stories of Machiavellian triumphs, part 2

Last week, I asked about Machiavellian things you’ve seen or done at work. Here’s part two of my favorites. (Part one was yesterday.)

1. The Alaskan get-away

Years ago, I was overworked and underpaid And hardly ever got to take time off. At one point I got sent to Alaska to meet with an important stakeholder. When I was about to board the flight to Anchorage, I got an email from that person that they would not be available after all and would need to reschedule. I pretended not to get the email until after I got to Alaska and enjoyed a mini vacation paid for by the company, and used my per diem to ride a dogsled.

Then we rescheduled that meeting, I went back to Alaska, it ended up taking 15 minutes and I got a second mini-vacation.

2. The fast food revenge

Ok, this is nothing big in the grand scheme of things but at the time it gave me a moderate degree of satisfaction. I worked at a Burger King in my late teens. One night right before closing a group of about 20 frat guys walk in. They were drunk out of their minds and completely obnoxious. They started trashing the place – throwing napkins and straws all over the clean dining room, etc. Our manager promptly responded by disappearing to the back. His only help was to tell them that they had to get their food and leave before he ran away. As they line up to order, the first guy asks me, “Where are the hot cashiers?” and they all laugh. He then takes a good looonnnggg time to decide what he wants. He kept changing his mind and then asking what other people were getting, etc. I was over it.

Long story short, I ended up giving most of them sandwiches that they didn’t order and had them made weird – like without any condiments, with just extra mustard, with just pickles, just onions, etc. Also gave them the wrong drinks. I tacked on some extra charges here and there and made sure they actually didn’t get those extras in the end. One guy who could not make up his mind at all – I just ordered for him and asked him to pay. He said that he didn’t order yet. I told him that yes, he did. He eventually agreed and paid. When they got their food, some realized that it wasn’t what they ordered but I just acted like they were crazy and of course they ordered what I gave them. They then wandered around asking their friends if their food was right. They were not getting ANYWHERE with me so they eventually left. Did not feel bad one little bit that night. As an awkward, ‘non-hot’ teenage girl, I learned an important life lesson that night – drunk college guys in groups were really really really gullible. And learned what gaslighting was I suppose. But I used it for good, I think.

3. The ass’s comeuppance

I have never breathed a word about this before. But make no mistake I regret nothing.

Years ago, I worked as an admin assistant at a very high-powered, stuffy firm in Manhattan. There was this guy – let’s call him Kavanaugh – who fancied himself the young genius in the office. He was young for a vice president, sure, and could be charming. But he also treated any admin who wasn’t a comely young woman like dirt, talked relentless shit about his “know-nothing” bosses, and never let an opportunity pass to drop the name of his ivy-league school and brand-new VIP father-in-law.

Also, one night after work he cornered me, stuck his tongue down my throat and then had the temerity to be annoyed when I scrambled away from him and fled.

(Pause to say: yeah, I know I should have reported him. But I know a lot of things I didn’t know when I was 25.)

Kavanaugh was also a huge sports fan. Rabid, insane, fan. And every year one of his favorite sporting events is held in NYC, and one of the firm’s clients had made a habit of gifting Kavanaugh ultra-exclusive access to this event. This access was arranged daily – a messenger would arrive with a slim envelope containing that day’s passes. Kavanaugh had been out of the country for work trip and had missed most of the event, the envelopes piling up on his desk. (Because would he allow his assistant to follow common practice and give the tickets to anyone else to use? He would not.) But he returned in time for for the final day of the event, and had planned to use that day’s passes to take his father-in-law and two “young ladies” to the stadium. He was clearly only at his desk that morning to take delivery of that envelope.

Which is why I intercepted it. And put in my purse. And then spent the rest of my day helping him try to track it down, calling the client, scouring the mailroom, visiting the building’s security office to (pretend to) review camera footage as Kavanaugh became angrier and sweatier. When I left work that night I dropped it in a trash can and bought myself a cocktail.

4. The lunch thief

Someone was routinely stealing my dessert out of my lunch bag in the refrigerator, so one day I put a post-it note on top of my peanut butter cup: “I know who you are, and if this ever happens again everyone else is going to know who you are, too.”

The problem stopped. To this day, I don’t know who the real culprit was.

5. The poached assistant

Setting: 1980, legal deposition. My mom was the attorney on one side of the case. Opposing counsel seemed highly disorganized, entirely relying on his secretary, Jane, who was saving his butt. Opposing counsel kept saying things like “Thank you, doll” and other gross things to the secretary.

My mom left the deposition and went straight to her office manager/head secretary since she knew her firm (big one) was understaffed. She confirmed they were hiring. Then my mom called Jane, complimented her work and handed over the phone to the office manager. 30 minutes later, Jane was offered a new job at my mom’s firm. Jane started less than a week later, expressing gratitude to get away from her lecherous boss.

My mom won the case, in no small part because opposing counsel couldn’t function without Jane.

6. The ad sabotage

I worked at an alt-weekly newspaper designing ads. The sales team sold an ad to a gay conversion therapy group, despite the fact that the paper was openly in support of LGBTQ+ rights. After a failed outcry to pull the ad (newspapers need all the dollars they can get these days) I was reluctantly directed to make it.

So I set the headline in in Comic Sans and the body copy in Papyrus at a small enough size to read on a digital proof, but too small to print clearly on newsprint. I also used CMYK black (instead of pure black) ensuring that the entire print would be muddy.

The ad was approved and ran, but they never booked another one.

7. The espresso victory

This is the story of a trick my team and I pulled that turned out to be more self serving than expected. My organization gives everyone a pool of reward points you can give to coworkers as recognition or a thank you. You can redeem any points given to you in a store, for things like gift cards, office supplies, and video games, all the way up to small kitchen appliances like espresso makers. (This will become relevant later.) It’s not a bad system, but small satellite teams like mine don’t interact with that many people outside our group, so we don’t tend to accumulate many points.

Last year, we decided to pool our points by gifting them all to one person, and get an espresso machine for the office. One of my coworkers had already given some points to her new team lead Mike, so Mike became the official Recipient of Points and Conduit of the Espresso Maker. And we thought that was the end of it.

A few weeks later, our manager got a call from an HR rep, who told her very seriously that there were concerns of bullying on her team. After much confusion, my boss realized what happened and explained that no, Mike wasn’t bullying, threatening, or otherwise coercing us for our reward points. To her credit, once the story came out the HR rep thought it was hilarious. To assuage worries, she asked us to write a little justification for why Mike deserved our points. So we all sent her a paragraph or two gushing about Mike (who is legitimately pretty great,) and once again we thought that was the end of it.

Fast forward to the end of the year…and we learn that at the holiday banquet at our company’s HQ, the three ‘most thanked’/most rewarded people get recognized, and receive gift cards. We had no idea that was a thing. The recipients are almost always high up in the organization, managing multiple high stakes projects with lots of stakeholders. Last year, the recipients were two very senior people (one C-suite, one crisis management person)…and Mike, an entry level, remote site field ops lead who’d been with the company 6 months. Apparently there were some ruffled feathers at the banquet, but most people thought it was hilarious.

Mike spent the gift card on a bunch of fancy espresso for our ill-gotten machine.

8. The thwarted jerk

Way back when, I was working in an administrative/quality analyst roll for a customer service center. The office was all open plan with the phone reps, so it was very noisy. Everyone in my role had permission to use headphones to listen to music and we all took full advantage of that.

Then, we got a new boss who was a jerk. One of his favorite “jokes” was to come up behind someone who was deep in their work, knowing they wouldn’t hear him coming between the noise and the headphones, and stomp on one of their chair legs to startle them. After a few weeks of this, we all hated him. So we formed a plan. The person seated closest to him kept an eye out for him getting up to prowl the line for a victim, and immediately IM’d us all that he was on the move. We turned our music off but kept the headphones on, and pretended to be still be engrossed in our work. The idea was that whoever he startled would kick their chair backwards in ‘surprise’ and ram into him.

It worked better than we anticipated – he was in just the right spot that when the first person sent her chair flying back, the corner collided with his groin. He yelped, she earnestly apologized for being startled, and that was the end of that.

9. The ice cream rumor

At my first office job, while I was also a poor broke college student, I may have started a rumor (or two) that I had heard we were having an ice cream party that day. The rumor would go around until someone in management would usually run out and get ice cream and toppings since they assumed someone else had forgot to. In retrospect I realize we were all a food motivated group, and that my attempts to be sneaky were probably a lot less subtle than I thought.

10. The recruiting away of a boss

I knew my horrible boss wanted to move on and exactly what types of jobs she was interested in, so whenever I would get a suitable job posting I’d send it out as a BCC to her, but write as if there were multiple recipients with a message like: “Hey all, my friend just forwarded me this. $Organization is looking for someone for this job. Can you pass it out to your networks? It sounds like a cool opportunity.”

She left for one of the jobs.

{ 285 comments… read them below }

    1. Ashley*

      I agree Mike is awesome. There are people that would have kept the points for themselves. But he didn’t and took it a step further cementing his awesomeness by taking the gift card and spending it on office espresso.

      1. TooTiredToThink*

        That’s what I was thinking – first he was trustworthy and then he definitely showed he was actually worthy of the praise when he shared the gift card. Mike is awesome!

        1. Anonymouse*

          I thought about John Scott too! Although at least this company didn’t retalitate by sending Mike to a new workplace thousands of miles away right when his wife was about t0 give birth.

    2. Miss Muffet*

      I sincerely hope Mike has all of the good Karma for the rest of his career that he so clearly deserves

    3. KimberlyR*

      I thought the Mike story was going to go horribly wrong but it went right! I laughed out loud at the banquet and the fancy espresso to go with the machine.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        Me too! And in my experience with these kinds of things it was probably about time for someone down the food chain on a smaller team to get a bit of recognition. Little fish deserve prizes too!

    4. Artemesia*

      Yes, well done Mike — he deserved the recognition as he is obviously a stand up guy. And well done office staff that figured out how to get the espresso machine!

    1. Nicotene*

      But what a silly office tradition, if only the highest-up people on staff ever win, so much so that they literally had to double-check before giving it to a less-senior employee. That must really be killing morale.

      1. Kumajiro*

        It seems that it’s really just odd for everyone in one office to give all of their points to one person. Likely they’re more spread about. The whole “most rewarded person” at the end does seem like ego boosting for the people with a lot of power, but the lower level people do still “win” by getting their rewards.

      2. Stefania*

        My company makes those above director level ineligible for the kind of awards in the Mike story. As it should be. (And I agree that Mike is awesome.) And company culture actively discourages gifts to bosses from their reports.

    1. MusicWithRocksIn*

      That was the best one! That is some truly cunning work that also was for the forces of good.

    1. Zephy*

      I’m always astounded to hear stories like that one, where somehow someone has placed a fifth-grade boy in the C-suite. Nice when they get their comeuppance, though.

      1. SQL Coder Cat*

        That was my story and I am shocked and thrilled to see it made the list! At the time I thought it was a call center, which all tend to run like high schools- cliques, stupid theme weeks, and all. Fifteen years later I’ve left that industry, but I swear every company with more than 200 people has at least one of these guys.

        1. Quinalla*

          Ugh, awful. So glad you all banded together to get him to stop, rock on!

          I HATE being startled and while I’ve gotten good at controlling the startle reflex that people see, it is really unpleasant and terrifying for me when people do it. Folks that aren’t like that don’t understand how awful it can be for someone like me or someone with anxiety, etc.

          1. whingedrinking*

            My partner used to have two roommates, one of whom tended to move quietly and the other who really, really didn’t like being snuck up on, for personal reasons. They lived in a weirdly designed basement suite with a lot of twists and turns, and the kitchen in particular was cramped and laid out so that your back would be to the entrance most of the time when using it. Despite her best efforts, the latter roommate could not get the former to either walk louder or at least, like, cough or say hey *before* he walked into a room she was in. I’m not nearly as sensitive to being startled as the female roommate was, and I still had times when I’d be in their kitchen and go “gah!” because the male roommate had appeared just behind my right ear and gone, “Hello!”
            The guy was a nice person in general and wasn’t doing it on purpose, which made it hard to really ream him out for it, but part of me thinks it might have done some good if he’d done it to someone who flailed dramatically and maybe smacked him in the face just a little.

            1. Zandt*

              Eh, some people are just naturally quiet. I once sat down next to a couple of classmates and around ten minutes later, they turned towards me and screamed in surprise because they genuinely hadn’t heard me sitting down or anything.

              I can try making loud movements, but that’s not my default setting so I have to remind myself to do that, and the moment I forget, I go back to my stealth self.

          2. alienor*

            Folks that aren’t like that don’t understand how awful it can be for someone like me or someone with anxiety, etc.

            You’re more optimistic than I am. I think they understand it fine, they just think it’s funny because they’re jerks.

        2. Quiet Liberal*

          That story made me chuckle. So glad your coworker’s chair got him where it counts! Hope it was a painful impression. What an ass.

    2. nope, nope, nope*

      I startle so easily. Just ask my husband, who startles me (on accident) at least once a day. That man would have gotten cussed out by me on a daily basis.

      1. Clisby*

        Same here. I’ll be engrossed in AAM, he wanders into the kitchen and says something (not even loudly), and I jump several inches. At least I know he’s not *trying* to startle me.

      2. JustaTech*

        I startle easily, and so does my boss, so we’ve learned not to accidentally sneak up on each other because one of us will be startled and shriek and then the other one will shriek at the shriek and it just gets silly.

        One time a service tech accidentally snuck up on me (I was very focused on my computer) and I nearly gave him a heart attack when I shrieked at him.

        Thankfully no one at work finds my shrieking funny enough to do it on purpose.

        1. tangerineRose*

          A co-worker deliberately snuck up on me once and said “boo”. I shrieked, and she never did it again. I’m *working* here – don’t startle me!

          1. JustaTech*

            Most of my coworkers got their “JustaTech’s screaming is funny” of of their system early when I had to fill plastic bags with air until they exploded, loudly. I hated it because I had to stand right there, watching the pressure gauge creep up and up just knowing it was going to … Bang!

            I screamed every single time. I had to do 15 bags. Everyone was over it by the time I finished and we agreed that if we ever had to do that testing again someone else would do it.

            1. Birdie*

              Oh no! That sounds terrible. I’m very glad I’m not a shrieker – I just gasp and visibly startle, which is boring enough people don’t usually bother doing it on purpose!

          2. whingedrinking*

            When I was about thirteen, a classmate of mine thought it would be hilarious to sneak up behind me and yell, “Boo!”
            My startle reflex is unpredictable. In this case, it chose “fight” and I rammed my elbow backwards as hard as I could and nailed her right in the solar plexus. I felt bad about it, but no one who witnessed the event ever crept up on me again, so there’s that.

            1. Mary*

              I did the same thing around that age! I was walking with a friend and a guy came between us from behind and draped an arm over each of our shoulders. My elbow moved of its own volition and slammed straight into his gut. Pure reflex.

            2. Mike S.*

              In High School, I was playing pool, and lining up a shot when a girl tried tickling me under my ribs. I scrunched up, and accidentally rammed the cue into her stomach. She never did that again.

            3. Salymander*

              I have a similar reaction to being startled. I will spin to face the one startling me, with fists up and ready to give a beat down. I have been told that it is quite scary, and people tend to avoid doing it twice. Never *actually* hit anyone though. I don’t do it on purpose to scare anyone, I just react that way as a reflex.

              Oh wait, except once I did hit someone. Not on purpose and I wasn’t even awake, but I did hit the person. I was in boarding school when a girl chose to wake me up in the middle of the night by whacking me in the chest and yelling. I was told that I shrieked bloody murder and punched her in the face while I was still asleep. I don’t remember doing it, and I did feel bad about it, but I still think that is a really stupid and mean way to wake someone up. The startle reflex is no joke! Shockingly, after that anyone waking me did it by gently touching my foot with a very outstretched arm and calling my name nicely.

      3. C M*

        I have a coworker who startles easily. I just do not understand the mindset of intentionally startling someone. I have never been tempted to startle him on purpose, and I actually try to be more careful so I don’t do it accidentally. Even in elementary school I wouldn’t have wanted to do that to anyone.

        1. Birdie*

          Yeah, my coworker started very kindly hovering in my office door for a moment before speaking or knocking because she realized I generally didn’t jump if I saw her out of the corner of my eye first. My startle reaction is relatively mild but she still felt bad enough that she tried to be more cautious (which I appreciated!)

          1. Vicky Austin*

            I also have a high startle reflex, AND I don’t have peripheral vision, so I don’t have the benefit of seeing people out of the corner of my eye.
            My co-workers quickly learned that if they wanted to talk to me, they had to approach me from the front, because if they approached me from behind or the side they would startle me and I would shriek.

      4. singularity*

        See, I’m the opposite. I don’t know if it’s a bad thing or not, though, because then –for the people immature enough to attempt it– it becomes a game of, “Who can startle singularity? Let’s test it!” while I sit there, staring at them blankly. It’s annoying. :(

        1. hbc*

          Oh, me too. One time my boss sent me a link to a video where it was like “you can see a ghost if you watch really carefully” but then a screaming zombie thing jumps out. I didn’t react, so he determined to amp it up.

          Unfortunately, he didn’t vet the next video he sent me that he heard caused people to react. Luckily, I didn’t watch that one in his presence. It was 2 Girls 1 Cup. He never tried to startle me again.

        2. TardyTardis*

          One time someone was into doing that, except they picked the week when I was temporarily deaf (did you know that 4% of people who get sulfa drugs go deaf? I found out, though I did get my hearing back a week after I quit them).

          Let’s just say it did not go as well as they hoped.

      5. Hills to Die On.*

        When a coworker would love to sneak up on me, I never screamed MOTHERFORKER (except, you know, the real word) and smacked my head on my own computer monitor. In a huge open space with hundreds of people in a cube city. That’s just one instance.

      6. Sleepless*

        My 20 year old son is 6’3″ and weighs 220 pounds…and he moves from place to place like a cat. It’s just how he is. So he startles me by accident sometimes, and he thinks that’s hilarious so he does it on purpose sometimes, and it makes me absolutely livid.

      7. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I used to work with a woman who had the biggest startle reflex. You would wonder around a corner, and she would jump like a foot back and SCREAM. Which, in turn would scare the heck out of me because there was then random screaming in the office.

    3. PookieLou*

      Me too! One time I got moved to a desk that faced away from the cubicle opening. A guy from another team kept joking that he was going to take advantage and scare me. I told him, “OK, cool. And since I’mtelling you now that I would absolutely hate that, it’ll be a nice opportunity for me to talk with HR.” He never did it.

      I also had a coworker who installed a rear view mirror to her desk because she was incredibly startle prone. I would usually announce myself when I was about 5 feet away to be safe.

      1. OkapiFeels*

        I’ve had several people break social distancing to get my attention in the past few months (my desk faces a wall). I need a mirror, although I sent out an e-mail out about it that seems to have done the trick for now. (My e-mail was very polite, but I implied that I’d rather be poked in the head with a long stick than risk my health. Several people pulled me aside to apologize.)

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        I felt so bad after startling a couple coworkers (I apparently walk very quietly) that I started a habit of clipping my keys to my belt. Worked great on two fronts – I lose my keys significantly less often and I now jangle just enough that people hear my approach. Only con is that now it’s a little more obvious that I dance at my standing desk.

        1. Elenna*

          Oh, I wish I’d thought to do that back when I had a supervisor who startled easily and was usually listening to music! (Apparently I, too, walk very quietly when wearing flats. Who knew.)

      3. AnonEMoose*

        I spent about 3.5 years working a security job in college. I react…badly…to being touched unexpectedly from behind, especially if I’m really focused on what I’m doing. When I still worked in the office (been working from home since March), I would tell new coworkers that I often had headphones on, and the best way to get my attention was to either say my name, knock on the end of the desk, or wave in my peripheral vision.

      4. Atlantian*

        I have a rearview mirror at my desk for exactly this reason. It’s been the best $12 investment, ever. I believe I got the idea from AAM!!

    4. Tamer of dragonflies*

      Yep…My coworkers learned early on that if they think they may startle me,be sure they’re out of my reach.Coworker came within inches of a bloody nose once.Fortunatly,I realized who it was before contact and we had a good laugh about it.

    5. Rena*

      I worked in a bakery, which meant early shifts and working in the loud freezer at 6am to pull supplies for the day, alone and half awake. I had a coworker who thought it would be hilarious to sneak into the freezer behind me and scream this full-volume banshee scream. I also screamed, and it activated my flight or fight response, and I saw red and started punching him in the back as he cowered from me. He was a huge body builder and I don’t know how to punch, so no damage was done, and he apologized profusely and left me alone after that.

      Fast forward to new job, new asshole coworker thinks it’s hilarious to startle my mentor. She was working with me at my desk one day, both of our backs to the cubical entrance, and he comes up and scares us both. After getting over the scare, I turned to him and said deadpan, “I punched the last coworker who startled me like that.” He also hasn’t intentionally startled anyone since. While I’m not necessarily advocating for violence, it sure is a handy line to have in my pocket!

    6. willow for now*

      I hate it so much. When I walk into the kitchen or restroom at work and there is someone there who has not noticed me, I will tell them I am there, so they don’t freak out when they turn around and I am there.

    7. carolinakudzu*

      My story: I switched schools in high school, and at the new school there was a guy in my ‘friend group’ who liked to come up behind the girls in the group and hug them without warning. The way it was explained to me, it was “he does that to everyone” – nope only the girls – and “well, that’s just what Dude is like.”
      And then one time he tried to do it to me – when I was standing in front of a large mirror. Just as he closed in, I said loudly and in an icy voice (channeling “my mother using my full name” tone) “DON’T TOUCH ME.” People stared, he jumped back, and he never tried to pull that stunt on me again. Sadly, none of my friends were willing to be as assertive. Ah, well.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      Between striking a blow against sexism, helping her firm get staffed, getting Jane a better position, and winning the case, that’s like an entire flock of birds with one stone. Go LawyerMom!

    2. irene adler*

      She sure is!
      I’m kinda curious as to how it went when Jane give notice.

      Did she reveal who had hired her? If so, how’d the boss take it?
      Did he try to counter-offer?
      Did he bad-mouth her for leaving? Or try to shame her into staying?
      Did he show some measure of character and wish her well at her new job?
      Did she burn a bridge in some awesome manner (“Bye, HONEY!”, “I can’t tell you how great it’s been working for you. I just can’t.”, “File it yourself, babycakes, I quit!”)?

      Oh to be the fly on that wall on that day.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        “I can’t tell you how great it’s been working for you. I just can’t.”

        I love this so much.

    3. Fred*

      Someone at an old workplace of mine did something akin to 6 – the sabotaged ad – and got fired. I appreciate the sentiments, but it cost us a chunk of money (lots of stuff needed to be redone) and damaged our reputation.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t blame the place for firing him. On the other hand, I have very little sympathy for the employer. Taking an ad from an advertiser that is the reverse of what you claim to believe in can – and SHOULD – harm your reputation anyway. And the approval process should have caught the problem before printing.

        1. Fred*

          The place I worked was pretty desperate for money – the general attitude was “if they want us not to do {whatever} they can d*** well pay us what we’ll lose,” followed rapidly by ‘what sort of idiot would think we were endorsing {whatever} by taking their money?”

          A reputation for getting the job done was seen as more important than what the job actually was, as we were not supposed to take sides.

          1. Observer*

            Which is fine if you don’t have stated values. And there are some situations where a publication cannot officially support group / initiative X. But, if it’s OK for an organization to have official values that include support for group X, then you simply cannot say “well, we don’t take sides” and be credible.

            1. whingedrinking*

              MeUndies recently released a set of Harry Potter designs and are doubling down on it when confronted – mostly by saying their licensing deal is with Warner Brothers, not with JK Rowling, so they’re not supporting Rowling’s anti-trans rhetoric. And if they were, say, Mattel, or whatever massive toy company makes HP merchandise, it might not have been that big a deal – even a lot of pro-trans people would probably say “Well, it’s a multinational conglomerate, what do you expect”. A handful of people might send a few grumpy emails, which wouldn’t affect Mattel’s bottom line much, if at all.
              But MeUndies expressly markets themselves as a hip, young, queer-positive company with a social conscience – their target demographic is exactly the kinds of people most likely to know about Rowling’s Twitter ramblings and to be outraged by them. I don’t think MeUndies management is actually clueless as to why people are upset, but it seems likely that the licensing was pretty expensive, so they don’t want to just pull the HP merch and eat the loss. I do wonder, though, how much of an effect it’ll have on their returns in the future.

  1. Hamish*

    I’m SO HAPPY we get a second day of these. All of them are amazing. I’m especially amused by #7. And major kudos to 3 and 5.

    1. Totally Minnie*

      I LOVED that the OP in #3 actually helped the guy look for the passes. That’s the very best part of that story.

    2. XxXxX*

      Would have been fine except for the choice of name. I’m so tired of slander against public figures. I come here for managerial advice, not politics. It’s creeping in more and more in both questions and answers, and I’ll probably stop reading this column.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        For the record, it’s been here since day 1. I’m not neutral, my site isn’t neutral, management and work issues aren’t neutral. I believe in taking stands and always have.

        1. XxXxX*

          Never said you couldn’t! Just said I’m tired of reading it! You have your biases, which I find to be ill-informed and slanted, and facts and logic won’t change them! I won’t continue to read, because running across one of these little gems leaves a bad taste in my mouth and ruins the rest of my day!

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Absolutely your prerogative! I wanted to clarify that my opinions aren’t coming up more and more; they’ve been here all along. I fully support you in finding a site that’s more to your liking.

          2. Schnookums Von Fancypants, Naughty Basic Horse*

            *gets drink of water, clears throat*

            As the kids say: Bye Felicia

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            Oh, duh. I was reading the wrong #s for which one was apparently awful enough to comment that they were about to leave the entire site.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            And also a brilliant short-hand to let us know the type of guy she was dealing with. We all saw how he yelled and screamed on the stand. And yet women are too emotional to be in leadership roles.

          3. IEanon*

            I’ll admit, I first read “slander against public figures” as defending Machiavelli.

            Like, sure, there’s debate about whether he wrote “The Prince” as a satire, but it’s by no means settled. That hardly meets the bar for slander…

      2. Dancing Otter*

        Goodbye. I wish you all the future success you deserve.
        I think it says something about you that, out of all the people with that surname, you immediately assume the writer means that particular person.

  2. Zephy*

    inb4 people start complaining about #8 – play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

    #1 is an inspiration – I’d have done the same thing, if the company is flying me all the way to Alaska for a 15-minute(!!) meeting.

    #9 is so innocent, I love it.

    1. C M*

      I love #9 because everybody wins. Even managers love ice cream and were probably glad to have a reason to buy it.

      1. TooTiredToThink*

        I kept trying to figure out why the story seemed so very, very familiar. Then I realized its because we had a coworker do it at work – started a rumor and kept going around that ice cream sounded soooo good and by the end of the day mgmt bought ice cream. It was awesome.

    2. Alaska or Bust*

      Most of that meeting was the Big Boss of the other org showing me moose attack videos on YouTube, too.

  3. Sloan Kittering*

    These are so great and this type of thinking is niche and valuable (and gets a bad rap). I know many folks who are not capable of triangulating like this, but ya love to see it done for good.

  4. MissGirl*

    The owner of the first company I worked for out of college was wealthy and tight-fisted. He would convince artists to send him pictures of their artwork because he was interested in “buying” it. Then he would send it to a local printer and have them print it for him. I was in the production department and he would send me the images to check them over. I would size them down to thumbnails, send them back, and tell them they were too small to print.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Standing ovation from someone with friends & family who are photographers and painters.

    1. SwitchingGenres*

      Karma (or in other words, consequences of your actions) is a thing. If you’re a man who in one case sexually assaulted a coworker, in another a group of men who verbally harassed a young woman who couldn’t get out of the situation, you may get some comeuppance, somehow.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I specifically asked for stories of “self-serving schemes, manipulation… underhanded machinations, double-dealing, and conniving.”

      But as the commenter above me points out, if one behaves this badly one may indeed get some comeuppance.

      1. Bored Fed*

        I think it would be wise to hesitate before endorsing the concept of “comeuppance.” If a baker decided to adulterate (even if in a non-toxic way) a cake intended for use at a same-sex wedding, because the baker felt that the celebrants deserved a “comupance” for violating what the baker saw as religious law, I would find that horribly offensive.
        But if we encourage service providers to inflict “comupance” on those who we feel deserve it , I think we normalize that behavior — including among those with very different moral values from ours.

        1. stiveee*

          I think most of us are smart enough to evaluate on a case by case basis and recognize that sexually assaulting or harassing someone is worse than being gay and buying a cake.

    3. Observer*

      Because people are not entitled to protect themselves from people who harass them? Because make no mistake – in the case of #2 that is EXACTLY what it was. She got them distracted from destroying the place, and caused them to leave in a reasonable amount of time.

      The REAL thieves are these goons.

      As for the other boss, why are you so indignant the this scum didn’t get his perk?

      1. lazy intellectual*

        Yeah. People who – for whatever reason – feel bad for these privileged jerks can remember that despite not getting their burgers and game tickets, they will continue to be better off in life than the LWs they exploited, because…privilege.

    4. Paris Geller*

      I agree, it is indeed wrong that the jerk VP did not get fired for sexual assault AND lose his perk.

    5. OlympiaEpiriot*

      The frat thugs were already vandalising the place. They were costing the burger place money. They were also being nasty to the workers.

      The Dixecutive had a perk…that he had been blowing off all week and he was scum to the assistant. So there was some pilfering…but, these are supposed to be stories of subtle vengeance, no?

      1. Nanani*

        I disagree, the assistant didn’t steal the tickets. She hid them so GrossAss couldn’t use them, then discarded them. She did not resell them or use them herself or anything else that could be construed “stealing.”

        1. Tony T.*

          You can’t change the meaning of a word, just because you liked the outcome. The definition of steal is “take (another person’s property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it.” That is what she did.

          I don’t think I’d trust you around my spoons.

            1. Gumby*

              It’s not a “story” – it is a definition. From the Oxford Dictionary.

              Merriam-Webster’s primary definition of steal is “to take the property of another wrongfully and especially as a habitual or regular practice” – no mention of the person who took the property needing to use or sell it.

              Macmillan says “to take something that belongs to someone else without permission” – again, no mention of using or selling what you took.

              Your argument is not with Tony but with lexicographers. And the legal system if you ever decided to test your personal definition of stealing and got caught.

          1. stiveee*

            In which language and which dictionary? Hate to break it to you but words are way more fluid than you think and there’s loads of academic research to back that up.

      2. Littorally*

        The frat one made me uneasy, but on close reading, I think the OP only omitted foods the customers asked for, and didn’t add anything they didn’t. That makes it fall just to the side of acceptable in my book.

        Losing a small amount of money because of property damage is fine by me. Sending someone to the hospital with an allergic or other food-related illness would be something else.

      1. OlympiaEpiriot*

        I disagree about 7. Maybe it’s an agreement not to compete against each other, but, I wouldn’t call it theft. They had points to give out, tightly knit team wanted to support each other…*shrug*

        1. Stormfeather*

          I don’t even get why the espresso machine thing would be even considered theft or even ill-gotten, unless I’m missing something about these points rewards systems. They played by the rules of the company, and I can’t imagine it being more expensive to buy, say, one $200 machine than 10 $20 gadgets had the people spent their points normally. If anything, it seems like it’d be less annoying to the people having to deal with the transactions. And everyone was presumably a willing participant (since they wouldn’t have had to give their points away if they weren’t), and got something they wanted out of it.

      2. Observer*

        #6 is the only one I find problematic, but really the company had it coming. I get that money is tight, but taking an ad that is in direct opposition to what you supposedly support is not only ethically problematic, it’s REALLY stupid, and a lot more likely to harm your finances in the long term than turning down one ad.

        #7 is not in the least bit problematic. No one broke the rules. And what’s more HR actually KNEW what was happening and were fine with it. So why would you call it “theft and wrong”?

        #9 I don’t at all get how this is theft. Should that OP have done it? Probably not. But they didn’t steal anything. Even if they caused someone to buy ice cream for the staff because they figured it would make some people happy and thus more productive, that’s hardly stealing or even putting “undue pressure” on someone.

        1. Chinook*

          I am actually very impressed by HR in #7. They knew how the points system could be gamed by a bully and were monitoring for red and yellow flags. They followed up in a professional manner, believed the staff and followed up by requiring paperwork to make sure everyone was covered, including Mike.

          The company deserves kudos for hiring such great people and letting them do their jobs.

    6. lazy intellectual*

      They deserved it. And I say this as someone who’s former local grocery store cashiers would constantly “accidentally” upcharge me for stuff, and I would have to dispute it every time. (It was very annoying.)

    7. Spicy Tuna*

      #2 is theft because she intentionally charged the customers for items she didn’t provide them
      #3 is theft because she took property that wasn’t hers.

      In both cases, the employee had options to address the bad behavior that didn’t involve breaking the law. #2 could have called the police and #3 could have reported the jerky co-worker to HR.

      Two wrongs don’t make a right

      1. Observer*

        Are you being intentionally obtuse?

        #2 could not call the police – her boss made that pretty clear by wimping out.

        #3 This guy had a well established reputation for his misbehavior. HR knew about it (even if they didn’t know about the specific assault.) What makes you think they would have done anything about it? Have you REALLY been living under a rock? Do you REALLY not know that companies with a track record of allowing well connected executives to abuse staff generally ALSO do not do anything when staff reports the most egregious misbehavior?

        1. Gumby*

          I was not aware that there was a “it’s totally okay to steal if the person you steal from is a jerk” exception in the legal system. Good to know…

          Which is not to say that I think HR would have done anything if notified about his behavior.

      2. Grapey*

        Two mild wrongs do make a very big right when it comes to entertaining anecdotes.

        Also, you must be extraordinarily naive if you think police will do anything about drunk frat boys or HR going after a high status VP.

      3. Charlotte Lucas*

        I can only assume you’ve never worked in food service. And she was a teenager, for goodness’ sake!
        It did remind me of a similar situation when I worked at a Dairy Queen. Our dining area closed at 10, but the drive-thru stayed open an hour later while we cleaned up. A carload of really obnoxious drunks came through right before the drive-thru closed. (This was back before automatic policy would be to get the license number & call the police. Also, the driver might have been sober.) So, we all rushed around helping the guy who took their order get all the stuff ready. Afterward, we told him we couldn’t believe how rude they were. He looked at us & said, “Let’s get everything cleaned up & shut down before they come back. I didn’t give them any spoons, straws, or napkins.” The three things you really want when eating ice cream treats in your car.

    8. Elenna*

      I admit #2 makes me a bit uneasy, not because I think it’s theft, but because it could have been bad if one of the frat guys was allergic to an ingredient that OP put in.

      Everything else is hilarious.

      1. Observer*

        Considering their behavior, anyone with significant allergies would have been at risk regardless of the OP’s behavior. Both due to their own drunken stupidity and because these are the kinds of idiots who think that playing pranks on their “oversensitive” frat bro is HILARIOUS.

      2. Chinook*

        That was my only thought too. But, if OP only “forgot” to add ingredients instead of adding or exchanging others, there would be no safety issue.

        I remember that, when I trained at Timmy’s, the number one rule we were given was NEVER substitute decaf with regular coffee. Take the time to brew a fresh pot because it could cause a health reaction. Better to say “we can’t” over secretly replace it.

        1. Elenna*

          Yeah, that’s true, it’s not clear if OP actually added any ingredients or just “forgot” things. But OP did say they straight-up made up an order for one guy, so… idk.

          I mean, I think what actually happened is hilarious and definitely deserved – this is just a comment on why this might not be a great story to emulate.

  5. Sara without an H*

    All of these have improved my mood considerably today. Hard to choose a favorite, but #5 made me smile.

    1. Artemesia*

      5 was the one that made me happiest too. The jerk lawyer loses and his long suffering clerk wins and so does the OP’s Mom. Happiness all around.

  6. Blackcat*

    As the daughter of attorney mom, I hate to say that my mom was pushed out of her firm after having kids in the mid 80s. :/
    But she always stressed to me the importance of having “support” staff on my side. Treat them as respected professionals! Be their friends!
    I’m in academia now, and basically every administrative assistant and IT person who knows me personally will move heaven and earth to solve my problems while they take their time helping the pompous jerks. (I’m in STEM, and there are a lot of pompous jerks among faculty.)

    1. JustaTech*

      Good support staff are worth their weight in saffron and anyone who chooses to treat them poorly deserves what they get.

    2. EPLawyer*

      As former support staff and now an attorney, the court staff LOVE me, because my favorite thing to say is “tell me what to do to make your job easier.” They know *I* will go the extra step to sort something out rather than expect them do it, if that works best. I do not do it because when I do need help they are more willing, I do it because its the right thing to do and cases run smoother if everyone works together — which makes my life easier in the long run. The helping out when I need it is just a perk.

    3. Data Bear*

      Word. When I was in grad school (also STEM), I discovered that in that environment, just treating admin staff with courtesy and asking politely was like a freakin’ superpower.

      Just say “Thank you so much! Is there anything I can do to help out with this?” and you find out that normally it would take a week to get that form processed, but if you want to carry it over to the other building, they can fill it out for you right now and you can get it submitted this afternoon…

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        I never laughed as hard as I did when I got a Big Ask approved through the printing shop in grad school, and another (very difficult to work with) TA got a bug up their butt that Print Shop would do a rush order for me, and Print Shop Manager yelled from the back “Because she plans ahead UNLIKE YOU so the ONE TIME she needs a rush order WE’LL HELP HER OUT because SHE’S NICER!”……. followed much more quietly by “plus she brings us cookies sometimes, and I like cookies”.

        Difficult TA did a much better job requesting print jobs with adequate notice after that, and actually used the print request form instead of marching in and *demanding* a several hundred copy print based off of a messy copy, within the next 15 minutes because *they need to TEACH, thanks*.

      2. A Genuine Scientician*

        As a grad student in STEM, I sometimes had somewhat complicated reimbursements to process. Things like I have a conference in city X, and a round trip between here and there costs $A. BUT, if I instead book one round trip between here and city Y, and another round trip between city Y and city X, it only costs $B, which is less than $A, even if I need a hotel room for a night on each end. So I would:
        – Ask if this is allowed.
        – Provide documented quotes from the university’s travel service.
        – Provide all the receipts for everything in the first pass.
        – Provide a spreadsheet where I show all the totals for everything and what accounts they were being paid from.
        – Provide a written explanation of anything out of the ordinary.
        – Ask the admin whether they preferred that I submit things on paper or electronically
        – State that I recognize this is more involved than the typical reimbursement and so I understand if it takes a few more weeks to get processed.
        – Offer them baked goods every time I brought some in to the office/lab.

        Guess whose reimbursements were always the first ones to be processed?

        I mean, sure, I also treated them as people, paid attention to their stated hobbies and asked about those, knew the names of their family members, etc. But I really think most of it was simply being neither a presumptuous ass nor completely disorganized.

    4. lazy intellectual*

      Like customer service people, admin assistants for some reason became those people society has learned to undervalue even though their jobs are indispensable.

  7. Observer*

    #5 This is one of the best stories I’ve heard in a long time. I feel bad for the other guy’s client, but Ms. Lawyer was just brilliant. And Mr. Lawyer deserved to lose this case (and every other case he probably lost because Jane walked out on him.)

    I’m also getting the “warm fuzzies” for Jane – she must have been dealing with a LOT worse behind closed doors. Good (in the professional sense) don’t walk out with almost no notice and she clearly WAS good. So, if she did that, there must have been a REALLY good reason for it. So it feels really good that she was able to walk out of there.

  8. Observer*

    #7 is hilarious. But I’m also impressed that someone noticed what was going on and acted on a concern about bullying.

  9. Observer*

    #8 gave me a laugh. He’s actually lucky that it was intentional – Someone who was REALLY startled could actually have hurt him worse.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      That one was great. What an excellent plan to team up on that jerk and teach him a lesson. I wonder if he caught on what happened or if to this day he just thought it was totally an accident?

      1. SQL Coder Cat*

        I don’t know either way, but I do know that his yelp was loud enough to get quite a few people’s attention, and my teammate’s apologies definitely carried in the silence that followed. JerkBoss was not popular among anyone but upper management, and he got quite a bit of not-entirely-good-natured ribbing. I suspect it was the combination of pain and embarrassment that made the lesson stick the first time.

      2. Brusque*

        Startle resposes can be very hurtful! I once accidentally startled a coworker. I didn’t see she had headphones in when I approached her a nd tipped her on the shoulder to get her attention. She jumped in her chair so violently she hit my face with her head and broke my nose. She was so sorry! But it wasn’t her fault. It was just a mishap on both sides.

    2. Tamer of dragonflies*

      This…Some folks “Fight or flight” response is default set to “fight”….Play the sneaky scare game at your own risk…

    3. Rob aka Mediancat*

      I startle easily. I had a supervisor who thought it was funny to startle me.

      Oddly, though, he was in all other ways an excellent supervisor; kind, decent, had his charges’ backs, made sure we got the job done but wasn’t a nitpicker, and so on; this was like his one blind spot. So I just trained myself not to respond when he hit the back of my chair, and eventually he gave it up.

  10. Slow Gin Lizz*

    #5 is my ABSOLUTE favorite. Go Mom!!!!!!!! Way to screw that a-hole opposing counsel, help a fellow woman suffering due to gross sexism, AND be all-around AWESOME.

  11. Three Flowers*

    I love all of these, and I especially love LW5’s mom. That is 110% some glorious Slytherin feminist problem-solving.

    Alison, thank you for running these on doom?sday. They’re a great distraction!

        1. Zephy*

          No, it’s…lawful good. *puts on sunglasses, The Who plays*

          Really though, Lawmom went through all the proper channels and played by the rules, I’d call that lawful.

          1. No Tribble At All*

            The Department of Internet Points would like to award you 1 (one) internet point(s) for this comment.

  12. Sucker Punch*

    When I first started working the public sector, the number 2 of our organization at the time loved to sneak up on people (always women -_-). We had hired a new employee who was a former women’s prison guard. She DID NOT like surprises and had warned people to never sneak up on her because she would probably punch them on reflex.

    I’m sure you can see where this is going. A few of us convinced No 2 to sneak up on her, saying she screams like a little girl at the slightest thing. She punched him in the gut and left him laid out. HR did an investigation of the incident and ended up asking a lot of questions about why No 2 was spending so much time sneaking up on women in the office. The new employee did not get in any trouble and was briefly the office hero.

    1. Beth*

      I have a really bad tickle reflex, which of course inspires a certain kind of person to regard this as an invitation to attempt to tickle me.

      Starting in high school, I trained myself to respond to tickling by swinging at people’s faces, usually aiming for the eyes. By the time I was in college, I’d developed a pretty mean punch.

      It worked. The last time anyone actually tickled me was in grad school.

      1. F as in Frank*

        Same, someone was tickling me during a lecture from the row behind me. I focused on him and the next time he moved I shot my hand back, grabbed his wrist and pulled/twisted. Because he was leaning forward a bit he flipped over the table and onto his back at my feet. It is happened at the same time as the prof dismissed us so there was a lot of movement in the room at the time, but everyone nearby was pretty wide eyed that I could do that.

    2. Observer*

      So, a jerk, a harasser and a first class idiot?

      I mean, she was a former prison guard. What did he expect?! Maybe a shriek (although he should have been skeptical of that, too) but there is no way someone in that kind of past is going to react with ONLY a shriek.

      I hope he got fired.

      1. Sucker Punch*

        Haha, no. He was not fired. He failed upwards to a better position at different agency. Although he never did sneak up on anyone again and after the incident he kept his behavior in check more often.

    3. Environmental Compliance*


      I had someone in college run up behind me, grab me around the chest area – pinning my arms – lift me up, and start carrying me down the hall. My panic reflex was to kick him hard in the shin, and flail my head back, which broke his nose.

      I did not know this person at all, had never met him before, and here he was, randomly running down hallways to pick up people (read: women) because “funny”.

      And apparently he didn’t learn his lesson the first time, because a week later he did it *again*, and I reflexively kicked, hit the groin this time, and still managed to break his nose again. Spoiler: he was a giant turd to most anyone and everyone, so not many people felt bad for him.

      I do not comprehend why people think it’s funny to run up behind people to startle them, tickle them, whatever them.

      1. Clorinda*

        The nose-breaking was pretty funny, though! Twice! I too am a highly ticklish person, but I don’t have your moxie. My defense was a piercing shriek right in the face of the offender.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          To be fair, I didn’t aim for the nose, I just was trying desperately to free my arms from pure panic. Apparently my startle is not fight *or* flight, it’s fight *to* flight.

      2. Observer*

        Oh my goodness, what a self destructive creep. And incredibly stupid with it.

        Of course he didn’t learn his lesson – I think he was trying to teach YOU a lesson. That’s what happens when someone is both stupid and has an out sized ego.

        Did he manage to graduate college?

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          He was…. special, in a lot of ways. Very rich family. IIRC, a several hundred dollar per month for alcohol alone in his allowance budget. Still tried to mooch off everyone around him, though.

          And IIRC, he managed to anger his parents enough that they cut him off cold turkey, withdrew everything, and said Good Luck. I think he *might* have brought his grades up enough to get back into the very lowest of their good graces, and he did technically graduate.

          Same gentleman who once told me that “just because there’s a goalie doesn’t mean you can’t score” *sleazy fingerguns & wink* Definitely thought he was some Hot Stuff.

  13. So Much Drama*

    I just remembered a great one I wish I would have shared in the original thread!

    A couple of jobs ago I worked on a team who, among many other things, were required to call our clients every time they sent in a project (to confirm that we received it and go over any questions or issues). We had one client who was notoriously awful and hated talking to us on the phone. She would rant and yell and curse at you if you had to ask her a question or point out an issue with the project and we all dreaded working on her stuff.

    One of the team supervisors was fired for poor performance (which was a huge deal because they almost never fired people, even though a bunch of people deserved it) and he was extremely disgruntled about it, so he created an email address under this client’s name and sent an email to our support inbox at 3AM asking us to call her immediately on her cell phone for an urgent issue (we were staffed 24/7). Luckily the person who saw the email found it suspicious and bumped it up the food chain and nobody ended up calling her, but I can’t even imagine the shit storm that would have happened if they had.

    (Also, management initially suspected the fake email was sent by another recently fired employee who had finally been let go after a months-long campaign of terror in which she made dozens of anonymous calls to the company’s ethics hotline about two married coworkers who were having an affair, stalked at least one of said coworkers, and sent letters to their spouses, thus ending both of their marriages. We were all very surprised when Disgruntled Ex-Supervisor admitted to one of our coworkers that it was him.)

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’m sorry, your story is totally derailed by your last paragraph what even the fresh HELL?

      1. So Much Drama*

        I know, right? I should never have known about that part in the first place because I wasn’t management but I was close with the head of the department and she would always tell me the good gossip.

      2. So Much Drama*

        Oh and they weren’t even able to fire her for the stuff she did because the calls to the hotline were anonymous and I guess the higher ups didn’t care about the other stuff because it was outside of work or some BS like that (again, they almost never fired anybody). The company had recently acquired a competitor and all of the people who served our job function were joining our team so they used the excuse that there were too many employees with her title so she was laid off.

  14. Exhausted Trope*

    Posting #5… D___ OP, your mom’s good! Helluva attorney. Not only winning her case but rescuing a secretary from bondage. My hat’s off to her.

    1. GothicBee*

      If you trash a store and harass the employees, you can’t really be upset when your food isn’t what you ordered.

      1. Tom*

        I mean, honestly, OP #2 showed restraint by not spitting (or worse) in their food. Not that it makes it right, but if I had seen what the guys were doing, I would’ve fully expected their food to have a lot of “special sauce”. I find it hard to get myself worked up that they didn’t get what they paid for.

    2. A Teacher*

      Meh. It’s not particularly bad, though, to anyone with any sense of perspective. Probably made the OP feel a hell of a lot better to have some kind of control.

    3. SG*

      I agree, the behaviour of the customers in this story should have resulted in them being escorted off the premises, if not given a warning for public intoxication. They got off really lightly in this case, considering their awful behaviour.

    4. Catosaur*

      I get wrong food from a fast food place up the street every time I order. It’s fine. Management doesn’t care, corporate doesn’t care, I get fed, and the surprise factor is (somewhat) entertaining. It’s just hamburgers. It’s fine.

  15. TheEditorIsOut*

    #6 I am going to put on a hat just so I can take it off to you. And I say this as someone who spends far too much time telling people that “This won’t work in print because…”

  16. OlympiaEpiriot*

    I love all of these.

    I really, really, really hope they made sure Mike was at the annual dinner to accept his reward in person.

  17. Checkert*

    I worked with a girl that arranged her own welcome lunch by pure suggestion that we were having one. Several of us knew and supported it, but it was still genius!

  18. I Love Llamas*

    #4 Lunch Thief is very similar to one of my devious moves. For lunch, I shared a pizza with my admin and suggested she take the rest home. She reluctantly told me that by putting it in the office frig, it would be consumed by Otis. I was aghast and suggested she put a note on it. She wouldn’t due to hierarchy and politics. I was slightly senior to Otis, so I put a note on the pizza box that said, “Otis, leave my pizza alone” and signed it. Later in the afternoon, Otis comes up to me and asks why I put a note on the pizza with his name on it. I replied that if he had left my pizza alone he would have never seen my note, so obviously, I needed to make sure he understood not to touch my food. This was all done loudly in an open office area for everyone to hear. He feared me henceforth and our admin staff had a great laugh.

  19. Museum peep*

    A few years ago, I was working in a renown contemporary art museum in a European country. Historically, about half of the country had been protestant, while the other half had been catholic, though this currently has a very limited impact on society. As we were a relatively prestigious place, we would get a constant stream of proposals for exhibitions, a solid half being entirely unrelated to contemporary art, while “pure gumption” was a pretty popular strategy among the applicants. We were working in an open office plan and one day, we could hear our colleague visibly struggling to get out of a conversation with one of these highly determinant applicants. She could hardly get a word in the conversation for a solid 15 minutes, but we figured out it was for an exhibition of Russian orthodox icons from the Middle Ages (so… entirely unrelated to our field). In the end, she lost it in the most spectacular way and told the person in a very authoritative tone: “Sir, I am absolutely sorry to have to tell you this, but as you know, Winterfell has been a protestant city since the mid 16th century. Icons have been banned her for 4 centuries and so we could not possibly organise this exhibition.. The icons would be seized. We probably should not even have this conversation.” Silence on the other end of the line. And then, she very mercifully added: “However, King’s Landing would be an ideal city for your exhibition. Do not hesitate to contact the director of King’s Landing Contemporary Art Museum, I’m sure he would be delighted to hear about your project. Here is his direct line and please tell him you have my recommendation.” Unfortunately, I don’t know whether he enjoyed the prank.

  20. Ms. Yvonne*

    Is anyone else leaning toward grossed out that the reward points in the Mike-is-Awesome story went to a c-level person? I mean, crisis manager I can see because that person could be instrumental in getting staff through a messy situation, but the c-level just seems like a whole lotta reward points went upward, not unlike gifting upwards, because… why?

      1. Clorinda*

        I don’t think it’s a broken system. I think the system’s working exactly as intended, except for when Mike won.

    1. Nanani*

      Yeah, the system sounds pretty broken and poorly thought out, since OPs team had basically no chance to win big.
      Makes the good karma espresso all the sweeter, I suppose.

    2. PJS*

      Yes, that stuck out to me too. At my company, managers are not eligible to win any of the prizes that are given out at the annual party and for good reason.

    3. Mike's Coworker*

      Hi, Mike’s Coworker here! I agree it’s not a great look, but the gift cards are fairly low value (I think Mike’s was $50) and the recipients do tend to be well liked and respected, so…there are other hills to die on. I don’t think it’s intentionally funneling gifts back to the upper levels, they’re just not particularly aware of the optics

  21. PookieLou*

    The people who were annoyed at Espresso Mike winning a prize should have been annoyed that the system was so unbalanced in favor of those who were already making the most money. At one of my previous jobs, you were ineligible for that kind of thing at a certain level out of fairness to lower-level employees who wouldn’t get recognized otherwise.

    Anyway, Mike is the hero we need right now. A win for the little guy AND for everyone else! What a champion!

  22. Empress Matilda*

    I love every single one of you! Especially #2, #3, and #5’s mom, who are all clearly The Best.

    Thank you for doing what you do, and also for telling the stories!

  23. Kimmy Schmidt*

    I missed the Fast Food Revenge and Thwarted Jerk stories on the original post. The Slytherin in me is loving all these stories, but I think Espresso Mike is definitely my favorite! So many places to go wrong, but Mike’s a standup guy at every turn, and no one gets hurt.

  24. Can Can Cannot*

    You have to believe that any of these stories that includes the word “groin” is going to be a good one!

  25. Properlike*

    These two threads are giving me life. Are there enough stories to keep this going for the rest of this very challenging week?

  26. mreasy*

    #5 took my breath away! What an awesome quick-thinking solution and a powerful way to help a fellow woman in a sexist industry and era. I just love it.

  27. Oh So Anonymous*

    I realize this is late and nested in a million comments, however I have only just become aware of a remarkably epic bit of subterfuge. Yes, you can likely determine where I live from this, but we’re all friends here, right?
    Background: I live in a state with a very large urban/rural liberal/conservative divide. We are currently electing our governor. Candidate A is the incumbent who is well liked but remarkably liberal. Candidate B is the former Sherriff of a town of 1,000 people who is unsurprisingly remarkably pro-gun.
    Candidate B sent out a mailer with a very egregious misspelling. (Think “Guvernor”)
    A certain person who works in tech (and who chooses to remain nameless) received said mailer and immediately registered the misspelled domain name (BforGuvernor). That URL now redirects to a newspaper article about how the Sherriff botched an abuse investigation involving a minor and intimidated the victim with threats of a false-claims charge.

      1. Oh So Anonymous*

        State-level version of registering flywillvote (dot) com immediately after the VP debate.

  28. Sherri*

    Could a different name have been picked for #3? Regardless of what side you’re on, it’s a hot button issue, and totally inappropriate. I need a break from politics.

    1. Grapey*

      Of course a different name could have been used, but someone that was tired of high status men having their way with women didn’t get that same option to just “take a [privileged] break” from it.

      Please take whatever personal breaks you need but IMO it would be better to ask men to stop forcing themselves onto women instead of asking us to shut up about it.

  29. Anonimis*

    These are a great read. I haven’t done anything as interesting as these, but I have a few stories from my time working in customer service on the phones. We were meant to try and promote products to customers and were under pressure to get sales leads, where we’d pass the call through to a sales advisor. One customer called about a charge on her account, which in the particular circumstances I wouldnt normally have offered a refund. In this instance I did though as I saw she was eligible for a product and thought I’d have more chance of getting a lead if I waived the fee. I was right! Another story (not sure if this is true as heard it second hand) was that someone who had a horrible customer took a note of their phone number, set their alarm for 2am, rang the customer and blasted loud music down the phone at them.

  30. Maxie*

    #6. I consider the ad sabotaging the anti-gay conversion program a literal life saver. These programs are directly responsible for the suicide of gay teens. The OP is a hero.

  31. WFH with Cat*

    Once again, a terrific collection of entertaining stories on a day when we could probably all use a laugh. I can only hope there’s a Part 3 tomorrow.

  32. Drunk tippers suck*

    This wasn’t as an employee but came after years of waitressing. I was at a bar with friends and friends of friends. Several got obnoxious-drunk. As the non-drinker I was helping the bartender get everyone to cash out. One girl in my group wrote a paltry tip and then subtracted it from the total. Didn’t take her copy of the receipt. Cause she was drunk. So I fixed it. By adding a significant amount and correcting her math. She was so drunk, no way she’d know.

    Another time some jerks got up from the bar next to me. I noticed that they’d tipped $1 on a huge meal and alcohol order. And signed the bill “Hitler.” Left his copy. I fixed that one too. What was he gonna do? Come back and complain and then have to explain why he signed it Hitler? No. The bartender didn’t see me do it so wouldn’t have gotten in trouble.

    Sorta righted two wrongs with two additional wrongs …

  33. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

    These are fantastic, and I especially love the beautiful sabotage of the gay conversion ad. Comic Sans, priceless.

  34. Professional Merchandiser*

    Reading the Alaskan getaway reminded me of a story a former manager told at a team conference. Our manager was talking about the reasons people who leave a company: according to him, the main reason is if your boss is an A–H—-.
    This job posted your assignments on your work website. You would go in to your company device and schedule the assignment, then when work was done, you would answer questions, add your mileage and other things then mark completed. Then mail in your expense report for reimbursement. (This was about 20 years ago before nearly everything was done online.) Well, one of the reps received an assignment with the state code HI. (Hawaii.) She lived somewhere like Indiana if I remember correctly.
    Contacted her manager to find out if there was a mistake, and he blew up at her and wouldn’t even let her finish her question; just yelled at her that if it was in her que she had no right to question it, and if she didn’t complete the assignment there would be disciplinary action. So, she booked her flight, made her hotel reservations and headed off to Hawaii to do an assignment that lasted I think an hour, and had a lovely mini-vacation.
    Of course, when her expense report was received, she got a furious phone call from her manager and TPTB. She explained to both of them that she had tried to alert her manager and was told to complete the assignment. She got her money and the manager got fired. Sweet justice!!

  35. DataQueen*

    I’m so bummed I missed this open thread, but my best moment reminds me a lot of #9…

    So I’m always the last one in the office at night – It’s just my preferred schedule and I get more done between 5 pm and 8 pm than I would the rest of the day. But it also means that I’m alone, and have my full run of the place. One night, I was in a mischievous mood, so I googled “roof deck blueprints,” stuck our company’s logo on it, and sent it to every printer in the building.

    By the time I came in the next day, the rumor mill was ON FIRE about the proposed roof deck. When months went by and no plans moved forward, the the staff was PISSED at management for “taking away” their new space. I never came clean.

    I have now played the same prank at 3 different companies and it’s worked beautifully every time. I’m a little too senior for something like that now, but it will never not be funny.

  36. Brusque*

    #7 that company missed a huge chance! When they learned what Mike and his team had done, they could have pulled him from the list of those gift cards recipients. Then, at the event, they should have awarded him and his team an extra gift card for outstanding team work!
    This way there would have been no ruffled feathers or grudges and they could have encouraged those nice-to-have social skills that can elevate every team spirit far vetter than any artificial team spirit.

  37. Steve Jobworker*

    At my company the managers are obsessed with utilization. You absolutely have to book a specific number of hours per week on projects even if you didn’t work on a project that week. So basically we were expected to bullshit the system. One particularly bad month I had literally no work to do and I tried to get answers from my boss about the time booking, but he just said “book 80% of your hours on projects”. I just got fed up and sent an anonymous email to head office. A few months later some of our local managers were fired and we were told to book our time honestly.

    Now that they have accurate information, they are beginning to realise there are resource management problems and they are actually addressing these issues.

  38. CodaSammy*

    I can’t believe I missed submitting! It’s a shame, because this one’s a doozy!

    My friend (who I’ll call Sherri) is an amazingly hilarious person. When she was younger, she’d been working for a while and was just generally tired of the working life. So, when she went for her next job, she told them that she had to leave for dialysis every Thursday afternoon. They accommodated her, no questions asked, and she got a half day off every week.

    Even better, one of her best friends worked at the same place and knew full well that this was a total lie. So every Thursday, Sherri would breeze out of the office and wave goodbye to her friend, who could only wave back through a gritted-teeth smile – so jealous, but totally admiring of Sherri’s chutzpah!

Comments are closed.