, you may have to go back in time and give past me several good talkings to, and possibly some pink slips as well, though I never did the “change someone’s short cuts” thing. Then past Jay and I can go job search together!

    3. Robot With Human Hair*

      This actually just happened at my job recently. My colleague was out on paternity for an extended time and the person covering his inbox rearranged ALL his folders and existing emails. And deleted existing folders. A system that he had authored meticulously over the past six months.

      He was…not happy.

      1. BritCred*

        A temp once covering me rather than keeping emails would print them, delete them and reply on a fresh email.

        I had the record of being able to track down any customer complaint or issue going back over 5 years and any remittance in an instant due to my filing system for clients… Properly organised with sub folders and all. The next audit was hell because this temp decided following the existing system wasn’t her thing. And she didn’t even tell the line manager who’d pointed out I kept and filed everything she was doing it!

    4. PANTSorGTFO*

      Oh my god. This is the first comment I’m legitimately horrified by.
      Did you keep that job after that?

  14. Shameful*

    I was that intern, going up to my superiors with laundry lists of all the ways they were maltreating us. All my fellow interns and contributors to the list would be nodding angrily behind me, until the superior – who usually looked rather like a parent-figure due to the disparity in age – told us what’s what. They would wilt, and then I’d wilt, and we all slunk off in shame. I grew up, of course, ended up managing and learned how truly awful I’d been.

  15. Mrs Selfridge*

    I actually set my boss up on a blind date with my friend. And I wasn’t friends outside of work with my boss either. I just knew they both liked the same style of music/dancing.

      1. Mrs. Selfridge*

        It did not go well. It was awkward all around. Don’t know why I even thought to do it (This was the only time I have ever set anyone up, and have no idea why I would even do that? Like a stranger had stepped into my head). Have no idea why the boss said yes – we weren’t friends, never became friends. It remains one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done, and a I feel bad for putting my friend in that situation.

      1. OP*

        Yes, yes, yes. Oh would I love some specifics.

        Btw, Mrs. Selfridge, re: a stranger taking over your mind, your description may help explain some of my weirdo behavior. Because I think I’ve sometimes erred on the side of “must be creative/assertive!” and then overcompensated by becoming someone I’m not and overshooting norms, thereby ending up making things worse than if I’d done nothing at all.

  16. DeeShyOne*

    When I was new to the office culture, I thought that impressing any authority meant I had to challenge them in EVERYTHING. I wish I could go back in time and slap some sense into myself.

    1. chocoholic*

      I, once (or possibly more than once) as an HR Assistant, sent a scathing email to department heads about the attendance policy they were not following with their employees. I had no authority over them at all. I am surprised I was not disciplined for that. They, predictably (to today’s me, not former me) did not respond well to that. It was my first “real” HR job – I think I was all of about 23-24 at the time. Yikes.

  17. ThatGirl*

    I was sort of a self-appointed style enforcer on my team of editors at my last job, and while I think there was some value in that, and as far as I know nobody ever thought poorly of me, I now cringe at some of the phrasing I used, such as “gentle reminder”….

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        OMG, I have found my people. I HATE “gentle” anything in business emails. HATE. We are not fragile children, and if plain old “as a reminder” or “please remind your teams” is too strong a language, the organization is probably not a great fit for me.

      2. Lissa*

        The one that makes me twitch is “PSA” unless it’s actually from some sort of government organization lol.

    1. On Fire*

      Oh, ugh. One of our attorneys at OldJob was fond of issuing “gentle reminders,” usually about things that one person had screwed up, but they decided to reprimand the entire staff. Or about things that nobody could possibly have known (think: new policy), so it should have been new info, not a gentle reminder. More than one person muttered about what he could do with those reminders, and it was… NOT gentle.

    2. Who Knows*

      For a minute I thought you meant in regards to what people were wearing and I was like DAMN girl!

      But I am the grammar police too. I get it.

        1. Clay on My Apron*

          I used to correct grammar and spelling in documents that I was supposed to review for content. I had no idea how obnoxious I was.

          1. zapateria la bailarina*

            if you’re reviewing for content, wouldn’t you need to also review to ensure it’s all correctly spelled? i don’t think this is obnoxious, sounds like part of the job. if that content is going on the website or in a printed brochure, you definitely don’t want spelling mistakes!

            1. JD*

              Not a pro, but my understanding is that content editing and editing for grammar/spelling/typos are different things. Basically, you don’t want to correct the grammar of a sentence you might have to take out entirely. It’s like how you wipe off the kitchen counters before cleaning the floor, the reverse order is just more work.

          2. PhyllisB*

            This reminds me of when I did some temp receptionist work at a radio station. I was asked to type up the copy for the on-the-air ads. If there were misspellings I would go to whoever wrote the ads and say “This says….don’t you mean….?” They would always say “You’re right!!” and apologize, but if the word meant the same but was just spelled wrong, (dol when it should be doll) what did it matter, and WHY did I think it was my place to correct it. (Cringe.) Now if it was going out in print that’s one thing, but these were being read on the air. I can’t believe they actually liked me.

  18. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Had a verbal altercation in the middle of a cube farm with a coworker I felt was being disrespectful.

    1. Adlib*

      I’ve kinda done this at one job. I yelled at the person in the cube across from me that I didn’t care about what he was yammering on/bothering me about, and the entire place got quiet. Everyone agreed he deserved it and were stunned because if *I* was yelling, it must have been pretty bad.

      1. Cosette*

        Yep! Mine was on the phone with the manager at another location but when everyone in the cube farm (or at least close enough to me to hear) heard my voice get loud and say, “No, you listen, Andy!” they knew it was serious! LOL I don’t actually regret doing that because with some people you have to push back… he was one.

      2. JD*

        I did this once in fourth or fifth grade. The entire class stared at me. (I was always the quiet one.)

    2. TCO*

      Oh, I did something similar! My coworker and I were having a tense disagreement (ten years later I still think I was right!) and we had the discussion right in the middle of an otherwise-quiet cube area. It must have been so distracting and awkward for the people around us trying to quietly focus on their work.

    3. Ladybugger*

      I’ve totally done that and I didn’t love it but I did ask him to leave and we’d discuss later and he wouldn’t (!!!) so I feel like he earned it.

      That workplace was really dysfunctional in a number of ways.

    4. Save your forks*

      You just made a memory resurface! Had a verbal telephone altercation with my MOTHER at my cube and then cried at my desk. Cringe, cringe.

    5. chickaletta*

      I did this once. I didn’t handle this person well at all, she got on my nerves like nothing else. In my defense, though she got into arguments with a lot of people. There was a well-known altercation she was involved in over a parking spot, she was constantly on the phone with HR over this and that, she openly made fun of coworkers when they were out of the office for the day (so they couldn’t overhear what she said about them), and she got kicked off her roller derby team for being too mean. So, I feel slightly justified.

  19. Nimbus*

    I was demoted during a re-org in mid-May of 2002 (kept a job, but was no longer a supervisor of six) and subsequently refused to go to the national trade show/convention in June, in New York, where I was supposed to work in our company’s booth. Non-refundable plane and hotel reservations had been made for me. I said my attitude about the company was not good at the time, and I didn’t feel like I was a good representative for the company. They did not press the point and they didn’t fire me. In fact I still work there. I don’t know if I had guts or was stupid.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Wow! I assume your attitude towards the company has changed since you’re still there 16 years later…

      1. Nimbus*

        I was a single mother of a nine-year old at the time so I just hung on, kept my head down and did the job they kept me at. Soon I joined a new team forging a new business line and have thrived in that area. So I’m at peace. In retrospect, I think they really DID value me, since I wasn’t shown the door at that time!

        1. PSB*

          I really needed to hear this story today. I’m in a similar(ish) position right now and really struggling with whether to stay or leave.

        2. OP*

          Wow x 2! I wonder if your honesty about where you were at — and that you expressed concern for how the company would come off had you gone — served you well. It probably says something good about your company that they took it in stride; after all, it makes sense your morale would be down after being demoted. Impressive all around.

  20. Snarkus Aurelius*

    1) Every single day of my restaurant job in high school. I’m so embarrassed that when I see these people now, I look the other way. Managers who oversee high school kids need extra pay. We were obnoxious!

    2) Not understanding why people didn’t like each other. I assumed everyone had to like each other to work productively. Not so! I remember saying, “If two bosses could get in a room and talk it out, we could move forward!”

    3) The way I used to dress. Sure I didn’t make much money, and I was on the heavier side, but I could have dressed so much better.

    4) Allowing my two bosses to manipulate me and believe everything they said. I said good morning once to the CEO, and they flipped out and said I was annoying him. They didn’t want me to have any contact with him. When I quit, I apologized profusely, and he didn’t know what I was talking about. Awkward. I should never have taken anything they said at face value.

    5) Not pushing back. Those same two bosses used to trash me up and down during performance review time, but on paper, I always got the max marks. I should have probed more and asked them about the wide discrepancies and contradictory feedback.

    1. Key lime pie*

      Re: 2) if it makes you feel any better, my previous manager with 20+ years of management experience still handled conflict that way. Two team leads with serious conflicts over resources and priorities = “It’s a personality conflict! They have to learn to get along.”

    2. Stained Glass Cannon*

      #4: Ouch! I fell for that once – sub-boss told me the grandboss didn’t like staff reaching out to him directly, even though I had been instructed to report directly to him because my department was supervisor-less at the time. I got confused and thought that meant I wasn’t allowed to ask *anyone* for instructions or feedback…that did not go well in the long run.

    3. OP*

      Oof, restaurant jobs. A coffee shop coworker and I got bored one day, and decided to see the weirdest non-espresso espresso we could make. (Lotion chai, anyone?) Cringing now and forever about the health inspection implications of this. Can’t remember if we’d been drinking (I don’t think so), but this was definitely a place where on the job drinking was happening on the reg.

  21. BadWolf*

    In my first job fresh out of college, I was tasked with scheduling a series of teleconference meetings for training from different areas. This meant I was to create the meeting invites, provide the meeting details, phone number, etc.

    I asked my manager something like, “Isn’t there an admin that’s supposed to do this?” To which she said no, we just set up our own meetings.

    I realize now that I sounded like a total snob. Fortunately, she did not hold it against me.

      1. Jake*

        I actually had to use that line on an admin I’d hired that didn’t want to do data entry for about 45 minutes a day.

  22. Red Reader*

    Temp job. The manager had just told me that they expected to keep me for another six months or so. Then I got home and had an email from the temp agency letting me know that they didn’t need me anymore, have a nice life. I responded with a lecture on professional behavior and how it was wholly inappropriate to I don’t even know what I ran on about anymore. Bless her, the placement specialist didn’t respond at all, and I even worked through (a different office of) that agency again later. I wouldn’t have blamed her in the least for blacklisting me. (In my limited defense, I was 19 and it was the first job I’d ever had that wasn’t retail.)

    1. Queen Anon*

      Well, in your defense, that was unprofessional and wholly inappropriate of them! If things had turned around that quickly – literally in less than a business day – they owed you a face-to-face conversation. I think it was inappropriate of her not to respond as well. That said – yikes! I’m cringing for you about your response because I can imagine that it may well have also been unprofessional and inappropriate and probably embarrassing to remember.

      1. ACDC*

        Yeah I can’t blame you for this one. Once a temp agency sent me on an assignment to do “data entry.” There was no data entry; I was put in a basement closet and told to clean up the old equipment. There were many dead animals. I called the temp agency after an hour and said “yeah, I’m leaving…” They had the balls to get upset with me for lack of professional behavior.

        1. Jadelyn*

          The agency I worked at tried to get snotty with me when I left a placement after the first day, because it turned out not to just be a call center (which I’d already told the agency was a very, very bad idea for me – I’d worked in call centers before and it had done terrible things for my mental health), but one of those “appointment-setting” outbound call centers that preys on seniors in particular. I nope’d out, told the agency exactly why I wasn’t continuing with that placement, they tried to get on me about it, I flat refused to reconsider or go back in there even if it meant they never found me another placement again, and surprise surprise, a few months later that company was raided and shut down for fraud. After that, the agency relented and started placing me on jobs again.

        2. AnonEMoose*

          I once had a temp job checking people in for a conference. The people running the conference got upset when I insisted on taking a lunch break (this was a full day job, so a lunch break was kind of important).

          I called the agency at the end of the day. The agency was not happy to hear how the client had treated us, and asked why I hadn’t called earlier. But to their credit, they did understand when my response was “I needed the money, so…”

        3. WellRed*

          I got sent via temp agency to do data entry. Instead, the company wanted me to use a label maker (punch in each individual letter) to make labels for literally thousands of file folders.

      2. Red Reader*

        Yeah, it wasn’t handled well at all on their end either, but my indignant nonsense definitely did not help matters :) and I feel like, even the best possible response she could have given probably would have just stoked my ire, wrath and idiocy even more, hah, so the quiet “bless your heart, I’m gonna pretend I didn’t even see this” that is my own headcanon version of what happened is perfectly acceptable response in my book, no matter what her actual thoughts on the matter were.

    2. tink*

      I got set on a temp position with a specific end date and no talk of it being temp-to-hire or long term temp, so when nobody mentioned anything about my time being extended I packed up my few personal items and didn’t show up after my end date… apparently I was on the temp-to-hire list but that news hadn’t filtered down to me yet, and I was pretty embarrassed once I got calls asking where I was at.

      1. AMT27*

        That seems totally reasonable! If you knew the job was ending and no one bothered to tell you it might not be… what else would they have you do, continue showing up after your job ended? When you might want to be working another gig so you could get paid?

      2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        Gaah, I did something like this once,too! And I was over 30 and should have known better. So many things in my life would have been better if I’d had the sense to show up the next week and wait to be told they didn’t need me, instead of just assuming that the time frame they gave me when I started was set in stone!

    3. Blue*

      Two years into my first office job, I was job searching because I wanted to move to a different city. I get an offer (yay), but they take weeks to tell me the salary. Eventually, the hiring manager informally gives me a number, which was around the middle of the range I was hoping for. A couple more weeks pass, HR finally gets around to formalizing the offer and says that, based on salary history, they wouldn’t pay me more than the very bottom of my range. The hiring manager was like, “Whoops! But it *is* still within your stated range.” This was the latest in a series of red flags, so I was pretty pissed and sent back a stern email chastising her for how she handled the process and turning down the offer. I regretted it almost instantly (the email, not turning down the job), and am mortified in retrospect. She never replied, thank goodness…

      1. T*

        What they did was pretty shady, they offered the job with one salary then low balled you with the written offer. I think it’s a good thing you told them how they handled the hiring practice was pretty crappy, it’s a red flag that they would think otherwise.

  23. Ell*

    When I was a baby advertising account coordinator, barely a year or so out of college, I remember getting very stressed out when my manager didn’t seem to care about the things that were of DIRE IMPORTANCE to me. I would bug her constantly, until finally she sat me down and explained that her priorities were different than mine and her time more valuable, and that I needed to realize that things that I thought were very important were ultimately minor in the larger scale of the business.

    I was INCREDIBLY offended by this, and definitely frosty with her for a while.

    …several years later, when I’m now at the same level that she was and I have a direct report, I realize JUST HOW RIGHT she was, and that the little things that seemed so crucial are really minor and not worth the amount of bugging her that I did!

    1. Manders*

      Oof, yes, this was me! I always take deadlines really seriously, and I bugged the hell out of my boss when I moved from a job where deadlines really are set in stone to one where they were more like optimistic milestones.

    2. Anonymeece*

      Oh, this sounds familiar!

      It took me getting an employee of my own that I had a wake-up call and realized that my job is entirely my job; my job is a portion of my boss’s job. (I will say at least I got it eventually – said employee of mine never did!).

    3. Liz*

      I feel like I have that conversation with very experienced people every single day. Good on you for actually hearing it and recognizing that you are not the center of the universe — a lot of people never get there!

      1. TechWorker*

        I have definitely been like this – and probably have a tendency to still be a bit like it sometimes – I’m working on it! I think having more responsibility and thus less time to stress the small stuff may well mean I don’t really get a choice :)

    4. The New Wanderer*

      As a first year grad student, I asked my grad advisor (a tenured professor) to remind me of my project deadlines because I worked better with a little pressure from authority. He gently told me that managing my own deadlines was my own responsibility. Yup.

    5. A Tax NERD*

      I used to get SO annoyed when my supervisor in a tax clinic internship didn’t know every SINGLE DETAIL of my clients’ cases. We would meet twice a month to discuss the progress of my cases (usually 5-10 at any given time) and I would remember leaving his office every time fuming over how little he remembered about my cases. Although I did usually have to remind him of more relevant details as well (like what/why we were even appealing :/ ), some of the details I’d get hung up on were SO unimportant in retrospect (like the names and ages of a supposed dependent).

      I expected my supervisor to know every intimate detail about something that I spent hours a day working on when he only spent the ten minutes twice a month and also had 6 other reports with at least 10 clients of their own.

    6. OP*

      Oh dear. You just reminded me of the time I treated the writing of the annual team trivia quiz for a company outing as if it was of DIRE IMPORTANCE. When I kept bugging the senior staffer who had asked me to help out about when he’d review my draft, he said, “What is your damage?!?” Oops, um, nothing, I’ll just back out of your office quietly and go pour a pot of decaf on myself in the break room.

    7. +1*

      This was said to me at Old Job too, although I was not offended. However, I had a manager who was more “gentle” in her phrasing, and she left our the “my time is more valuable” part of the speech which helped in this case.

      I learned to wait for answers instead or follow up if I didn’t hear back from Manager about what I needed.

  24. CupcakeCounter*

    So much swearing! I have a potty mouth to begin with but when I get frustrated the shit-fuck-damns flow like water. OldJob was a nightmare so my boss had to mention how unprofessional it was on numerous occasions. The best was when I called a manager that was not mine a fucking moron after he proposed something that would completely screw me over. How I didn’t get send to HR is beyond me (wasn’t that young either…late 20’s/very early 30’s) but I’m pretty sure my actual boss smoothed it over by being mad at the suggestion on my behalf so my reaction didn’t seem so extreme.
    We both left shortly after that though so that is probably another reason he didn’t ream me out.

    1. Sampsonitte*

      I once told a manager (mine) to go F himself… in front of a customer. The customer was behind me so I didn’t know they were they when I did it. As soon as I turned around, I apologized profusely to the customer. She smiled and said, “I’ve always wanted to do that!” I did not get fired (for that).

      1. BF50*

        I told a supervisor he was a complete asshole. Why? Because he had asked me to do something that was part of my job instead of the other part of my job that I was doing.

        We actually worked better together after that, but yeah, not my proudest moment.

        1. Sampsonitte*

          I don’t even remember why I said that (probably more like screamed it) but he was a pretty bad manager and it was a pretty toxic place to work. I was young and didn’t know better.

      2. Foreign Octopus*

        I once told my manager that he needed to take management classes because the way he spoke to me was unacceptable (he was a hungover douche most of the time and I regret nothing).

      3. Lucille2*

        I did that too. I was about 17, working in a restaurant when I told the night manager to go F himself and walked out. I was sadly proud of that move until I grew up a little.

    2. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      First job at a non-profit: after getting off the phone with a student whom I thought had done something drastically awful, but which wasn’t, there in my little cube I mightily spewed, “F**K me up the a** with a sideways sword!!” Thank God my coworkers were either asleep or nonplussed. I guess Boss never heard about it.

  25. Elizabeth W.*


    I guess because you spend so much time with your workmates, it’s easy to think they’re friends. And it’s easy to get into personal conversations where you both talk about intimate subjects (health issues, crushes, etc.). But I have never had a coworker who ended up as anything more than a Facebook friend past our shared employment. Now this might be because I don’t have much in common with most people around here; I don’t work with the people I normally hang out with. However, some of these people know more about me than they needed to know (and vice versa).

    Sooooo next time, I’ll be the nice but mysterious one. I’ll work with you and go home; I don’t care about the rest of your life and you don’t care about mine.

    1. Magenta*

      Yeah I did far too much over-sharing, in a cringy showing off kinda way that I thought made me look cool. I’m sure it mostly made me look inappropriate.

    2. Seifer*

      My coworker is an oversharer. I mentioned something to our project executive about how this coworker is lactose intolerant and the exec laughed and said, “you guys know way too much about each other.” I paused for a second and said, “yeah… we really just know too much about him.” He got a kick out of that, but I was like. Cool, so I’m never talking about anything personal ever again.

      On the other hand, I kept in touch with one guy from my last company and he ended up bringing me to our current company with a huge pay bump. I completely switched fields so was very grateful to him. And he and his wife have become very good friends that probably know far too much about me, ha!

      1. MonkeySeeMonkeyDo*

        I don’t actually think that knowing a coworker is lactose intolerant is weird or means you know too much about them!

        We have occasional potlucks at my work and as a result I know that one of my coworkers is vegan, another is gluten free, a third has a very severe all encompassing nut allergy (it’s so bad that he has an accommodation that means no nuts in the office at all), a fourth is actually allergic to all dairy, and they all know that I’m allergic to bananas and avocados. At the end of the day all it means is that I always bring a vegan dessert made with non-nut based gluten free flour to the potluck. (links to my current go-tos in my name if anyone wants them! I substitute KAF measure for measure gluten free flour and they’ve always turned out *incredibly* well)

    3. JustoGusto*

      This speaks to me – I was always an oversharer at work, like you said, under the impression that my coworkers were “real friends”. In the end, it all imploded and I ended up needing to literally block those people everywhere online, block their numbers, and delete every instance of myself on the web (it’s like i don’t exist!). I’ve learned my lesson after that and so far I feel it’s been much better for my mental health, work life, and home life.

    4. Foreign Octopus*

      I was the mysterious co-worker at my last job in the UK.

      No one knew anything about me except that I was a university graduate, lived alone, and liked diet Pepsi.

      I had to take a personal call on the office phone once, as I’m useless with my own phone as I constantly leave it places and then forget about it, and the first personal thing they learnt about me was that my brother just tried to commit suicide in Spain (he’s fine now). So – go big or go home, I suppose.

    5. BookishMiss*

      My last job, I got dinged on my review for not sharing personal life stuff with co-workers. So I started sharing stories about my cat. It…sort of helped, but I left very soon after.

      Granted, in that office, there were no such things as TMI, boundaries, or professional norms…

    6. LessNosy*

      Oh, I was definitely an over-sharer. Granted, the coworker I overshared to has ended up being a great friend outside work, but I still cringe when I think about some of the things I’ve told her!

    7. OP*

      Yep. Fellow oversharer here. Oh, do I wish I could take back colleagues knowing about my hopeless crush on a coworker or my mental health issues. Oversharing was the complete norm at the previous job, where we’d all go out drinking together (and often sleeping together) all the time. Didn’t realize oversharing doesn’t travel well from job to job.

      1. Oversharing coworkers*

        THIS at my last job, only I was the one who felt my coworkers overshared. I was uncomfortable with how much people shared because I am a more private person. These are just some of the stories I remembered:

        I learned of things such as “I don’t like this other girl at my crossfit gym because of how she beats me at things and tries to talk to my husband. I have to protect what’s mine, you know?” It was not said to me but it was said within earshot of me by someone who had the same title as me.

        I knew this about a former supervisor: “My last relationship ended because the guy couldn’t say I love you except with a balloon on my birthday, which he brought to the office with music blasting from his cell phone. This was before you worked here.”

        A senior director once said to the entire office “I need to leave work early because my son got into a fight at school and the school is refusing to release him until I go down there.” Personally, I thought “I need to leave due to a family situation” would have sufficed.

        I heard stories about what was wrong with the toilet in someone’s apartment in MUCH more detail than “I had some plumbing issues with my toilet.”

    8. Jasnah*

      I definitely did this. Wayyy too much chatter all day, treated it like I was hanging out with friends. I reigned it in at my next/current jobs. I cringe thinking about it, but everybody makes mistakes, nobody’s perfect but how we learn from them is how we improve!

  26. Anon for this*

    My first job out of college was for a smallish nonprofit that had just turned their office manager into their IT manager as well. She didn’t really have any technology skills, but I see now that wasn’t her fault–this had been thrust upon her in a time of rapid organizational change and she hadn’t received any training or coaching in this area. I legitimately did know more than she did about IT (I worked tech support in college), and I thought our password policy was abhorrent (and it was–she set our computer passwords to really obvious things, we couldn’t ever change them, and they didn’t ever expire). But rather than let it go or ask her about it in a friendly way, I went straight to her boss, who was high-ranking in the organization, and reported my concerns. She rightfully redirected me back to the employee if I really thought my concerns needed to be addressed.

    It didn’t take me long to realize what a misstep this was: going over a co-worker’s head rather than first talking with them directly, and being dismissive and judgmental of someone for not having skills that they had no way of learning. She did eventually get some IT training and things got much better.

    1. Anon for this*

      Oh, and even worse, I think I forwarded one or two of the IT manager’s e-mails to my boyfriend to express my outrage at her lack of skills. You know who you shouldn’t mock over e-mail? The e-mail administrator (or anyone else, but especially not the e-mail administrator). I’m sure she never saw them, but I was dumb and mean.

      1. BF50*

        I tried to forward an email from an IT administrator to a coworker to say something along the lines of “Is he not effing listening or is he just effing stupid?” Only I didn’t forward it. I replied directly to him.

        I’m pretty sure all my IT tickets were then back burnered intentionally.

        1. KC without the sunshine band*

          I once replied instead of forwarding, trash-talking a coworker, meant for another coworker. When I realized what I’d done, I went to his office. God bless me, he wasn’t there. I sat down at his computer and quickly deleted the email. Thank God this was before email started coming to your phone. After that, trash talk became a strictly verbal activity.

          1. BF50*

            Oh my. I would have been terrified of getting caught

            It took me several days to realize it went to him and not my friend, so he definitely read it.

        2. partingxshot*

          Ohhh, I’ve seen this happen and it isn’t pretty. I work with students hoping to study abroad. A colleague sent out an email about an intercultural mini-course students could take prior to departure, and a student replied with, “First of all, I’m going to the UK and not to Uganda or whatever, so why would I need this?” It only got worse from there.

          Her excuse when it was clear we were considering kicking her off her program was essentially “I meant to send it to my friend.”

          1. only acting normal*

            Her complaint isn’t even valid. As reading here will tell people, there are lots of subtle and not so subtle cultural differences between the US and UK. (Hell, even between the constituent countries of the UK there are culture clashes.)

            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

              Yup. I didn’t do much research to prepare myself when I moved to the UK because we’re like, practically the same culture, right? I very quickly learned how stupid I was.

    2. JJ*

      I literally had a conversation today with an entry level employee about coming to me first with concerns instead of going to a director. I hope I am one of her embarrassing moments.

  27. Manders*

    I came into work after being up all night in the hospital while my partner had emergency surgery. In fairness, my boss was terrible about time off, but I wish I’d stood up for myself and decided not to go in. I also went into that job sick a lot and spread germs around the office, including some very bad colds, because I felt I couldn’t take time off.

    At the same job, I also covered for a coworker who was performing badly, then got resentful when she didn’t magically improve. We’d been on friendly terms when she was hired and I even recommended her for the position, but I really could not stand her by the time she left, and I did not do a good job of hiding it.

    1. Ennigaldi*

      Oof, I was afraid to call out sick at my first job, which was at a teaching hospital. I thought I was well enough one day to come in despite a head cold and didn’t want to miss a day’s pay, but as a secretary my desk was in the anteroom to my boss’s office. Little did I know, she was a cancer survivor and had a compromised immune system. She developed pneumonia! Later she told me she would have paid me to take the day off…

      1. Manders*

        Oof! My boss with the terrible sick leave policies was also a doctor. The medical field often seems to have a really screwy idea of when it’s acceptable to call out sick, so I totally get why you didn’t.

        I just remembered that I also stayed at work for a full day on the day a helicopter crashed right outside the building because I was afraid of losing the pay. My boss didn’t come in because of it and told his daughter, the office manager, not to come in but didn’t offer to pay me to take the time off. I really should not have worked that day.

      2. Just Employed Here*

        They really should have made the sick leave policy clear to you when you started, not only after you came in sick!

    2. jb*

      I did something similar — I had an outpatient surgery scheduled one morning (it was quick & minor but still required anesthesia!) and after it was over I went to work! I remember being in a meeting & someone asking me what was wrong because I seemed off and I responded with, “Sorry, I was under anesthesia this morning…” as though that was totally normal to do! But as a 22 year old who was still accruing PTO, it felt like the only option.

      1. kitryan*

        I came in to work after having an upper endoscopy. I was done with the procedure by 10 and wasn’t supposed to work until 12 so I tried to rest until then in the break room. But of course, I couldn’t relax and had a miserable day. Angry the whole day about having to be at work and that anyone wanted me to do anything. Didn’t they know I didn’t feel well? Ever since I’ve taken the whole day for the procedure and it’s much better that way (I have a condition that means I have to get my esophagus looked at every so often).

  28. TooCoolForSchool*

    In my first office job out of college I was very excited to have my very own cube complete with nameplate. At some point early on in the job (maybe even during my first week?) I decided I was cool and important enough to sit back with my feet up on the desk while reading some documents at the end of the day. My boss came around the corner, saw me, and said “you haven’t been here long enough to have your feet on the desk” before walking away obviously disgusted. I’m still mortified thinking about it.

    1. BenAdminGeek*

      Oh man…. I had a 40+ year old employee with 20+ years of professional experience do that in his first week, with headphones on blasting loud enough for everyone to hear. It was a sign of things to come…

      1. PSB*

        I’m 40+ with more than 20 years experience and, when I have a large enough cube, this is still how I review documents. Feet on the desk, docs in the lap, highlighter in my hand.

    2. Mbarr*

      Oops, I did that as a co-op once. A coworker asked me not to do that, and I had the gall to ask if he was kidding or not. Lesson learned!

  29. MJ*

    Early in my career, I wrote insanely long and detailed emails because I assumed everyone else loved reading long, detailed emails, too!

    I didn’t even realize it until one guy on my team, who didn’t have much of a filter, flat-out refused to read something I wrote just for him and responded, “why did you write all this?”

    (In my defense, I was a game designer and had to be ready to justify and defend every aspect of my designs. But I still cringe thinking back on it.)

    1. Cassandra*

      I was also hlepy in this particular way, until I got (bluntly, and in hindsight not-especially-professionally) called out on it.

      Live and learn, I suppose.

    2. Serin*

      I have a friend who used to bring me her emails for editing before she sent them, because her approach to organization was “it makes no sense to tell them which printer I recommend that they buy before I first walk them through ALLLL the steps I took to come to that decision.”

      1. Artemesia*

        One of my successes in teaching was getting undergrads to understand in professional correspondence that you start with the bottom line — in this case the recommendation for the printer and then unpack it if necessary further down the page or email or whatever. Or better yet in an attachment. Professional correspondence is not O’Henry.

  30. Sara*

    I still cringe over the interview I had in college for an internship. I hadn’t yet learned that you need to tailor your answers to the job you’re interviewing for, so when they asked what I saw myself doing after college I told them honestly that I was planning on teaching abroad after college and that I wanted to live in another country. They asked why I applied for the internship and said I needed a summer job.

    I did not get that internship. I did however teach abroad, so I did achieve my goals.

    1. Clay on My Apron*

      I interviewed for an entry level developer position and told the interviewer that I actually wanted to be an architect… The recruiter phoned me afterwards and yelled at me.

      Nobody had ever given me any coaching on how to behave in an interview, and I was clueless enough not to ask what I should and shouldn’t do. It was my first interview for my first job. Needless to say I didn’t make that specific mistake again.

      This is just one of the many, many posts that has prompted a memory of something dumb I did at work. Or in this case while failing to find work.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      Haha, for my first job (which I can’t believe I got), the CEO asked where I saw myself in five years… and I said “moving back to home state to be near family.” And then he said “I meant within the company.”

      And I legitimately don’t remember what I said? Because at that point I realized I had basically just told him I didn’t see myself there in five years and I panicked.

      Again, somehow I did get that job?

    3. +1*

      I remember hearing my old boss give a phone interview to someone and she asked the exact same question that was asked of you, why did they apply for a job there?

      I heard my boss’s side of the conversation: “If you are interested in PR, I would recommend you apply for those opportunities but there aren’t any of those opportunities here.” Old Job did not do PR whatsoever but was in a similar field under the umbrella term “marketing”

  31. lawyer*

    I wore a backless shirt to an internship at a political consulting firm in college. What was I thinking? I was generally fairly savvy about such things, even!

    1. fposte*

      For some reason this one especially tickles me. Maybe because backless shirts are weird to me already–it’s like you worked hard to find something nobody would even have thought to put in a dress code.

      1. Wicked Witch of HR*

        Oh this! You would be amazed at the dress codes I’ve rewritten to take OUT language like, “no heels higher than 2 inches.” “Open-toed shoes will always be worn with socks or hosiery.”

        They should tell us at some point in our lives to strive never to be the reason someone adds something to a dress code.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          Could be worse – your name could be permanently attached to the rule, like figure skating’s “Katarina Rule” about costume coverage.

      2. lawyer*

        It was the early 2000s and they were very popular as going-out tops (WHICH SHOULD HAVE BEEN A SIGN TO ME). This was one was actually super modest from the front – long sleeves and a boat neck – but the back was this corset-style lacing all the way down, only with skin under the lacing.

        I was fairly gothy and also kind of awkward and not good at being sexy, so perhaps the only reason I didn’t get a Stern Talking To was that they were just sort of embarrassed for me. But I could tell people were horrified. I honestly still can’t remember how I ended up wearing that…I had acceptable work clothes!

    2. Beehoppy*

      My new boss recently confided that one of the reasons she hired me was because I dressed so professionally for the interview. Apparently, the candidate the day before me wore an off the shoulder blouse with nothing over it.

  32. Zip Silver*

    Sleeping with coworkers is usually not a great idea. Luckily I discovered this when I was 17 and working retail, so the stakes were rather low.

    1. No Mas Pantalones*

      I was hoping I wasn’t the only one. I learned early too. Don’t get your sausage where you make your bacon.

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        That is the best version of this I have ever heard, I am DYING….

        (I am also guilty. University was a troubled time for me.)

      2. Former Retail Manager*

        Love the sausage comment, but I love your pic of the shoe even more. I owned a shoe that looked almost exactly like that in the mid 90’s and wore them all the time. Heck, I’d buy them again if I could find them now.

        1. No Mas Pantalones*

          Tell you’re wallet I’m sorry, because you CAN buy them now. Fluevog Original Munster. They’re the ones that made the same shoes in the 90s that Lady Miss Kier wore on the cover of Deee-Lite’s “World Clique” album. My friend had them in crushed purple velvet, which is what began my Fluevog obsession. There are a few different styles on the site. I’m also wearing the Munster charm on a necklace right now. I guess I’m a little obsessed.

      3. CmdrShepard4ever*

        But assuming both are pork/meat based I think it makes perfect sense to do that, why go to a different butcher across town, when you one have one stop shopping? I do agree with the point you are trying to make lol.

    2. Chrysanthemum's The Word*

      Totally with you on that one. Made that mistake in a job pre-20s and it turns out my coworker had a BIG mouth. The rub was my mother worked for the same organization, and had helped me get the position, so I was in constant fear that the chatter would get back to her. It was instantly regrettable but a lesson I’m glad I learned early.

    3. AnonEMoose*

      I feel fortunate that I figured that one out without having to actually go through it. I had the interesting experience of realizing that many of my male coworkers treated me with more respect than they did their girlfriends. Taught me a lot about what kind of treatment to accept from either a romantic partner OR a coworker.

      1. BookishMiss*

        Same. I learned that one vicariously, and have had it reinforced vicariously, and I am beyond grateful for that.

    4. JustoGusto*

      OK, first of all, “Don’t get your sausage where you make your bacon” LOL.

      This happened to me at work and in my defense, he is now my husband, but it completely alienated and divided anyone we thought were our “friends” as it made things awkward for them in the office, as well as resulted in their extreme judgement of us. Luckily this one worked out for the best but I still totally agree!

      1. AnonEMoose*

        It can and does work out, for sure. For me it’s just a “proceed with caution if you’re going to” sort of thing.

    5. JJ*

      Ugh, I did this at not one but two jobs.
      And I’m totally updating “don’t $h!t where you eat” with “don’t get your sausage where you make your bacon” because that’s amazing.

    6. SuperAnon*

      I’m still regretting that choice myself – it was a temporary summer job, but I dated the guy who had been my boss for the next two years. I thought the whole situation hadn’t ended too badly for me, until I realised I’d basically ruined that reference…

    7. Shark Whisperer*

      Eeeeee, I just literally cringed suddenly remembering that I did this early in my career. It was a summer job at a park in the middle of nowhere and there was very little to do. There was no real fall out besides another coworker who was also my age telling me that everyone thought I was a slut. :(

    8. OP*

      I did not learn early. And I did not learn that lesson multiple times in the same office either. Hoo boy.

      1. I've Got a Case of the Mondays*

        Years ago, I had a terrible, horrible unrequited crush on a coworker. I was young, lonely, and prone to falling for people who didn’t know I existed. He was funny and liked me. He was also divorcing Wife #1, dating other women, and eventually met and married Wife #2. He was also in a management role, and I wasn’t. I tried and tried to cover up my crazy feelings and probably wasn’t as successful at it as I hoped. I’m amazed I didn’t lose my job. I’ve seen him since then in another setting and on Facebook. I look at him now, cringe, and ask myself just what the hell I could have been thinking. (Plus Wife #2 is no more, and I think he’s moved on to another woman.)

        1. OP*

          Oh man, do I relate to unsuccessfully playing it cool around a runaway office crush. Part of me wishes the object of my crush would write in to AAM, because I doubt he was psyched about how awkward I made it for him.

  33. fort hiss*

    Trimming my nails while at my cashier’s station in the grocery store. In my defense it wasn’t the whole hand but just touch ups here and there when they got damaged. A customer service manager asked me what the heck I was thinking one day and set me straight… I don’t get the gross out factor really, but I know better that it bothers others nowadays!

  34. Too embarrassed to use my usual name*

    I was a file clerk for a local tax preparer and i used to snoop when i saw names i recognized. Sooooo much violation of privacy!

    1. Anon for This*

      I work in banking, and my very first banking job was at an institution where my in-laws had their accounts. I am ashamed to admit it, but I snooped on their spending and on whether or not they were paying their loans on time from time to time.

      1. SophieChotek*

        Of course now I want to know if they did pay their loans on time and if you approved of their spending habits, LOL…Not that it is remotely my business!

        1. Anon for This*

          Haha, I did find out that my in-laws were not so great at paying stuff on time. And on one occasion, when my mother-in-law was yelling at my brother-in-law in front of me because he missed a car payment and ranting about how paying your bills on time is part of being a responsible adult, I found myself struggling to bite my tongue.

      2. SS Express*

        I used to work at a local accounting firm where my parents (as well as aunt and uncle, friends’ parents, neighbours, owners of my favourite local restaurant, etc) were clients. It took all of my restraint not to snoop at people’s files, but eventually I had to lodge my parents’ returns and check them against the info in the system for errors so I saw it all anyway.

    2. Arjay*

      I worked at a drug store that sent film out to a lab for processing. There was this very cute, very nice guy who came in from the grocery store next door all the time and brought us his film. I’d browse through his prints when they came back. The worst part is that he came in one day when I was looking at his pictures behind the counter. He couldn’t see, but I outright lied to him that his pictures weren’t back yet, since I had them out of the envelope. Oops.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I worked at a store that had a photo lab when I was younger. I really wanted to work in the lab, but I was told I was not allowed because I was under 18 and the potential for seeing adult pictures that people may have developed.

    3. Justin*

      I did that at one place (not tax records but something else that I shouldn’t have) and then mentioned it casually to coworkers. I don’t know what I was thinking.

    4. Key lime pie*

      I had one job where we had access to the transcripts of pretty much all the university’s alumni ever, including a lot of famous people who are household names. I looked up all of them, because how do you not.

    5. yasmara*

      We got a VERY stern talking to about this when I was hired as a student worker in my college’s Office of Admissions. Lots of warnings about “you will be fired if you look up people you know in our system.”

      1. Liz*

        FERPA is a big deal. We typically don’t allow student workers/workstudy placements to access the student information system at all.

  35. OlympiasEpiriot*

    This isn’t all that long ago, I still work at the place and all that it taught me was that this is disfunctional.

    I was being “offered” a really insulting solution to a desk problem. I had been politely and appropriately asking for the (logically) appropriate solution for over a year. I lost it — at high volume, using the f-word twice, and at the person offering who was literally the top of our letterhead.

    I returned to my desk and to work, fully expecting to be fired before the day was out. Instead, someone in mid-management but with a lot of responsibility for the staff (not HR) came to me and said “We got you what you asked for…made it clear that people need what they need to do the job and that needs to be protected.” I was also instructed to move That Evening…so that it would be harder for Crazy Uncle At The Top Of The Letterhead to change their mind.

  36. Izzy*

    My clothes. I remember turning up to my first job – at a rather staid military charity, no less – on various occasions wearing items such as thigh-high suede high heeled boots, dresses with back cutouts, shirts that you could clearly see my bra through (when I remembered to wear a bra), a full-length faux-fur leopard coat, several different sequinned miniskirts, neon lipstick… I actually still wear all those regularly and think they’re awesome, but I now realise they may not have quite met the dress code.

    1. Kat the Russian*

      Your style sounds like you rock!
      Ooh, that’s my particular brand of offense as well.
      It was my first mission for the job I still have now, and I was sent to replace someone at our client’s office (Military! Government contractor!). The previous guy would show up wearing a ratty pair of jeans and the. same. hoodie. every. day. so I thought that it was cool to dress ‘however’.
      But that still didn’t excuse the time I showed up in a large tutu + neon orange t-shirt combo. I got a lot of friendly remarks from coworkers about how I must be worried about them not noticing me.

  37. hermit crab*

    About a year into my first professional office job, I was in a serious car accident in another state (in the ICU for a couple days, the whole nine yards). I sent a loooooooooong “here’s where hermit crab is” email to everyone I worked with, including our management, with all the gory details. I thought I was being all chipper and reassuring, but in retrospect there was absolutely no reason why my boss’s boss needed to know about my bleeding spleen.

    1. ZSD*

      Is “here’s where the hermit crab is” a reference I should get? It’s not easily coming up on Google.

    2. ZSD*

      Sorry, I just looked at your user name! I was envisioning a classic internet case in which someone overshared about the location of a missing hermit crab or something.

      1. President Porpoise*

        I thought she was in charge of the office hermit crab, and didn’t want the poor guy to starve to death while she was out. Still weird to send to boss’s boss.

  38. J*

    I had no idea how to dress when I started working (no one in my family had ever worked in an office), and a very limited budget. I basically thought that anything that was not jeans or shorts was OK, and I was making do with some of my college clothes even though I had gained weight.

    Eventually my poor boss, who was super sweet and supportive and had a daughter my age, had to call me into his office and tell me that I was not always dressed appropriately. I was truly clueless, so I actually appreciated him telling me, even though I’m sure he dreaded the conversation.

    I developed a very conservative work uniform after that.

  39. Bubbeleh*

    Bad manager moment: I watched a sales rep (from one of our sister companies) PET an employee that reported to me. He straight up caressed her head. She and I just gawked and watched him leave the room/offices.

    This was maybe 12 years ago, and I still am disappointed in myself. It was the utter shock of the inappropriateness of it.

    Now I’d like to think I’d say “WTF, dude! Hands off!” and report him to (our shared) HR and/or his boss.

  40. Où est la bibliothèque?*

    My first retail job (~16) I let a manager permanently take me off the register so that I was exclusively cleaning and stocking because the cash drawer came up short. The shared cash drawer.

    In retrospect, the jackass was absolutely covering for his girlfriend, who worked the same shift and wasn’t the brightest or the most honest.

    It didn’t occur to me to question it until like three years later when I was long gone from that job.

    1. Crystal Smith*

      So infuriating! When I was 17 and working retail, I got a write-up reprimanding me for the shared cash drawer coming up short two days in a row, even though I pointed out at the time that there were 2 hours that I wasn’t even working the drawer both days, so didn’t that mean it could have been someone else…? Then I went out back and cried so hard I started hyperventilating. The next day I came back and tried again to say that I didn’t think I should be accountable if I didn’t get counted out at the end of my shifts…and my manager said I’d already signed the write-up saying I understood and it was too late to take it back. I left the job to go to college a few weeks later and told them I’d never be back.

    2. AMT27*

      About the time I left a restaurant job (this was one of the last straws) I was told by the assistant GM that the cash drawer (I was the hostess that did take out orders, we had tons of them at lunchtime) was short $10 and I needed to pay it back. Which I responded to by refusing to do as he had been ‘helping’ me with take out orders, which meant HE was also in the drawer during that insane lunch shift and I refused to be held responsible if I wasn’t the only person with hands on the money. Totally reasonable response, except that I screamed it at him.

  41. The Ginger Ginger*

    I got promoted to a management position with no kind of training and very little oversight from my (remote) boss. No 1x1s of any kind that sort of thing. I was DROWNING in work, short staffed, overburdened, etc, and felt that all my input was being over-ruled or not even solicited for things like hiring my own staff or solving problems at my office (which to be fair to myself, was very true). I should have SPOKEN UP. I was so bitterly unhappy, frustrated, and stressed out that it actually caused some significant health problems. But I felt like I had to keep my head down and endure instead of bringing problems to my boss. In retrospect, yes, they didn’t equip me to effectively manage or succeed in the role they asked me to fill, but I also should have been much more proactive about raising problems with my own manager.

    1. OP*

      I so relate to this. When I did try to speak up, I was shut down a couple different ways, so I gave up. But I was only hurting myself. Hope you’re in a better situation now!

    2. aelle*

      My failure to speak up in my early years is coming back to me hard as I am currently supervising a recent college graduate with very much the same problem. We coordinate the work of tens of thousands of people to build our final product. We get lots of requests from lots of different departments. It is not a personal failure to tell someone, especially your manager, that you can’t meet their request because you are missing inputs A, B and C from department X, Y and Z. It is not doing anyone any favors to hole up, and hope that you can work hard enough all alone and meet their deadlines without anyone noticing how much was wrong on the way there. In fact, highlighting these issues early and often is part of the job!

  42. Comms Girl*

    Would things you did between jobs count? As in when I was looking for a post-internship job/second internship and decided “hmmm Place X is actually close to where I need to meet my friend afterwards, how about dropping this CV in person instead of just via email as stated in the advert? That will make them remember me!”?

    Sure thing, I did not get that position…

    1. EddieSherbert*

      Not me, but when I worked at a fast food place, we had a group of teenage boys go through the drive thru to drop off their applications! (spoiler: they were not hired)

  43. Rena*

    At 17, I threatened my restaurant boss that I would have to leave to find another job if she couldn’t give me a raise. I was a hard worker and I thought this was a credible threat. Also note that I didn’t ask for a raise first.

    Thankfully she just internally rolled her eyes, got me the raise, and gently told me later that was a terrible approach.

    1. Sampsonitte*

      I told a boss I would need to look for a better paying job and he gave me a raise and then told me it wasn’t a good approach. But I was young and stupid and it never even occurred to me to ask for a raise. I seriously was telling him I was looking for another job (not sure why i felt the need to share that). At any rate, it wasn’t much of a raise and I left within the year anyway.

  44. Anon for This*

    I came in to work on a Saturday morning once still drunk from the night before. I hadn’t showered before going in, so I am sure that I reeked of alcohol and possibly of vomit. My manager never brought it up to me directly (I was a bank teller, and somehow I performed my job correctly that day), but I am sure that she knew I was mildly intoxicated. I am still embarrassed about this to this day.

    1. Ugh, the cringe*

      Yeah, that’s mine, too. Once I got way too drunk at a work event that I was supposed to be staffing, and another time I showed up still drunk (different job). My early 20s were kind of a disaster, to be honest. Many years later and I still cringe.

      1. OP*

        [Raises hand too] A-list afterparty for a televised company event. Drunkety drunkenly chasing a couple celebs around like a kid playing tag on a playground. Cringe cringe cringe. The hard cringing I’m still doing for that could be made into a Fortnite dance.

  45. I Work on a Hellmouth*

    Just out of college I was working a very boring job at a law firm where I was supposed to manage files for one of the lawyers but often had very little to do. I was also DEEPLY disliked by his secretary, Agatha Trunchbull (she was very possessive of the dude and was proud of the fact that she had run off three young women before me), who tortured me daily. At this job every bit of billable time had to be accounted for in the company software system, and I had been told that for people in my position the descriptions were never read and we just had to put down SOMETHING. So, whenever I had time blocks where I literally had nothing to do I would (very, very stupidly) put down things like “Thinking of puppies” and “Imagining Agatha Trunchbull being eaten by a Canadian Trap Door Alligator.”
    Ultimately, this did not work out well.
    So, so embarrassing and cringe worthy and dumb.

    1. Equestrian Attorney*

      Oh man, this made me laugh so hard. I’m a lawyer who regularly reviewed time entries in my firm days so under my partner, this would have been promptly noticed and not gone well at all… but it sounds hilarious.

    2. Elizabeth W.*

      If I were the lawyer, I would have gently corrected you on your entries (“Please write something more professional”) and then shut my office door and laughed until I cried.

      1. OP*

        This makes me so happy. Because now I’m imagining my former bosses cackling uncontrollably after the stern convos they’ve had with me.

        Also now picturing the more professional version being “Imagining Ms. or Mrs. or M. Agatha Trunchbull being eaten by a Canadian Trap Door Alligator.”

    3. CheeryO*

      This happened at my last company! There were apparently several people putting descriptions down like, “Talked to dumbass at [regulatory agency]” or “Stared into space while the project documents were on my screen.” So at least you aren’t the only one.

    4. wafflesfriendswork*

      Kind of OT, but that reminds me of in my Intro to Chem and Physics class freshman year of high school, we had an ongoing assignment that was a journal with answers to questions from the book, stuff in class, etc. that we turned in at the end of each grading period. I suspected that our teacher didn’t actually read all of the short essay answers so once when I was struggling to finish it at the last minute before turning it in I filled those in with nonsense sentences. I honestly can’t remember if I was marked off for it, but I feel like she HAD to have known. I always thought that teacher didn’t like me but I think she was just not personable/thought I wasn’t reaching my potential (and she also knew my dad, who taught at the same school)

      1. jb*

        I did that in high school when my slacker AP government teacher forced us to write US News & World Report article summaries every week — he only looked at them long enough to confirm they were the appropriate word length & then moved on, so I started submitting the same summary each week & just changed the date. He never noticed, & I learned a valuable lesson on how to work smarter, not harder.

  46. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

    When I was in my early 20s, I partied lot. I went into work hungover at least once a week. I called out fairly often, and didn’t think anything of it.

    I still did my job well, and got good reviews, but I was SO cavalier about attendance. I definitely cringe about this now.

  47. an infinite number of monkeys*

    All my work team, from a nice respectable office job, was over at my house during the work day for some kind of… informal teambuilding? This was 25-ish years ago and I can’t remember why we even went there, but my boss and grandboss were in attendance along with 6-7 of my peers, and we were just all hanging out in my living room talking.

    I felt it would be appropriate to put on some Nine Inch Nails. You know, the album with “I Wanna F*** You Like an Animal” on it.

    Why? Why?? God, why???

    Welp, it was the 90s.

    1. Red Reader*

      Someone put the Vitamin String Quartet cover of that song on the laylist for my wedding reception. My grandmother thought it was lovely.

    2. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

      Hahahah I invited my work friends to a party at my house, I was a little nervous about crossing the streams between my friends and colleagues but figured I was a grownup and it was time.

      Everyone was getting along swimmingly when my friend Drew announced WOULD ANYBODY LIKE TO SMOKE SOME MARIJUANA? and I just about died.

      Fortunately, all of my work friends followed him out onto the deck…

    3. Somewhat Sane Cat Lady*

      This reminds me of a funny work story. My last workplace had a few posters up in our analysis/computer room that I never paid much attention to. However, one day I was sitting at a computer next to one and realized that there was a bunch of small text on it. I started reading, and the words were kind of depressing…things like “I can’t do this anymore”, etc. I’m laughing at this point because I have to figure that whoever put it up did not look closely at it first. I later found out from a coworker that the words were Nine Inch Nails lyrics. I still can’t believe that poster made it up, considering the admins in our department.

  48. Folklorist*

    OMG! I was just thinking about this this morning with the question about speaker phones in open office plans! (No, I didn’t do that, but almost as bad!)
    I somehow never internalized the idea that, with cubes, you’re supposed to politely pretend that you can’t hear the people around you and act like there’s privacy. I was sort-of friends with the guy in the cube next to me in one of my first jobs out of grad school, but I took it way too far–whenever he had a phone call with someone, personal or professional, I would use the topic to strike up conversation–even sometimes interrupting the call with my own comments or asides. I was new in town and pretty lonely, but it still makes me cringe to think of how annoying and intrusive I was! I no longer do this.

    1. Folklorist*

      Oh, man–following up on that, in the same job, I had serious verbal diarrhea sometimes. The worst was when there was a company-wide ice cream social, and they were giving out Magnum ice cream bars. I started talking to my (very conservative) boss about the marketing strategy for Magnum using the sexual overtones of Magnum-brand condoms as a play on the sinfulness of their ice cream, describing the branding techniques in-depth.

      It was one of those cringey conversations where I can hear what I’m saying from, like, an out-of-body experience and on the inside I’m trying to tell myself, “shut up shut up shut up shut up stop it right now” but my mouth was on auto-pilot. Said friend from above was there to witness it and he was giving me a horrified look the entire time. Eugh.

    2. BookCocoon*

      I wish I’d spoken up about a coworker’s phone conversations at my first professional job, even just to make comments like you did to remind her we could all hear her. She was part-time (thankfully) but it seemed like on the days she came in she would literally spend 75% of the time on the phone with her siblings either complaining about her other siblings or talking in great detail about her cat’s health problems.

    3. OP*

      This reminds me of the unintentionally hilarious Kickstarter for BloxVox (link to a CNET story about it in my name), a contraption meant to mute your conversations in open offices. Think Bane meets Hannibal Lecter crossed with Pam from The Office.

  49. Kara*

    Freaked out by the disgusting fridge in the break room, that smelled awful and had items that had expired over a year before I started working there. Came in on a weekend shift (everyone had to work the phones one Saturday a month, even though they didn’t really ring on Saturday) and threw away every single thing that was in there without telling anyone what I was doing. Bleached it, unplugged it, and left it open to air out for the rest of the weekend. Came in to people totally upset. Thankfully my boss was relived that someone had cleaned up the bio-hazard fridge, but my coworkers were pissed at me for months.

    1. Linda Evangelista*

      Honestly? You were totally right to do this. Nasty old food = mold = mold spores = horrible health consequences for people with allergies or who otherwise have health problems. People are welcome to be disgusting in their own homes, but not in a shared fridge.

    2. Sylvan*

      You did the right thing IMO!

      I tackled my bosses’ fridge a couple of times. I told them first, but it would have been fine if I hadn’t. Nobody wants to eat food that’s been sitting in a fridge-turned-garbage-can.

    3. BadWolf*

      Honestly, anything I leave in the fridge at work on Friday, I don’t actually want on Monday.

      Unless, I suppose, I’m storing a 12 pack of sodas or a bottle of salad dressing.

      But there’s a high risk of 5 year old sodas and salad dressing.

    4. Snickerdoodle*

      I’ve done this a few times. The mini fridge in the cat building at the shelter had tons of dead gnats and ice buildup in it, so I tossed the old sodas and spoiled cat food and wiped down the whole thing. I hope nobody was actually planning on drinking the sodas, but I was a hero for cleaning the damn thing. Also, at my old job, I was tasked with cleaning the fridge out, which pissed off a lot of coworkers, particularly the bad cook who would bring his failed experiments for everyone to share and didn’t want me throwing away his leftovers even if they got moldy. I would instead throw away small portions at a time so it would look like somebody had been eating it. I also threw away dishes and utensils that people left in the sink for days because I refused to wash other people’s dishes, meaning the kitchen had zero dishes or utensils by the time I left.

      The other fridge incident was more vengeful. I was working in a retail store in the mall with a tiny mini fridge intended for the eight of us who worked there to all share (no). A girl who worked there was one of those people who thought she could cook but really couldn’t, to the annoyance of everyone else. She brought in a plastic tub of gross homemade salsa one time together with a bag of tortilla chips. We all ate the chips, but nobody touched the salsa, which remained square in the middle of the mini fridge’s only tiny shelf for weeks. You’d think she’d have taken the hint and taken the container home, but nooo, she was determined to be “nice” and leave it till it was all gone. I finally lost it and tossed the damn thing one night while taking the trash out.

      When I came in the next evening, I walked into the back to put my coat and food away and found a LIVID rant taped to the front of the mini fridge in the bad cook’s handwriting. She raged about how she was JUST TRYING TO BE NICE and WE COULD HAVE JUST TOLD HER TO TAKE THE DISH HOME (we did) and how IT WAS A NICE DISH THAT COST OVER TEN DOLLARS (I saw an identical one in the grocery store for a buck fifty), etc., etc., etc. She finished it off with a “Please tell me if it was you. I won’t be mad, I promise. :) ” Suuuure. You just want to know whose tires to slash. The store manager politely wrote beneath the rant that she was sorry it happened and then called each of us aside individually to ask if we were the ones who’d tossed the dish. I of course lied, and the bad cook never found out who it was and quit soon after. THEN I told everyone but the store manager that it had been me, to much snickering. :D

    5. SusanIvanova*

      Some years back a Silicon Valley office building had to be evacuated after someone decided to clean out a fridge full of moldy food.

      “The mixture of old lunches and disinfectant caused 28 people to need treatment for vomiting and nausea.
      Authorities say the worker who cleaned the fridge didn’t need treatment — she can’t smell because of allergies.”

  50. Lore*

    I had a temp job in an HR department where I finished a project they’d estimated as a month of work in about 8 days. They had nothing else for me to do, but for whatever reason refused to let the temp agency reassign me to another department (as was standard; I worked in five or six departments in that organization during my temping time). I asked for permission to work on my own stuff on the computer or read something at my desk (this was pre-smartphones and pre-all-content-on-Internet) and they nixed that too. So I started methodically going through every file on the computer. Which included a spreadsheet containing the salary of every executive, several of whom I’d worked for in other departments and had *strong* opinions about their competence. I copied it and gave a copy to my other friend who temped there.

  51. TypityTypeType*

    On my first full-time office job, which had a super casual dress code, the boss asked me not to wear shorts, though jeans were fine. Instead of saying “OK!” I argued that other departments on the floor were fine with shorts, and generally complained to everyone and made a massive stink about it. I also insisted on taking my lunch from 3-4 pm so I’d only have half an hour to get through before we closed at 4:30, and got all crabby and stompy when the boss said it was inconveniencing other people and not to do it anymore.

    So in general, I was pretty much a whiny, entitled nightmare the whole time I worked there, until I was inevitably fired. They were probably way too patient, actually; I still feel cringe-y thinking about how I behaved, decades later.

    1. The Cleaner*

      Oh gosh, the late lunch. I did that kind of thing when I first started working and absolutely thought I was 100% entitled to do so. Looking back, it was so terrible.

      1. Robot With Human Hair*

        Heh, I do the late lunch now (when I get to take a lunch, that is), but it works out well schedule-wise with my team.

    2. OP*

      The best of your story, and so many of the ones here, is that you’re totally not that whiny, entitled nightmare anymore. I love the hope it gives me for the kids I see when I’m in “ROWR, get off my lawn!” mode.

  52. Emma*

    Those knee-high, 4-inch stiletto heel boots I wore as an intern for a Congressman in Washington, D.C. ::Shudder::

    1. Taylor Swift*

      Oh man, the stuff interns on the hill wear, though! I guarantee that’s not bad in the grand scheme of things!

  53. Asenath*

    Most of my embarrassing behaviour occurred flailing around in a job I was really unsuited for and was eventually forced to leave. I realized later that most of the managers and co-workers had been patient and professional, and I had been truly a nightmare – but for a time I told myself all my problems were Someone Else’s Fault. I don’t want to go into details, but it is possible to learn from even the worst mistakes, and eventually put them behind you.

    I once got into a public shouting match with a co-worker (senior to me) over some work decision I disagreed with. Not a good idea. I hope I’ve learned to control my temper and my response to frustrating decisions I don’t agree with and can’t change since then.

    1. Sylvan*

      I’ve had the experience in your first paragraph, too. Some of it was other people’s fault (it included customer service and the customers were Not Great), but a lot of it was my own for trying to make such a poor fit work. Eventually my determination to stay in that job provoked such a mental illness relapse that I had to leave.

  54. Not So Super-visor*

    At my first job out of college, I was one of those jerks who would CC my manager and the other employee’s managers on almost every email if I thought that I wasn’t going to get my way on something. I legitimately regret this behavior.

    1. BF50*

      At my first job out of college, I sent read receipts on every single email that I sent out. I would hate 23 year old me.

      Then at this job, some idiot mansplained read receipts to me, suggesting I use them with customers. Um, I am all too familiar with read receipts, how they work, and how they should or should not be used.

  55. LQ*

    I still do this ALL THE TIME!
    Last night at the bitter end of the day my boss was talking to me about reorganizing and he was singing so highly the praises of a guy who is not that great. I tried to point out some specific things. I think the guy can do the work, but he’s not worthy of a tenth the praise. And after my bosses whatevereth sexist comment prefaced by I know this is sexist but I don’t mean it that way, I said to him…I think you like guy more than you should because he’s a dude. It totally stopped my boss in his tracks and I think he’ll think about if it is true. But I really …yeah…
    All the time.

  56. The sky is falling*

    As a teacher I was assigned to a new school. Before school started in the fall, I ran into my new principal at bar. At the time I smoked. She jokingly said her goal this year was to get me to quit smoking. I replied I’d quit if she slept with me…oof. When school started and I tried to apologize, she said she didn’t even remember seeing me out over the summer much less talking to me. She was a pro!

    1. SherSher*

      My eyes could not get any wider than when I read this!!! I’m still having trouble getting my eyebrows back down to where they belong!!

    2. Armchair Analyst*

      Yes, I didn’t know about that Generally Agreed Upon Fiction to Imagine that Something Never Happened until about 8 years ago, I attended a work event with spouses, and my co-worker’s husband was quite flirtatious and even a bit handsy – not inappropriate at a social event, even between two people married to different people, but definitely odd for me at a work event. The next day she just said, My husband loved the free booze and got so drunk! and since she said it first I just said, Yes! And we never mentioned It again.
      I hope they’re ok.

  57. Bear Rambles On*

    I used to be soooo bad at responding to clients’ emails and calls. I was perpetually behind in my tasks and so I never wanted to respond and have to explain. When they couldn’t get ahold of me, they would contact my boss and I would go dark on her too. This went on for years. I finally learned that I had to bite the bullet and respond even if I didn’t have a good reason for being behind. Of course, I was trying to improve on being perpetually behind in my tasks, so that made it easier.
    I also used to be really bad at documentation. I work in accounting so that is a huge part of my job. It has taken me years of effort, coaching, and getting medication for my ADHD to improve.
    The fun thing is that now I am supervising someone who has all of these same issues. Every time I feel frustration with her, I cringe thinking about making my boss’s life hell.

  58. Amber Rose*

    I spent a lot of time shame-avoiding work at my last job. I’d call in sick several times a week and then make up time on Saturdays and in evenings when nobody else was around so I didn’t have to deal with the pressure. Nobody told me not to so I figured it was fine. It was not.

    That job was extremely toxic, but I could/should have dealt with things better.

    1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      Mine was similar, except I tended to just hide the mistakes and hope I could fix it before anyone found out.
      I couldn’t, of course.
      Also a toxic environment, AND I’d gotten too much into negative gossip AND I’d taken a position still under Toxic Boss but in the next room that I thought would give me breathing space. No, it just isolated me.
      Of all the mistakes I cringe about with that job, not leaving at least a year sooner is the biggest. It accidentally worked out in terms of my career now, but ughhh. Nope.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I have the same regret. The job started OK and only mildly toxic, but that last year was a gong show. I could practically see the noxious green clouds hovering around the building. I should have got the hint and got out much sooner.

  59. Contracts Killer*

    I was an admin before I went to law school. Consequently, when I started clerking and an admin in our section was on maternity leave, I offered to help cover some of her duties. YEARS after her leave was over, fellow attorneys would still bring me admin work to do and I could never figure out a way to stop it.

  60. ACDC*

    Internship… I was upset that I had to hotdesk while all other employees had permanent desks/offices/whatever. We had an available office that wasn’t being used and didn’t have any furniture in it, so I decided that would be my permanent home. I spent the morning moving furniture into the office and “customizing” my space, including extra chairs for when people came into the office to meet with me (WTF was wrong with me?!). I was setting up the computer when the CEO (my direct supervisor) came in and was like no….

    Thankfully he and I knew each other from a previous internship I did, and he had a pretty good sense of humor about it so I completed my internship and got a great recommendation. But good Lord that was bad…

    1. SherSher*

      Had a colleague do this in a new position. There was an empty office and he decided he should have it so he moved. The thing is, he used to work in the office that was responsible for office moves so he KNEW that wasn’t how you got it done. Also, his boss was pissed!

    2. Erin W*

      OMG, this reminds me that when I was intern I tried to steal a chair. They sent an email around– “this department got new chairs, so their old chairs are up for grabs.” I responded that I would take one. It was my last week at the internship. Later, my supervisor asks, “why do you need the chair?” I’m like, “I’m taking it home.” He says, “No, that’s not happening.” I legitimately thought they were just going to throw them away, so I could keep one. But that was not the case.

      1. Magenta*

        I would have thought the same though. When We got new office furniture I emailed the whole office offering the old stuff if they wanted it. I took a couple of chairs, as did others, one person took some desks, cupboards etc , this seems pretty standard to me.

  61. Quinn*

    Oh the shame. One time when I was a fresh and new manager, I asked a job candidate to give me a ride after we had an interview. I had been in a car accident a couple weeks prior, and my rental car coverage time was maxed out. I needed to take the car back that day before they closed or I’d have to personally pay for it (I was so broke at the time, I would not have been able to pay). Immediately after the interview, I asked her if she’d give me a ride. She was gracious, though I’m sure she felt extremely pressured to do it. Needless to say, she didn’t take the job. I saw her at a street fair a few weeks later and gave her a hug. Why or why did I do these things? I’m going to go hide for a bit.

    1. Quackeen*

      Oh, man. The new manager stuff.
      The first time I had to call a candidate and tell her she didn’t get the position (this was before email was a widely-accepted medium), I handled it so poorly! She started to cry and get angry on the phone, so I started to stammer how sorry I was, and it all just spiraled from there.

  62. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Complained in a foreign language about other workers/boring meetings. Nothing too awful, just like “Ich haaaase lange Meetings/[mitarbeiter] ist sooo faul,” But still. Never got caught, but oh boy, what a bad idea.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        In my college job, I worked with several people who spoke a different language at home – that I also speak. I just ignored their conversations and basically pretended I didn’t understand them… for months. Often while they talked about me. Or said horribly rude things about customers.

        And then someone I knew from school started working there who also speaks that language at home – the first time the others started talking about me in front of him, he literally just BUSTED OUT LAUGHING and was like “dude, she speaks Language!”

        It was embarrassing for everyone.

      2. Lalaith*

        My boss once told us a story – he speaks German with his family, though he’s lived in the US his whole life. One time, when he was a kid, he was in line at a grocery store with his mom, and some kid in front of them was acting up. Boss’s mom turns to him and says, in German, “If I were that child’s mother I would box him around the ears” (at least I’m pretty sure that’s what it was, perhaps that’s a German expression). The mother in front of them turns to her child and says, also in German, “You should be glad she’s not your mother!”

  63. No One Important*

    My first job was in a small grocery store deli. One day I had to work alone and I had a cold. I took some cold medicine and went in to work. I didn’t realize how drowsy the medicine would make me. I went into the back room and put my head down on the table and went right to sleep. I was awakened by the sound of a voice saying, “Well, well, what do we have here?” I looked up and it was the owner of the grocery store chain and his entourage who had just come back to inspect the deli. I tried to explain that I was sick, but he wouldn’t let me speak. I guess the store manager must have stuck up for me because I didn’t get fired, but I never took meds again before coming to work! Not those type of meds, anyway.

    1. Linda Evangelista*

      Man, places that deal with food reeeaaalllyyy need good sick leave policies. Sorry you had to go in at all :(

  64. AMA Long-time Lurker*

    In one of my first “real” jobs out of college, I was given an office with a door because I had to take so many phone calls. TOO MUCH POWER. I sent so many selfies to my new boyfriend and more than once got into heated arguments with him which ended in my trying not to cry in the bathroom. How I didn’t realize that everyone could hear me is…still a source of shame to this day.

  65. Iden Versio*

    I applied for a job at a frozen custard store when I was 16 or 17. I really, really wanted a job so I could have some of my own spending money. My parents said that calling multiple times to check on your application would show initiative…so I called. A lot. Basically, I kept calling until they gave me an interview. Surprisingly, I got the job and worked there for about 3 or 4 years. I definitely do not recommend this approach, though. I cringe when I think about it. (Although to be honest, lots of things make me cringe about that job.)

  66. Aphrodite*

    Cringe? OMG, if only I only cringed. I actively die.

    I will share one: I was temping as the receptionist at a county agency for employment. Talk about a cesspool of toxicity. There was a manager, his assistant manger and about six reps. Combine that with my immaturity and you have a … well, weird story. I was temperamental. I showed it. One day the manager, who lived about 40 minutes away, decided to take the day and ride his bike in. He showed up around 10:30, spent time cleaning up and changing, went to lunch about noon for an hour and a half, and then left two hours early to bike home. Not his only too-lazy-to-work episode. Yeah, great work ethic.

    While no one found out about this until after I was fired, it turned out that the assistant manager, who had the opportunity because of the manager’s inattention, used her county credit card to spend freely on herself. A county audit caught this and she was fired.

    A rep was a serious boozer who liked to boast about it and to help pay for her habit, worked several nights a week at a sleazy bar. Wasn’t too awake on the main county job.

    I slowly discovered all this and instead of being smart and ignoring it, I grew angry. It affected my attitude, which was not hot to begin with. It did change, mostly with the discovery of the thief, after I had been fired by one of the enablers after several months. Later, I heard the county cleaned house. The independent office was consolidated and much tighter controls instituted. I heard this from one of the reps who actually had a work ethic but not a particularly strong personal one as he, firmly married, tried to take advantage of my depression over the firing and seduce me. What a fricking idiot.

  67. Temperance*

    At my first job out of college, our boss HATED me. She used to stick me with the worst assignments, and I would get my ass handed to me on the regular for things not being done (that my counterpart was supposed to do, and/or that I didn’t have time to complete with all the other stuff she was throwing at me, including her personal marketing crap).

    After a while, I started fighting back when she would criticize me. “You need to get the mail out by X time” and “the kitchen wasn’t fully cleaned when I came in this morning” were responded to with “well since Counterpart got to spend the day in the other office, I couldn’t get it all done and clock out on time” and “Counterpart was supposed to do that, not me, so you’ll have to reprimand him.” My favorite was when she tried to discipline me for not doing her Craigslist sales postings for the week when I was on vacation, and had told my coworker to do it.

    This did not endear me to JerkBoss. I ended up getting my revenge in the end when our Grandboss asked me to temporarily cover another office, and my inept colleague was stuck doing all the marketing and sales work for her in addition to the regular center work. I made the switch for quality of life reasons, and it hurt her sales numbers and productivity not to have a personal assistant any longer.

    1. Theory of Eeveelution*

      I don’t know, this just sounds like you were standing up for yourself. Your boss making you clean the kitchen is far cringier.

    2. Snickerdoodle*

      I GLORIOUSLY sabotaged an awful coworker like that once. She was lazy, incompetent, and angry; and she would spend her whole shift on her phone or listening to music, leaving me to deal with all the manual labor (it was a warehouse job) and scream at me over things that weren’t my fault.

      When I left the job, I knew she was going to have to do my job for a while because they hadn’t hired a replacement yet, so I was ready. I used up all the good packing tape and left only the cheap stuff that tore easily, hid the good tape gun and left out the identical-but-broken one, and unplugged the scale used for shipping packages. You had to restart the computer to reset the shipping scale, so I also changed the password on the computer. The whole thing took under thirty seconds and created HOURS of hell for her the first day on the job after I left.

      Yeah, it was unprofessional of me, but I don’t cringe one bit. :D

    3. LadyCop*

      I must be missing where this is a story of cringe worthy behavior, because you don’t sound like it bothers you now

  68. LEL*

    I did two terrible things:
    1) I was 19 when I started my first office job in one of those executive office suites. I wore tight tank tops with the shelf bra, the kind you get at Express. and then did suit separates (pants or skirt plus blazer). Nothing fit properly and everything was very tight. Thank goodness for the woman who later became my mentor and now my friend – she told me that it wasn’t appropriate.
    2) When I started slacking off working from home at a post-college job, my boss asked me to start working from the office. I cried and threw a tantrum (over the phone), forcing him to tell me that working from home is a privilege you get when you actually, you know, work.

  69. beanie beans*

    I spent most of my 20s and half of my 30s not speaking up for myself when encountering inappropriate behavior, or more specifically sexist behavior and sometimes sexual harassment.

    I hate to think of how many horrible things I let slide because I was too terrified to “cause trouble.”

    I’m getting better at confronting behavior more directly, but it’s taking practice.

    1. many bells down*

      My first job, at 16, was with a dog groomer. It was all women except for a school friend of mine who applied after I told him it was a good place to work.

      They sexually harassed him. Constantly. Things like sticking the hose dryer up his shorts and turning it on. We were both 16 and it made me uncomfortable but I didn’t realize it was sexual harassment until waaaaay later.

    2. Snickerdoodle*

      OMG, so much this. Mostly with one specific person whom I did eventually tell off, but I soooo should have documented, reported, etc. I didn’t want to cause trouble, etc., but our boss was also notoriously non-confrontational, and I knew I would have to escalate and, again, didn’t want to “cause trouble.” Meaning I had a LOT of trouble to put up with myself in the meantime.

      Years later, I DID document/report a creep, and it got dealt with swiftly and painlessly (for me, at least).

  70. Hello Sweetie*

    My first job after college, I worked as a research assistant for a medical researcher in the lab. I didn’t have much lab work experience, just the labs I did as part of my biology degree. In college labs, during long incubations it was was common for students to work on homework, both for that class as well as others, talk, read books. No one minded as long as you had everything ready for the next step.

    So when I started working in a lab after college, I always made sure I had a book for some of the longer incubations. The RA who was training me said nothing when I brought it out while waiting for a 30 minutes spin. Then my PI walked in, to ask us something, and I saw her hesitate when she saw me with the book. I immediately put it away, but just her look alone, I knew that that was not appropriate.

    I learned to make sure I had a list of small tasks – so if I had a 30 minutes incubation, I had something small to do. Like gather all the things that needed to be autoclaved, or update files, put in material orders.

  71. anon for this one*

    We had a company wide town hall where all the other divisions from around the world were listening in, so there were thousands of people hearing this. The town hall was being held in the US location, where I worked.

    The CEO had started his speech saying he knew times were tough and he understood our pain because he recently had to decide not to buy a third house, and also had to cut a couple premium overseas cable channels from his TV package.

    I stood up and called the CEO out on giving us the lowest salaries in the industry so that many of us at the lower levels had to work extra jobs just to make ends meet, but executives got six figure bonuses and retreats to the Caribbean multiple times a year. Bonuses were an open secret at the company, so I know my department head received a $90K bonus while I was living in a HCOL city making less than $30K with no raise or no bonus for three years. I told him not to insult his workforce by comparing his situation or our exec’s situations with ours, and if he truly wanted the company to be a “good place to work” like he said, he’d stop raising the cost of benefits without providing raises because each year we were making less and less because the company refused to pay us more and kept raising out benefits amount.

    I have never seen someone turn white with dread so quickly, and I have never heard a room go so quiet that quickly either. I was about 24 at the time, and while I don’t really regret calling out the CEO because I do firmly believe people in power need to be rightly called out on certain things, I do regret how unprofessional people thought I was at such an early point in my career. I did have a lot of people thank me, though. But I definitely cringe at how angry I was about everything then.

    1. Anonymeece*

      I can see where you’d be embarrassed, but maaaan, I wish I had been there for that. My boss one time was complaining to me that they might have to sell their second house and I have never bit my tongue harder in my life. To actually have said something is the stuff fantasies are made of.

    2. Jessica*

      I don’t care how “unprofessional” anyone thinks this is or that you posted it in this shame thread… you’re still my hero.

    3. Amber Rose*

      OK I get why this wasn’t ideal, but also you’re kind of my hero now and I think this was an incredibly awesome thing you did.

      If anyone should have been cringing through that, it should have been the CEO. What a butt.

    4. Theory of Eeveelution*

      That’s incredible, and I wish someone like you had been at so many of my past jobs…

      1. Matthew*

        & Alison, for a future Q&A – “What unprofessional workplace behaviour are you still proud of, and would do again?” Would love to read more stories like this.

      2. anon for this one*

        I got a lot of warnings from my then boss for being unprofessional. It pretty much soured the relationships between me and my current boss since she really drank the koolaid.

        My former boss (I had been promoted to a different team and I was sad to leave my former boss) congratulated me and said she was proud of me. And then told me her history of protesting “the man” when she was my age in the 70s.

        I stayed in the job for another year and a half before I moved on. I went to a different company in the industry where some of my coworkers had heard through word of mouth what I did.

    5. CM*

      You were 24 and you thought it was the right thing to do. Now you’re older and you see your public display of anger as cringeworthy. I have a feeling that you’ll circle back, and at some point you’ll stop cringing about this and will be proud of your 24 year old self without reservations.

      This is the kind of thing that everyone whispers about after. It’s so much more effective when brought up openly like this.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I’m with you. I think the regrettable part is feeling bad about being young and indignant and acting on it is the real shame.

      2. anon for this one*

        I’m 32 now and I still go back and forth on whether to feel guilty or proud, and I know the former is because so many people told me I should feel bad about myself afterwards.

        It’s the same thing I struggle with when I do activism or speak up at work about my rights as a woman and LGBTQA+ employee. I know it’s a symptom of a larger social problem of making people ashamed for sticking up for themselves, which is a shame.

      1. anon for this one*

        Nope. They got worse. In so many different ways. There was a mass exodus when I left. I know a few people who still work there and they say it’s still a sinking ship.

    6. SS Express*

      This is amazing. If that’s unprofessional, it’s only because we weirdly think that behaving appropriately at work means tolerating utter bullshit and never contradicting someone simply because they’re important. I think his speech was unprofessional!

    7. Employee #52b59*

      Something similar happened with one of my direct reports at a company-wide town hall. The CEO went on and on about culture even though people at lower levels definitely saw a toxic culture full of backstabbing and snark, clique-like behavior. She stood up and asked if he was proud to be saying the exact opposite of what everyone else experienced.

      My boss asked me to counsel her on why that wasn’t an appropriate question…which I did, but I only counseled her for tone not substance because she was right.

    8. Sarah M*

      I love you for this. Please don’t cringe. You were very brave to do this, and he needed to hear it.

  72. Muriel Heslop*

    I was a HUGE oversharer of my personal life. I’m forever thankful to the office manager at my first job who sat me down and explained to me not to do that. When I seemed confused by this, she flat out told me I was making my (much older and more experienced) colleagues uncomfortable. Ever the pleaser I didn’t want to make people feel bad!
    In retrospect, I am so horrified and I hope I am that kind when speaking to subordinates about their professional conduct.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I have a coworker who is like this. I want to like her but she literally told me all about her abusive psychopathic ex-husband who is in prison right now in the first conversation we had. Now, I’m sorry she went through that and I know it changed who she was, but . . . she didn’t know me. We were at work. I don’t think she is the kind of person who uses sad violins to get attention but talking to her almost inevitably leads to all the things that aren’t going well in her life and her mental health issues. So now we’re not friends because I feel like I have to keep her at arm’s length to avoid being sucked in.

  73. Bunny Girl*

    Back when I worked in food service, my manager kept getting on my butt for me to do delivery instead of just working in the store. I point blank refused, but he kept nagging me about it. Finally I just decided “Well he can’t make me use my car if I don’t have one”. I lived in the next town over and I walked five and a half miles to go to my store. When I showed up, my manager told me that he really needed me to delivery that day because some people had called in. I told him I didn’t have a car. He asked where it was, I told him at home. He stared at me and said “don’t you live in the next town over?” and I said I did.

    I was an uppity little shit but he never asked me again and never brought it up. I don’t think that was very professional but it proved my point.

    1. OP*

      Thanks for the laugh! Sounds like it actually could go in the “unprofessional thing you did that you’re still proud of” comment section when Alison posts that one!

      1. Welp*

        Oh god, haha. Using a higher pitched voice, ending statements with a questioning tone, giggling at EVERYTHING, fake pouting… it was a lot. Looking back now, I’m sure I seemed like a huge hiring mistake, but I had no clue.

  74. mol106*

    I was one of those “In my old job, we did it this way” people. This was my second job ever. I stopped after a few months, but I’m sure my coworkers were mentally rolling their eyes.

    1. Mazzy*

      Ha ha I say this now, but I was at my last job for years and we lose money doing things wrong that they did right and did not lose money. So it makes sense. But when it’s someone’s first job they were at for a year? Yeah…

  75. Lady Jay*

    One of my very first jobs was as cashier at a local hardware/home goods store. I was one of those girls who *loved* all things LOTR related, the kind who would try to learn Elvish. One day when I was bored, I took a sticky note, wrote the name of one of the most obscure LOTR characters on it (seriously, the character only appears in, like, the Silmarillion) and stuck it over my actual name tag.

    Boss had to tell me to take it off.

    To be fair, boss handled it well, explaining why my real name needed show, and I did take off the sticky without complaint. I just can’t believe I was nerdy/clueless enough to do this.

      1. Lady Jay*

        Finduilas. I liked her story, I liked the way her name sounded, I had absolutely zero notion of the options of using her name as mine while cashiering. :)

    1. SherSher*

      I actually am amused. On SuperStore, Amy is always wearing someone else’s name tag, which I find to be one of the funniest things on the show!

    2. Elizabeth W.*

      We had an employee at OldExjob who legally CHANGED HIS NAME to that of a character in a sci-fi book series (it wasn’t LOTR though). I can’t even remember his old name now.

    3. The Other Katie*

      At one of my early retail jobs the breakroom had an assortment of abandoned name tags. The new store manager decreed that you had to be wearing _a_ name tag at all times, but was silent on whether it had to be your own. After that, if we forgot our name tags, we’d choose one from the box of abandoned tags at random. One of the parking lot guys, who was about 50 and a hairy mountain man, usually chose the tag that said Juliet.

    4. SignalLost*

      I worked in fast food in college. We were required to wear nametags, which I hate; too many people recognize me that I don’t remember and I don’t like adding to that panic by just giving my name out. For a while, I went by the name of a famous musician – we share the same first name, though hers is spelled differently. I just added her last name to the tag with our label maker. Later, one of my male coworkers gave me his nametag when he left. I wore that one till I left. No idea if that company now requires you to wear a nametag with your actual name on it now, and still don’t care.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        One of my coworkers in the college dining hall got the kid who had access to the nametag machine to make him a tag that said “Porn * “. And they let him wear it. Small school; we all knew each other, anyway.

      2. Qosanchia*

        At some point in my “illustrious” food service career, I started collecting nametags. My definite favorites were “Liz” (I’m a man who definitely presents as such) and “SUPERVISOR.” The latter was my actual title, but the label was so poorly sized and spaced on the nametag that it looked fake

    5. AuroraNorth*

      When I was a buser at a restaurant one summer, a coworker and I swapped name tags on the regular. We were both short women of similar build, dressed alike (uniforms), who wore our dark hair in a single braid, plus our names rhymed. Most of our coworkers didn’t notice or else they laughed. The only time the manager ever got on us was one day when we were both really bored and used our name tags as barrettes. Silly, but it got us through the shift.

  76. Anonymoose*

    Posting under another name for this, but at my second job out of college (not even with 2 years in the workforce) I was getting fed up with my incompetent boss (that’s a whole other story). I hate answering phones (customers) and by this point it’d become almost 50% of my job.

    Well, I typically arrive about 15 mins. early to mentally prepare myself for the work day and my boss is in early that day as well. About 5 mins. in the phone rings (customers) but as we’re not officially open yet I ignore it. My boss is in the back and calls out why I’m not answering it and I try to tell her “it’s not X time yet!” but she doesn’t hear me so finally in my frustration I picked up the phone while yelling loud enough to my boss “IT’S NOT OPENING TIME YET!” Well she managed to pick up the phone in the back so I didn’t deal with that customer but I did hear the first part of the conversation with my boss going “oh no, we don’t open until X.” My boss didn’t ever talk to me about that and I quit 6 months later over a multitude of reasons.

    1. BookishMiss*

      Oh goodness. I would have to stay after close at one job to close out the cash drawers, and when people would call after hours, i would cheerfully answer “Teapots Inc, we closed at 10!” The closing manager thought it was hilarious.

  77. Goya de la Mancha*

    My bank teller job in college definitely saw some interesting choices! Came in hungover once, spent the day in the bathroom because my manager refused to let me go home. Let my friend dye my hair from a box, had purple hued hair for several weeks. Regularly rolled out of bed 5 minutes before my shift on Saturday mornings in the drive-thru, going to work in black sweat pants and a company shirt. Told off our bank president one day during my shift (and amazing still got to keep my job!).

    Not mine, but I know my roommate/and co-worker came to work at least once with her top inside out…

    1. Elsie432*

      At LongAgoJob, I worked with a guy who came in wearing a button-down shirt inside out. More than once.

      Our theory was that when he got home from work, he would pull his shirt off over his head without unbuttoning it and toss it on the furniture (or the floor). On a subsequent day, he would pick the inside-out shirt up and pull it over his head.

      This guy would also come into work with his toupee *seriously* askew.

      His manager was remote and none of his coworkers had the nerve to point out either of these problems to him.

      1. SS Express*

        Weird that someone would care enough about their appearance to get a toupee instead of just being bald, but not care enough to put it on neatly.

        1. Goya de la Mancha*

          exactly, one would assume that a toupee wearer would want it to be as inconspicuous as possible?!

  78. Mazzy*

    When there were layoffs I emailed my boss and cc’d the people who stayed on my team and thanked her for keeping us and assured her we’d strive for perfection. Totally pointless and came across as if I thought I was higher level than I am

    1. TechWorker*

      To be honest I imagine it came across less arrogant and more ‘I’m desperate to keep my job’ (which yea, maybe a bit unprofessional but no-one can really be blamed for it!)

  79. Anonymeece*

    Not learning the culture and overstepping thinking I was ~showing initiative~ by not asking for help.

    Basically, I had an employee who was doing wrong thing after wrong thing – interrogating coworkers about personal matters, routinely showing up 15-30 minutes late, etc. I flipped (mistake #1) and didn’t ask for help (mistake #2) and did what I thought was a professional mature solution to the matter (mistake #3). It was basically a PIP but guess who didn’t go through her supervisor or HR for this (mistake #4).

    Sure enough, this led to a SLEW of problems. I got a stern talking to and had to go to some supervisor training, but survived. I still cringe when thinking about it now. Oh, to start over knowing what I know now…

  80. Micromanagered*

    In my 20s I was such a habitual complainer at work that it became a running joke. I would start complaints with “You know what I hate?” that apparently had a very distinct cadence to it, because when I would say it, my coworkers would echo “You know what I hate?” in unison. But I didn’t get that they were saying to knock it off.

    Finally I had a manager who was kind enough to call out the specific behaviors, including the “You know what I hate?” preamble, and I was able to train it out of myself. Everything I wanted to share a thought that would start with “You know what I hate?”, I started to ask myself if I *really* needed to share this. The best part is, I think putting that second of pause between the thought in my brain and the words in my mouth actually started to really change my outlook on work-in-general. I work with some chronic complainers and…. they’re miserable.

    1. OP*

      Ooh. When your thing becomes a group bit, you know it’s not great. Thumbs up to your manager for helping you to reframe things!

  81. ChaufferMeChaufferYou*

    Happy cringeday.

    When I was in my first corporate job, I became work friends (and was trying to be real friends) with one girl my age in the department, Mary. One person did try to warn me that Mary can be two-faced, but I ignored that as a nasty comment. Mary was generally seen as a rock star and was beloved by many people, and I was so excited to have a new friend.

    After about a year, though, she froze me out very suddenly and without warning. She stopped talking to me outside of when she had to for work related issues. She became super cold, and I still to this day have no idea what triggered this. Our boss noticed the rift, and kept urging me to talk to her to find out what happened, but I was absolutely horrible at confrontation. During one of our 1:1 conversations where he was encouraging me to start dialog with Mary about what was happening, he asked me suddenly “are you okay?” I broke down crying. Between being given the cold shoulder by this girl and many other stresses in the job, I just had had enough.

    A few weeks later, I left that department for a completely different one in another building (which was a huge jump forward in my career). The few times I saw her after that were awkward. I never got to the bottom of what happened.

    I cringe to think that A) I let it get to me so badly that I broke down crying in front of my boss and B) that I didn’t just have an adult conversation with her.

    I did learn a very valuable lesson in keeping coworkers at arm’s length, after that. I make it a point not to befriend coworkers by hanging with them after work or adding them on social media. For a very few people, I’ll add them on social media AFTER I leave the company.

    tl;dr I let the drama get to me

  82. Business Cazh*

    Right after graduating college I took a temp job at a huge insurance company doing data entry. I dressed sloppily, came in extremely hungover several times, didn’t respect my boss, called in to watch the World Cup with my boyfriend at the time, watched movies on my phone while doing said data entry… and I regret none of it! That was an extremely happy and fun part of my life, that job has never gone on a resume, and when I got laid off I used the unemployment to go to Europe for a month. I refuse to cringe!

  83. BookCocoon*

    I attended a university that valued the “round table” — everyone’s voices have equal weight. As a student I sat on several committees with faculty and staff. The university president knew my name. I thought this was how the world worked.

    My first job out of college, I was an office manager. Our whole division had an all-day retreat my second week on the job. And so all day long I was raising my hand and jumping into the discussions and adding my viewpoints, as I sat at this long conference table with our VP and the Deans of our schools and department directors. One of the Deans (who was herself a very extreme personality and was later demoted) complimented me at the end of the day for “just jumping in there” or something like that, which was the first inkling I had that my behavior was unusual.

    After working there for a while I understood that it was a very hierarchical organization and that I was way out of line thinking that I was welcome to contribute 1) as an office manager 2) in my second week on the job 3) fresh out of college. I was so embarrassed thinking back on it!

    1. CM*

      To be fair, your boss should have stopped you right at the beginning instead of letting you go on all day like that! Or at least SOMEBODY should have clued you in that you were expected to be quiet at the retreat.

  84. iglwif*

    Very early in my career, I once planned a meeting for some editors to meet several new staff members, and pulled all those staff members into the meeting, which ended up lasting most of the afternoon …


    So we had all functionally disappeared from the office all afternoon. Boss was not pleased.

  85. Washi*

    In my first ever real interview, my interviewers used a lot of the “you would be doing X task” and “this is where you would sit.” I thought that meant I had gotten the job and asked about what paperwork I needed to do and whether I would start on Monday. The interviewer laughed very awkwardly and said she would get back to me. I did not get the job and still cringe…

    1. Mbarr*

      Oh nooooooo! That would be heart breaking. I ran into something similar – I did some interviews with a company, then did the mandatory language testing, and for some reason I assumed I had an offer. I did not. My parents were not pleased.

    2. Jess*

      Oh me too! I remember coming out of a retail interview feeling certain I had the job, and calling my parents to tell them. (This was in my late teens, only about my second or third ever job, and I think the first one where I had to interview even though I knew the owners so I guess I thought of it as more of a formality.)

      I just remember feeling surprised when I got the call offer me a job since I thought that had already been established. So, happy ending, but I just remember that little brief stomach-sinking moment when I realised I’d misjudged it earlier!

      Actually, similar with my current job, although that was more annoyance than a cringe: I had been approached to move to the same role within a different department in my organisation. I was given to understand the role was mine if I wanted it, thought about it, emailed the manager to say I’d love to join his team and…was told that was great and they’d organise the interview :-\ I think the situation was that the manager had originally represented the situation correctly but HR said they had to advertise the role internally. I’m pretty sure the other interviews were more to tick boxes, but I was quite discombobulated and I think I would have comported myself a little differently talking to the manager and 2-i-c from the start if I’d realised it was a formal process rather than a casual one!

  86. Dance-y Reagan*

    I took people at their word, and gave them the honesty they’d asked for. I was naive and thought people said what they meant.

    I once interned at a scholarly/non-profit venue in my field, and the supervisor was very encouraging and asked me to consider pursuing that avenue long-term. She encouraged me to open up, and I explained that I was really more interested in a specific commercial branch of the field. She totally shut down after that, pulling back on all the extra experiences she’d planned for me. I should have just lied and told her what she wanted to hear.

    It took me a few more rounds of consequences to stop giving honest feedback when asked for it. Even if it’s carefully worded and politely shared, people never really want to hear it.

  87. BottleBlonde*

    I’m sure I’ve done worse things that I’m blocking out right now, but the one that comes to mind was my blatant disregard for people’s preferred names/titles. I worked in a research lab in grad school and, despite my PI’s repeated request that I call her Julia, I insisted on calling her (and the other PhDs I worked with) Dr. Lastname. I remember consciously thinking that I would impress them all with my respect, and privately sneering at the others in the lab that used their (requested!) first names. Of course, those others were the respectful ones for calling everyone what they wanted to be called!

  88. CM*

    Handled conflict with coworker by sputtering incoherently “Why are you — that’s not–” and eventually crying in manager’s office about it.

    Handled conflict with other coworker by glaring at her and giving her the silent treatment. This coworker was a good 20 years older than me. Instead of getting upset, she kindly took me aside and explained why she was doing the thing that made me so mad. I felt so embarrassed, and grateful that she came to talk to me in person.

  89. Anon Accountant*

    Threatening to bring a coworker across the desk. Like straight across. I have a seizure disorder and was having a seizure aura. I was able to ask her to get Paul, our boss. She proceeded to ream me out for not coming up front to greet a client. And I mean ream me out and scream at me. Our lazy management didn’t even talk to her.

    My only regret is not actually doing it.

  90. Jenny*

    I was always late at my first job. Like always. I thought it didn’t matter but it really did and it was super unprofessional because it affected when we started our morning meeting.

    At my second job (which to be fair, was a very terrible job with a very terrible boss) I cried a lot at work. If someone yelled at me, I cried. But if someone just gave me constructive criticism, I cried. I cried a lot.

    This second job was a start-up and we were all new. I was not aware of “start-up culture” and just wasn’t a self-starter at this point in my career. I kept waiting to be told what to do and waiting to be trained – but we were all new and I let way too many chances to figure out my niche pass me by. I just sort of was adrift and because of that I took too many smoke breaks and then I think I got a reputation for being lazy. I just sincerely did not know what I was supposed to be doing but I should have taken the initiative to meet with a manager and express my worries and figure out what needed to be done. The main boss there was a huge bully and he encouraged an atmosphere of bullying and at this point I just openly complained all the time about how much I hated working there to anyone who would listen. So I am quite sure most of the people at that job thought I was a lazy asshole.