confess your moments of unprofessionalism here

Professionalism isn’t a thing people are born knowing — and it’s often a rocky journey to figure it out. I want to hear about unprofessional things you did in your past (maybe the recent past, who knows). To kick us off, here are some great moments in unprofessionalism that people have shared here previously.

I was in my early 20′s and working with a placement agency to find that perfect job that would take me out of food service. My agency contact had set up an interview for me for my dream job, the day after my birthday. Being young and not much of a responsible drinker, I partied like it was 1999. I showed up at the interview not just hung over but still drunk. The person conducting the interview asked me if I was sick, and if I was we could reschedule. I answered, “Nope, not sick, drunk.”

I used to use my cubicle as an extension of my vanity at home. I’d usually put foundation and eye shadow on at home and then finish with mascara, blush, and lipstick at the office. (WHY?! Why could I not just apply those at home when I was obviously already in the throes of applying make-up?!) Sometimes I would just wait and put on all my make-up at the office. It was ridiculous. I had a full make-up kit in my drawer at work. I had an eye shadow palette. I had blending brushes. I had a hair straightener. What must people have thought as they passed my desk and saw a hair straightener plugged in?

 Phone interview for a bank role. They asked about how I would handle confidential information. I gave examples of experience I had with HIPAA info and handling private information and then I blurted out, “But ya know, everyone gossips!” I have no idea why I said that! I’m not a gossipy person! I think I was trying to say something funny or friendly or whatever to connect to the interviewer.”

It was my first professional job out of college but I had been there at least a year. I was in the habit of making a cup of tea and chatting with my coworker who sat directly in front of the manager’s office. We had a new manager (one of my favorite managers so far!) and she had received a request from her boss to get something done ASAP and she asked me to do it. I replied, “Sure, right after I finish my tea” and then I kept chatting until I finished my tea.

I once went to an interview where they asked for an example of a time I’d resolved conflict – and I responded with a terrible laugh and said, “Well, I’ve caused some trouble.”

Now it’s your turn. Please share in the comments.

And if you’re thinking it sounds like I’m collecting stories for Mortification Week 2022, coming this summer, you are correct.

{ 1,377 comments… read them below }

  1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    I hung up a Little Mermaid poster in my office of my very first Professional job. I also asked if it would be okay to lock the door and sleep under my desk during my lunch break.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      Lucky for me I have a health condition that requires me to take a nap sometimes so I actually used to do this (on a very rare occasion.. didn’t want to push it!).

      1. TheRain'sSmallHands*

        I used to have my own computer lab to build servers (late 1990s). I was a Mom with a baby under six months that I was still breastfeeding and an eighteen month old. I’d lock that door and nap through lunch on the floor all the time. No one would ever go in there but me.

        (I had a cube, so no sleeping at the cube – and the lab was little more than a big closet that could hold a desk but had a door that could lock)

        1. Shhh*

          I never intended to, but my previous job (academic library) had a rarely used meditation/prayer room that I fell asleep in a couple times. I’m a pretty anxious person and would sometimes go up there on my lunch breaks to (kinda) meditate and relax and once or twice it worked so well that I drifted off. Not great, but always an accident and never prevented anyone else from using the space.

      2. UnProfessional Tradey*

        My dad is a research attorney for a fed judge, and at 71 years old, has permission to lock the door and take naps as he needs to. It’s not unprofessional if it’s helpful and you have permission.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          There’s almost no end to what you can do if you work for a federal judge and they’re okay with you doing it.

    2. Kpop Adult*

      Honestly the Little Mermaid thing is kind of charming. But I may be saying that as a person with BTS photos from a magazine pinned on my cube walls.

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          Tbh my work desk has a lot of plushiez- an avocado, a unicorn cake, an axylotyl ( actually two but one is supposed to be the sofa one. It’s nice to have a desk! Remote work made it possible. My own desk

        2. IndustriousLabRat*

          *stealthily returns to my office hiding my Hello Kitty pyrex lunch dishes under a pile of papers*

        3. TiredAmoeba*

          I have growing collection of rubber duckies. It started out as a joke I don’t even remember but now people bring them to me. I have so many themes.

        4. Reluctant Mezzo*

          Someone tried to ‘borrow’ my Betty Boop coffee cup and I made sure everyone knew it was mine and I Wanted It Back, no questions asked. I do kind of wished whoever had it had cleaned out the dead oatmeal first, but eh.

        5. SixTigers*

          I may have a Vicious Attack Lobster sitting in my In-box, ostensibly to keep the papers from fluttering around due to the over-enthusiastic AC fan, but in actuality to keep people from putting MORE papers in there.

          It doesn’t actually work but that’s what I tell people. Especially when I assist it to make feints at people TRYING to put papers in there.

      1. Harvey 6 3.5*

        And on the opposite end of charming, when I was in graduate school, I had a six foot tall poster of some sort of weird monster on the wall between my lab desk and my lab bench. I don’t know why I put the odd picture there, and the suave full size Humphrey Bogart picture in my apartment, rather than the reverse.

      2. OrigCassandra*

        My Crowley and Aziraphale Funko Pops salute you.

        (Aziraphale is somehow missing an eyebrow. IDEK. I didn’t do it; he arrived like that.)

        1. Anonym*

          One of my most professional and impressive colleagues’ cubicle was guarded by a line of Funko Pops! They always make me think of her. Any questions/critiques of them would have been met with a forceful stinkeye (or, more likely, a sudden and delighted offer to explain what each one was).

          1. Buffy will save us*

            As I said elsewhere, I have two shelves of them in my administrative office

          1. Scarlet Magnolias*

            And hi says my Tyrion Lannister doll and werewolf dolls (too many to count)

      3. GythaOgden*

        I’ll be staying in a Little Mermaid room at Disneyworld next year. It was the first new Disney film I saw in the cinema when it came out. I can’t believe it’s more than thirty years old!

        1. Kammy6707*

          Omg – The Little Mermaid was the very first movie I ever saw in a theatre! Apparently I begged so much outside the theatre at the mall and my Dad caved, because we rarely went to the movies. I watched my VHS copy so much it ended up with a line running through it. I would LOVE to stay at this Little Mermaid Room – I didn’t know that was a thing!

          1. GythaOgden*

            It’s a wonder that my Disney Robin Hood and My Little Pony The Movie tapes survived. I’d watch them through once, then rewind them /with the image still on the screen/ and watch them again. I’d certainly had cassette tapes just wear out too, usually in the middle of a summer holiday. That said, I kind of liked the weird sounds you got when the tape had been twisted and so you were effectively hearing the other side backwards.

            Now everything is all digital I don’t miss fragile tape by any means (I play one of my favourite YouTube cartoon videos over and over and over while waiting for my Zoom therapy to begin — helps me relax), but there’s still a nostalgic part of me that devours YouTube shows like Oddity Archive that discuss old tech. I subscribe to Spotify and made playlists of some of my old mixtapes, but it’s just not the same without the garbled bits in the middle where the tape got chewed.

      4. Olivia*

        At my old job, I had these 3D paper Adventure Time characters taped to the top of my cubicle wall, but I don’t think it was unprofessional. I had come across them online and someone else at the office (who was one of the boss’s favorites) mentioned liking Adventure Time and was always wearing graphic tees, so I didn’t think it would be taken as weird or juvenile (I think this coworker may have actually been the one who told me about these papers you could print out). They were like an unfolded box pattern with the character printed on it, that you cut out and assembled–you can find them by googling “adventure time paper cube”. I had Finn, Jake, Slime Princess, Hot Dog Princess, several Gunters, and maybe some other characters. Some characters were too tricky of a shape and I didn’t want to bother with them. The Gunters were a simple cube so of course I had to make a mini penguin army like on the show. I’m too short to see over a cubicle wall, and to me it was like they were looking out over the wall for me. :) I also showed up one Halloween as Fiona, with a felt hat and backpack my mom had made for me.

        I think whether or not it’s seen as unprofessional probably depends on the office culture and the type of job. A lot of people probably wouldn’t want their wrongful death lawsuit handled by someone with fun pop culture décor, whether it was cutesy or Star Wars or whatever.

        The one office decoration I saw there that I thought was unprofessional were these bullet-hole cling-ons that one guy put on the outside of his office door. He was really into guns, both shooting competitions and hunting, and he originally put them up as Halloween decorations. Even as Halloween stuff I didn’t think it was really appropriate.

      5. wendycoded*

        I have a Shooky acrylic stand/mini calendar at my desk, in addition to a water bottle covered in fan-made BTS stickers. How do you do, fellow AAM ARMY!

      6. slmrlln*

        Yeah, I usually have a BTS photocard pinned up in my office (I rotate which one). I’m trying to be subtle about it!

      7. My dear Wormwood*

        Lol my desk with my Jurassic Park sign (This is a velociraptor free workplace, it has proudly been __ days since the last incident)

      8. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        I had classic Disney figurines and a huge amount of small stuffed animals, plus various small toys all over my workspace. But I wasn’t the only one. One of the admin staff organized a display of people’s favorite desk toys so we could all see what people in different departments had. Fun times!

        1. pandop*

          Now that’s the sort of team-building I can get behind.

          Unfortunately, with hybrid working and hot-desking, we are moving to a ‘clean desk’ policy :( Thankfully there is still space for Itty Bitty Wonder Woman on my home desk.

        2. SciSplainer*

          You can always tell the education office in a museum by the personal desk toys (not needed for the job). If there aren’t any toys, it’s a red flag about the department’s culture and I don’t want to work there.

    3. River Otter*

      Re: Sleeping under the desk

      Eh, The only unprofessional part of that was asking permission instead of just doing it without telling people. :-)

        1. CheesePlease*

          it’s also highly unprofessional to have a friend fake a bomb threat to the office

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        My very first (and second and third) jobs were as a lifeguard, and I still have to fight the urge to go find somewhere random to nap and/or play cards whenever there is a thunderstorm.

        1. Ex-guard*

          I still fight the urge to tell children to stop running. Even outdoors, in parks.

          1. Another ex-guard*

            Yes to the naps on a lawn chair in the guard office during the rain, and card games. And “stop running” anytime I see a child running remotely near a pool.

    4. straws*

      Mine was a Hellraiser poster. I was asked to take it down because it was concerning people (thankfully, I was wise enough to just do it and not argue or something equally unprofessional!)

    5. Campfire Raccoon*

      I received permission to sleep under my desk on my lunch break, during the first trimester of my first pregnancy. The fatigue was NO JOKE.

      1. pregnant librarian (literally)*

        i did not receive permission, i just shut my door and did it. i was *exhausted*

        1. Anonym*

          This is what my old office mate did! I guarded the door fiercely for her and answered her phone if need be.

          I am currently pregnant and desperately miss having an office with a door (damn you, open floor plans, damn you to hell!). So instead I keep finding reasons to work remotely on days I’m supposed to be in, and arriving late and leaving early when I have to be there. I have had at least one sad bathroom doze session. Which sounds really terrible now that I write it out. :(

          1. MAGC*

            I used to regularly fall asleep in a stall in the women’s bathroom at work during the first trimester of both pregnancies — not on purpose, it would just happen.

            And also at lunch with my head on my desk (best part: waking up with one’s cheek in a puddle of one’s drool). Fortunately, my cube was relatively private, and the only person who could see me was my closest work friend in the cube across the cube hall.

            The few times I fell so deeply asleep that waking up at work was a shock were NOT fun.

            1. Cedrus Libani*

              In my school days, I regularly cut class in order to sleep in the bathroom. Then I got caught. Someone reported the passed-out student, the teacher who came in to check on me couldn’t wake me up, so I found myself yanked out of the stall by my ankles.

              So I trained myself to sleep in class instead. And then I couldn’t stop. For an entire decade, age 18-28, I don’t think I made it through a single hour-long meeting without falling asleep at least once. Seriously, not once. I tried Red Bull, I tried standing up, I tried all the things. Turned out that I had a medical condition; got treated, better now.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                Nowhere near as serious, but I once had a reaction to a “non-drowsy” cold medication that had me nodding off all day. On the bus to work, at my desk (multiple times), at a meeting my manager also attended (he was not impressed), and on the bus home. I’m so glad I wasn’t driving back then.

                Unfortunately I forgot which cold medication it was (after I threw it out), so now I never take cold meds before work.

            2. Luna*

              I fell asleep during face massages during my cosmetic/wellness training classes. That was rather a given, you often fell asleep while receiving the massage. Just a small doze or nap. One time, I must have fallen so asleep that my brain thought my body was dead, so it sent a huge jolt through my body and almost made me jump awake.

              Scared my classmate, and me. Worst part was, that type of waking up is very bad and leaves me very, very tired. I was stabbing my hand with a pencil to keep myself awake in the next class.

          2. Mamabear*

            I get it. I’m not pregnant, just deal with insomnia. I’ve dozed on the toilet. ‍♀️

      2. code red*

        The swelling was awful my first pregnancy. I upended my trashcan to use as a footrest. Probably not all that professional but it worked and they looked at me weird when I asked if I could get an actual footrest.

        1. code red*

          I also worked overnight for the first couple trimesters of that pregnancy. I took a nap in one of the cubes on my lunch break. Even though it was my break, I would’ve been in a lot of trouble if management had come in and seen me.

        2. WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot*

          I never dozed while pregnant and still maintained some level of professionalism while dealing with EXTREME morning sickness.

          But towards the end of my pregnancy, I just started wearing beach cover ups to work. I didn’t care. I was pregnant with twins and it was summertime. I was massively uncomfortable. (They’d also done a few legally questionable things during my pregnancy so I did not give a flying F—!)

        3. Suzanne Brown*

          I refuse to not have a footrest. I don’t think anyone really notices or cares /cared anyplace I’ve worked.

        4. Hey nonny nonny*

          I stole a chair from the chair graveyard to use as a footrest in my third trimester.

          In my last month I developed this horrible itchy bumpy red rash and would soak coffee filter in water and then wrap them around my arms. I was completely over caring at that point.

      3. Jen with one n*

        I didn’t even bother asking, I’d just slouch down my in my chair and doze away. :D (second pregnancy, low iron, super-early start time… I hear you on the fatigue!)

        1. GythaOgden*

          This happened to me in my first year of work after university. I was training to be an accountant in Dublin and one afternoon just after Christmas I felt my head get heavy and my eyes grow dim (except this wasn’t Hotel California). I managed to snap out of it but it had been noticed because I was in the middle of being trained at the time.

          Thing is, though, I’d been away over New Year, been working full time and attending classes after work for three out of five working days and some Saturday mornings. I was just getting used to this regimen.

          So my boss calls me in the next day and says, ‘You fell asleep out there. What time do you go to bed?’

          I replied, ‘Eight o’clock.’ I was literally getting home, eating and clocking out. My mum tells me I did the same the first year I was at school. I can’t remember the rest of the conversation with my boss but it wasn’t taken any further.

          More recently, hubby (who died of cancer three years ago) picked up my Nytol sleeping tablets instead of paracetamol when he went in to work. He took one (I can’t remember if this was when his brain lesions were making their presence felt or whether it was totally unrelated) and…dozed off. He woke up several hours later, thoroughly embarrassed. He earned the nickname Nytol after that.

        2. Elenna*

          Yeah, I have definitely just fallen asleep slouched in my seat… multiple times… I’m not even pregnant, just bad at managing my sleep schedule and sometimes I think I’m fine and then post-lunch sleepiness hits.

          1. whingedrinking*

            My TESOL training was 9-4, five days a week for four weeks. And I worked at a coffee shop on the weekends. I’d just graduated from university and figured the schedule wasn’t that different from high school.
            I can’t remember being that exhausted at any other point in my life. One day I finally nodded off in class despite my best efforts.
            You know how when you have a stack of papers, you’ll tap them on a table or a desk to get them all lined up? The instructor for this class chose my desk to do this on. Only it was a giant-ass pile of handouts and she didn’t do a genteel little tap – she pretty much dropped them from a height of six inches or so. It made a sound like a gunshot and I woke with such a jerk I nearly hit the ceiling. I never did forgive that teacher.

            1. GythaOgden*

              My science teacher did that when I had the hiccups in class. Except it didn’t work…

        3. lilsheba*

          I think any and all pregnant people should get special accommodations no questions asked. You’re making another whole human (or two or three!)

      4. Random Internet Stranger*

        My office has a couch thank goodness. We’ve all fallen asleep on it at one point or another.

      5. Melicious*

        I hadn’t told people at work yet, so I napped in my car. First trimester exhaustion is intense!

        1. SoFresh&SoClean*

          I would go into the bathroom, sit on the toilet (hey, I was also constipated – pregnancy is glorious), put my head on the toilet paper dispenser and nap.

          1. LPUK*

            I did this once, though I had no pregnancy excuse. In fact I was on a training course in Prague and had been up til the early hours dancing on the table in some sleazy nightclub and swigging Russian champagne, which was surprisingly reasonable given the cost (4€ a bottle). I am not a drinker, so I was badly hungover and so tired I was swaying in my seat, so I decided to sleep it off in the toilet. Did I mention this was the first month with a new company and I’d been recruited as a sales manager? My most unprofessional moment in work I think. Though there was that time as a graduate trainee in a large open plan office where I got so stressed one day and broke into hysterical laughter, which I couldn’t stop, and which got worse as I attracted more attention until my knees gave way and I lay on the carpet, laughing and crying in the middle of group on concerned colleagues….

          2. ceiswyn*

            I used to do that occasionally.

            In retrospect, I was probably both anaemic and suffering from Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, but as a fat person napping was easier than getting a diagnosis.

      6. Lives in a Shoe*

        Fortunately during my first pregnancy, there was a lunch room with a private couch room off of that. I used to snarf down my lunch early at my desk and then flee to that little oasis and crash. Except one day I woke up and it was. . . very quiet. By the time I got back to my desk it was two and a half hours later. I asked them why they hadn’t woken me up, and they said, “We thought you needed to sleep. . .”

        They were very kind. After that pregnancy, though, I was parenting small kids while pregnant, so naps were not a thing much.

      7. allathian*

        Oof. I had to tell my then-manager that I was pregnant much earlier than I had planned because she found me asleep at my desk one day. She wasn’t very sympathetic to human failings, but that day she told me to go home early.

    6. Annony*

      Mine’s not so charming. At my first job I hung up a poster of Jim Varney’s Ernest P. Worrell (Trauth Dairy Commercials). And kept it up. Even though a co-worker complained that it creeped her out and was unprofessional. I thought it was funny. Oh gosh sometimes we look awful in the rear view mirror….

        1. Forty Years in the Hole*

          For our basic officer training – where we learn to be, you know, “professional” – we *had* to have a framed picture arranged “just so” on our bedside table – which is fine but they could’ve added that to the list of “kit you must bring” instead of making us all march down to the base exchange and buy something no one wanted/needed. Fine…
          So, I bought some local newspapers, and every day before inspection, I swapped out the generic framed picture with a different picture cut from the paper: a dog, car, tree, whatever…they didn’t really notice. Then I found a Jim Varney-as-Ernest picture. Well…that got some looks and smiles, but no extra duties.
          Passive-aggressive…moi?

      1. LyndaWithaY*

        I had returned to the office right after working my first trade show, having flown to another time zone and working six long days. Sometime mid-morning, I jolted awake, mortified to discover I had face-planted onto the desk. Luckily, I was in my cubicle and I don’t think anyone saw me. I learned to take at least half a travel day when possible.

    7. Mm*

      The CEO of our 8,000 person company responded to a question about nap pods (like Google has) with “I don’t understand, don’t most people just nap under their desk?”

    8. A Simple Narwhal*

      I don’t think the napping thing was a big deal! But I probably would have just done it without asking. If you have an office with a door and no one could see you, who can tell you what to do with your lunch break?

      It’s also infinitely better than what a former intern did, which was just put their head down on their desk in an open office and visibly go to sleep. My manager had to politely tell them to go to the wellness room if they needed to nap.

      1. TheRain'sSmallHands*

        One of my first jobs had little rest areas in the women’s bathrooms (I don’t know if they were in the men’s bathrooms as well) with a chaise lounge that was appropriate for napping. And lots of people took catnaps in there. People knew – after all, it was the women’s rooms so people were in and out all the time. But the thing with public space napping is that it tends to be “I have a headache” or “I’m pregnant” or something along those lines – if you were in there every day for a two hour nap – people would say something. The other thing was that it was a downtown office in a city with commuter bus service – i.e. there isn’t anyway to get home if you are ill in the middle of the day short of a taxi cab since the buses to the burbs only ran during rush hour.

        1. TJ*

          A friend of mine had an amusing related incident when she first got a job in London (she’s American). She needed to ask her boss where the bathroom was but wanted to sound professional/maybe vaguely knew Brits don’t say “bathroom.” So, mid-morning on her first day of work, she asked him to direct her to “the restroom.” He gave her a VERY strange look and said “there’s a couch in that room over there if you need to rest.” What a first impression!

      2. LPUK*

        I used to nap in my glass fronted office , but before I did so I would tuck my telephone receiver between my neck and shoulder, pull my filing drawer open and drape myself so that ( in my imagination at least), I looked like I was on the phone and had just reached down to check a file. Bonus point was no one could actually phone me as the receiver was off the hook

    9. Jaid*

      I just have a Chinese Year of the Tiger calendar and Holo Taco peelie bag (for paper clips!, my unit uses bags of paper clips) as my funky décor.

      Oh, and a little statuette of Ganesh sitting on my computer power bank. Reminder that all things are possible.

      1. Rainy*

        My office is decorated with unicorns and coffee paraphernalia. So many unicorns. So much coffee. I love it so much, and in the before times when I had clients in person and not on zoom, most people would come in, look around, and sort of instantly just look more relaxed. I think it reassured them to get a sense of who I am just by walking into my office.

      2. Al*

        For a moment I thought your peelie bag was full of peelies. Considering people’s reactions to grooming activities in the office, I can only imagine the horrified reactions!

    10. DataGirl*

      I used to lay down on a yoga mat on the floor in my open cubicle when I had a migraine or back pain. Sometimes I’d put my feet up on my chair, sometimes Id fall asleep for a few minutes. I felt fully justified since I was in pain, but looking back it was probably not great when managers would walk by to see this woman just hanging out on the floor.

      1. LPUK*

        I used to flake out on the desk with a coat over my head to block light for exactly this reason

      1. Loredena*

        Earlier in my career a coworker hung up a Hooters calendar in his office. I promptly hung a Fabio one in mine

    11. Shira VonDoom*

      I mean, my boss, the managing attorney of the firm, has an office full of comic book art and Funko Pops, so the Little Mermaid poster honestly seems fine, LOL

    12. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Mine was a Prince Caspian movie poster, because Ben Barnes is pleasant to look at. But I got away with it because I’m a children’s librarian. :)

      1. E. Chauvelin*

        Librarians can get away with a lot of décor that might seem odd in other settings. Children’s librarians especially, but two years ago when our library was about to shut down indefinitely because of the pandemic, another adult reference librarian and I moved our cubicle dragon figurines/toys, plus a moose-shaped stress ball that was vendor swag from some publisher, next to each other on my desk so they could help keep each other company while we were gone. When he saw it, our boss went and got his Yoshi from his office.

      2. Oolie*

        My Edna Mode bobblehead is considered professional because I’m a costume designer, right?

    13. Katie*

      Someone at my company that I didn’t know got in trouble for sleeping on one of the couches. His response was ‘But where am I supposed to sleep??’ This was many years ago but I still make fun of the question.

    14. Mockingdragon*

      OK I also hung up a little mermaid poster, but it was my second office job and no one had said anything at my first! I also had my small collection of My Little Pony figures which I used as fidgets, and which made me happy to look at. Gonna be honest. I refuse to call these things unprofessional. I did great professional work while being surrounded by color and happiness and now I do the same thing but at my house so no one can judge me on it.

    15. Nathalie*

      This just reminded me of myself at 23, working in an office for the first time and thinking I should put some decorations in my cubicle like everyone else. By that moment in time photos were mostly digital so I didn’t have any current print pictures of family and friends to frame, so instead I put up a framed photo of myself and my siblings when we were little. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that this made me look like I had four children.

      1. Bob-White of the Glen*

        On the other hand, people would have been understanding if you were caught napping.

    16. ThisIsNotMyName*

      More than once, I have blocked off times on my calendar to make it appear I was in meetings, locked myself in my office, and took a stealth nap. Sometimes for up to 3 hours. Insomnia and chronic fatigue should be covered as disabilities.

    17. MsKittyFantastico*

      I had “My Little Pony:Friendship is Magic” figurines proudly displayed on my monitor. All six of them. Nice, expensive ones. then covered my cubicle with 3d printed, hand-painted by me ones (and pokemon). If someone didn’t like it, no one Saif anything….but you can pry my Twighlight Sparkle and Pikachu out of my cold, dead hands… I’m 42.

      1. MsKittyFantastico*

        I had “My Little Pony:Friendship is Magic” figurines proudly displayed on my monitor. All six of them. Nice, expensive ones. then covered my cubicle with 3d printed, hand-painted by me ones (and pokemon). If someone didn’t like it, no one Saif anything….but you can pry my Twighlight Sparkle and Pikachu out of my cold, dead hands… I’m 42.

        ETA: I am a computer programmer, so this behavior is probably less unprofessional and more expected lol

      2. AnneC*

        Hey, I’m 43 and have a plush Pokemon (Umbreon), a collection of fidget spinners, and pictures of all my cats (one of them proudly wearing a little suit of leather armor I made for him) in my cube. Nobody bats an eye, and I am grateful to work somewhere we’re allowed to have a personality!

    18. Temperance*

      I have a vast collection of nerd shit in my office that’s way worse than a Disney poster, lol.

        1. allathian*

          Grogu rocks! I have a tiny Grogu (about 1 in high) stuck to my monitor at home with blu-tack.

    19. LavaLamp(she/her)*

      My first desk in my first job (I had a couple since they did a big renovation) was full of Monster High, Ever After High and other creepy dolls, toys, and various fun things. Since half of my coworkers were gamers, and one higher up dude went to SDCC every year and had really cool stuff in his office, no one batted an eye thankfully. Weirdly, a lot of people thought they were really cool. I was 19/20 at the time and everyone just sort of indulged me. After the reno my desk got much smaller so I took them home and started making miniatures instead that looked neat.

    20. Scary Teri*

      I used to work for a toy manufacturer so not only was it not weird but strongly encouraged to have a bunch of toys and plushies and even Funko Pop figures in my cubicle.

      1. LavaLamp(she/her)*

        Off topic, but I would love to work for a major toy company. I am still a kid at heart lol

    21. Buffy will save us*

      I may currently have two shelves of Funko Pops in my office (as a large dept. manager)

    22. toaster*

      I didn’t ask anybody; I just do it anyway. I bought myself a little nap roll with a built in pillow and blanket that I put under my desk. But I do have health issues that necessitate it and also a pretty informal workplace, so no one questions what I do on my breaks.

    23. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I had a snow globe from the movie Fargo on my desk. In addition to the figure of Marge Gunderson, it had a wood chipper with a foot sticking out, and some of the snow was red.

    24. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

      I would nap under my desk occasionally in grad school. But, you know, grad school.

    25. Trekkie4Life*

      I worked at very conservative finance company and as a college summer intern printed out (using the company printer of course) cute pictures of all my favorite TV and movie characters and hung them in my cube. The cat from Shrek and actors from Stargate were the most prominent, but full page color photo of Wesley Crusher is what haunts me to this day.

    26. Your Oxford Comma*

      I worked as a floorcovering installer in the late ‘7os, during a construction boom in mid/south Texas. I managed a team of 5 laborers. We worked large jobs, hotels, condo and apartment complexes, where every unit was virtually and often literally the same. It was boring, repetitive work, in the summer, sometimes in tiny bathrooms with no ventilation. The work was tough and the pay was great, and the after-hours partying was fun.

      One day, after an especially indulgent evening, I found myself still processing alcohol and feeling low. Once on the job site I gave my team their assignments. I found a finished apartment with a door, closed and locked it, and slept for 3 hours. My team never missed me. Ah, feckless youth.

    27. Lolllee*

      I had a manager throw a tantrum in front of me once, pounding his fists on his desk, shoving everything on the floor, throwing books and paper. He was yelling that he makes the decisions and the company would fail miserably if he left and on an on for 11 minutes. Longest tantrum of my life. I was trapped with him and his red face and flailing arms between me and the door not to mention airborne books and binders. It ended with him pounding his fists on the desk and yelling, “I’m important, God dammit!” I replied, “I’ll make you a t-shirt.” And left, walking on all the stuff he threw all over the floor. People gasp when I tell them this story and tell me I should/could have handled that more professionally.

      1. Englyn*

        Omg that’s up there in the top 10% of appropriate professional responses to that situation (also hilarious), do they think you should just have been a doormat? Anyone commenting that you should have been more professional has just shown themself to have very questionable judgement

      2. Luna*

        He wasn’t being professional, in general or to you directly, so why should you have to keep the polite professionalism up towards him?

    28. Lizzo*

      When I still worked in an office (in my late 20s/early 30s), there were several days where I did have to close my office door and lie down…usually because I had a raging headache or some sort of body aches. I’d always tell my boss (so that I wouldn’t be disturbed), and I would always set a timer. If she thought it was strange, she never let on…

    29. Student Placement Girl*

      re: Little Mermaid poster —
      Years ago, I was struggling in my job. I kept Management informed about the issues — they knew but didn’t care.
      So I stuck a huge full-colour picture of Flounder on my pinboard in hopes they’d get the hint.

      They didn’t.

      I resigned soon after.

      1. yalladopter*

        I taped up a printout of the “This is Fine” dog at my cube door for similar reasons… also didn’t help.

    30. Reluctant Manager*

      We had to tell a junior colleague that she needed to take down her “toxic masculinity spoils the party again” poster.

    31. Luna*

      I unintentionally fell asleep on my nightshift hotel reception job once.
      I put my head onto my arm on the desk, in an uncomfortable position, so that I wouldn’t fall asleep. But I must have been a lot more tired than I thought because I did end up falling asleep for about 45 minutes, not waking up until amost 6AM. Though that was the night where an alarm started sounding early into my shift, which probably took more energy to work through than I thought.

    32. Roo*

      I used to do this when I had my own office in a private school; the job was very high-pressured. One lunchtime one of the school porters unlocked my office door because they had received confidential materials (exam papers) which couldn’t be left unattended. After my lunch break I found it on my desk (which I had been asleep under) with a little note saying “For Sleeping Beauty”. Hehe

    33. FanOfBigfoot*

      I work in higher education administration (Executive Director level) and my office is in the suite of offices where the president and vice presidents are. I have Bigfoot all over my desk, but they’re the kind where they are so are artistic that you don’t really notice they are a bigfoot unless you really really look. And when you open my top storage area in the back I have a mugshot of Christian Slater in the movie The Heathers. It can get kinda serious in this suite of offices and I love it when some VP is being all dramatic and behind them is a hidden Sasquatch!

    34. Bookish Princess in my mind*

      I don’t consider The Little Mermaid unprofessional. I have a Belle wallet. The Disney company sells tons of merchandise specifically for adults and I’ve bought a fair bit, though my obsession is Beauty and the Beast. lol

    35. Clovenpine*

      I’m a contractor for a well-known Federal space agency, and I have an X-Files poster and a Special Agent Doctor Dana Katherine Scully Funko Pop figurine in my cubicle. My rocket scientist coworkers find it charming. :)

  2. TimeTravlR*

    Definitely not my proudest moment, but when I was about 19 my supervisor and I got into a screaming match (he was a screamer… so he kind of set the tone for the place, but it doesn’t excuse my behavior). At one point I told him to “Go F… yourself!” He turned around and stomped away and I did the same, right into a customer! I was so embarrassed. I apologized immediately to the customer. She smiled and said, “I’ve always wanted to do that.”

      1. Sarah in CA*

        After HS graduation, I got a job at a pizza place. It was a great place, owners worked there, everyone close friends, etc…

        Fast foward to a couple years later, I was not 21 quite yet so I couldn’t do anything with alcohol and that was the only thing holding me back from officially being made and paid as shift manager.

        Well, I guess they couldn’t wait anymore and hired someone new who rubbed me all the wrong ways. After a few months, I got upset over something trivial and complained to one of the owners, I was just so mad and jealous she had the job I wanted. It was not a good scene in the back room.

        I quit shortly after that to go to Taco Bell as assistant manager, and the two months there are a whole other adventure!

        1. Louisa*

          “You must save a lot of money BEING CHEAP.”

          Yeah, me, surly teen waitress, to the table of nursing students tipping a quarter a round on full trays of pints.

          It was 1979 at the Oxford Ale House in Harvard Square. Still underage myself but permitted to work booze because I was 19 when the drinking age went to 21, I got stiffed on tips a lot. Guys did it when I wore my glasses. Women did it… all the time. Harvard students were the worst, but nursing students were not great either. I got resentful sometimes.

          Nobody cared, of course. Another great moment from that establishment was seeing one of our bouncers kicking a guy in the head next to the sidewalk and telling him to “relax.”

          1. Fellow Bostonian*

            The cheapness of Boston restaurant patrons is kind of a shock. Friend took a waitressing job on Newbury Street and averages less in tips per shift than 40 miles south in the suburbs! H

    1. Eat My Squirrel*

      Oh man, I had forgotten about my teenage job transgressions… I spent a very short period of time as a door to door salesperson for the local newspaper. I was like 17 and took the job because the boss was hot and also, well, a salesman who sold me on the job. I ended up quitting when I found out that 1: the scholarship opportunity we used to guilt people into signing up for a subscription wasn’t real, and 2: I’m terrible at lying and sales.
      But in the meantime, my Hot Boss, who drove his crew around to different neighborhoods to sell to for the day, was always complaining about how stupid those concrete goose statues are, and saying how if anyone brought him the head of a concrete goose, we’d get a bonus. One particular crummy day of few sales, I found myself on the doorstep of a home with a concrete goose. Nobody answered the door, and as I stood there waiting and staring at the ground, I noticed that their goose’s head was already broken off and lying on the porch. I debated for a half a minute or so and then pocketed the decapitated goose head. When Hot Boss picked us up, I proudly presented him with this treasure. He… was not amused… I didn’t get in trouble, I think he realized it was his fault I’d done it, but I definitely did not get a bonus.

    2. Ace in the Hole*

      I have a reputation at work for being extremely even-tempered and “nice,” even with the rudest of customers. Which is generally true. But one day I was working alone and this customer was being a complete tool. Condescending, rude, arguing that the rules shouldn’t apply to him, etc. I tried explaining things professionally. I tried being nice, being firm, everything. He refused to listen and kept arguing with me saying “I don’t understand [blindingly simple rule].” It was a really busy day, I was super stressed doing three people’s work, and he’d been arguing with me for TWENTY MINUTES about a state law we have to follow while the line built up behind him all the way out to the street.

      Finally I snapped “That’s it, I’m done. No service for you. If you ‘can’t understand’ the rules by now you’re too stupid to come here by yourself. Now fuck off before I call the cops.” Customer was shocked. Said he’d report this to the manager. I told him to go right ahead, but it wouldn’t matter because I was the only one in the county who could legally provide the service he wanted right now and I wasn’t serving him. He left.

      I knew I was unprofessional and expected some kind of disciplinary action. That never happened. Turns out he did report the incident to management… and their response was “What? No, Ace would never behave that way. If she refused you service there must have been a darn good reason. Please don’t call us again.”

      1. Luna*

        Honestly, I have read such horror stories about how customers act towards retail employees, and management bending over for those same customers, I think if talking to them that way were more openly permitted and okay, it would actually cut down on a lot of this type of abuse.

      2. I edit everything*

        This is a perfect example of a lesson my father taught me: If you’re well behaved and responsible the majority of the time, you can get away with all kinds of things when you really need to.

  3. Allornone*

    Oh, dear.

    After having successfully blocked out most of my most embarrassing moments, this thread scares me. What if the memories come back? Noooooooo!

    1. A Beth*

      Ha, for real! I have spent too much time telling myself that embarrassing thing happened to someone else and I’m not the same person. I may have to just avoid this thread :)

      1. Allornone*

        Thanks! That is a great picture of Bette, although I imagine she took quite a few good pictures in her day. As for mine, it’s just one of the precious few pictures of me where I look halfway decent, taken by my significant other when I wasn’t paying attention. I made it black and white because, frankly, it just looked better that way.

    2. ariel*

      Right? I’m sure I did some incredibly stupid things in my 20s at work but have suppressed them all in favor of remembering the incredibly stupid things I did in my 20s in my personal life, in excrutiating detail, instead. Ha ha! Victory is mine!

    3. Sabina*

      Yeah, I posted the one story below but memories of others keep popping up. How did I forget smoking weed with my boss and coworkers at lunch while working a government job? Yikes!

  4. Amanda*

    I applied for a summer job between junior and senior year of college. I was late for the interview and when they asked what my strengths were I said “punctuality”. What an idiot.

    1. Shira VonDoom*

      AMAZING

      and here’s me trying to DODGE those questions in interviews, LOL. (ADHD poster child, the time blindness is real.)

    2. Ali + Nino*

      There’s a joke along these lines…
      Star-bellied sneetches are known for not being so bright. Sneetches without stars are known for not being very punctual.
      A star-bellied sneetch goes to a job interview, where the interviewer says, “I dunno, you sneetches without stars have a reputation for being late.” To which the star-bellied sneetch replies, “No, no! I’m a star-bellied sneetch, I’m stupid!”

    3. WhatAMaroon*

      Are you me? I wrote the interview time down wrong and was 15 minute late. They asked me my strengths and I said organization… With experience I should have asked if anything would have saved my first impression and just ended the interview.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I once showed up at a job interview half an hour late. I had rented a car and printed out driving instructions from MapQuest, then drove 60 miles in the wrong direction before realizing my mistake.

        Incredibly, they still called to make me an offer. They asked how much I’d been offered by other companies, so I answered honestly, thinking this would be the starting point for salary negotiations. Nope! They just wished me the best at the other company and hung up.

      2. Grace Less*

        Oh…yeah, I was like 45 minutes late to an interview because my GPS would take me in circles around the building, but not to the driveway. Eventually I had my spouse call them for directions. When I left, the person at the front said “do you need directions out? I didn’t give those to your spouse.”

        It turns out I got the job. I worked there for 10 years and everyone had printed directions next to their phones to provide, because this was a near daily occurrence! So…no need to hide behind spouse!

    4. Lucy Skywalker*

      That reminds me of my last day of 4th grade, when we had an assembly and the principal gave awards to various students. One of the categories was for perfect attendance, and one of the students who received the award wasn’t there that day!

    5. Not a mouse*

      I wrote “detail-oriented” as a skill on a job application wherein I wrote the year incorrectly for one of my previous jobs. I know this because they asked me about the year, so it must have been *obviously* wrong. (I do cut myself a little slack because I was in the place hand writing the application, instead of at home doing it online with leisure to check it over carefully.) (They hired me anyway.)

  5. Poffertjies!*

    I worked in a heart and vascular call center where I scheduled appointments and sent referrals to other offices. There was this one office who was very demanding and rude and all of their patient appointments were marked as urgent even though they weren’t. I hated my job there and I was checked out. One day the rude referring office called and demanded why one of their patients was scheduled next month instead of right away. I explained that was the next available appointment and it wasn’t really an urgent appointment (think consult for ongoing care as opposed to chest pain). The woman on the other line kept interrupting me and I did a high pitched, catty MEOW into the phone. She stopped taking and I finished my explanation. She said “ok. Thank you.” and hung up. I’m shocked I wasn’t reported. Not my proudest moment.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      Oh, I say. That sounds extremely cathartic, and like a lesson learned on her end!

      1. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

        I have a kid that likes the kids show Bluey and this made me think of one of the episodes and my eye twitched a little :))

    2. Sharkie*

      I love that. I worked in a call center for a health insurance company, and I was burnt out. When someone who is a pro level coach who is known for yelling at his players started yelling at me. I interrupted him and told him that he can yell at his players, but I will not allow it cause I am trying to help him and I know it is a power dynamic he is not used to, but him acting like this would NOT help the situation. He hung up on me after a string of curses. That call got pulled for call coaching and it made my mentor laugh.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        We have an occasional patron who is infamously condescending. My supervisor answered the phone one time and they were discussing what kind of material–we’re a research library–Condescending Man wanted, which turned out to be something we didn’t have in predigested form (meaning that Condescending Man would have to spend time researching it himself rather than having us just hand it over), and Condescending Man basically called my supervisor stupid. I don’t recall the exact wording but it was as flowery and convoluted as one would expect.

        Supervisor replied, “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to call back when you’re ready to be civil,” and hung up. We were given orders that if Condescending Man called back nobody was to deal with him but Supervisor because the rest of us definitely didn’t get paid enough to put up with that nonsense.

        I think he did call back but behaved better since the alternative was to never get the information out of us.

        1. Aunty Fox*

          I support this, I always tell my team if people are rude to you hang up, you aren’t here to take their crap.

        2. Sel*

          I am a librarian in a research library, and I have absolutely hung up on rude, condescending patrons. I really enjoy helping people, but the social contract works both ways!

    3. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      Not me but my team lead had to take over a customer call for another rep because the person was escalating. As she was talking with him she kept saying Meow instead of now. Like “we can’t do that right meow, but we can give you X.” The customer was confused and said “did you just say right meow?” and my team lead just went with it, no I said right Meow. Like it was a speech problem or something. It worked wonderfully to deescalate the situation because the customer was angry (for no reason just being entitled). But it’s not something someone should do as a de-escalation tactic.

    4. Mrieke89*

      I’m very sorry, but can I ask; why the spelling error in poffertjes? It’s probably a joke but it’s driving me nuts, so I thought I’d ask.

  6. KofSharp*

    Let’s see…
    1.) Surveying a job, fell down a 12 foot culvert, swore colorfully all the way down… fielding partner laughed his ass off. (I was ok but filthy)
    2.) Brought cards against humanity to a work happy hour WITH PERMISSION and found out my GrandBoss is hilarious
    3.) Accidentally submitted my draft process document that said “this is made so y’all have a quick reference instead of asking me the same exact question an hour later”
    4.) Warned new people that coming fielding with me usually ends up in at least one story. (Not my fault, but any time I’m out doing survey work, I usually have 1 cat-call, 1 person try to physically run us over, 1 person with a gun, and 2-3 dog encounters)

        1. Lynca*

          I get that alot. I usually don’t swear and it takes /a lot/ to get me to the point to break that professional line.

          I’ve had several people in the field be very suprised I can swear like a sailor. I once walked into a drilling spoils pit that wasn’t marked off and some colorful things were said. I was up to my hips in wet soil and miserable.

          1. SloanGhost*

            It’s a great example of “people hear what they expect to hear”–people are SHOCKED when they actually notice I’ve dropped a bomb, but I swear fluently…they’re just used to thinking of me as a calm, mild-mannered person, so they don’t NOTICE most of the time.

      1. Generic Name*

        Yeah, I was doing some fieldwork where I had to walk through a very dense thicket of bushes. Every time I got caught up in a bush, I quietly (I thought) said “dammit!”. Apparently the sound carried a ways and my coworker some distance away could hear. No big deal, except the client was with us and could presumably also hear me swearing. Ha.

        1. janeric*

          Awww, I was running a transect parallel to a coworker in heavy brush, and I could hear him swearing. As I got closer, I could make out words. “FRICK. FRACK. Frickin’ FRACK.”

          At the end of the transect I asked “how’d running that tape go? Sounds like you had some trouble?”
          “Thicker than peanut butter in there.”

    1. KofSharp*

      I can’t believe I forgot this one from my first job:
      I was being micromanaged and shouted at for wearing headphones during a client training that no one else wanted to hear. Everyone else was out for lunch while I was on this training (I thought) and the guy who’d been shouting at me walked past my desk 10 times in 5 minutes.
      So… I banged my hands on my desk like the gif of the cat who realized his report is due at midnight and it’s 11:58 pm.
      The micromanager stopped, turned around, and came back to stare after I stopped and I just looked at him, shrugged, pointed to the virtual client training, and went back to it.
      I’d already begun looking for a new job at that point and I did NOT care.

      1. Le Sigh*

        Sometimes that’s what you have to do! In my case, office job running reception. Our manager had lectured everyone into the ground about not hanging out at the front desk and/or talking loudly, because he didn’t want customers or company higher-ups to hear people goofing around. Fair enough. Except he would come up to the front desk area and loudly chat with other people, which, okay whatever, eye roll. Until one day when I had a difficult repeat customer on the phone; I just wanted to get the info so I could finish with them. The manager was just yammering away and I had to ask this extremely frustrating customer to repeat themselves several times, while waving my hands around, snapping, doing ANYTHING to get the manager’s attention to quiet down. Nothing worked. Finally put the customer on mute and slammed my fist on my desk. The manager looked startled, then like he was gonna kill me, until I pointed to the phone, mouthed, “BE QUIET” and our other manager ushered him to the door and told him to knock it off. I think she was afraid I would lose it.

    2. RPOhno*

      1 sounds like when I used to collect surface water samples on a site built in the middle of wetlands prior to wetlands regs. One time I made the mistake of wearing khakis… the first words out of my mouth, to my department director, when I came back to the office, covered in burs and thorny twigs, splattered with black swamp muck, and with a boot full of gross water, were “I’m changing my f%$#*@& pants.”

      1. KSharpie*

        Unfortunately my fielding partner that day was my boss for the office/design side of the job and he hadn’t been in the field for over 10 years. He’d “forgotten”

    3. quill*

      Fieldwork is one place where professionalism ends up out the window and knee deep in mud.

    4. ScruffyInternHerder*

      I feel like there’s a different bar for “unprofessional” for field-work related.

      1. I’ve made an ironworker blush before.
      2. CAH makes regular appearances at the lunch table
      3. Have informed the interns (that my name references) to either figure out the seating arrangements in MY vehicle or I was planting both their @$$es in my kids’ booster seats because they were arguing like my kids anyhow.
      4. I’ve determined that several trades do not have the capacity to blush or be shocked in general.
      5. I’ve told a field work partner that the object of the day is to get the work done AND not get shot at.

      1. Pdweasel*

        Same in forensics. I work in a morgue, so skull décor is pretty standard. One coworker has a Chucky doll in their office and that barely blips on the radar.

      2. Dinwar*

        Yeah, there’s definitely a different attitude. The running joke is, if HR ever found out how we act in the field we’d all be fired. Possibly out of a cannon, into the sun. After you put in 12 hours a day, 10 days a week with someone, save each other’s lives a few times, and the like, one’s concept of professional norms tends to shift.

        Makes life fun when I get to spend time in a real office. I have to keep reminding myself “Do not use driller-speak around senior members of the C-suite” and the like. It usually takes me about a month to fully shift gears.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Oh, that switch is hell. I went from a jobsite to the main office (sharing a wall with the owner) when things went sideways in 2009. My language, and my attempts to NOT use jobsite language, was definitely a source of amusement for him.

    5. KateM*

      Aaaah! Just what Allornone was afraid of!

      Once it happened that, inspired by another CV I saw, I had added to my CV a section of additional courses taken. I set down the list approximately as I remembered, thinking I will look up the exact titles later. And forgot. And that’s how I sent off a CV for a summer camp teacher position with:
      Courses:
      violence
      first aid
      something else

      1. KateM*

        Just in case – “violence” stood for a course on how to recognize when a student is suffering from domestic violence and what to do, and “something else” was a course about how to teach kids ethical values.

      2. Interview Coming Up*

        Omg this is amazing. I chuckled out loud and your story has already made my day better. I’m redoing my resume constantly these days and this could be me.

    6. ferrina*

      #4 is so real! My mom is like this- any time she goes on vacation, disaster is guaranteed to strike! One year it was record snow fall; another year it was a huge windstorm…now her coworkers plan on having overtime when they see her vacation on the schedule.

    7. Random Biter*

      I love working in the trades. OldJob was pretty buttoned up…none of my tats could show and someone actually suggested a swear jar until I said I’d have to just sign over my paycheck. Don’t get me wrong, I know when to NOT swear but the look on the EA’s face was priceless when after a very irritating sequence of events involving everything I had just explained to the person involved the day before I raised my fists to the heavens and said, “What the ACTUAL fuck is happening?!” The EA didn’t think “old” people knew those words. The owner, (and her boss), on the other hand said to me, “I wish I fucking knew.” Yay, old people!

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Reminds me of a story – one of our foremen ran into my doppelganger (no really, we’re friends and our MOTHERS do spit-takes when we’re together) on a site, not realizing it wasn’t me. Because why wouldn’t it be? Except she works there. So he hits the office all full of cranky, since he did need me to handle things, grousing his head off, yells that I ignored him, and then asks me when I got the tattoo on the nape of my neck?

        I don’t have one. She does. Tell him so. He flips my hair up, hilarity and cursing ensues (over the mistaken identity, over his touching my hair, over me slapping him…you get the idea) including him yelling “what the ACTUAL fuck?!?!”

      2. SixTigers*

        If someone suggested “a swear jar” to me, people down the hall would hear me laughing — just before I quieted down enough to say, “Fuck, no.”

    8. Yay, I’m a Llama again!*

      Google ‘Fieldwork Fails, Jim Jourdane’ – he made a book of all the examples he collected from scientists and it’s so funny!

    9. E. Chauvelin*

      Cards Against Librarianship is a thing that exists, or once did, as a free download. It doesn’t get as NC-17 as Cards Against Humanity but some of it would earn a soft R rating. I brought it to an after hours department party once and not only does it now get requested, but the boss at that time asked to borrow my deck for a management party, and when she left the external relations manager asked me for the files so he could print up a nice laminated set as a farewell gift.

  7. Oops*

    Not my proudest moment… I’m disabled and so ask for help from coworkers to move boxes of office supplies that have been delivered. My former boss (without me asking) grabbed up one of the boxes and stalked off to the back with it. When I followed to unpack it, he told me, “I shouldn’t be f-ing doing this. I’m not getting any f-ing younger. This is your f-ing job.” About 120000% done with his nonsense, I snapped at him that “I’m not getting any less f-ing disabled. Help or don’t, but either way, stop whining about it.”

    1. Belle of the Midwest*

      If anyone should be embarrassed by this story it’s the asshat boss, not you. Your response was perfect, f-bomb and all.

    2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      This is one of those those that being ‘unprofessional’ was the absolute appropriate and perfect response.

      Also kudos to you for thinking of it on the spot instead of at 3am the next morning.

    3. 1-800BrownCow*

      Seriously, this should be “my proudest moment” and drop the “not” from the beginning of your post. You boss was a jerk and something like what you said is exactly what he needed.

    4. Iroqdemic*

      Agree this is a story about your boss being unprofessional, not you. Well done with the comeback- I always think of those things 2 hours after the event happened.

    5. Unkempt Flatware*

      I just pumped my fist and if this were me, I’d never ever stop pumping my fist until the day I die.

    6. Betsy Bobbins*

      Your boss was a jackass and your are my hero! Please let us know how he responded, it’s too delicious not to know.

    7. Cats Are Really Fuzzy*

      Agree with everyone, that is completely appropriate and I’m glad you said something !

  8. Barkley D.*

    Is it bad that I still put on makeup in my office once in awhile? I have a really far commute and have to wake up so early—I don’t always have enough time to do my make up before leaving the house!

    1. Hills to Die On*

      uhmm…I do this. I am in an end cube with not a lot of people nearby. And the lighting is so good since I am next to a window…

        1. As per Elaine*

          I also (pre-COVID) really wondered about the people who put on makeup on the subway. Though I am also impressed at anyone who can do reasonable makeup under such conditions; it is not a smooth ride.

          1. JMR*

            I’ve had the same thought! People putting on make-up on public transportation don’t bother me, but I do marvel at it. I’d 100% end up stabbing myself in the eyeball with the mascara wand.

            1. Empress Penguin*

              I have put on make up on a moving train before and I *did* stab myself in the eyeball with my mascara wand. It’s not a great look.

          2. Gerry Keay*

            One of my proudest moments when I was living as a woman was applying make up (including mascara) on a moving NYC subway and receiving a round of applause from the women sitting across from me.

          3. Pam Poovey*

            I was once on a very lurchy A train in NYC and watched this woman standing in stilettos put on flawless eyeliner and mascara. Wherever that absolute queen is now, I hope she’s thriving.

    2. kittymommy*

      Ehh, I think it’s more the cubicle than anything. I do this when I have an event after work. I’ll go in my bosses office (no one is here, btw) and change, straigten my hair, touch up my makeup. What’s weird is for some reason I will only use the office for my female boss, not my male bosses. I don’t know. I know it’s not different but it still seems weirder.

    3. lb*

      I think the distinction is between keeping a drawer full of makeup AND hair implements vs bringing your makeup case in your purse occasionally!

    4. anonymous73*

      Once in a while isn’t a big deal, but if you’re coming in every day and spending the first 30 minutes of your time at work applying your makeup, then it’s a problem.

    5. Daisy-dog*

      I pictured it from OP as a huge event with everything splayed out all over the place and even on top of work documents. And probably using a lot of focus, but also just casually taking her time. If you have an efficient system to do everything pretty quickly without a big show of a huge makeup case, then that’s fine.

    6. Meow*

      Back in the day, it was totally normal for women to touch up their makeup throughout the day. If I saw someone doing their makeup at work, I honestly would just think, “wow, they’re really committed to keeping their makeup nice” in a good way.

      But I also work in an office full of dudes who think it’s appropriate to cut their nails at work, so my standards may be a little off… I would much rather see people doing their mascara than see fingernail clippings fly everywhere. As long as you’re not one of those people with makeup caked in their phone earpiece, gag.

      1. Le Sigh*

        “an office full of dudes who think it’s appropriate to cut their nails at work” WHY IS THERE AT LEAST ONE OF THESE PEOPLE IN EVERY OFFICE? IT’S A QUIET CUBE FARM AND IT’S 9AM, JOSH, TAKE THAT TO THE BATHROOM OR I WILL END YOU.

      2. Not a mouse*

        I was once moved to a much nicer office, which was great, but I did have to seriously clean the phone which was literally caked with foundation from the previous occupant.

    7. Fluffy Fish*

      Depends. Are you doing full on makeup at work that takes a considerable amount of time (20-30 minutes or more), or are you swiping on some mascara and lipstick in less than 5 minutes?

    8. HE Admin*

      I have a full makeup drawer at work (in a cubicle). I walk to work and that means in the summer in my hot and humid city, it has all melted off my face by the time I get there if I do it at home. It takes about 5-10 minutes for me to do it and there’s no hair products going on.

      No one in my office cares, but I could see this very much being an issue in other places.

    9. Hats Are Great*

      I have a small-but-complete make-up kit in my desk drawer. I don’t wear make-up often but I have it available in case I have a zoom call and I’m looking like a zombie, or I have to go to a client meeting and need to be a bit more polished. I don’t think it’s weird at all to quickly apply it at my desk (especially if I preview myself on zoom and want to quickly touch myself up), although if I’m doing something more elaborate or full-face, I’ll go to the bathroom to do it.

      The light in my office at certain times of day makes my eyes virtually disappear, so most often I’m swiping on a quick neutral eyeshadow just so I have normal human features. Sometimes zit cover up.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I’ve always done this too. I keep it in my tote bag, along with a small straightening iron, to touch up after lunch or if the weather is detrimental to my makeup or hair. A quick swipe of powder and/or lipstick can be done at my desk.

        I can also use it to transition to evening if I have a date after work—a good time to schedule first dates, since I’m already semi-dressed up and “I have to get up early for work” is a convenient way to end it if it isn’t going well.

    10. Office Lobster DJ*

      I’ve fallen out of the habit of wearing makeup since masks became a thing, but yeah, for awhile I would do my makeup at work daily. I’d get in and, once anything urgent was dealt with, then grab my bag and wander off to the bathroom for 5 minutes or so. No one commented that on my return I seemed to have grown eyebrows, so I guess it was fine.

    11. Jean*

      I touch up lipstick and freshen up powder if I’m shiny while sitting at my desk. I wouldn’t do a full face though, at least not at this office. I have worked in offices where the vibe was such that I wouldn’t have worried about it.

    12. Mortified Moron*

      I was 23 in a new role with a new boss at a company I had worked at for two years already. It was my boss’ birthday and in a meeting she said she was 42 and I said, “wow, that’s how old my dad is!”
      I didn’t mean it as horrible as it sounded… It was so bad. I quit pretty soon after that.

      Ugh I have so many bad ones from my 20s. I was an idiot.

  9. Kelche*

    Crying in a team meeting! At my first professional job I remember crying in a team meeting because I was so frustrated by someone else that I thought wasn’t doing their fair share. The meeting wasn’t about that, I don’t remember what it was about, but I remember crying for what looked like absolutely no reason to anyone else. Also giving my boss the cold shoulder for weeks when I wasn’t happy with how he handled something.

    1. hiptobesquared*

      As someone who has cried in a meeting about a personal issue… I feel this. I just sat there with tears rolling down my face in front of everyone.

    2. Suspicious Character*

      Sometimes crying happens! I tend to cry more when I’m super angry than for any other reason.

      As far as work crying goes, though – about 10 years ago when I was still working as an executive assistant, a very good friend of mine who had been sick for a long time took a very bad turn. I was at work when I got the news that she’d passed away. It was close to the end of the day and I was holding it together pretty well until my boss (C-suite) called me into her office to talk about a report I’d compiled for her.

      She gave me a couple of fairly low-level corrections to the work, things I probably should have caught, and added, “This is the kind of error I’d like you to be able to find and correct yourself in the future” – not even in a mean way, pretty much in exactly the way Allison would tell you to say something like that!

      And I burst into tears instantly – big, bawling ugly-cry tears. And I just couldn’t stop! I didn’t even feel it coming on, I felt like I was keeping my cool right up until my cool picked up and left the state. I tried to apologize multiple times while still not managing to stop crying, and SHE tried to apologize and assure me that my work overall was FINE, and she really liked me, and I was GREAT really — it’s actually kind of hilarious looking back on it.

      I finally managed to sob out what was actually going on, so she did figure out I didn’t just break into hysterical sobbing over a little constructive criticism. Then I tried to leave, and she pushed a box of tissues into my hand and practically blocked the door. I can only imagine she was thinking about the optics of having her assistant flee her office sobbing in front of all her staff… :D

      It ended well – she was really great about it, very understanding, and I continued to work for her until she left the organization. I actually still work there now. But for a few minutes there I was absolutely certain I was completely fired.

      1. allathian*

        I can relate. I pretty much always cry when I’m angry or frustrated. I can’t even remember when I last cried because I was sad. I’m not even sure I’ve ever done it as an adult, unless I did it when I was reading or watching a movie. I mean, people think I’m callous because I can’t even manage to squeeze out a tear at funerals.

        1. BawlingOverHere*

          Oh, I cried once when being castigated by my manager, who was a horrible person and probably enjoyed watching me break down. She was in the wrong, I was so pissed I cried.

          I told her my MIL died that week/month/recently. It was true, it just wasn’t the reason for the crying. I just couldn’t let her believe she made me cry.

  10. Anon for this*

    Many years ago, I worked for a staffing agency. We had an exclusive contract to provide contract workers to a large pharmaceutical company that had several locations in our area. Part of my job involved doing periodic site visits to check in with our contract workers and the customers who managed them day-to-day.
    One day I arrived at a site (this is back when everyone still wore business attire most of the time) and had to use the restroom when I arrived. Afterwards, I spent a good 30 minutes strolling around, saying hello to people I knew, etc. Finally one of my contractors took me aside and informed me that my skirt was tucked into my pantyhose so that my bare behind was exposed for all to see. Yes, I had been walking all around the site with my backside fully exposed.

    1. Artemesia*

      It is a rule of the universe that the first women who sees this HAS to rush up and correct it. I am so grateful to the women in the restroom at the Lyric Opera who prevented me from strolling out that way during intermission.

      1. 15 years older and wiser*

        Agreed! I had my skirt do something similar and a very kind coworker (who I didn’t even know well) fixed it for me in the bathroom before I walked out like that. So grateful.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        The Woman Who Mooned Atlanta. Still think of this episode when adjusting dress clothes.

    2. Super Anon*

      Ooh, I’ve done this. Except I was walking to work, and it was a school bus driver who finally leaned out the window and told me I had a wardrobe issue (and yes, the school bus was full of kids).

    3. Dust Bunny*

      I did this at a music festival. I was wearing a dress with a full skirt and waist ties, and one of the ties got caught in the waistband of my underwear. Fortunately, another woman saw it and pounced before I got very far. I tied the ties shorter after that.

    4. Nathalie*

      This happened to me earlier this year, and I was wearing a pair of bright orange TomboyX boxer briefs with an octopus print.

    5. Solidarity*

      This happened to me in high school.
      Cue upperclassman yelling “That girl’s naked!”.
      Umm, I wasn’t naked, but 30 years later does it still feel like it happened yesterday? Yup!

    6. Rogue Paginator*

      Oof, I worked at a bank, and one of the ladies had this amazing natural runway style saunter. Well, she sauntered her way out of the bathroom across the full lobby with her skirt tucked up in her pantyhose. One of the other girls tackled her with her blazer held out in an attempt to cover her, and they both collapsed in a heap just in front of the teller line. After that we put a sign on the bathroom door that was something to the effect of “check your butt for a breeze before you leave”

    7. Tuna Casserole*

      This happened to me at a conference years ago. Walking into the auditorium for the keynote address, the guest speaker took me aside and said “My dear, you are indelicate” in a beautiful British accent. She then untucked my dress.

      1. Anonym*

        Oh goodness, I love this phrasing. I might be confused if it was said to me, but I love it nonetheless.

      2. Summer*

        This happened to me while coming out of a restaurant’s bathroom when my skirt got tucked into my Spanx. I will be eternally grateful to the woman who ran up to me to tell me before I walked too far into the restaurant. Thank you, kind lady, wherever you are!

      1. saf*

        Your user name – There is a church up the street with a mostly central American congregation. Their sign says “Jesus es El Señor.” My husband insists on reading it as “Jesus is the man!”

    8. Charlotte*

      This happened to my aunt when she was in a meeting with a certain London mayor who is now PM!

  11. Elder Millennial*

    This still haunts me 15 years later… when I was 17 I worked for the summer as a nursing home aide wearing mostly scrubs, but Friday was “casual Friday”. One Friday I wore a T-shirt that said in BIG letters, “Hey Boston, there is no curse your team just sucks” (I was trying to be into baseball for a minute). My supervisor called me into her office and told me the shirt was inappropriate and I needed to turn it inside out – but it was a white shirt with red letters so you could totally still read it. I ended up having to go find a sweater from the box of unclaimed resident items from the laundry room. I was mortified.

    Maybe writing about it here will give me some closure!!

    1. Dust Bunny*

      My college used to have T-shirt that said on the front: “Where the Hell is [school]?”
      . . . and on the back: “Who the Hell cares?”

      I have never worn that one to school t-shirt day.

      1. Pam Poovey*

        Grinnell?

        I remember counselor wearing a “where the hell is Grinnell” shirt when I was at camp as a kid but he had put a piece of tape that said “heck” over it. Don’t ask me WHY something from like 1996 stuck in my brain when I barely know what I had for breakfast this morning but it did.

    2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I would have asked how is it inappropriate? It’s not like it had curse words or anything. Boss was probably just a Redsox fan.

      1. Elder Millennial*

        I assumed she took issue with the word “sucks”, which was in all caps. My dad used to have an issue with us using that word when we were kids too. But I was young and too nervous to say anything except to apologize profusely and go put on an old lady’s sweater!

      2. This is a name, I guess*

        Well, I’d say that wayyyyyy back in, say, the year 2000 (when the Red Sox were still “cursed”), I remember that “sucked” was still borderline in terms of being a swear word. Back then, it wasn’t completely abstracted and was instead still assumed to mean that the Subject “sucked” something. It was in the process of changing, but it hadn’t completely made the transition.

        This is doubly true, given that OP was working at a nursing home, where clients likely had more old school views on the profanity of “suck.”

        Also, it’s kind of an antagonistic shirt. Do you want to be antagonistic to old people?

        1. Le Sigh*

          Yeah, my mom really disliked that word and would get on our case for using it. We all still use it as adults and she kind of just gave up, especially since — despite her best efforts — we all pretty regularly use four letter words at the family dinner table. Sucks probably seems tame compared to my siblings and I yelling “what the f****** f*** is wrong you, you f*****!” at a game on TV.

        2. Wisteria*

          I don’t, but it has nothing to do with them being old and everything to do with them being people. Age should not signify.

        3. MigraineMonth*

          I had an English teacher in high school that tried to get us to stop saying “sucks”, but the train had already left the station. It was just used interchangeably with “uncool” and none of us even realized it had a sexual meaning until he tried to get us to stop using it.

          1. Sal*

            THIS precisely! I remember the day in mid-elementary school when I told my mom’s boss that something sucked (which was basically the mid-elementary school, slightly-cooler-and-more-adult version of the hopelessly babyish “stinks”) and being read the riot act (I think by my mom? Possibly by one of her co-workers? It was a casually enmeshed and mildly toxic environment), who then EXPLAINED the sexual connotation, which had literally never occurred to me before.

        4. A Wall*

          I remember getting suspended from school in 1998 or so because I was working on a project in the hallway and said of my work “this sucks” to another student, which a passing teacher overheard and flipped her lid about. She was very, very adamant that this was a serious curse word I needed to be immediately taken to the office for saying on school grounds.

      3. This is a name, I guess*

        I’m also unsure of your age and/or geographic location, but as an Older Millennial and former Masshole, I can report that there was A LOT of animosity between Boston and NY fandoms around this time. Like, people would get into fistfights and shouting matches. This wasn’t a quirky, jokey graphic tee: it was part of a complicated rivalry that, for some, played out in the physical world in very serious ways.

        This podcast talks about the whole rivalry and the tshirts industry that erupted around it: https://30for30podcasts.com/episodes/yankees-suck/

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          It was around this time that one of my coworkers insisted that his poor reputation in the organization wasn’t because he was refusing to do his assigned tasks and being rude to upper management, it was because he was a Red Sox fan and his Yankee fan coworker was spreading rumors about him.

        2. IndustriousLabRat*

          Current proud Masshole who was at UMass Amherst, AKA ZooMass, first as a student, then as a labtech, from 1997-2010. Baseball riots were a real THING. Quite violent and dangerous. Campus Police have several large and imposing horses trained in crowd work for a reason.

          The joke was that if you wanted to commit semi-passive auto insurance fraud, simply put a bunch of Yankees stickers on your unwanted vehicle and park it at the Southwest Horseshoe during a Sox-Yanks series, and wait… some ruffian would be along in due time to flip it and/or set it on fire…

          1. This is a name, I guess*

            I’m from around there. I went to college in Northern New England in the mid-2000s (right after the Sox won their first World Series) and was appalled that so many of my classmates were disgusting, horrible, no-good, very-bad Yankees fans and felt sooooo conflicted about even wanting to be friends with them for, like, 5 minutes. Then, I stopped watching sports entirely because I wasn’t trapped in a rural crap town with no peers anymore and there were ways for me to “be” in the world that actually fit my vision of myself.

            Now, I live in the midwest, and I’m like, “OMG YOU’RE AN EASTCOASTER I LOVE YOU SO MUCH WE HAVE SO MUCH IN COMMON” whenever I meet someone from NY/NJ/CT.

          2. Lizzo*

            Thank you for the lovely trip down memory lane, and for the excellent chuckle about insurance fraud.
            You could probably pull off the same thing if you put some Michigan stickers on your car and left it outside the stadium after a Michigan State athletic event. That rivalry definitely hasn’t dwindled.

        3. Lucy Skywalker*

          I’m an Xennial (too young to be Generation X, too old to be a millennial) and a lifelong Masshole and I remember the Yankees Suck chant and T-shirts all too well!

      4. Cringing 24/7*

        Were I the manager, I would have called it inappropriate for the simple fact that it intends to demean. It just feels unprofessional. “Sucks” isn’t a curse word, but it generally has no reason to have to be read at work outside of those in the vacuum industry.

        1. Elder Millennial*

          Oh it was 100% unprofessional on more than one count, really. As a manager myself today, I would definitely not let someone wear that shirt at work. I cringe at teenage me.

          1. Cringing 24/7*

            Ugh, I cringe at my younger, less professional self literally all the time. And for the record, my comment was not at all an attempt to mansplain to you why this was unprofessional, but rather a response to “I’m Just Here For The Cats!” who asked how it’s inappropriate. I saw your response and was worried I came across as rudely directing criticism at you.

        2. allathian*

          I giggled at the vacuum industry. Way back when they first went international, Swedish vacuum/appliance manufacturer Electrolux used the slogan “Nothing sucks like Electrolux!” in their international marketing.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      This is more recent, but confusing none the less. So I work in a med records unit, and we never see patients at all. Mon through Thurs is expected to be fairly professionally business casual, but Friday was casual day – so break out the (always still work appropriate) concert Tshirts. Boss felt all of the following “were obscene” and not to be work again:

      – Chicago “Color My World” with a rose dropped in different pastel paint colors
      -Aerosmith (literally just the name of the band on a plain color shirt)
      -REO Speedwagon “Time For Me To Fly” printed in cursive and surrounded by butterflies
      – Def Leppard “Bringing on the Heartbreak” again in cursive over a cut in half purple heart
      – Paul McCartney (just a silhouette of his profile holding his guitar)

      Oh, and this was in 2020 – I was really confused how these were obscene, but the bloody, gory Wolverine V Deathpool battle scene on another coworkers T-shirt was just peachy.

      1. Lady Luck*

        I guess because some people still feel that rock and roll music is somehow inappropriate…but even that’s a stretch. I think your boss is a little nutty.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Oh she was – the sad thing is I’m late 30’s so only Aerosmith realistically (given all their 90’s hits) was one I could have known. She was in her mid 50’s

          She moved on “to a job more in line with my multiple degrees” about a month after she vetoed the Paul McCartney shirt. Yeah, that’s a quote from her goodbye letter – I don’t miss her at all.

          1. pancakes*

            That is so weird. And confusing, yeah. These are classic rock bands at this point! And none are known for having dark imagery on album covers or t-shirts or whatnot to my recollection, even apart from the obviously not-dark imagery on your particular shirts.

          2. allathian*

            Ugh, I suspect favoritism in some way. Maybe she really liked or had a crush on the coworker who wore the Wolverine vs. Deathpool shirt, or something…

            Did you ever get the feeling that she simply disliked you, and picked on your t-shirts for that reason?

    4. BeachMum*

      I own a shirt that says “As a matter of fact, going to (My University) does make me better than you.” I wear it while working out at home, but have never worn it outdoors, even when I attended said University. (I do think it’s funny, though.)

  12. PeePee Halpert*

    More a funny story, than intentionally unprofessional, but…
    Was informed of a stain of the back of my dress which turned out to be my butt through a ripped seam. It was an older lady who pointed it out and she wasn’t wearing her glasses. She actually poked me in the butt through the rip and said “it’s……..uh………uh…….your buns…..it’s your butt.”
    I’m an admin and of course everyone arrived seconds later to the meeting and I had to walk sideways with my butt to the wall around the room to get out and go sew it in my office.

    1. Industrial Tea Machine*

      This made me laugh out loud. I’m imagining the thought bubble above the older lady’s head of “Oh no I should not have poked that!”

    2. Erin*

      Lolololololl at this!!

      The awkwardness + your co-worker’s impromptu fact finding mission = awesome!

    3. Stitch in Time*

      A colleague had a small rip in her shirt. Nothing bad but she had a meeting with a client and was self-conscious about it. She asked around the office and not a single person had a little sewing kit tucked in their drawers – except me. Do people these days not plan for such emergencies any more? Having one in a drawer it was once the norm, but guess it’s my age showing. I mean… why wouldn’t you?

      1. it's-a-me*

        Saw a colleague hold her pants together with a creative amalgamation of paperclips and bulldog clips once.

      2. Nanani*

        Depends on age and location but a lot of us literally do not know how to use a sewing kit, or where to get one. Sewing is not part of schooling, thanks to relentless cuts to things like home economics classes.

        1. Kindling*

          For anyone who might fall into this category, you can put together a kit for less than $5 and learn enough to get through a minor wardrobe crisis in 5 minutes. For the kit, buy a needle (better yet, one thin and one thick one – use the thicker one for difficult fabrics like jeans). Add a few spools of thread in the colors you wear most often, and a spare button or two. Tiny scissors are handy, but there’s generally something else available to cut thread – even teeth in a pinch. You might be able to find a premade kit, but that’s really all you need!

          For the learning, a quick YouTube search for hand sewing will give you lots of good short tutorials. Unless you just split your entire seat open, most basic stitches should get you through the day. It might not look 100% professional, but it will be a big step up from a split seam, missing button, or garments that gape open a bit too much.

      3. HBJ*

        I do a ton of garment sewing as well as alterating and repairing RTW clothes of mine, but no, it never occurred to me to have one of these with me at work.

  13. Warrior Princess Xena*

    Reasonably mild example, but I still flinch while thinking about it.
    My firm had a winter party. There were still pandemic restrictions on having indoor events, so it was outside. There was an outdoor ice skating rink set up in a tent with frosted plastic walls and next to it in another tent were heaters and tables and a serving hatch where we could order food & drinks on the company tab. I decided I wanted to do some ice skating first. I didn’t realize that there was going to be a ‘thank you for all of your hard work’ speech from one of the firm’s partners until I looked up and saw everyone else standing and listening to the partner – and watching me bumble around on ice skates behind him through the transparent wall. No one said anything but I definitely felt as if I’d missed the professionalism mark.

    1. Mm*

      I once walked into our 15-ish person cubicle farm with my dress tucked into the back of my underwear. A friend grabbed me and told me immediately, but I had already walked by lots of people. It’s mortifying to this day.

    2. Meow*

      I totally get it, that is one of those things where you did absolutely nothing wrong and yet it still ends up being mortifying.

    3. quill*

      This is ludicrously funny, and also one of my recurring nightmares. (Not skating, specifically, but “everyone else knows about major event & I’m a fool”)

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Oh man, I can see me doing this because I too would have made a beeline to the rink.

    5. Jean*

      I love this. Such a funny image and I can totally see myself doing this exact thing.

  14. Anonymous for this*

    I was a reading intervention specialist, working with teachers to help them plan lessons for students in their classrooms who weren’t reading at grade level. One teacher I worked with kept insisting to me, proudly, that if a student entered her classroom unable to read in September, that student would leave the classroom unable to read in June.

    Nonetheless, I met with her on a teacher work day (no students) and went over some interventions and mini-lessons she could do, and ways she could scaffold instruction for those students.

    She looked at me in disbelief and said “You can’t really expect me to do all that.”

    I replied, “I don’t give a flying f*** what you do.”

    I heard she reported me to the superintendent, but he never mentioned the matter to me.

    1. merula*

      What the heck???

      I would hope the superintendent heard the complaint and realized from the story that she was the issue.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      May she never make a night time trip to the bathroom without stepping on legos, and may her pillow never have a cool side. What a horrid person.

    3. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Imagine being proud of refusing to teach kids how to read….

      Your f bomb was 1000% warranted.

    4. She of Many Hats*

      She’s the one who should be mortified! Being proud that she won’t do her job and will sabotage her students’ success?!? Why is she even teaching?

      1. SB*

        This doesn’t surprise me at all, sadly. I also am a reading specialist, and it’s horrifying how proudly ignorant (and callous) some teachers are. I live in a country where teaching requires multiple degrees, but none of them include any mandatory classes related to teaching students to read.

        The result is, predictably, teachers like this.

    5. MigraineMonth*

      I was really hoping that was a typo, and the teacher was saying that the student would be *able* to read in June. What on earth was going through her head.

  15. River Otter*

    Not me, but my ex:
    He was still an undergrad at the time. His interviewer asked him if there was anything he would have done differently, and his answer was that he wished he had gone on more dates.

  16. Dr. Rebecca*

    Just applied for a job in the department where I already work. I did not get a confirmation email (and the system usually does send one) so I sent my colleague who is chairing the search committee a casual email to ask if he could see the application in the system.

    He replied with full formality. My title. His title. Nice little form acknowledgement of candidacy in the body of the email. *full body wince*

    1. anonymous73*

      Unless you were calling them dude and using slang in your email, there’s nothing wrong with what you did. I think your colleague needs to lighten up.

      1. Esmeralda*

        Nah, colleague was right. I’ve been the search chair, I’ve had to send polite emails to coworkers and to others I know around campus who are applying for one of our jobs.

        For one thing, the committee has to be scrupulously fair. For me: State employee, the emails live forever and can be requested by anyone with a good reason.

        For another: don’t presume on your relationship. And treat every communication as a part of the application / consideration. Because it is.

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          Yeah, I went with “Hi Firstname” which was too casual instead of “Dear Dr. Lastname,” and I’m seriously looking at myself for signs of self-sabotage because I do know better. His reply was appropriate, it just stung.

          On the other hand–the committee meets in a month, my overall application package is very solid, and while he’s chairing, he’s not the only on on the committee and he does know me quite well, so I don’t *think* I’ve torpedoed it, just a bobble out of the starting gate. *sigh*

          1. lost academic*

            I don’t think it’s a bobble at all. Above commenters likely have it right – he needs to make sure he’s not doing anything that would suggest that an internal candidate has unfair advantage or influence on the process. If I were him I might even have some prewritten text so I could be sure for the regular kinds of questions I got I was using the same stock reply. And I don’t think you were entirely out of line to ask informally – it’s an administrative question at heart anyway. Put it behind you!

            1. Dr. Rebecca*

              Thank you for this. Truly. I am chewing my fingers because I really, really want/NEED this position.

          2. SpaceySteph*

            I responded to an email inviting me for an interview recently with Hi [firstname], and I got the job so… I don’t think its a misstep. That’s how I write emails. Shrug.

    2. Ryo Bakura*

      Eh, that could be to cover his ass in possibly showing preference to internal candidates. I don’t think he meant it as anything other than a joke or stupid bureaucratic rules. :)

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        In my interview for the position I currently hold, he made a joke about formality/what we were to call each other, and he’s probably laughing up his sleeve at me right now, tbh.

        1. Jessica M.*

          As a search committee member, I have sent Very Formal Emails to candidates I have a friendly, informal relationship with, and felt a bit silly doing so but figured it was best for consistency with other candidates. I have never expected that formality from candidates to me, however, so I agree that if anything he is chuckling.

      2. So very anon for this*

        Oh God… you want unprofessional, here you go:

        I was 25. He was 23. He was also my student at the community college where I’d just become an adjunct. He had a crush on me. How did I find this out? I thought he was cute so I looked at his Facebook account and read “is hot for teacher” as his status, posted right after my class. Later in the semester I deliberately hung out a cafe where I knew (because of the aforementioned social media lurking) he hung out, and accidentally-on-purpose ran into him. As the semester wrapped up, we started dating.

        This is NOT a scandalous beginning to a wonderful love story. I realized very very quickly that he and I were not at all suited for each other, but waited until there was slightly more distance from him being my student to break up with him.

        Ugh. I was an absolute idiot and I’m lucky he just did a few angry drunk dials after I dumped him, nothing more.

    3. Lady Blerd*

      Nah, you didn’t do anything wrong. I’m always navigating between formality and informality in my emails at work and some of us have different rules as when we one or the other and it’s sometimes on a person by person case.

    4. Karate Saw*

      Even if their reply seemed weird or chilly, I don’t feel like this was unprofessional of you at all, ftr.

  17. Ridiculous Penguin*

    I was in the final interview stages for a tenure-track teaching job at a local college. I was pretty much guaranteed the job if I didn’t screw up the last interview.

    I was asked why I wanted the job. I said, “it’s really close to my apartment, so if I’m out late drinking the night before I can drive to work when I’m hung over without too much trouble.”

    (I didn’t get the job, but I *did* get sober about six months later.)

  18. Folklorist*

    Oh dear. I was so cluelessly unprofessional in my first couple of jobs in my early 20’s. I was EXTREMELY lucky in the first job that I had a great boss with a great sense of humor! He got so many good stories from his kooky report and is very disappointed now that I’m a functioning professional. I’ve got a few from throughout my career–I’ll comment under this one with more stories as I think of them.

    I think the worst was when I got trapped into a predatory contract with Events and Adventures, an “adventure club for single people.” I was in my very early 20’s, first job out of school paying $30k/year and barely making rent but lonely. (This was 2006, so no apps then.) They exploited me and were draining my bank account; I kept overdrafting because of them. I had to take a second job waiting tables just to afford the membership dues every month and all of the little surprise extras they threw in! I tried to cancel the contract, but you’re not allowed to do that within the first year unless you move somewhere they don’t have a club (they’re all throughout the US), or if you die.
    SO! I drew up false paperwork saying that my company was sending me to China for the rest of the year to do a special project. And asked my boss to sign it. You know, just committing a little light fraud. He looked at me like I was insane and was just like, “Yeah, no. I’m not signing that.”
    I think Events and Adventures is still out there pulling this crap but goes under a different name now. Don’t buy into it!

    1. Folklorist*

      Soo, let’s see. In that same company, we had cute little foam company mascot stress relievers. To creatively relieve stress, I turned mine into a goth version with whiteout and sharpies (think Kiss makeup) and turned its hair into a Mohawk made of exacto knife blades.

      I kept a big stuffed animal lizard at my desk, and a blanket “because the office was cold” so I could use the lizard as a pillow and wrap up in the blanket and nap under my desk at lunch (at least I had an office and could close the door).

      I tried this in the next (super-toxic) company I worked at and my boss barged into my office thinking that I was out at lunch so she could go through my stuff. I was sleeping on the floor and she hit me with the door! Needless to say, neither of us were covered in glory at that point.

    2. bamcheeks*

      And asked my boss to sign it

      this combination of deceit and integrity is just *chef’s kiss* Drawing up fake work documents? Not a problem! Signing them fraudulently or faking my boss’s signature? absolutely NOT!

      1. Folklorist*

        Well, some of us have INTEGRITY, you know? We can’t be just signing stuff with our left hand to disguise the handwriting like some kind of charlatans! I had to be better than the company that scammed me. XD

      2. pancakes*

        At least it was for a good cause! Trapping young people — or anyone, really — in that kind of predatory, opaque agreement is really messed up.

    3. Folklorist*

      OK, last one I can think of. I went to grad school after the toxic job so I could hone some professional skills and get a fresh start on my career. I managed to land an extremely prestigious apprenticeship at a company that everyone dreams of working at some point in their lives. (Think, one of the famous magazines with a famously colored border.)

      One day we had a staff ice cream-and-beer social in the courtyard. My boss was kind and hilarious, but much older and surprisingly conservative for where we worked. I was eating a Magnum ice cream bar with caramel center and starting talking…at length…about the fascinating marketing practices linking ice cream with sex as they implicitly cross-promoted their large, decadent, chocolate-covered ice cream bars with the Magnum brand of condom known for…well, you know.

      Her face was frozen in half-amusement, half-mortification, and I, like, had this out-of-body experience where I was floating overhead going “STOP, Folklorist, STOP!!! CHANGE THE SUBJECT NOW! ABORT! ABORT! GET OUT OF THIS!” But no. No, I didn’t. I couldn’t stop myself. I still cringe. And laugh about how far I’ve come.

      1. Juneybug*

        OMG, I am dying. First of second hand shame from reading your stories, then from laughter. Thank you for sharing!

      2. This is a name, I guess*

        The funny thing is that Magnum ice cream bars are European, and there’s isn’t the same association there.

        1. Folklorist*

          Juneybug: I’m so happy that my lifetime of chronic cringe brightens someone else’s day! What else are these mistakes for?

          Name: I had no idea! I always thought that it was intentional and pretty clever!

          1. This is a name, I guess*

            I don’t think so! Magnum condoms exist in Europe, but they aren’t, like, the main brand of condoms in Europe, like they are in the US. So, people don’t associate Magnum with…you know.

            However, in Europe, they use sexy ladies to sell EVERYTHING. I mean, they do it in the US, too, but it’s different because of our weird hypocritical puritanical values. Like, there are sexy women in lingerie on sports talks shows in Italy. When I lived there in 2007-2008, Eva Longoria was the spokesperson for Magnum Bars, and she was styled like a Maxim cover. So, there’s a history of using sexy advertising to sell Magnums in Europe, which probably translated over to the US in 2011 (when they debuted) that’s creating some of the sexual innuendo.

            Also, let’s be real, when Nestle introduced Magnums in the US, they could have changed the name, so I’m sure it was intentional to some degree. However, there’s still a longer history!

            1. Bluesboy*

              I remember when I first came to Italy 2002 I saw advertising for shower gels and shampoos with naked women and I thought “makes sense, I guess we’re quite puritanical back home”.

              Then I saw naked women in the adverts for water…and yogurt…and I realised “Nope, they just like naked ladies”.

              Years later I chatted to the Head of Marketing at the company I was working for and the subject came up, and he was so frustrated! Because he could spend months working on an imaginative, intelligent campaign and see a 20% rise in sales…or put a naked woman on a poster and see +50%. Imagine the professional frustration!

        2. Tamarak on a phone*

          Uh. I’m European and have eaten my share of Magnum bars since they came out. My friends and I were well aware of the erotic allusions in the commercials, and referring to their marketing strategy that highlighted the oral satisfaction aspect if eating chocolate covered ice cream was pretty commonplace.

          1. This is a name, I guess*

            Yes, agree, but it’s not specifically about very large size condoms, which is the weirdly specific image that it conjures in the US because Magnums are a well-advertised condom brand here. It’s like the sexual origins of Magnum ice cream marketing have consistent tones across the Atlantic, but from 2 different sources.

    4. Sad Desk Salad*

      I had no idea it was such a huge scam! It sounded so appealing back when I was single, but fortunately for me it was during the recession and I was working in retail making next to nothing, and when they explained their dues process (plus the fees for doing, you know, the actual events and adventures), I couldn’t afford it even if I didn’t have to pay rent and other bills. Dodged a bullet there!

      1. Folklorist*

        OMG, yes! And it had barely anyone my age in it (probably because of the cost). So most of the people going to the events were divorcees in their 50’s trying to get back into the dating scene. No offense to them–they deserve good dates! Just not what I was looking for.

        So I would go to these events where they were like, “Oh yeah, we’re meeting at XYZ restaurant; we’ve reserved the patio!” And there would be a bunch of hot guys at the restaurant! I’d go up to them at the table and start chatting with them, asking how long they’d been members, what they were looking for, and they’d stare at me like I had three heads. That was when I realized that they got a table of the patio and I was interrupting other random peoples’ happy hour. And yeah, there was no one I wanted to talk to at the table they reserved. I think I did that at, like, three events before I was finally disillusioned enough to realize what a scam the whole thing was.

        1. David*

          Thank you for sharing that story!

          I thought about signing up for E&A once, but it was impossible to get important details like how much it costs from their website so I just gave up… now I know why! I always kind of wondered if I had missed out on a good opportunity to meet people (I really don’t get a lot of those opportunities), so it’s a relief to I know I didn’t.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Seems like they are still around with the same name. Here in the Boston area I’m finding dues are $2000 (yup, that’s $2k) a year. That seems criminal to me.

  19. Cold and Tired*

    Sooooo many examples, but one that comes to mind:

    My first job out of college hired a lot of fresh college grads and then sent them in big teams paired with more experienced people to travel to clients several weeks a month for a year or two. All of us who were too young to know better would drink/hook up within the team on our first projects, which in hindsight is just the biggest no no. Luckily for me, my partner in crime was already on the way to quitting the job so I was in a better spot than most, but it led to some reaaaaaaallll messy professional dynamics for some of the others. We also were a rare international team that traveled overseas together for 2 weeks at a time, which made it even worse since we had weekends together to travel or party which didn’t help any of this. So much drama – never again.

    Definitely learned a huge lesson about how to keep personal and professional separate when every boundary is blurred by work travel that has kept me in a much better spot since.

  20. CakeDonut*

    When I was in high school, I applied for a job as a in-between-theater-classes supervisor for a kids theater program for 6-8 year olds. In the interview, the manager asked if I had worked with children before. “No, I don’t really like kids,” I said. It was true. But I didn’t get the job. :)

    My first year of teaching* I decided a fun end-of-semester December activity would be to have a snowball fight as the middle schoolers cleaned out their binders/backpacks/lockers. We’d turn tables over, ball up papers, and throw them, then clean everything up into big trash cans. What a great last day! Unfortunately my classroom was next to the principal’s office (pure coincidence! not because I was bad!) but the principal was in a meeting with an upset parent who said there was ‘no order’ and ‘too much chaos’ at the school. The snowball fight ended early. For what it’s worth, the parent had a child in a DIFFERENT grade–but the timing was clearly terrible.

    *middle schoolers are VERY different from the first/second graders I would have been supervising then. Children vs young adults, if you will.

    1. Astrid*

      You’re Bridget Jones (2001)!
      Interviewer: So why do you want to work in television?
      Bridget: Because I’m passionately committed to communicating with children. They are the future.
      Interviewer: Do you have any children of your own?
      Bridget: Oh, Christ, no. Yech!

      1. MigraineMonth*

        This is me. I love my niece and nephew to bits and regularly babysit, I crochet toys for the neighbor’s kids and I wave at every small child I see on my walk. But actually having kids myself? Yech indeed.

        1. Lucy Skywalker*

          I love my nieces and nephew, but the more time I spend with them, the more I realize I made the right choice by not having kids.

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        Closely followed by “I’ve got to leave my job because I’ve shagged my boss.” So, yeah.

  21. kittymommy*

    I was part of an interview panel for a position in out org that had only two people (boss and them) in the office and maybe 10 – 12 field workers. One of the questions was something like how do you handle conflict. The answer: oh I don’t I just ignore the person until they quit. Not just ignore for anything outside of work issues, nope, just ignore that there was another human being 10 feet away.

  22. the one who got away*

    The time I was mad about something and stomped my foot in my boss’s office and…sprained my ankle.

    Or the time (different job) where I was mad about something and did this half-joking air kick and launched my shoe off my foot into the giant plate glass window at the end of the cube farm. Then I had to go retrieve it.

    1. FrogGirl*

      First big meeting at my internship, my boss and I had arrived with his moped. I was carrying the helmet in my hand, got flustered by the number of people in the conference room as I was entering it, and absolutely smashed the helmet against the glass door. It left a giant mark. Everyone looked at me. I’m still mortified.

    2. Lucy P*

      My boss asked me to look for something once, which required me to crouch down on the floor. Boss literally crowded me by looking over my back while I searched the space between the file cabinet and the wall for a box. After a few minutes, I needed to stand. Not realizing boss was so close, I stood up, backed up into boss and sprained boss’ ankle.

  23. Bloop*

    I absolutely wore going out clothes to my first professional job out of college. My salary was low and I didn’t have a budget for new, more professional clothes. I’d pair my mom’s old blazers and button downs with, for example, a way-too-short sequin skirt and going out wedges or heels. I’m not so embarrassed now because it’s bananas to think a 22 year old could afford a whole new professional wardrobe, and I did put those outfits together in earnest. Kinda makes me want to give little me a big hug and say, ‘you did the best with the situation you had at the time.’

    1. ferrina*

      I’m right there with you! I wore vintage skirts and not-quite-matching blouses from Goodwill, things that didn’t quite fit very well but were all I could afford.

    2. kiki*

      I do really wish more entry level roles came with a signing bonus. It wouldn’t even have to be huge– even a couple hundred bucks to help candidates afford more professional clothing for the first week would be huge for so many people.

      1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

        The thing is signing bonuses don’t pay out right away. It’s going to be at least 2 weeks until you get your first paycheck. And many places have contingencies such as you have to work for 3 months with no problems.

        But I agree that its wrong to expect entry-level, especially straight out of college, people to have an entire professional wardrobe. I was so glad that my mom happened to work at Macy’s and so I was able to borrow some of her stuff. Also in my area, the colleges have started a thrift store type of thing for students and you don’t even have to pay anything if you can’t. So you can go and get 1 outfit for free.

        1. kiki*

          I’ve only had one signing bonus so far, but it was actually paid before I started working with a contingency that I would have to return the amount if chose to leave the company before serving my first 30 days, which seemed pretty reasonable. But I understand that’s not the case everywhere.

        2. Usagi*

          That’s fantastic that the colleges in your area are doing that! I used to run workshop series for an ExJob where we partnered with local high schools, colleges, and homeless shelters (not mixing the groups, of course) to go through things like basic office suite skills, resume building, mock interviews, etc., and at the end we had partnered with a local consignment group to gift each person a professional outfit and haircut (the haircut was optional, only if they wanted it). It was pretty great! I think stuff like that is the single thing I miss about working at big corporations with money to throw around. I now work at a local business, and while we’re comparatively large for our area, we don’t really have the money to be doing things at that level.

    3. Pickles*

      For those reading this who are in this situation, check thrift stores. I used to be the person who went through the donations, and women’s professional clothing tended to come in all the time brand new, tags still on. This is how I funded suits as an intern who didn’t get paid until six weeks into the next job. It wasn’t my style, but I made fewer mistakes in the business world thanks to resale.

    4. Forkeater*

      Oh yes, when I think of the shortness of some of the skirts I wore to work! Ugh.

      I was so very poor starting out with no parent money to help either (and my mom was a nurse, and a much different size than me, so no taking her clothes). I would buy whatever was cheapest on sale regardless of size. My clothes were literally held up with safety pins and I still recall my coworker shouting “Her skirt is PINNED” across the cube farm when she noticed. Sigh.

      1. Observer*

        My clothes were literally held up with safety pins and I still recall my coworker shouting “Her skirt is PINNED” across the cube farm when she noticed. Sigh.

        Maybe your clothes were unfortunate. But her behavior was GROSS.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Seriously, who says that? Some of my nicest shirts have a (hopefully subtle) safety pin to keep the necklines from getting too risqué.

    5. Interview Coming Up*

      Yes! I was not even a party girl (or, I guess, not an outside of the house party girl) because I wore a red, mesh, completely see through lingerie top under a mostly fully buttoned jacket. The only thing peaking out up top was a bit of red lace and it was peaking out with no cleavage. But still…

      It seemed to me, at the time, that it was a bit of flair. Like those magazine photos/ red carpet events with women in blazers, who are basically wearing just a blazer.

      1. EmKay*

        Oh, lord. I did the same exact thing with a burgundy & black lace up bustier. I thought I looked so sharp.

        At least it was retail and not in a stuffy office.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          My friend worked in retail at a clothing store and was written up for *not* having her bra showing at work. They were really pushing for her to buy the lacy bras and camisoles and have them peek over her jacket.

    6. not just you*

      I largely blame all the “transition this piece from day to night” magazine articles for my own early blunders in this area. You are not alone!

    7. pancakes*

      I think lots and lots of people do this, and with the benefit of hindsight it’s sort of adorable. It’s a young people thing, it can be funny, and it’s generally harmless, I think, unless there’s some high-stakes outside client situation. Even then they should probably be given lots of good will. Most young people are hardly well-positioned to invest in a new wardrobe all at once.

    8. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      At one point when our son was little and I was starting to apply for jobs, I had ONE decent dress and jacket outfit for interviews. When I was asked back for a second interview at the job I really wanted, I was thrilled, but then panicked and called my badly underpaid husband at work and said we’d have to stretch the budget for a few clothes right away. Luckily, one of the early chain outlet stores was in our area, so I could expand my job-hunting clothes for a few dollars. Then I got the job, so it was back to that store for work outfits until I got my first paycheck – at about double what I thought I’d earn. For me, it was like winning the lottery, a dream job that paid well!

    9. MdmeAlbertine*

      My local university has a clothing closet specifically for new and used professional/business casual clothing that is free to students.

  24. 15 years older and wiser*

    Ugh, the shame.

    I was a 22 year old summer intern. (I will say, just as background that the person who was originally going to supervise me quit a few days before I started, throwing the department into a bit of chaos and I got assigned to someone who really didn’t want to deal with me. But my behavior was still wrong.) It was a consulting firm and there were staff from Client Company on site observing the company’s activities. I’d been asked a few times to go pick up lunch for the clients. I did it, but was privately annoyed that the client services staff member wasn’t doing it. (I know, I know.) One morning I arrived to an email sent much earlier than I usually come in asking me to go buy breakfast for the clients. I was flustered at feeling rushed, but I did it.

    But later that day, I sent A Long Email to my supervisor saying that I thought I had more to contribute to the company than buying clients food and I really wanted to do more. Me, the summer intern working at a small company of professionals. What an idiot.

    1. Retail Dalliance*

      Okay wait. Did they always promise to reimburse you for these lunches and then actually follow up with that? If that’s the case, then yeah, your behavior seems a little green, but not the worst thing I’ve ever heard.

      However, if they were asking you to foot the bill, as the intern–that’s unconscionable and I fully support you!

      (My idiot moment is also from being 22. What an age haha.)

      1. 15 years older and wiser*

        No! I was always given the corporate card, so I was never expected to pay. I had to take orders, and then drive to the restaurant and bring the food back. (This is before online ordering was a thing.)

  25. Campfire Raccoon*

    Once I took an entire chafing dish of leftover bacon (with catering’s permission) from a company breakfast. It was several pounds of cooked bacon. Everyone saw.

    1. Susan Calvin*

      Amazing

      Like, including the actual dish? How did you get catering to sign off on that?

      1. Campfire Raccoon*

        OK- So I’ve since learned I have food-security issues which explains why I asked for it in the first place. But it’s been my experience hotels/caterers/etc have to throw the leftover food out at the end of the shift anyway. They might be allowed to take it home, but the sheer volume means many don’t. The hosting company paid for the food so if an employee asks for the leftovers, catering will wrap it up to go. And they did. In several gallon-sized ziplocks smeared with smelly, cooling, congealed bacon grease. I put it in my freezer and we ate it for months.

        I also used to take home all the food-trash from a (different) company’s work functions to feed to my chickens. They were a very “green” company so they were supportive- but I imagine there were a few partners who thought I was eating all the garbage.

        1. quill*

          I wonder what chickens think of club sandwiches and tiny bags of chips? (The menu of every lunch and learn I have ever attended…)

          1. Mek*

            They love them!! I was on the Board of an eco-rights nonprofit, and so of course everyone was super excited that I had chickens to feed the leftovers to. Every single meeting would end with someone presenting me a “lunchbox” for my hens.

          2. Campfire Raccoon*

            They LOVE THEM. The only thing they can’t really eat is avocados (it’s actually a fungus on the skin that’s the issue, and I’m always concerned it transfers to the fruit during food prep.)

    2. TechWriter*

      Ha! Username checks out.

      Also sounds like something I would have done. I was 100% That Intern who swooped in as soon as leftover goodies were put in the break room, ate one immediately, and brought one (or more) back to my desk in a napkin for later.

      (To be fair, my non-intern teammates encouraged me, and the food was rarely all eaten anyway. I’d often get another serving at the end of the day. I don’t *think* I ever brought anything home though.)

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I grew up on the east coast and got a job in the Midwest. I provided my company the valuable service of eating the last donut/bagel/cookie on the tray. Real midwesterners would only ever take half of the cookie, and the next person would take half of the remaining half, and so on.

    3. Farm Girl*

      One young coworker started showing up with Tupperware. I think someone finally told him not to take second helpings before everyone had lunch. He asked people to call him whenever there was leftover food. He actually said he didn’t want to move to another building because they didn’t have much food.
      And he shouldn’t have been food insecure-he had a good paying IT job (and some expensive hobbies).

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Once you’ve been there, though, it sticks with you. I still start to feel anxious when I can see the back of my cupboard.

        1. Campfire Raccoon*

          It never goes away, really. Even now, I have a 5-gallon bucket of dried beans in the cupboard. Side note: I was starting to make progress with this just as my boys hit teenagerhood – and then COVID hit. Four teenage boys home all the time can really plow through your reserves.

          Yes, I actually need these five racks of Ramen, Karen.

          1. anonynonnon*

            oof – I have one teenaged son and it wreaks havoc on the grocery budget. I don’t know what I would do with more than one! :)

      2. Maseca*

        Oof, this reminds me of one of mine. I had a pretty prestigious (paid) internship but was still a poor college kid. The company brought in a catered meal once a week. There was always enough food overall, but not always one of every discrete item for everyone — in particular, I was deeply aggrieved when we got Indian food but there were no samosas left by the time I made it through the line. My department was also farthest from the break room where the buffet was set up. So a fellow intern and I started basically stalking the catering: A little before we expected the buffet line to open, we’d go lurk outside the break room like it was Black Friday at Walmart. Just casually standing around, trying to be first in line for food. It was a pretty chill office, but looking back, the optics were still pretty cringe.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Eh, I think that’s pretty expected of college students and interns. I once had to defend the pizza budget for a graduate student event and basically said, “Without the pizza no one will come.”

    4. Zephy*

      I did this with a leftover tray of rice from Pollo Tropical, but the org specifically told the project coordinators we could do that after lunch was served at the community-engagement event we were coordinating projects for. And that job was, legally speaking, a volunteer gig with a stipend, not a wage-earning position, so management knew we were all struggling.

    5. KN*

      do you mind if I ask what earthly plan you may have had for several pounds of already cooked bacon? I just can’t imagine it being useful for anyone that doesn’t live with about a dozen other people and/or animals to eat it fairly quickly…

      1. Campfire Raccoon*

        I froze it. One or two pieces a day for me/the hubs and it lasted forever.

        Now I have teenage boys and we go through a Costco-sized bag of bacon bits every two weeks. That bag also stays in the freezer.

    6. DrRat*

      Honestly, I can’t stand food waste and would have been totally supportive of you!

      I used to speak at educational presentations sponsored by pharmaceutical companies and there was always SO MUCH EXTRA FOOD that would get thrown away. I finally told them I was taking it to our poorer patients and would pack it up and take it to an apartment complex where many of them lived and give it away afterwards. It was a big hit…when you’re broke and sick, gourmet sandwiches, chips, and big cookies make a big difference.

    7. pancakes*

      This is iconic! And yeah, user name checks out. It would’ve been silly for all that to go to waste, it might as well have gone to a loving home.

  26. CW*

    While I was on a phone interview about 4 years ago, I mistakenly left a basketball game on even though my TV was on mute. I thought I could contain myself, but during the last 5 minutes of the interview, something happened during the game that made me shout “WOOOOO!” into the phone. The interviewer made no remark, but I caught myself almost immediately and was mortified.

    Lesson learned. Never watch sports during an interview, even with the TV on mute. Even thought I should have known better.

      1. CW*

        No I didn’t. I am pretty sure that was a factor, but I was unemployed at the time and had many other rejections that I can’t judge why I was rejected based on that incident alone.

    1. Hats Are Great*

      I recently had a zoom interview where the interviewer and I happened to live in the same city (though the job was not in our city), and he had the local news on mute in the background, with the captions on, and it was about a very salacious local murder story. It was soooooooo distracting. I really wanted to know the latest developments, and with the screen right behind his shoulder popping up words ….

      1. As per Elaine*

        Oh gosh. I would’ve had to ask the interviewer to turn the TV off. I have a hard time even in restaurants with TVs — I would much rather pay attention to my family/friends than whatever random show is going, but the words and moving pictures will catch my attention regardless.

    2. Employee of the Bearimy*

      Oh, this reminds me of recently (!!!) when I was taking a conference call in my car on speaker during my commute, and another driver almost hit me while merging unsafely. I’m so embarrassed to admit that I yelled “COME ON!” at the other driver while my boss was talking.

  27. Sonic*

    In college when a coworker shared in a group setting that his sister was pregnant. My knee-jerk reaction was asking in front of the group if she was married. I could immediately feel that this was the wrong question to ask. My boss later pulled me aside in private and explained that I needed to work on being respectful to all of my coworkers.

    1. This is a name, I guess*

      Awww. This is such a typical college foot-in-mouth. Between the vestiges of (likely abstinence-only) high school sex, the completely diferrent context of a pregnancy to a college student, and the lack of experience with pregnant peers, this is so totally understandable…and still embarrassing.

      Stuff like this is exactly why we really can’t act like 19 year olds are fully formed adults, even though they legally are.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      My boss announced her sister was pregnant in a staff meeting. “Im going to be an aunt.”
      My coworker, (also under this boss) is she married?
      It was pretty shocking first thing to ask.
      But you are not alone and people get over it.

    3. Mek*

      I was at a work party, one coworker conspicuously not drinking a beer. Someone asked her if she was pregnant, she confirmed, and they said “what are you going to do?!”

      Umm, have a baby? She was married and got pregnant on purpose (and told them so!)

      1. Hats Are Great*

        I was 35, married, and pregnant on purpose and obviously delighted about it, and multiple people asked me, “Are you going to keep it?” or “Was this planned?” I think people’s brains just kind-of turn off sometimes.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          I also got the “was it planned?” question when i was 33 and married. I laughed, said that that was kind of a personal question, no? But that yes, I got pregnant on purpose. I don’t hold it against the guy who asked, but I hope he learned from it.

      2. This is a name, I guess*

        It’s rude to ask, but it’s also rude to assume that all pregnancies are wanted and planned.

      3. Galadriel's Garden*

        Ha, I’m finally transitioning out of the time of my life where someone announcing they’re pregnant is a minefield fraught with social complications – most of the women I know who are or have recently been pregnant did so intentionally, which is a relief following that late-20s/early-3os situation where you would have to do quick mental calculus with what you knew about that person to gauge how to react, because “Oh!” and “Ohhhhh” are two *very* different things.

    4. Nameless in Customer Service*

      Oh huh. I once saw that happen at work — coworker #1 said “I’m going to be an aunt!” coworker #2 said, “is your sister married?” — and I thought #2 was being rude for demographic reasons. It’s a bit of a relief to think he was maybe just clueless.

      1. Lucy Skywalker*

        Let me guess: coworker #1 is a woman of color and coworker #2 is a white man.

    5. Chilipepper Attitude*

      In college, a pretty conservative college, everyone was sharing how long their parents had been married. Most were in the 25 to 35-year range. My parents had not been married as long as most of them but I could not remember the exact number so I did the math out loud: let’s see, my parents were married one year off from my age, I’m 18, so that means they have been married just 17 years. Dead silence. I was like, wow, everyone is so shocked that my parents have not been married that long!

      I did not realize until a year or more later that I did the math backward for some reason. They were married one year BEFORE I was born, not one year AFTER.

    6. DrRat*

      Ugh, I remember being in college and working at a restaurant many years ago. A coworker asked if I had kids and I automatically said, “No! I’m not even married!” I had no understanding at the time that in his culture, having a child without being married was common so I’m sure I absolutely came off as Snotty White Girl without intending to.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Not work related, but this reminds me of a cultural misunderstanding I experienced: my BIL’s wife is Korean, and she once excitedly told us she had a new nephew. We expressed surprise, as we hadn’t known her brother was going to be a father! She, confused, answered “no, no, he isn’t even married!”. Made us laugh*. Turns out “nephew” has a larger definition in Korean and it’s her (married) cousin’s child, not her brother’s.

        *both my husband and I were born to unwed parents. It’s not a novel concept in our world, and carries no stigma. I was very tempted to tease her about how conception worked, but refrained.

  28. SO anon for this*

    Once upon a time not that long ago I was a consultant at an IT vendor solving a specific kind of problem for large enterprise customers. Deploying our product was a bit of an ordeal because it was highly customizable, but also much more powerful than the out-of-the-box solution for this problem some other vendors provided.

    Given this background, you might see why I have occasionally referred to us as “the Mercedes of [niche] software” which is normally not a controversial thing to say – except that one time, in a project kick-off with one of Mercedes’ biggest competitors. Oops.

    1. Filosofickle*

      Decades ago I read about a sales person who described his wares as “the Cadillac of parts”…to a Lincoln dealer. Did not get the deal. Always stuck with me!

      1. SO anon for this*

        There’s a reason I only work in post-sales… (there’s also the fact that personally I’d pick a Mercedes over a BMW any day of the week)

        1. BMW fan*

          It’s good that Mercedes has people who feel the way you do or they wouldn’t have any customers!

  29. Leah*

    Late 90s. Nine months pregnant in a good old boys company where I did most of the work but got overlooked for promotion because I was female. They hired a man to take the job I wanted but I had to train him. And he was dumb. Dumb, dumb. Dumb. We sat in cubicles and he would constantly yell for me when he got stuck and I’d have to heave my pregnant self up and go over to see what he needed. One day I’d had enough and yelled, “If you need me, get your ass up and come to my cubicle and address me respectfully.” Cue the applause from surrounding cubicles. I was embarrassed but it felt great at the time.

      1. Jenna*

        First job out of college was for the corporate HQ of a manufacturing plant. First 6weeks required shadowing in the plant, but for safety we couldn’t do a whole lot. I would learn the processes, help label inventory, etc. Guys on the steel spitters would smoke as they worked (it was legal then) and I was rude and a little standoffish. I hated cigarette smoke.

        Looking back I’m mortified that I looked down on these dedicated workers who were experts at their job, especially when I was the visitor in their space.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Mid may 2022, my niece is currently training a young man who took her old position. Box of rocks dumb about their job, genius level at playing politics.
      After ignoring her instructions, provides a completely wrong final product at the end of the day.
      She goes over everything wrong with it and redoes it with him.
      Next morning, he she gives him his next assignment. She starts explaining what he needs to do. He tells her, “now that you’ve had some time to reflect, I’m sure you want to put the past behind us and start fresh.”
      Wtf?

  30. Hills to Die On*

    Well I worked for a drycleaners when I was about age 20 or so and I messed something up. My boss was laying into me about it and I got mad. Told him ‘Don’t patronize me, you are not my father.’ Also, he was not actually patronizing me in the first place. Regardless, I was fired on the spot. Mortifying.

  31. Night Owl*

    Oof, I’ve got some good ones that serve as good reasons to think twice before promoting someone into management when they only have a year or two of professional experience. I was way too into trying to be friends with my subordinates, which led to a) getting high with them and b) getting super drunk at a work event and sharing details of my (somewhat unconventional) sex life. Everyone thought it was hilarious and nothing came of it, but in retrospect I was an HR nightmare and I still cringe about it years later.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      AAM got a letter from someone writing that new person, maybe manager level was the manager at an old company. They would drink in oarking lit and bitch about the place. OP was worried new hire would recognize her and thinks shes unprofessional. AAM and commentariat agreed manager was probably more mortified by the past. And probably wouldn’t remember her specifically!

  32. learnedthehardway*

    It may not have been the most professional thing, but it was mildly amusing – I wrote my project update in the style of a cliffhanger story, along the lines of “In our latest episode, our heroes bravely sallied forth…” and ending with, “What will happen to our heroes next? Stay tuned to find out if Bob survives the project implementation!”

    1. Lab Boss*

      Depending on how high up the chain that report was going, and what kind of relationship you have with the target audience, I think that’s absolutely appropriate and hilarious.

        1. Poodle hair*

          My mom was formerly a VP at a major telecomms company. One of her teams in another city hit some major milestones, so she flew there and recited to them an epic poem in the style of Gilgamesh which she had written to celebrate their success.

    2. Nannerdoodle*

      If I read a project update like that, I’d wish the rest would continue the story the same way.

    3. ferrina*

      Ooh, I did some interesting communications like this in my early 20s. Greatest highlight was when I was tasked with getting employees to take the Employee Satisfaction Survey. I could see how many people had taken the survey, but not who. So I’d blast all staff emails…..with poems. I started with haikus and couplets, and threatened to move into limericks if we didn’t have 90% of the staff take the survey by Friday.

      Amazingly enough, we hit 90% participation and some people still requested the limerick!

    4. Esmae*

      I used to write all my program recaps as directed, passive voice and all, but include things like “several crayons were eaten” and “a naked crayon was discovered.” I had to entertain myself somehow!

    5. Purple Cat*

      I actually love this. And you probably got more people to read them than you otherwise would have.

    6. Raven*

      Honestly, this would be totally fine in some offices. I hope people responded to it well!

    7. Gumby*

      I would love that. As long as it is only for internal use.

      I am, from time to time, put in charge of meeting minutes for our projects. The technical content of the meetings is usually way over my head. So I write the notes and run them past other people who were in the meeting before sending them to the government customer.

      I occasionally note things like “[outside consultant] thinks the kick-off slide deck contains a ‘horribly stupid’ illustration… [Gumby] is in awe at the sheer tact on display.” I add them because they amuse me and keep me paying attention in a meeting. However, I always intend to re-word or remove them before submitting the minutes officially. I also kind of expect the co-workers who review the minutes before I send them to say something if anything inappropriate is about to slip through! But one of my side comments (not the tact one) once made it into the draft we submitted and the customer sent it back for fixing which was a bit cringe-inducing.

      1. F.M.*

        Ha! This is like when my meticulously polished prospectus was finally sent out to the committee that I would be defending it to, in grad school, after several rounds of edits, review, and so forth, from both of my advisors, peers, et cetera.

        …and the very first footnote was somehow still one that basically said “Do I actually need to cite evidence of , or can I just leave it be because we all know it’s true?”

        No one even called me out on it during the defense.

    8. Little Miss Sunshine*

      I love this idea. Great way to see if anyone is actually reading the updates you publish. :)

  33. desk platypus*

    A coworker and I were pretty close friends since we were closer in age range, mid 20s compared to our mostly middle aged and up coworkers, and had similar hobbies so we often ended up chatting much more casually around each other. Part of that was often teasing and casually roasting each other. One day he gave me a joking reprimand while I stood in front on his desk (in a very visual area) and without thinking I flipped him the double bird. I turned to walk away in a fake huff and see one of the older managers walking my way looking very much like she was trying to look like she hadn’t just seen what I did. I think I looked so shamed she never brought it up and I was never disciplined for it but I sure never did it again.

  34. ThatGirl*

    I had a brief 8-month stint working at an in-store Starbucks, and mostly I think I was a good, cheerful, friendly employee. But there was one customer who requested a caramel macchiato. And I think the store standard was for 1/2″ of foam on top, but my dumb brain misinterpreted how big 1/2″ is. So I gave her like, 1 1/2″ of foam. She rightfully asked for more steamed milk, and I gave her some but also said something like “well if you want more milk you should really just order a latte” or something snide like that.

    And she left, but apparently complained about me, so my manager had to “re-train” me on how to make a macchiato. And it STILL took me awhile to realize my dumb brain had confused how big 1/2″ is.

    I should note that I was 27 and between professional jobs at that point, not a teenager.

    1. GythaOgden*

      I did a stint behind a bar for a wedding with zero training in mixing drinks. It was an awful night, I was pulled off the bar an hour in and cleared tables for the rest of the night and unsurprisingly I didn’t get asked back. I got paid, obviously, but it was embarrassing even going back to pick up the wage packet.

      Ten years later my husband and I were at a works do and I bought a cocktail. It was undrinkable. I totally understood and made no complaint — It was definitely one of those ‘what goes around, comes around’ moments. I mean, it was the restaurant’s fault for not training me, but I honestly couldn’t bring myself to complain about my own drink.

  35. Lab Boss*

    Mortifying and totally my fault: When I was fairly new as a lab tech we were doing some testing on raw eggs. When we were all done we still had a dozen or so unused eggs and in a flash of brilliance decided to make science Easter eggs- boil them on a hot plate and use some of the various SUPER HAZARDOUS chemical stains we had sitting around to color them. We even went to other departments to ask to borrow a few stains we didn’t have in stock, who absolutely correctly reported what we were doing to our management. There weren’t any real consequences beyond a firm talking-to, but I still cringe and wonder what the heck we were thinking.

          1. Lab Boss*

            No, we were going to make them, take some pictures, and throw them out with the rest of the egg waste. They were in the lab so there was zero chance of someone coming along and thinking they were for eating- we were just being childish and planning to waste expensive chemicals.

  36. BeeBoo*

    At my first office job, one winter I decided to wear ugg-like boots every day. My supervisor gently pulled me aside and told me those weren’t appropriate shoes for our business-attire office. I responded “I have to stand sometimes and these are comfortable. Either I wear the shoes I want, or I don’t do any work that involves standing.” I then sat down and refused to do any work that required me to move for rest of the day.

    To this day I can’t believe I wasn’t fired on the spot. Luckily other coworkers took me out that evening and explained why my response was not ok!

    1. Ryo Bakura*

      TBF, why the hell should anyone have to wear “nice” shoes if it’s winter and you work in an office? Business casual dress codes are so dumb.

      1. KateM*

        You would just want shoes, I think. Wear winter boots all day and you’ll feel like you have cooked feet.

    2. Ali + Nino*

      OMG! All us first-time employees choosing our hills to die on, smh.
      The solution to this, which you’ve probably already figured out, is to wear your Uggs to the office, and change into more “office-y” shoes that you keep in a drawer or something once you arrive.

    3. T. Boone Pickens*

      I did this as well with Ugg slippers. When called out for it, I said they were European driving loafers. Amazingly, that worked haha.

  37. FormerAmazonian*

    First salaried job out of college and I lived close (5-7 minute drive) to the office, in an apartment complex thay had a pool and a small gym. I got in the habit of going home to work out over lunch – in itself not a problem, but 1) I wouldn’t shower before going back to the office so I’d show back up with obviously sweaty hair and who knows how I smelled, and 2) I stretched my workouts longer and longer leading to my sometimes taking 2(!!) Hour lunch breaks (I thought this was okay since I was coming in very early, but a lot of my team didn’t come in until 8 or 9 and didn’t realize I was in at 6). Sometimes in the summer I’d go home to lay out by the pool and swim, and come back chlorinated.

    I’m mortified thinking about it! Post covid I would still sometimes work out over lunch but 1) I cleared any longer breaks with my boss and made sure it was okay, and 2) I left time to shower afterwards!!

  38. Chocoholic*

    Back when I was first out of school I had an interview with an insurance company. It would have been a great job. The interviewer asked me something about how did I handle stress, and my answer…”heavy drinking.” I don’t even know why I said that, I’ve never been a huge drinker. I was trying to be funny I guess. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

    1. quill*

      Had a job interview when they asked me what my greatest weakness was and I said stubbornness.

      I still got the job, but…

      1. Thunderingly*

        Hah! I once said my greatest weakness was being disorganized and still got the job!

    2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      In my first interview after college I answered “what is your biggest weakness?” with “I have difficulty following directions”.

      Needless to say, I didn’t get a call back.

    3. DrRat*

      During an interview for a part time in college, I was asked what my top 3 priorities were. I said, quite honestly: 1. Family 2. School and 3. Work. SMH at how clueless I was. The bright side is that I didn’t get hired, as I found out later the manager was a bully and everyone quit pretty quickly at that place.

    4. Be kind, rewind*

      These are my favorite kind of embarrassing stories! Someone says something completely inappropriate and not even true to their own thoughts in an attempt at humor or social lubricant.

  39. ChemistryChick*

    Oh lord. Ok. Here goes. I’ll preface this by saying I was in my early 2os and never had anyone to mentor me about professionalism until I found this site. Which was obviously well after this incident.

    Landed my “dream job” and I knew a fair amount of the people I’d be working with in a relaxed environment. It was my first day and my first team meeting. Boss introduces me to the team and mentions my connection to two of my male co-workers. For reasons I still don’t understand, I blurted out “Nah, I don’t know these ugly bastards.” Cue the crickets and awkward silence.

    Pretty sure my face is beet red just typing this. Ugggghhhh so cringe, so terrible, so bad.

      1. ChemistryChick*

        I knooooooow. I just want to curl into a ball and hide just thinking about it. Believe it or not, I’m now a rockstar at this job with constant praise from my supervisors and upper management.

        1. Hills to Die On*

          I do believe it! I only shared one story but I have SO many and I have managed to succeed. Good thing we are not our mistakes. :)

          1. Zelda*

            “Good thing we are not our mistakes. ”

            This deserves to be the headline for Mortification Week.

  40. This sounds familiar. . .*

    25 years ago I worked for a non-profit. I was the IT person back then when internet and e-mail was a much simpler affair. There was one lady in the organization (think 10 people) that no one, and I mean NO ONE, liked. She was rude and obnoxious and had no inner filter at all. She was completely oblivious as to how much people disliked her. She left her paystub on the copier once and someone saw it. That made the situation even worse because all she did was surf the internet and e-mail her kids all day. Her department had three people and they were all trying to “out lazy” each other because one got sick of picking up the slack and refused, etc. When word of her paystub spread people were furious, so I installed Net Nanny on her computer and blocked EVERYTHING. Remember, this was 25 years ago, this department didn’t need internet to function. When she came to me to complain, I told her it was a new policy within the organization. Not one of my proudest moments, but we all loved watching her try to entertain herself all day. She may have actually gotten some work done.

      1. This sounds familiar. . .*

        LOL!!! Even my boss knew that I did it, so everyone played the game. In fact, he thought it was brilliant. We all got such a kick out of her behavior afterward.

  41. CatCat*

    I was 18 and trying to get any job. I had an interview at Giant Office Supply Store. The manager asked, “Why do you want to work at Giant Office Supply Store?” I totally blanked. I mean, why? I felt like “money” was not the right answer, but I had no answer otherwise. I couldn’t think of anything and then just awkwardly said, “I… just… like… office supplies.” Then commented about various supplies I liked including pens and fancy notepads.

    Didn’t get the job.

    1. Susan Calvin*

      I legit don’t understand how that wasn’t the best possible answer, some people can’t be pleased

    2. t-vex*

      I mean, that’s a pretty dumb question to ask a teenager. There’s no other possible reason than “needs money,” what answer could they possibly be expecting?

      1. quill*

        It’s either needs money or needs job experience.

        Why here? Well, you were hiring and the job didn’t involve working with superheated oil…

        1. Luna*

          Isn’t that one of the main reasons most people work any job? You are willing to pay money based on work performed over the course of a day.

    3. JSN*

      Really tho, that’s not unprofessional on your end. Even at my age now (40s) I would probably say something very similar lol. I truly don’t understand why hiring managers ask those types of questions to teens who are obviously going for their first job. Most likely, this place won’t be your career and I don’t know what answer they’re looking for besides “money”. Why else do we all go to work?

    4. Jellyfish*

      Ha, I had a very similar experience at Giant Pet Supply Store. I needed a job, and it seemed better to run a cash register at a place where I could occasionally pet dogs than one where I couldn’t.
      The interviewer asked why I wanted to work there and I said, “Because I love pets!” She stared at me, obviously waiting for more, but that was all I had. It was a minimum wage job and I was 17 years old. What did she expect?

      Anyway, I got a job at a sandwich shop where there were no dogs to pet.

      1. D. B.*

        Truly, one thing I always love about going to pet supply stores is how the kids behind the cash register are usually obvious pet lovers and seem so happy to be there, cooing over random people’s dogs.

        1. Lady Luck*

          One of my school friends ended up working in a pet store years later, and of course she was always playing with and showing off the animals. Well, one day I went in and she had one of the snakes wrapped around her ponytail and sitting on her head. That was probably the funniest sight I saw there lol.

      2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        I feel like that’s the best answer you possibly could have given! What did they want to hear, “I love pets AND it’s my life dream to spend all day stocking shelves and running the cash register”???

    5. Ana Gram*

      I think that’s a really good answer, actually. But I genuinely love office supplies!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Ha, me too. I had to cull a bunch when I moved and it was physically painful to give up some of my office supplies.

        1. KayDeeAye*

          I – genuinely and sincerely – have a passion for pens and sticky notes. I don’t indulge that passion that often because how many pens and different sizes of sticky notes does one person need? But if I worked at an office supply store where I got a nice employee discount, I would be *awash* in pens and sticky notes.

    6. Here we go again*

      Don’t feel bad. It’s a stupid question. Doesn’t everyone work for money?

    7. Shira VonDoom*

      I mean, when my current job, a law firm, asked me that, I told them I wanted to keep my cats in the style to which they’re accustomed. In those exact words.

      luckily they’re all animal lovers, LOL

    8. Interviewing memories*

      This reminds me of my most embarrassing interview EVER, at 16 years old. The question: What’s you’re biggest weakness?

      What 16yr old thinks they have a weakness? I sat in silence for what felt like 10 minutes, probably only 1 or 2 before the interviewer moved on. Did not get the job.

      1. DrRat*

        Yeah, when I think about nightmare colleagues and managers I have had, I am pretty sure none of them answered the question with the truth. “I’m an alcoholic”, “I’m incredibly lazy”, “I will take offense at anything anyone ever says and spend 90% of my work time waging war over complete nonsense”. They probably gave answers like “Well, sometimes I work too hard.”

      2. Wee wee wee*

        You handled it better than I did when I was in my late 20s. I was being interviewed to work as a creative with a public relations firm.

        When one of the interviewers asked my greatest weakness, I laughed. I thought it was ridiculous that employers were still asking that question, as everyone knew no one would answer it truthfully! Then I just sat and looked at them and finally said “I don’t know what to say.”

        After I got home, I phoned to withdraw my application. This happened decades ago and employers are still asking this ridiculous question.

    9. Observer*

      I keep on saying this – you weren’t unprofessional, the interviewer. And in a way that actually matters. Because the point of asking questions is to get answers that might have a chance of giving insight to whether you would be a fit for the job. What were they expecting you to say? What could have said that would have helped them figure out whether you were any good?

    10. Macaroni Penguin*

      Well, I would have been impressed as a hiring manager.

      As a teenager, I once gave money as the reason that I wanted to work at a Giant Pet Store. I think my actual answer was, “Money. I am passionate about affording food. Plus I like animals. ” I did not get the job. So, your answer was better than mine.

    11. LadyA*

      Agree with so many other commenters–what the hell else are you supposed to say? That’s like in The Santaland Diaries where David Sedaris loses out on a job at UPS because all he could think to say about why he wanted to work there was “I like the brown uniforms.”
      I legit love office supplies, but know that working at a store like that would be problematic for me!

  42. Anonosaur for this one*

    I worked at a sex store. Our busiest day was Valentines Day. We only had 6 employees, including the manager, and our tiny store could easily break $30K in sales on V Day. My store manager at the time sucked. Didn’t care, wouldn’t do anything, wouldn’t answer her phone, would just not show up randomly. Thankfully we had a good assistant manager who helped keep things running, but the main manager’s laziness made our lives hard.

    Valentine’s Day rolls around. No one is allowed to take time off and everyone is working their rear end’s off. Around 1:30, no one can find the manager. We needed overrides and approvals and just another set of hands, and she’s nowhere to be found. Finally, at 5:30 she shows up. Turns out she wanted to have a romantic lunch with her partner so she left us to drown. I waited until I got to the back room, then looked her straight in the eye and told her that she was a C U next tuesday for what she did, and would never have any credibility with me for as long as I still worked there.

    I somehow managed not to be fired or even written up for what I said, since she’d have to explain the situation and another employee witnessed it who was also pissed about her not pulling her weight. The store manager left 4 months later after upper management finally noticed she wasn’t doing any of her job duties.

  43. LT*

    Last job, part of my responsibility was responding to emergency events (in a nonmedical capacity). I had to log our contractors into a system, but we were also so far behind on checking in with contractors that we had assigned to various offsite locations, so a team member was asking me to pick up the phone and check in with people. However my team lead had tasked me with logging people and their assigned locations into the system, so I said to the teammate over and over “sorry I can’t right now” and he kept egging me on asking “why not?” “pick up the phone” “you need to call the list” until finally I shouted “I CAN’T. I’M BUSY MAKING SURE WE DON’T LOSE TRACK OF ASSIGNMENTS”
    Of course he didn’t take it well and yet I was the one who ended up in tears. Anyways that job is behind me now and now when I look at job opportunities within my industry, I pay attention to whether emergency response is part of the duties.

    1. LT*

      Another instance was for my first job out of college. I was in a cafeteria with a manager who’s 2 levels above me, and I offer to pay for lunch. Cue the awkwardness at her being treated by someone two levels below her, and me thinking “what’s wrong? I thought I was doing a nice thing”

      As if it weren’t bad enough I think I later on apologized to her and said I wouldn’t do it again. Yes, I was young, and this was before I was introduced to AAM.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Honestly, the awkwardness was on her there! That’s definitely something that a senior person should feel OK about smoothing out for a junior person.

        1. Not a Dr*

          Agreed! If someone new to the workforce offered that to me I would just say something like “Thank you but I am happy to treat you.” Or if I couldn’t afford that maybe an offer of going splitz. But really – I supervise college kids. You have to expect to have conversations about things like that.

    2. Meganly*

      I’d be pretty annoyed too! All that time he spent pestering you could have been spent on check-in calls.

  44. Sarah in CA*

    After HS graduation, I got a job at a pizza place. It was a great place, owners worked there, everyone close friends, etc…

    Fast foward to a couple years later, I was not 21 quite yet so I couldn’t do anything with alcohol and that was the only thing holding me back from officially being made and paid as shift manager.

    Well, I guess they couldn’t wait anymore and hired someone new who rubbed me all the wrong ways. After a few months, I got upset over something trivial and complained to one of the owners, I was just so mad and jealous she had the job I wanted. It was not a good scene in the back room.

    I quit shortly after that to go to Taco Bell as assistant manager, and the two months there are a whole other adventure!

  45. Jackalope*

    I was working for a conservative religious nonprofit training a bunch of short-term volunteers and wore a t-shirt with a deliberately provocative feminist slogan. In retrospect it may have been at least partly a subconscious rebellion against the conservative culture of the organization which I was NOT a good fit for (in that way; my actual work was good), but now I cringe to imagine the fact that I wore that to the training instead of a plain t-shirt or something with the company logo.

    I was also introverted and had a hard time starting off with a new group of volunteers (by the time they finished I was fine, but I HATED having to meet so many new people). At the beginning of working with one group I was emotionally exhausted, having just finished up with another group (and this involved living in an apartment with the short-term group for a month with no breaks from them so it was emotionally intense), and was downright surly when they tried to ask basic getting to know me questions. At the end of the month with that second group, one of them shared with me, “I really grew to like you. It just goes to show that first impressions aren’t everything!” Which sounds harsh, but given how I started off working with them was very fair. (Realizing that more of my required job was working with short-term volunteers than I’d thought was one reason I chose to leave; not my best skill set.)

  46. Adam V*

    I got an email from a recruiter – at my corporate email address. I responded very curtly with something along the lines of “not only am I not looking for a job, but I would never use a recruiter who’s so oblivious that they’d email me *at my current job* to ask me if I was looking for a new one.”

    I sent it and felt great for about 15 minutes. Then I realized that if I ever *was* looking for a new job, this recruiting agency probably had me in their books as “difficult to work with”, if not blacklisted altogether.

    Fortunately I’m still at the same company and very happy here :)

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      I don’t see a lot wrong with this though, I’ve responded similarly in kind with “….and I’d appreciate you not contacting me via my corporate email account to inquire as to whether I’d be open to a new company. IT sees everything.”

      1. Adam V*

        Oh, definitely, telling them not to contact me via my corporate email was okay. It’s when I called them names that I think I crossed the line into “unprofessional”, mainly because I think I went a bit further than “oblivious” in my response.

    2. Observer*

      Actually, if the agency is any good, it would be the RECRUITER that would be in trouble. Because you are right – that was a ridiculous thing for any recruiter to do. Like beyond rookie mistake.

    3. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      For what it’s worth, there are at least 8,476 different agencies in the US. Heck, there might be that many in each state. There are even agencies that seem to specialize in finding people for other agencies. (I’m currently employed by one of those and I advise everyone I know to avoid the situation. It’s just a logistical nightmare.)

  47. Eggplant emoji*

    I used to work for a big company that sells firewalls and software for managing firewalls, among other things. Once spent all morning setting up a new firewall in our test environment (not actually protecting anything, just as a sample to test out the management software). I’m not sure why I was assigned to do that, I’d never actually worked with a physical device before, but I guess it was good experience. This particular model is notoriously difficult to configure. When I took a break for lunch, a teammate asked me how it was going in the server room. I was very frustrated at that point, so I answered with a joke: “Instructions unclear, got dick stuck in firewall.”

    I got a very startled laugh in response. The office culture was very laid back and a little crass already (Which is its own problem) so I guess I thought it was in line with the humor already? As added context, I’m a cis woman, this was my first job out of college, and I definitely projected an air of sheltered innocence, so this joke was quite out of the blue for me.

    The person I told it to thought it was hilarious, but in hindsight I’m mortified that I thought that was okay.

    1. Hills to Die On*

      and now my coworkers are wondering what I am giggling at while I duck down in my cubicle…

    2. Meow*

      As another woman who has worked in tech with a culture like this before… you can’t win. If you don’t participate in the tech bro dick jokes, then you get labeled as having a stick up your butt and no one wants to work with you. But if you participate, you’re the one being unprofessional and out of character. It’s so hard to find the right balance.

      1. Eggplant emoji*

        Oh big mood. I alternated between trying to be “one of the guys” and leaning into the uptightness, like, “Yep you’re right I’m no fun, now can you please stop that?” Heh

  48. the+cat's+ass*

    I worked in a bakery in HS and got into a lemon pie filling slinging match with another worker when we were supposed to be cleaning the kitchen. There was LPF on the ceiling. Never really got that cleaned up. Boss just sighed.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Omg. I just flashed back to whipped cream fights at the ice cream shop I worked at in college! (We did clean it all up.)

    2. IndustriousLabRat*

      Ahhhh this reminds me of Dough Ball Baseball… Picture this:

      Restaurant job during college, Italian brick oven, semi-open kitchen, small Northeast regional chain. Quite respectable food, actually. One of my line duties was baking rolls. They weren’t par-baked at all; just trays of dough balls. The oven was at one end of a long corridor that led to the dish pit. Dishie and I had a game where if I dropped one of the raw balls, I’d call out “INCOMING!”, launch it down the corridor, and he’d grab the nearest large utensil and take a swing at it. Until the day he grabbed a giant wire whisk. And connected with enough force to hit it out of the park- except that it was raw dough. And a whisk- imagine dozens of tiny, sticky shards of dough exploding everywhere, and sticking to every surface in their path.

      Including the BOH manager, who had just come around the corner. The look on his face. Indescribable mix of horror, despair, anger, and honestly just trying not to laugh at us idiots.

      I can’t believe that neither of us were fired; but then again, the only person I ever saw fired from that place was the guy who no call no showed because he was in lockup for punching a police horse at a baseball riot. And it took them multiple missed shifts before they pulled the plug. Sox/Yanks series were EXPLOSIVE in their potential for violence back then.

      But not, apparently, as explosive as high-velocity bread dough hitting an industrial sized wire whisk.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        This sentence just got better and better:

        “because he was in lockup (okay) for punching (okay) a police horse (wtf??) at a baseball riot (WTF??!!)”

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I’ve heard of punching police officers before, but I can’t even picture how one would punch a horse (at least without getting bitten or kicked).

    3. GammaGirl1908*

      I love this because I often send friends a text that says LFP, but it means that we’re supposed to meet shortly, and I’m looking for parking.

      Also HEEEEEE at the police horse. I mean, wow.

    4. Bagpuss*

      Not me, but my uncle had a jb in a bakery when he was student, in the early 1960s, and got fired after the boss walked in on a jam-duel between him and a coworker. Apparently you put the jam into jam doughnuts with a large syringe, and warm, syringe -propelled jam can be fired quite a long distance. And then gets eveywhere…

    5. Iroqdemic*

      OK this is the most delightful thread of teenage part time food service job shenanigans. LPF to the baseball riot- it has it ALL!

  49. Karak*

    I said “fuck” in the interview for a semi-professional customer facing role.

    I got hired!! When my boss brought this up I was HORRIFIED. He said, “well, you seemed fun, so I thought why not?”

  50. Ingrid*

    My first professional job out of college, I worked at a truly terrible place that was so soul-sucking and horrific I really believe I could write a book about it. I hated working there and was desperate to find anything that would give me even a small amount of joy. Almost everyone else working there was also a fresh grad (because they couldn’t retain employees). My team concocted an idea to bring my bread machine into work and bake fresh bread every day. I don’t know why we thought this was ok. But there we were, with my bread machine plugged in in its own cubicle. We’d mix up the ingredients and the bread would bake, but because it was an open office floor plan, the entire building would smell like fresh baked bread. We didn’t share. We’d just pull the bread out, slice it, slather it with butter and chomp away in full view of everyone. One time, the bread machine caused a shortage along the entire row of outlets and caused everyone’s computers to die. These were all graphic designers. Anything unsaved was totally lost and we were NOT popular.

    We never used the bread machine again.

    1. Spreadsheets and Books*

      This story is amazing, and I truly wish I had the balls to bring a bread machine to work. I’d also have to carry it on the bus and the subway to get it there, so it would be quite an adventure.

    2. wheeeee*

      In the late 90s I worked for a place with notably similar dynamics (I was the oldest. At 29. I lasted less than a year) and if we had thought of this we would totally have done it. Management (hah!) would have thought it added to their “street cred” – which some industry rag had described the company as having and which they referred to frequently. We were all super unprofessional (the hook-ups! the after-hours absinthe in the office! the dramatic readings of the terrible content we were formatting!) but man that place sucked. I salute your genius bread-making brainstorm.

    3. Ina Lummick*

      A good benefit of working for a company in food r&do, we have a pilot bakery and we get to take home fresh baked bread when it’s flour testing season!!!(Sometimes pastries too!)

    4. Gumby*

      I once worked someplace where we did the same. Except the bread machine was in the kitchen, the bread was shared with anyone who wanted any (small 15-person office), and the main ‘baker’ was the director (highest ranked person in that office). Mid-afternoon snacks of fresh-baked bread are glorious.

  51. Meow*

    That makeup one didn’t really sound so bad to me until they mentioned the hair straightener!

    Mine probably isn’t that bad, but I’ve been embarrassed about this my entire career, so maybe this is my opportunity to confess and forget.

    I was an intern at a financial firm that was pretty prestigious for our small town. One day I received an invitation to a meeting from someone I didn’t know, “on behalf of” someone else I didn’t know. Now, anyone with a shred of business sense would immediately understand that this must be the executive assistant for someone important, likely a C-level executive. Even I had a small inkling that must be the case… and yet, I emailed the exec himself, not his assistant, with a curt, “What is this meeting for?”

    He responded kindly that he was inviting all the interns to lunch to get feedback about the intern program, but every time I see a letter here complaining about interns being rude or not following business etiquette, I think about my younger self and cringe.

    1. Re*

      Hopefully next time his assistant put the purpose of the meeting in the invite … you know, like professionals do.

      1. Meow*

        Yeah there was that. It’s probably a good thing I was a clueless intern, because if the CXO’s assistant sent me a mystery meeting invite now, I’d probably be terrified!

        1. pandop*

          I was so glad the other day that the message on my voicemail from the GP surgery asking me to call them also included the phrase ‘it’s nothing to worry about’

    2. Spicy Tuna*

      I had a job once where I was part of a very small team. Our work area was adjacent to a larger team, so we had a lot of opportunity to interact / socialize / share copier time with the other team. The other team was very insular and not particularly friendly towards me. There was a big storm in the forecast and all of us on the floor were talking about it. One woman on the other team seemed particularly concerned. I had found a good article on weather.com about the forecast and I forwarded it to her. She seemed really confused and actually came to my office to say, “did you mean to send this to me”. I mean, she was totally offended! I was baffled at how that could have caused offense!

  52. anonymous73*

    A few jobs ago I was working as a Business Analyst. I had written the requirements for a new training application we had built and was very involved in the entire process from start to finish, so I knew the application like the back of my hand. I was offered an Application Support Specialist role and not really given a choice in the matter (I didn’t want to change roles). Anyway, once we launched the application, I had 1 help desk analyst and myself working from the queue of tickets. We consistently had 200 + tickets in there and I was working a ton of extra hours to keep it from getting worse. Nobody asked me to do it, but I felt like if I didn’t, we would drown and never get through them all. One of the managers wanted to make some sort of changes (I can’t remember the details) which made no logical sense and would make my job harder but they wouldn’t listen to reason. So I lost it. I was yelling and crying and it wasn’t pretty. I had been pushed past the brink and I couldn’t take it anymore. I did get 3 contractors hired to help with the tickets after that though. Not my finest moment, but I learned to ask for help when I needed it, instead of thinking I needed to handle it all myself.

    1. Wee wee wee*

      I really don’t understand companies that get employees who are good at working with information to move into jobs that involve working with people. Outcomes like the one you experienced are really common.

      Another comment above is from someone who was working with emergency services information about contractors and was being harassed by a co-worker to start phoning the contractors to check-in (a completely different task than what her boss had asked her to do) until she finally lost it.

      Being expected to solve people’s problems is a way to lose good employees who are stars at dealing with information.

  53. Cthulhu's Librarian*

    the first summer I ever worked, I was working two jobs, one as a lifeguard, and one in a warehouse. The warehouse position did not have a dress code, and the lifeguard position specified that we had to be in visible swimwear at all times. As I got more comfortable in commuting between the two, I started picking up extra time at one or the other – letting a shift run late, etc.

    Eventually (like 8 days in), I came to the conclusion that I could earn an extra $8.75 each day by not having to change outfits between the jobs, so I started wearing the swimsuit while working in the warehouse in the mornings, before going and working afternoons as a lifeguard. Initially, I did so under sweats, but as the summer got hotter, and the heat waves started rolling in, and I began shedding my layers, one article of clothing each day. By the end of the week, I was doing the warehouse job entirely and only in my swimwear, and continued to do so for the rest of the summer.

    None of the other warehouse workers, or management, ever said a word to me, but I look back and cringe – especially when I remember how the swimwear we were required to wear for that lifeguarding position was essentially a red and white version of the blue and black trunks Daniel Craig would later wear as James Bond.

    1. DrRat*

      You do realize that you are now a legend there, right? That sometimes they all sit around in the break room and someone says, hey, remember Swimsuit Guy?

      I kinda love this, actually.

    2. Hrodvitnir*

      Oh man, I also support this. So long as you wear closed toe shoes I guess? I would think you’re awesome if I worked with you.

  54. bee*

    I tutored math right out of college, and our shifts were weekday afternoons and weekend mornings. I lived in kind of a party house at the time, and I only occasionally participated, but one Friday a friend and I had a small charcuterie board and a whole bottle of rosé for dinner, and then suddenly more roommates came home and there was tequila and well… long story short, I was suddenly the drunkest I have ever been in my life. After that it gets fuzzy, but I remember a lot of pink vomit, forcing myself into a shower, and not much else. But I guess Drunk Me was responsible enough to set an alarm for my shift the next morning, and I didn’t have the presence of mind to call out, so I dragged myself out of bed and on the 45 minute subway ride to the tutoring center.
    I felt okay but bleary, and then my first student of the day comes in, and the first thing out of this poor third grader’s mouth is “What’s that smell?” I lied through my teeth that I didn’t smell anything, and it must have been something from outside (thank u NYC for your stench) and we made it through the lesson about fractions, but I’m still shocked that I didn’t get in trouble. It helped that the managers were barely older than the staff, and no one was trying to do it as a career, but still. It was a low point for me.

  55. JTG*

    I was about to leave a teaching position at one school before a cross-country move. The year had been overwhelming and I hadn’t given a required district-wide assessment–but no one had talked to me about it. I had also been promised a vote in the selection of my replacement.

    After finding out who my replacement would be–unilaterally chosen by the school principal, who had not been at the interviews–I went crying to my department chair about “betrayal.” She came right back and said, “You want to talk about betrayal? What about not giving your district assessments?!”

    It was a shitty way to end the year. She’s given me positive references since, but I’m mortified about how naive I was about the whole situation, and that it didn’t occur to me to ask for help getting everything done.

  56. Marketer*

    My first job. I hated it, I hated my boss, and I did not do a very good job. Not a terrible one, mind you, but I did what I had to do, as quick as possible.
    I have some pretty unprofessional recollections :
    – My boss was a micromanager, who spent hours goind through every detail of my deliverables with me sat near her, taking notes. So I just stopped proofreading them. Don’t know what I was excepting there, but of course the sessions became longer…
    – Going in the street to take personal calls, sometimes for half an hour.
    – In a meeting where my manager’s manager who decided to tear through a presentation I had done for a colleague’s client in her absence, I just decided to say nothing except “okay”. Not even “okay”, just ” ‘kay” after each reproach. And after a while I just stopped responding.

    I can’t even really regret it. They sucked.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      I also once had a micromanager boss who would nitpick everything. At first I reacted by proofreading obsessively, trying to catch everything. Did not help. I then discovered that if I purposely left some easily-corrected errors in, it went better for me, because she would often just find those. If there were no easy errors to find, she would make me restructure the entire thing, because she had to criticize *something*.

      I also once copied a paragraph she had written herself a year before, verbatim, as a test. Sure enough, she ripped it apart. Sentence structure, grammar, she actually told me she “would not have written it like that” while I sat there trying not to scream. Not super professional of me, but at least then I knew it wasn’t me, it was her.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I would have been so tempted to say (all big-eyed and innocent) “Actually, you did write it. I took it from [document] as I wanted to ensurethat I was using approrpaite sytle and structure, and following your example”

        I mena, maybe only at the point I was already planning to leave, but it would have been so temepting!

      2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        This is actually a really good trick used by design professionals (and by me, a writer): leave something for the client to find, so they don’t nitpick things that are fine. Because they want to feel involved in the process.

  57. JayS*

    At the job before my current job, I got on the elevator with a coworker that I was really cool with and we started trash talking our management and team leads……our managers/leads weren’t on that elevator, but other managers were, and it got back to those we were talking about. After it got back to them, people started talking about me and my coworker, saying how unprofessional we are and how we just started talking bad about managers in front of a bunch of other people on an elevator.

    I don’t know why I did it and I don’t know what I was thinking at that time. I wasn’t young (I was in mid 30s). I guess you can say I got caught up and did something really stupid. Oh, and I was new at the time so of course I made a really good impression on everyone. /s

  58. ceiswyn*

    My first workplace had a casual dress code, and in the summer I used to turn up wearing a swimming costume as though it was a body, with a matching skirt. So far, so reasonable; it was the sort of place where one of the developers liked to wander around in bunny slippers.

    I was in a small sunny office with big windows and no aircon; in the summer it got unbearably hot. So I took off the skirt and carried on working, wearing just a swimming costume.

    Yeah, apparently the dress code wasn’t quite *that* casual.

    1. Delta Delta*

      We had an intern at a law firm where I worked once who would periodically take off her shirt to reveal a bikini top and do yoga in her bikini top and shorts in her work space. And this was not like a sports bra style top – this was a tiny triangle top that tied in the back.

  59. Why M&E?*

    Hoo boy, these are bad. I’m better now.

    • I overshared way too much about my BDS&M life with colleagues at multiple jobs. (I learned that morbid curiosity on their part doesn’t require satisfaction on mine.) I now keep that aspect of my life to myself.

    • This is the one that got me to screw my head on straight. It was the anniversary of my first date with my partner, so I wore the same dress to work. (It was NOT work appropriate.) As I walked off the elevator, I yelled from a full office away for a colleague I knew to help me with my makeup. The colleague was also a chill client. -.-” My boss sent me home to change, as she should have. We later had a conversation about professionalism in the office. Both in word and in dress.

    • I didn’t really get that government colleagues aren’t the same as contracting coworkers. They’re still the client, at the end of the day. I told a government employee on my same team level (eg, analyst to analyst) that I was looking for another job. He mentioned it to our client, his boss, and the contracting company had to do damage control. I kept my work search to myself after that.

  60. mlem*

    Back in the 90s, at age 25, I landed my first salaried office job. After three months, I had my first-ever performance review. My supervisor took me into an office and presented the document for me to read while she watched me. It was riddled with typos and misspellings, so I … noted and corrected them. We wrapped up the meeting, we left the office, and she dropped her pleasant facade and ripped into me for having been so very inappropriate. (Frankly, I think she was more unprofessional than I was, at that point; I didn’t have the experience to know better.)

    1. Elle*

      I don’t understand what you did wrong here! Were you not supposed to correct the document? Even if that wasn’t the intention, I think she should be more embarrassed for having all those errors! (I edit stuff as part of my job so my stance on this may be… skewed)

      1. Wisteria*

        No, you are definitely not supposed to edit the performance review your supervisor wrote of you, even if it is riddled with errors, and even if you are an editor.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Correct factual errors in a performance review? Yes. Correct typos? No no no no.

  61. coffeeandpearls*

    I openly worked on my lifestyle blog (early 2010s) at my first job at a law firm right out of college. I worked the front desk and often didn’t have much to do! Instead of finding something in the office to do, I did my own thing! I think I even posted in my blog that I pretty much spent my work time researching for posts. WHY did I think that was the thing to do?! I can’t imagine what the owners thought of me. And no- I did not become an influencer in the end.

    1. Galadriel's Garden*

      Ha, I can’t really fault you for that one to be quite honest – there’s only so much you can do at the front desk of an office after a certain point. I used to work reception as an admin at a civil engineering firm and did all kinds of things once my list of “useful office tasks” ran out, to say nothing of the “less than useful office tasks,” like reorganizing the filing folders into rainbow colors, trying different methodologies to descale the coffee pots (one week was a stalemate between lemon juice and vinegar), etc. I wrote some blogs for a hobby website, got really good at crosswords using the prior day’s paper, started doing online Excel training, used company resources to print and bind sheet music with the comb binder…

      I would have felt bad but I had already taken on way more than the initial job (and pay!) entailed because I was bored, and they just didn’t have enough work to keep me occupied for a full 8 hours, even with the “expanded” role of proofreader. My favorite days were when I had to go drive a contract somewhere to get a signature, so I could spend a few hours in the car and not at my desk.

  62. Delta Delta*

    Babysitting – I was about 16 or 17. I annoyed with the kids I was watching and I made them watch Richard Nixon’s funeral on TV (to be fair, it was the state funeral and it was on then; it wasn’t like I taped it). I was not invited back to watch these kids.

  63. ProducerNYC*

    I was a 20-something producer and interim manager- our manager had quit and they put me in the role. NO training or guidance. A producer told me a disparaging comment an editor had made about our department ‘being a joke,’ and I put that in the handover note that went to my supervisors and the overnight crew. He got hauled in to his boss’s office and I thought he might get fired! He is also a Black man and I’m a white woman, and I was ignorant of the racial dynamic as well. I learned IMMEDIATELY never send an email when angry, and also that I should not have taken a comment (likely said in a moment of frustration) so personally. They offered me the manager role full time later that month but I didn’t feel I was ready for it or a good fit. I knew I was bitter and burnt out at that job (super toxic news environment that remains toxic to this day) and it was best for everyone when I left 6 months later. That was 20 years ago and I still cringe when I think about my unprofessional behavior as I typed (AND SENT) that email. Thankfully, he didn’t lose his job, and he accepted my apology, but I’m pretty sure he dislikes me to this day, and I don’t blame him ONE BIT.
    I’m very thankful for this site which has helped me grow professionally and I have never made that mistake again in 20-plus years.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Was the man the producer and the editor? And can you clarify how did played into this? I couldn’t tell if you meant that he could be more at risk than a white man of being penalized for the comment, or something else.

      1. ProducerNYC*

        The man was the editor, and I was supervising the producer who worked with him. I was referring to the long history of white women’s words always being believed, and Black men not getting benefit of the doubt. I shouldn’t have put in writing something I didn’t hear for myself- I was repeating what another producer told me. what if she misheard? Or just lied? It was a decision made when I was feeling frustrated and defensive, and it had no relevance to the info that normally goes in a handover note. I instantly believed her and then took unprofessional action at something that really didn’t matter overall.

  64. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

    During an internship that I wanted DESPERATELY to turn into a job at the end, I thought for some reason it was a good idea to remind people *all the time* that I was leaving at the end of September (when the internship ended). Maybe I thought that people would be so disappointed that I was leaving that they’d beg my manger to make me stay?? I don’t remember the logic, but in hindsight I find myself VERY ANNOYING and can’t believe I did that.

  65. Minimal Pear*

    I had a fairly loud, public conversation with another coworker (in my defense, she started it) about yeast infections. She gave me some useful advice!

    1. Minimal Pear*

      At the same job, my boss once asked me to stay late to help with something and I declined. (Totally fine, good for me.) I then went on to say that it was because I wanted to go home and eat. (A little weird, but sure, let’s remind her that work-life balance is important.) I then found an old granola bar in my bag and decided I could just eat that and stay late after all to help out. I decided that I had to inform my boss of the reason I had decided to stay late after all. Ohhh I still cringe thinking of the “why are you telling me this you weirdo” face she made.

  66. alienor*

    Years ago at my college retail job, a colleague who had started at the same time as me was promoted to be a supervisor. I was about 19 or 20, and I deeply resented what I perceived as being bossed around by a peer who didn’t know any more than I did. Anyway, at some point it was slow and she ordered me to clean, so I went to do it, but as I did I said something along the lines of “You’re not the boss of me, JESSICA (not her real name).” One of the other supervisors happened to overhear this, flipped her lid, and dragged me out of the store to remind me that Jessica was in fact the boss of me, and to lecture me for being disrespectful. I probably should have felt bad, but the only effect it had at the time was to make me mad at both of them.

  67. Cendol*

    First job. I told my wonderful boss at a very staid law firm that I was looking forward to dressing up for Halloween. She looked at me in horror and said, “Good God, no.”

    1. The Original K.*

      At least you knew not to do it in advance! There was a letter here from someone whose employee dressed up for Halloween in a similar environment- it may actually have been a law firm. Dressing up for Halloween was Not Done there and everyone except the employee was mortified by it.

        1. Cendol*

          Hah, thanks for that! I remember reading it when it was posted on AAM and cringing so hard. Thank God my boss stopped me.

  68. soontoberetired*

    in my first tech job, my team was putting 70 hours week to hit a deadline during the winter olympics. So we decided to have our own olympics late one Saturday racing chairs up and down the hallway. someone from management came in to check on us. We didn’t realize he was watching for 20 minutes.

    Thankfully, he was cool with it.

  69. AlarmClock*

    For one semester in college I interned for my congressperson. It was extremely part time, just one and a half days a week, and they barely had any work for me so it was extremely slow and boring. But I worked at the House of Representatives and had to wear formal clothes and it felt like a pretty big deal!

    And I just completely overslept my last day of work. I was supposed to be in from 9 to 12 and I woke up at 11. I called my manager and we agreed that I shouldn’t come in that day. So my internship just… ended. I never used them as a reference. This was probably 15 years ago and I still cringe thinking about it.

    1. Luna*

      This reminds me of the time I was supposed to do a test day of work at a sandwich store. The interview had been about two weeks ago and I originally was supposed to do the day the week after it, but I had come down with some weird throat thing that made talking, swallowing, and even breathing unpleasant, so we agreed on postponing.

      I had my alarm set to wake me in time, and I was supposed to work something like 9AM to 2PM. But I realized I had gotten a relapse of the throat thing, was feeling tired and exhausted, and ended up immediately falling back asleep instead of grabbing my phone and calling to inform them. I woke up about 30 minutes before my ‘shift’ was supposed to be done… I don’t even dare to apply to that store again because I must have left a really bad professional impression.

  70. Nannerdoodle*

    I need to clarify that all these examples make me cringe whenever I think about them. My first job out of college was in research, which means that while we were all very professional when it came to actually doing things, we were less than professional in our interactions as coworkers. These are just the worst ones.
    1. We played the Game of Things at a team happy hour (with our boss). The prompts were suggestive and our written in answers were worse.
    2. There was a certain research activity that always involves 3 people (not the same 3 people, it changed all the time), and got really repetitive after about 5 minutes. So we’d play F/M/K…one person would name 3 coworkers in our department of over 100, and the others would have to answer.

    This also reminds me of my time in a research lab in college. The other undergrad and I had a rule that whoever made it into lab first got to pick the pandora station (10 years ago). It led to a lot of less than professional music choices in the lab, such as rap and very explicit R&B. During the summers it got really slow, so if we had nothing to do because we’d already completed tasks for the day, we’d just talk about whatever. Cue the lab manager walking in one day to the other student teaching me how to dance to R&B music. How we weren’t fired for that, I’ll never know.

    1. Lab Boss*

      Ugh, buried memory recovered… my whole company’s employee photos used to be stored on a network folder. We’d get bored and use a random number generator to pick photos for either f/m/k or “who would you do?”

      1. Nannerdoodle*

        Oh nooooooooooo. We didn’t do that with the photos, but we did find the folder all the department photos were on and did horribly unflattering photoshops of everyone. We took extra care with the bosses we disliked; we made them look grotesque. But we did such a good job on their photoshop that it looked realistic.

    2. quill*

      Okay so I was the only person in my lab during summer research. I discovered via a friend that the physics students were headed to fermilab the week that the Higgs Boson was discovered, and I wanted in.

      Not only did I cheerfully inform my professor that I was going to “hitch a ride to fermilab with [physics student]” and not come to the lab tomorrow, I followed up by asking a fermilab scientist giving us the tour if they still had a ferret for the particle accelerator.

      Worse: looking back this was CLEARLY supposed to be a networking event specifically for the friend who let me in on it, as he was a bit of a star within the department and had expressed interest in particle physics. We were rising juniors though, and he did his thesis on astrophysics, so I guess I didn’t tank his chances too badly.

      1. Nannerdoodle*

        Students in lab are just different. I distinctly remember coming into work one day and the lab manager looked at me and said “Do you need to go home? You look sick.” I burst into tears and said that my boyfriend had broken up with me the day prior (he had). She immediately sent me home for the day. Definitely not the most professional thing.

  71. many bells down*

    I spent a loooottt of time at one admin job hanging out in AOL chat rooms. This was maybe … 2000? And my boss was very not-tech-savvy but he had an AOL account for some reason, so I made myself a login and spent free time chatting away. I was getting my work done and all, but still. Not a good use of company time!

  72. Spicy Tuna*

    That second story reminded me of a former workplace….. the company I worked for rented an office in a building that housed lots of other companies. Each floor had a shared restroom. There was a company on our floor that had something to do with entertainment. Their employees had work obligations at concerts / bars / nightclubs, etc. So towards the end of the day, the women’s bathroom always had people primping in it, getting ready to go out. They generally left behind lots of stray hair, makeup detritus, etc. I guess they figured it didn’t matter because it was the end of the day and the janitorial staff would be cleaning up soon anyway, but it always struck me as a little rude.

    1. Wolf*

      Also, the job description for the janitorial staff in an office building usually doesn’t involve cleaning up makeup etc. Just because a building has janitors doesn’t mean everyone can just leave a mess.

  73. CJ Cregg*

    The summer after my junior year of college, I interned at a science-y, research-y nonprofit. They had a great mission and did great work. When I arrived I was introduced to my two supervisors, A and B. Supervisor B assigned me a summer-long project in addition to other more general, intern-level tasks. Right off the bat a big part of the summer-long assignment seemed over my head. Not that I couldn’t do it, per se, but it just seemed like a big deal and something that Supervisor A would be doing anyway, as like a major and regular and ongoing part of her job. I was able to confirm that this was the case. Instead of, you know, pointing this out to both of them, I just didn’t work on it. I didn’t ask clarifying questions or ask if maybe there was like a small part they wanted me to work on. Or, you know, ask if I was assigned this in error. I just assumed that Supervisor B clearly wasn’t up on what Supervisor A was doing. I did everything else I was supposed to do but not this. I spent a lot of the extra time on the newfangled internet (I am not young) and while I volunteered to take on some extra things throughout the summer, I just never touched this major part of the project at any point. When it came time for me to present my summer-long assignment at the end of my internship, I just pulled from Supervisor A’s work. I didn’t pass it off as my own (thank goodness), I credited / cited Supervisor A’s memos and documents and presented it that way. “Supervisor A’s research tells us…” If they were surprised I didn’t say anything at the start, they didn’t show it. I was on my way out anyway, but it wasn’t the smartest thing to do.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Oh god, this reminds me of a paid internship I did. Unfortunately, the project they gave me was way over my head and the only person who could teach me was frequently out of the office, so instead of doing any work I just sat there and played Spider Solitaire. For the entire work day. For weeks.

      I think it was a month before they gave up on the project and gave me small tasks to do, and I was over the moon about being able to do something.

  74. Coenobita*

    When I was in my early 20s, about a year and a half into my first full-time post-college office job, I was injured in a serious car accident. This was pre-smartphone so I was overjoyed when someone fished my somehow-undamaged laptop from my car so that I could, from my hospital bed, write an EXTREMELY over-share-y email to the entire office. I believe I described not only the circumstances of the crash but my physical condition (the phrase “minor internal bleeding” was definitely involved), my observations of the CT-scan-with-contrast experience, and how I was super bored so would somebody please send me some work to do. I want to blame the painkillers but the cringiest part is that, honestly, I think I would’ve done it even if I wasn’t taking them.

  75. londonedit*

    I hadn’t thought about this for YEARS but my brain recently decided to present the memory to me (such fun). In my very first professional job, I worked in a small department of a larger publishing company as an editorial assistant. It mainly involved doing admin and general support stuff, but I was occasionally allowed to do some basic editorial work. Anyway, a couple of months in one of my more senior colleagues was off on holiday for two weeks, and I was given a list of things to ‘keep an eye on’ while she was away. All quite straightforward, and – this was where my stupid brain tripped up, I think – all presented in a sort of ‘It’d be great if you could keep an eye on this for me, shouldn’t be anything urgent there, if you wouldn’t mind just keeping on top of things’ way. Of course, any keen editorial assistant should have seized on this as a moment to step up and demonstrate excellent organisational skills and an ability to take on higher-level work when required. Did I? I did not. I pretty much kept the list on my desk and occasionally referred to it in a sort of ‘Hmm, yeah, don’t think I’ve heard anything about that, it’s probably fine’ manner. I’ll admit, by the end of the first week I’d sort of forgotten I was meant to be actively doing anything with the list. And so it came to pass that when my colleague returned from her lovely relaxing holiday and we went through the list…very little had been done, apart from the things people had followed up with me on. And it also became clear that one of the things I was meant to have done was actually quite time-sensitive and really quite important. I was meant to have sent a cover brief to an external designer, and I was meant to have followed up to make sure that the draft designs would be ready and waiting for my colleague on her return. Regardless of how the information was initially presented to me, firstly I absolutely should have known this, and secondly if I’d actually bothered to look at the list properly I’d have worked out that it was important. Instead I just…didn’t do it. Ended up being called into a meeting with my senior colleague and my boss, where it was impressed on me in no uncertain terms that if I’m asked to mind a colleague’s work while they’re away, they’re expecting *things to get done*.

  76. Suddenly_Seymour*

    Early in my first salaried job, staffing was cut and my role absorbed a lot of highly visible, manual, and customer-focused tasks in the office. I spent several months trying to corral responsibilities and make things more manageable, but didn’t have the professional experience, support, or guidance to figure out better processes or push back on the workload appropriately. My anxiety skyrocketed, and I was barely eating or sleeping. I finally met with my boss on the verge of tears and tried to explain how overwhelmed I was. My boss, who had previously worked in law, stated that they really didn’t understand WHY it was so much work, and that in previous roles they had tracked their time in 6 minute increments to demonstrate workload. Shocked, frustrated, and not totally understanding the concept of billable hours at the time, I proceeded to TRACK MY TIME IN SIX MINUTE INCREMENTS, color coded by portfolio and spanning hours from 8am to 1am, to send to them weekly. Why on earth I wasn’t called back a couple of weeks later to explain that what he wanted was a concrete problem and a solution or two offered, NOT multiple color coded time-tracking sheets, I’ll never know, but I cringe so hard thinking back on it.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      While it may have not been the most constructive response, your boss didn’t do great with this. If someone you’re managing comes to you and says ‘I’m feeling really overwhelmed’, responding with ‘I don’t understand why it’s so much work’ is a poor response when you have the opportunity to take even a few minutes to walk them through problem-solving steps.

      1. quill*

        I know, also I think working overtime and high stress jobs really rots people’s brains about what a sustainable workload is. Boss had experience and help. Seymour did not.

      2. Luna*

        And I would expect the boss to figure out a solution or two to make sure their employee isn’t overwhelmed, not add *more work* for the already overwhelmed employee to take care of.

    2. Observer*

      Your response was a lot more reasonable than your boss’. You told your boss that there was too much going on. Instead of asking a few big picture or even reasonably detailed questions, he told you it couldn’t be “that bad” and also you need to trace every minute to prove your workload.

      I suspect that he never told that he wanted “a concrete problem and a solution or two offered” because he never was interested in that – he was just fluffing you off. Or maybe the spreadsheet made him (or someone else) realize what an idiot he’d been.

  77. WavyGravy*

    One time in court I said, “yeah that’s my bad your honor.” And then realized and just slinked back to my seat. Luckily everyone was cool with it, but reading that line in in the transcript later was rough.

    1. DrRat*

      The dangers of forgetting there is a transcription!

      I feel so bad for you but at the same time this is up there with “I’m not a cat” and “Objection, that question should be taken out and shot.”

  78. Bummer School*

    I got myself canned from running a summer school program because I had complained that the program was a mess in a facebook group for teachers of our district.

  79. Sabina*

    In my early 20s I had a habit of just walking out of bad jobs with no notice or just ghosting completely (in my defense they were really BAD jobs with borderline criminal or abusive bosses ). One job I ghosted after a few weeks I swear was a front for some kind of organized crime. I mean I was told the bosses’ names were not their REAL names and I was not allowed to know their actual names. I was already planning to move to another city, so the day before my move I just didn’t go to work. Literally an hour before my phone was disconnected I got a call from mystery boss. I pretended not to be Sabina and told him Sabina had gone missing…cringe..Never picked up my last check…

    1. Wolf*

      They were really shady… nothing lost here, it’s not like you would have used them as a reference anyway.

  80. Oxford Comma*

    I was badly informed by many, many workplace sitcoms and modeled the behavior I saw there. I may have also sung a lot in the office. It did not go well.

  81. ZSD*

    My first office job involved cajoling members of a profession where you don’t use computers often to log in to the computer long enough to e-sign a certain form. After several polite reminders to one person, I wrote him an email that just said, “Dude. Seriously. Sign your form.”

    1. Minimal Pear*

      I had a volunteer job in college that was basically this and I am relating so hard right now. I think a few people I had to physically go track down, walk with them to the classroom we met in, and hand them a computer to make them fill out this very quick electronic form.

      1. ZSD*

        At least your people were within walking distance and not in the middle of the ocean!

    2. Higher Ed Kitten Party*

      I email students all of the time and … this feels extremely reasonable to me.

    3. Hills to Die On*

      The president of the company I used to work for asked multiple times to get my email address set up and finally sent a blast out to all 15 of the people in the local branch asking, ‘Who do I need to know to get this done?’
      Request was processed moments later.

  82. The Other Evil HR Lady*

    Oh, goodness…. so many! I have to preface this with: I’m the head of HR at my company, so I *should* show some semblance of decorum.

    A few months ago, one of our top execs – who I worked closely with – felt ill during a meeting. My boss was his boss too. She was in the same meeting and noticed he was massaging his chest. She asked him what was wrong, he blamed it on heartburn. She pointed out that heart attacks often present as heartburn. He took it to heart [I’m not sorry for the pun] and drove himself to the hospital. I wasn’t in the meeting, but as HR, my boss kept me in the loop.

    The next morning, my boss stopped by my office and the first thing out of my mouth was, “How’s [Top Exec] doing?” She paused and said, “[Top Exec] died last night in the hospital.”

    My response? “Are you [LOUD EXPLETIVE] kidding me?!”

    I’m still shocked at myself.

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Oh goodness, I think that’s a completely reasonable response in that situation!

    2. Legal Beagle*

      I wouldn’t even count this as unprofessional, honestly. I don’t think there’s a “professional” way to react to the death of someone you work closely with, and presumably cared about.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Not unprofessional. :(

      I did something similar when a well-loved employee at OldExjob passed away over the weekend. The GM came up to my desk to tell me and I just started crying in front of the entire office.

  83. Anonymous Pygmy Possum*

    At my university, everyone does one or more 6-month co-op work experiences. It’s a big draw for the school, since they have a ton of connections to companies in the big city where they’re located, as well as connections to companies all over the country and the world. Generally, people either do 4 years with 2 co-ops or 5 years with 3 co-ops. I had chosen to do the 5-year program, and had already had a year of co-op experience.

    In my fourth year of college (Fall 2017), I was going through some big stuff. I had just broken up with my then-partner of 3 years (we were in a heading-towards-marriage relationship) and the post-breakup emotions were Extremely present. I was living by myself in a terrible studio apartment, and I had never lived on my own before. I was planning my top surgery for the beginning of 2018 – so I would have had to start my co-op later than most other students. And to top it all off, I was at the start of a mental breakdown where I was starting to think I had chosen the wrong major/field of study but I had already done 3 years of coursework for it.

    I had an interview with a small startup in the city. They were doing really cool work in a sector that I thought I wanted to work in. When they asked me to tell them where I saw myself in 5 years, I talked for 5 whole minutes about the fact that I wanted to get married to a nice guy, live in a nice house with a couple of cats, and have kids someday. Eventually, they said, “Okay, but what about professional goals?” to try to get me to, you know, actually take the interview seriously, and I said “Uh, I’m not sure!” and then left it at that. That’s the only part of the co-op interview cycle I remember to this day, and it continues to haunt me. I’m sure I said similar things at the other interviews I had.

    I never got to do my third co-op because I didn’t pass any of the interviews. So, I graduated in 5 years with only two co-ops under my belt. And I didn’t fully realize why I didn’t pass any of the interviews until I started reading AAM. I look back in that point of my life and cringe SO hard. Though, I made it out okay – I did graduate on time with that major, spent two and a half years doing the thing I didn’t like, and found a different job in the industry that I do like.

  84. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I could probably have an article to myself… I remember and would admit to these.

    Working in the mailing industry and answering in-house calls after hours with “No one goes Postal like we do!”

    Paging coworkers to extension Eighty-Four Eleven. Eight gets you an outside line.
    Paging coworkers to a phone number served a facsimile machine.

    Comments embedded in code like:
    “Sanity check — don’t worry, you won’t miss it.”
    “If this next block makes any sense to you whatsoever, you have my deepest condolences.”
    “I replaced good code with this due to coding standards.”
    “If we pad the walls, this place could moonlight as an asylum.”

    Telling a peer they’re welcome to disagree with me; it won’t make me wrong. (Really know how to make friends and influence people, don’t you, Latinophone?)

    Rotating my display 180 degrees.

    Loading my desk via VNC/RDP & VPN during mandatory non-sequitur training and working tickets.

    BSoD screensaver on a PowerPC Mac.

    Mispronouncing, rephrasing, or otherwise altering a client company’s name or vendor’s name to express frustration (to the point where I was referring a client as F. A. I. L. and was getting requests to be more specific).
    Incorporating the mark of the beast into internal proposals for difficult clients (e.g. client number, processing interval, etc).

    Taking my lunch break during happy hour.

    Being inadvertently late for work due to traffic after meeting a friend & former coworker on the other side of town for lunch during March Madness the day after my supervisor told me that I’m too buttoned down and needed to live a little.

    Bringing my personal notebook into the office, logging onto the guest network WiFi, and listening to sports events or music streaming for 12+ hours per day when I had to work weekends unsupervised.

    Over 3 years, I probably violated the maximum shift duration (12 hours) by up to 59 minutes at least 500 times due to being shorthanded and an overwhelming workload. I always promised I’d leave “before I hit 13 hours” and did renege on that promise once to meet SLA.

    Nominated a coworker as Employee of the Month for a competitor.

    QC signoffs in Latin, Spanish, and French on April 1st.
    Desk sign on April 1st saying “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.”
    Error messages using randomize timer to populate the language field on April 1st.

    I’ve been banned from the coffee pot for a week at least thrice (no, not for contamination, damage, or misuse).

      1. ferrina*

        +1

        Nominated a coworker as Employee of the Month for a competitor.
        I really want to know this story!

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I think the story is more mundane than the summary.

          The guy was hired a week before I was. Very charismatic and personable, but we noticed his work ethic start to wane after 6 months. We had 3 shifts–8a-5p, 10a-7p, 3p-12a (all were plus-overtime). Those first 6 months, we were required to work 8a-5p; after 6 months, he immediately volunteered for 3p-12a. We kept coming in at 8a to Production issues that had waited overnight, jobs that were never touched, etc, but the work that was directly assigned to him would usually show progress.

          Well, the supervisor had a policy of rotating personnel through the 3p shift, since it carried a 10% shift differential and was brutal on someone’s social life, so after 3 months he went to the 10a-7p shift for a year, then back to the 3p shift. Then he started trading spots on the 8a shift for the 3p shift.

          Eventually, it was my turn on the 3p shift. He was on the 10a shift at the time (though had permission to come in at 11a and leave at 8p). The office generally cleared out between 5p and 6p, and when it did… off came his shoes, his girlfriend arrived with his dinner and hung out until his shift ended, they watched Youtube and he browsed a 4chan site… basically, anything and everything except productivity. After a week of it (I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt), it sunk in that’s what he was doing for half of his 3p-12a shifts.

          I did report it to our supervisor, who had IT block Youtube and the fora, but that pretty much was the whole of the response. Eventually I ended up the informal, impromptu leader of the rest of the team who resented having their workloads increased to subsidize his shirking (I especially resented it, as the extra hours lead to my relationship failing), so I nominated him for Employee of the Month and put “Programming – Local competitor” for his department/team. (It wasn’t the only unprofessional retaliation).

          You had to be there to see the dynamic; that competitor would poach my employer’s employees and directly target their business contacts to undercut pricing. It was close to Coca-Cola/Pepsi level animosity. Eventually, he did go to that competitor for about a month, then took a job in another state.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Eventually I ended up the informal, impromptu leader of the rest of the team who resented having their workloads increased to subsidize his shirking (I especially resented it, as the extra hours lead to my relationship failing), so I nominated him for Employee of the Month and put “Programming – Local competitor” for his department/team. (It wasn’t the only unprofessional retaliation).

            The rest of the team voted up the nomination.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I’ve never heard of Skippy’s List, but if Google & Wikipedia are accurate, that fits. I used to joke that you can tell I’ve worked somewhere because there will be a rule with my name on it forbidding an action.

        The older I get, the harder that is to laugh about, though. Looking back, that place was full of bees and I wasn’t part of the solution. Yea, some of these still make me smile, but if a young new hire tried any of them, I’d pull them aside quietly and explain they’re career-limiting actions–maybe not each one in isolation, but absolutely when they start bunching up.

    1. quill*

      “If this next block makes any sense to you whatsoever, you have my deepest condolences.”

      Don’t mind me, laughing.

    2. Sam Yao*

      I’d give yourself a pass for April 1st as long as you were grammatically correct, and:

      Desk sign on April 1st saying “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.”
      this is legitimately funny, especially if nobody around you speaks Italian.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        My peers and Management were all monolingual Anglophones, to the point where they considered speaking other languages to be inherently hostile. Spanish & French were only tolerated because we had clients mailing in them, and were tolerated in blatantly xenophobic ways (e.g. complaining about “waves of brown people” literally while eating sopapillas).

        Like I said above, the April 1st stuff wouldn’t be as bad if it weren’t part of a long sequence pushing the boundaries of eccentricism.

  85. Frank Bookman*

    I have a stupid amount of shame around both of these incidents.

    1) I wore sandals (leather thong style) to my first office job early in my brief time there. I had looked around and seen a lot of women wearing sandals. I thought I’d remembered men doing it too, but apparently not. It was a very relaxed “chill” environment with a barista in the morning, a fully stocked kitchen, and kegs at 5pm. I DID think about the sandals, but I concluded it would be fine. I was not right. My manager took me aside and I’ll never forget her tone of voice when she said “The sandals? Never. Ever. Again.” before moving on. The clarity and brevity were for my benefit I’m sure, but it felt cold as ice at the time.

    2) To prove I hadn’t yet learned my lesson about making assumptions about company culture, I put up a BUNCH of perler bead art (those plastic melting beads for kids that creat a pixelized effect) around my desk. This was during my first week at my current employer and I had been given the office tour the day before. I’d noticed highly decorated desks all over the place. Funko pops just everywhere, especially in the IT department whole collections stacked nearly to the ceiling. I thought my little display would be a fun talking point with my new coworkers. What I hadn’t clocked was that my desk was right along one of the main walkways and very close to the front entrance. That one earned me some fun feedback from the grandboss.

    On the bright side, neither incident had any impact on my career whatsoever and now I’ve lucked into a big ‘ol office off the beaten path where I’ve been able to curate some appropriate personal touches. And only 10% of our employee base come to the office anymore anyway, so nobody cares.

    1. Luna*

      I looked up perler bead art. As long as the stuff you displayed wasn’t gross or inappropriate, I would see no wrong with it. That stuff looks really cool!

  86. elizelizeliz*

    i used to work at a job where i had to drive clients in large vans for work. a coworker friend and i decided to stop on our way back to work from drop-offs for a quick errand, because we knew no one would be at the workplace anymore so what was the difference? for doing the drop-offs, we got comp time.

    the quick, urgent errand was: shop at old navy, get an early dinner at the mall, walk around to see what else we may want to do.

    we returned 2 hours late, and the next day my supervisor called me in because someone had seen us there and we were using company vans to just hang out and leave them at risk in a parking lot, while we were sort of on the clock.

    my proudest (…) moment was that then i ARGUED ABOUT IT, saying that it was no different than running in to use the bathroom at a gas station after filling up and no one gets in trouble for that!

    it took me years to realize how in the wrong i was, at each point in the process!

  87. catwhisperer*

    When I was in my early – mid 20s, I worked for a non-profit and reported directly to a VP. Her boss, in the C-Suite, was in a different city so if the three of us had conference calls I usually joined my boss in her office. During one of the conference calls my grand-boss kept interrupting me and I got really frustrated, so without thinking about it I threw the pen I was holding across the room. The moment my brain caught up with my actions I was MORTIFIED and apologised profusely to my boss as soon as the meeting ended. I still don’t know why I had such a childish reaction and cringe every time I remember it.

  88. Esmeralda*

    I was still a grad student, so this was an on-campus, single first year course. There was another class right after mine. I regularly ran ten minutes over. Right there I am a self-absorbed ass. The grad student instructor finally comes up to me and says, please, you have to finish on time so my students can get seated. I looked right at him, and said, Don’t be such an asshole, I’m not DONE.

    OMG.

    Yeah, I found him after class and apologized. A lot. And stopped my class scrupulously on time from then on.

      1. Esmeralda*

        What’s worse is that I didn’t go look for him to apologize because I realized I was the asshole. No. One of my professors was in the hall (thank god, the young cool one), asked what was up since I looked angry. I told her, making it clear just how put upon I was. Hahahahaha, yeah, she looked horrified and told me that I was the actual asshole and needed to make it right.

  89. Anne of Green Gables*

    I was a relatively new manager of a department in a public library. Our area included the public computers. My employee (male, mid-twenties) came to me (female, mid-thirties) not sure what to do about something a patron wanted to print: biographical information about a porn star. Without thinking about what I was really asking, I asked the employee how he knew the subject of the patron’s search was a porn star. I still want to die every time I think about it now.

    (I was really just curious, because I could only name one porn star at the time, and maybe two now? And I was thinking that perhaps I had been asked to help someone look up a porn star and not realized it, so in my head, the question was about how to know when asked by a patron if that person was someone I should not be looking up based on our policies, which had pretty strict no-porn rules. But yeah, totally not an ok question to have asked my employee.)

  90. kiki*

    One of my former companies was located in a historic building. The building threw a little festival to celebrate 100 years. A lot of local vendors were serving food. I was young and entry level and genuinely underpaid for my role, so the free food was a tremendous draw for me. Most employees went down once to see what was going on, mingle with folks in the building, and then continue doing their work for the day. I went down about 8 times throughout the day, taking free food each time. I participated in a building history scavenger hunt so I would be entered to win prizes. I was as close to MIA from work as I could be while still technically in the building. Nobody said anything and I did win a $100 gift card, but looking back I’m sure more senior folks were not the most impressed with me that day.

    1. Jean*

      You get what you pay for, honestly. If they wanted unwavering professionalism, they should have considered paying you fairly.

  91. Art3mis*

    One time I was in a large company meeting lead by some Chief Muckety Muck of the company where they standing in front of rows and rows of employees and are basically telling you all about how the company is doing and where we’re going, you know the kind. So there’s a PowerPoint going on behind him showing sales and revenue and stock numbers and how everything is going up. He says, “So as you can see, all these numbers are going up, so what isn’t going up?” And I say “Raises?” EVERY ONE in the room whips their head around to look at me. I thought I’d said it under my breath. Nope. Apparently not. He didn’t acknowledge it though I’m sure he heard it and he kept on with whatever it was he was going to say. His point wasn’t raises, whatever it was. The lady sitting next to me leaned over and said, “Don’t worry, we were all thinking it.” One of my coworkers was sitting on my other side and she could barely contain her laughter.

    1. Murphy*

      I would have silently applauded you. (But silently.)

      We had one of these in December (over Zoom though) and they said “we’re in better financial shape than we’ve ever been” so I texted my friend who also was at this meeting and said “SO WHERE’S OUR MONEY?”

      1. howler-monkey-screaming.wav*

        This is the best part about not working alone. We had a meeting a few weeks ago where the president of the company told us that 1: the next few months were going to be extremely grueling because of a full transition from one system to another and that we were going to have to have 2-4 weeks where we were totally down as a company and unable to help clients and nobody is allowed to take more than 1 PTO day per month AND ALSO 2: self care is SOOOO important guys!!! DON’T FORGET TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!!!!!!!! SELF CARE SELF CARE!!!!!!

        My phone buzzed with a coworker’s text simply stating: howler-monkey-screaming.wav

        1. PotatoEngineer*

          I can’t remember where I heard this, but there was another out-of-touch executive that introduced two things at the same meeting:

          An Employee Dignity Program… and random drug testing.

  92. Nope, no name for this one*

    About half my life ago, I was a retail manager who really needed a good mentor. One of my employees was very attractive and charming and I ended up dating him. OK, bad enough, but one night, after closing, he stayed behind and we had sex on my desk. I never got caught, and there were no consequences. I’ve grown and matured a bit since then but OMG, what on earth was I thinking.

      1. Nope, no name for this one*

        LOL No. And I have to say, desks are not very comfortable. It wasn’t even worth it.

  93. CW*

    When I was in high school, I was interviewing for my first “real” job (waiting tables at a retirement community). The interviewer asked if I’d ever had a job before. I said “Not officially!” I meant this to indicate that I’d done work like babysitting/pet sitting, but she did a double take. And that’s how I learned that employment laws are a thing and you shouldn’t joke about them in interviews…

  94. Moufaletta Jones*

    My CEO walked around looking for me so he could rope me into an “Ideas Committee” which was a toothless waste of time – anyone who actually tried to suggest changes would get retaliated against by management. So I hid under my desk. For an hour. With my laptop, because I had work that needed doing. He kept asking people in adjacent cubes if they knew where I was. He never found me, and I escaped the committee. I regret nothing.

  95. quill*

    Worked in biosamples, so warning: some samples were of human origin. Skip NOW because that’s relevant.

    *
    *
    *
    Somehow I became in charge of calling our supplier of human skin samples when they sent us unuseable bits. While inventorying one shipment, I discovered that a sample was clearly jaundiced and therefore unuseable. The supplier decided to dispute the claim that jaundice was outside of the parameters for our sample, by suggesting that we had bad light or that the preservation fluid just looked yellowy. I’d been on my feet for about 7.5 to 8 hours of every workday that week and for various work sucked reasons I was in a mood.

    So there, in the lab, in front of everyone, on the phone, I told our only source of samples that unless they ffing sampled from Homer Simpson, they had no excuse for pretending the photos I sent of their sample were not jaundiced.

    … My boss, not a paragon of professionalism, laughed, but we got our refund. And I didn’t have to call the sample place to dispute their claim that they didn’t owe us a refund again.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      This is glorious.
      Also, even if they were the only place that you got those samples from, if they were sending you poor quality items then you shouldn’t be worried about calling them out on it. Vendors should also be included in the ‘what if X got hit by a bus’ calculation

      1. quill*

        Oh that was not the only supplier problem I had in that job, let’s see…

        1) Small lab, looking for chemicals usually ordered in large batches: I had a month where I was told that I had to find someone to sell us 2 gallons of nitrocellulose. Sample phone conversations with sales reps include “well, couldn’t you put some in a 2 gallon bottle and sell it to us?” “No.” “Uh… could we obtain a sample then?” and “what’s the protocol for recieving chemical samples?”

        It could not be done. I kept at it. I discovered after some research that we were not going to get any partially because of regulatory reasons, as nitrocellulose, aka gun cotton, is a component in explosives.

        My not-pleased boss asked why I had failed to achieve the impossible. I responded “Dude, we can’t legally have any because you can make bombs with it.”

        2. Was training another fresh grad. Very tired. Called the centrifuge the “tilt-o-hurl for samples.”

        3. Job duties at one point involved moving our entire setup across the building and borrowing the vaccum from maitenance to clean up the area we vacated. Vaccum was utterly destroyed because apparently if you ran it too long the motor blew out? Opened vaccum, saw the carnage within, closed vaccum, returned it to maitenance without saying anything.

        4. After everything had gone south at this job because boss expected the impossible, ended up disclosing my mental health issues because I was at the end of my rope. Fresh grad had run off to pharmacy school, showing much better sense than me, so suddenly anything wrong was blamed upon me. Got a yelly lecture from my boss, started crying, he demanded to know why, I yelled back “what part of ‘I have an anxiety disorder do you not understand?'” Took me another six months to get fired.

  96. KG*

    Interviewing at the end of my MBA. (Yes, my mid-30s… makes it more cringeworthy). I walked into the interview room and saw some bottles of water on the table. Thinking that the Career Center had provided them, I grabbed one and sat down. Only to realize that there were now no longer enough water bottles for the interview panel, and I’d swiped my interviewer’s water from right under his nose.

    What makes it worse is that it took me a few hours to realize what I’d done, after wondering why my interviewers seemed so uncomfortable during our initial introductions.

      1. KG*

        I think it was the interviewer’s own bottle of water, that he bought outside. There were several people around a smallish table, so it wasn’t as clear as it might have been in a larger space.

    1. KG*

      Another interview one, this one *for* grad school (again, mid-30s). After asking my last question about the program, when the interviewer asked me if I had any more questions, I said, “No, that’s it,” stood up, shook his hand, thanked him for his time, said I looked forward to hearing from them, and walked out the door.

      Surprisingly, I was actually accepted to that program (consistently ranked among the top 5 US MBA programs).

  97. Billabong*

    Once, a coworker sent me an email that I deemed to be…irritating and dumb. So, thinking that I was forwarding it to a friend/coworker with the note, “This [person] is some kind of stupid,” I instead replied to said “stupid” person. Not my finest moment. Yes, I was embarrassed and yes, I did get a verbal warning from my boss after said person (rightfully) complained.

  98. Catcher in the Rye*

    Y’all, I poked a child in the eye. In the eye! I was working at a summer camp during check in, and a parent asked me which way something was (the bathroom? I don’t remember anymore). I pointed in the direction of the location just as a kid (early teens) walked up to me and straight into my pointing finger. It wasn’t completely my fault, but I was mortified and my boss told me I should point with multiple fingers from then on instead of just one.

    On a less funny note, I’ve had other instances of unprofessionalism caused by mental illness that mostly include me sobbing at inappropriate times and making off color comments to supervisors, like the time I told a previous boss that I knew I’d end up homeless someday (???) or asking if a different boss wanted me to resign when there was no reason for that to even be a topic of conversation. No one’s perfect, especially not me.

    1. quill*

      Oooh, working at art camp when I was 17. Grabbed child out of the way from hot glue gun, got burnt instead of kid, swore very loudly. In the only class of 5-6 year olds. Spent the entire rest of the day for some reason trying to convince them that I had said “ship” instead of the alternative.

      Also didn’t think to do much for the burn besides immediately dunking it in water to harden the hot glue… so I have a tiny round scar to this day.

  99. KateDee*

    I’m chronically ill and always tired. I was also an admin several years ago, when I was pregnant. Pregnant was a whole new level of tired for me, so I used my role as an admin to commandeer an empty office, a couch, and darkening blinds. I used that room to take naps multiple times a week on my lunch break for my entire pregnancy. No one ever confronted me because I was apparently terrifying while pregnant (I told a coworker once that he was the villain in my story because he microwaved fish).

    1. MansplainerHater*

      I once told a coworker not to microwave fish, and he said “this is salmon, so it’s not as bad” and I responded “a great dane’s shit smells as bad as a chihuahua’s.”

  100. coldsassy*

    I was working at a retail job and was scanning product in the stockroom one evening when I was suddenly overcome by a WAVE of exhaustion so strong that I felt I couldn’t continue scanning. And… I laid on the floor in between the shelves, because I was alone in the stockroom and I knew I was out of sight of the cameras and I’d be able to hear if anyone came in, and I’d get back up in a few minutes to finish the job. Realized after several minutes that this was not a great plan, as I was starting to feel worse instead of better, and that I was most likely coming down with something, so I dragged myself up off the floor, went to find my manager, and told her that I needed to go home early because I was sick. Within an hour of getting home, I became VIOLENTLY ill and knew immediately that I had norovirus, since I had been around some people earlier that day who I knew had been sick with the virus recently. I was out of work the next three days.

    I give myself some grace for my addled decision to just chill on the stockroom floor since I was clearly in the early stages of a serious illness, but good lord.

  101. EmKay*

    I proudly hung up the Calvin & Hobbes “it’s Miller time” strip prominently in my cubicle.

    I worked at a BANK.

  102. Nene Poppy*

    Unprofessional…probably; but no mortification

    A longgggg time ago, dodgy boss (later booted out of company) asked me mail a particular letter for him. It had to get the recipient within 2 days. He was too lazy to walk it across the street and put it through the door.
    It was his membership forms and dues for a group that had originally be set up as a charity.
    The members were going to get a big dividend from a long term investment which had been paid for by members when it was still a charity.
    Applications for new members had mysteriously closed before the announcement of the coming dividend was made.
    But he had even dodgier friends in the group who had backdated his application/nomination and approved it.
    He bragged and bragged about how much money he was going to make.
    I did mail it, on my way through a small village in Cornwall, after last pick up and I sorta forgot to put a stamp on it.

    He asked me about a week later did I mail it. I could honestly put my hand on my heart and say that I did.

    And he never knew that I spent my weekend away.

    Little post script – it felt even better when I got to testify against him for fraud.

  103. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    First job out of college, one of the few female engineers in the building. Coworker offered to share his game of tetris with me (this was 1991, very advanced!). The job involved some extended hours with waiting for lab results so nobody really cared if you played games during the wait.

    On the same floppy disk as tetris was a game that was very x-rated. I was too naïve to realize it was intentional to get a reaction. Mostly ignored it and played tetris from time to time and left the disk in the drive when I wasn’t playing. Never thought about deleting the x-rated game until the department secretary was looking for something to keep an intern out of her hair for a couple hours and took the disk and gave it to the 19 year old college kid.

    I don’t think they bought the “I had no idea that was on there, I just play tetris” but they didn’t do anything either. Fortunately for me computer literacy was just really getting going.

  104. Al who is that Al*

    First real job on the oil rigs, one of my colleagues came into the mess after having talking on the satellite phone and announced to everyone that his wife was pregnant, I burst out with “Oh no! Was it planned?!”

  105. BigSigh*

    I still cringe. There are so many. But my first office job messed with my idea of professionalism!

    The time I asked a co-worked, loudly, “Are you HIGH?” while standing outside the open door of the CEO’s office. (She was, in fact, high, having mixed two medications accidently.)

    Checking my personal cell phone in a meeting to verify something on our social media account (long enough ago that none of us had laptops, only desktops), completely forgetting my phone case had a woman making a graphic, sexual gesture. Of course picking up my phone meant everyone else at the table had full view of the case.

    Several colleagues were standing on the sidewalk organizing to catch Ubers together to a local conference. When the first arrived, I let my favorite colleagues on and then I barred the door with my arm after getting in, telling the next man that he couldn’t join the Uber even though there was room because I didn’t want to be around him. (He was horribly rude, had been acting out the minute before, but everyone was still dead silent after hearing me say that.)

    FINALLY at my new job, which did have a professional and well put together atmosphere, I joined a conference room where there wasn’t enough space at the table for everyone to put their laptops on it. I fidgeted horrible for a few minutes before PROPPING MY FEET UP on a side table and balancing the laptop on my extended legs.

  106. BuyingBunny*

    My (very large) company created a huge, expensive internal PR campaign about our wonderful corporate values (integrity, trust, etc.) and I created a fake of their splashy poster, with mocking phrases and examples of how we are NOT about integrity, trust, etc. Then I sent it to MY BOSS’S BOSS. My poor boss, a very decent man, got called on the carpet and was in some serious trouble for a good while, and of course so was I. I didn’t get fired but it was a close thing. We stayed in our work relationship for another ten years, so I think he eventually forgave me, but he never forgot. (In my defense, the company was in a real morale slump and people were leaving constantly. I wasn’t actually WRONG, in other words.)

  107. The Prettiest Curse*

    I worked in a betting shop (off-track betting) during one of the summers that I was at university. They arranged a staff day out to Goodwood races, and I decided to go and dragged my sister along too. As it turned out, most of the staff who attended were from different stores in the chain.

    During the coach trip to the racecourse, the older bloke sitting next to me (who I hadn’t previously met, and who’d already been drinking before he got on the bus) was chatting and flirting with me the entire time. Being young and having attended an all-girls high school, I was pretty amazed to be chatted up in the wild, so I didn’t mind the attention.

    Before we got to the racecourse, we stopped at a pub for food. At this point, one of the chatty bloke’s friends told me that the chatty bloke was married. I was pretty annoyed with this revelation, so I waited a while, had a couple of drinks, then bought a pint of beer with the intention of pouring it over the chatty bloke’s head (from behind, so he couldn’t see me coming.) Only he moved at the very last second, so most of the beer missed him … and instead, a wave of beer washed all over a plate of full English breakfast that another of his friends had just started eating. (This was not the same friend that tipped me off.)

    I ran off back to the coach, leaving my sister to deal with the aftermath of the beer-related carnage. The chatty bloke (to his credit) later tracked me down at the the racecourse to apologise. I have no idea what I was thinking, or why I didn’t get fired! I think the fact that I was a summer temp and that most of the people on the trip didn’t know me probably helped…

  108. High Score!*

    I worked in a job shop where we put custom software on these PLC type controllers with very simple LCD displays. I didn’t have a Error graphic so I put in a temporary skull & crossbones and left for the weekend.
    The following Monday, I learned that there was a customer demo and my skull & crossbones popped up. Oops… But fortunately the customers loved it and we had to leave it in.

    1. Migraine Month*

      Better than the old Apple “bomb” icon when it performed an “illegal operation”. I don’t know if it’s an urban legend that some customers panicked that their computer was going to explode or get them in trouble with the authorities, but it’s a good example of why error messages should be useful, not just technically correct.

  109. ripvancringeful*

    I was a student teacher at a high school that realized too late that teaching was not for me. Depression affected me the whole semester, which in turn gave me terrible insomnia. I fell asleep in front of students. It took years before I could forgive myself for doing that.

    1. Just Me*

      If it helps, I work as a school admin and at OldJob some students sent me photos of a teacher asleep at her desk. Teacher did not have a medical reason to be asleep at her desk. Teacher did not apologize for falling asleep at said desk.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      Oh no, I’m so sorry. Once when I was subbing another teacher used the classroom during my off period. He did some huge rant about a kid sitting with their head on the desk and then confiscated the kid’s chair so they’d have to stand the rest of class as punishment… and then the TEACHER fell asleep. So you’re better than that teacher, lol. The kids kept dropping books trying to get the teacher to wake up and I pretended I didn’t notice and needed to use the bathroom because I felt so awkward being the other adult in the room. He was awake when I came back and funnily enough did NOT confiscate his own chair…

  110. TheNordicAlien*

    I got hired as a teaching assistant by a former teacher of mine. I’d taken two 2-week courses from him (as an adult) over the previous two summers, and then he asked me to come back to work with him, so we were sort of familiar with each other but didn’t know each other that well, and adjusting to being colleagues was…interesting.

    On my first day, leaving work, one of the building security guards asked me out. The employee handbook said no dating colleagues, but our company was only renting space in the building and I wasn’t sure if security guards – who belonged to the building, not our company – counted as colleagues, so after students went home I checked it out with my boss, as well as his mentor, who was keeping an eye on us for the first week.

    His mentor said it’s fine, security guards aren’t our colleagues and are fair game for dating. Boss jokingly (I think?) said, “you’ve been here one day and already have a date? You tart!” Forgetting who I was talking to. I replied, “excuse you, that’s a really twatty thing to say”. We both looked horrified for a moment, probably both wondering if the other one was going to report us and get us fired. Then he apologised, and took me to the pub and bought me a pint of Guinness. It was the beginning of a frequently delightful, occasionally tense, British-American working relationship.

    After three decades in the UK I still don’t quite understand British humour, or when I should take people seriously. I appreciate the pubs though.

    (Security guard stood me up on our date, and I never got to go out with him, nor did I ever see him at work again. Oh well, he smelled a bit funky anyway.)

  111. Avocado lover*

    I was finish up an interview that went rather well, saying my goodbyes, when the interviewer complimented my purse shaped like an avocado. I thanked them and jokingly responded by saying I was a “basic white bitch who would do backflips for avocado.” Regretted it instantly. Never got a call back.

  112. annoymethis*

    Got so frustrated at a job once that I threw my stapler into the hallway without really knowing if it would hit anyone. I was the last office in the row but the possibility wasn’t zero.

    1. gmg22*

      I threw an empty can at, or at best in the direction of, a colleague once when I got mad that he laughed at me for not knowing how to pronounce the name of a city in a story I was reporting. (The city was La Jolla, California, and sheltered small-town New England girl here pronounced it the gringo way, lol.)

      Of course this was at my college newspaper, not quite in the “real world,” which is my only lame excuse!

  113. Princex Of Hyrule*

    I used to walk about five miles to work at a blue discount department store, where I started work at 4 AM. (I worked in the fresh bakery section.) Our dress code was nothing fancy but called for our clothes in good condition with no stains or tears. Well, one day I was three miles in to this five-mile commute when I tripped and fell into a wash. At 3AM. I dragged myself back out and tried to dust myself off, but my pants had torn open at both knees, my hair was tangled and dirty, and there was a significant gash in my shirt along the back hem. It was less than two hours before the beginning of my shift, and walking back home and then walking to work would make me more than two hours late, so I just… walked to work like that. I redid my hair as I walked, but god was I a sight to behold when I got to work. I cleaned up as best I could in the bathroom, but I still looked like I lost a fight with a bear.

    I tried to hide from customers until my lunch break when I could buy replacement clothes. I was not very successful.

  114. Emby*

    My first post-college office job had no dress code and people dressed incredibly casually (you kept a suit in the office in case it was necessary for an event). T-shirts, shorts, flip-flops, all were fine. But my boss had to pull me aside and explain that my underwear should not be showing at work.

  115. gmg22*

    This is one that I think probably could only become a big issue in an open-plan office, though interested to hear otherwise! On quiet nights in the newsroom at my first copy-desk job out of school, I would occasionally call my friends late in the evening after deadline, or they would call me, for a bit of casual chit-chat (back in the turn-of-century days when people still talked on the phone!). This would happen even if I wasn’t officially “on break,” but just if there was nothing urgent to do. No one ever said anything about it, and it wasn’t out of the ordinary for older colleagues with families to take quick calls from their spouses, kids before bed, etc — so I assumed it was fine as long as I waited until after deadline. I saw it as a chance to catch up with people who, unlike me, worked 9-5 gigs. Except then this practice started to creep into the before-deadline time, and my friends would occasionally ring up just, like, whenever. (And we’re not talking my cellphone — several of them I’d just given the copy desk number and they’d ring up and ask for me, to which now I’m like LOL WUT? to my 25-year-old self.) Anyway, one night my supervisor pulled me into his office at the end of the night and raked me over the coals. It turned out he had just given an identical lecture to a different colleague who was struggling to meet deadlines in part because she was taking personal calls, and she happened to be sitting next to me that night, and I was serving in a supervisory role that shift and needed to set a better example.

    I still feel the cringe 20-plus years later. But it was an important wake-up call about working in a shared space and respecting colleagues’ need to concentrate — just because deadline has passed doesn’t necessarily mean that someone else next to you isn’t still working on something. From then on I had a strict rule about stepping away from my desk to take any personal calls — mobile phones were quickly becoming the norm at this time, and there were plenty of quiet spaces to go in the building during our shift if I had personal stuff to attend to or wanted to do a quick catch-up with someone while I was on break time. (Thinking back now, it feels laughably strange that I would just sit there and rattle away on the phone to my friends about whatever, in full hearing of my supervisor and colleagues!)

  116. Canonical23*

    I worked at a college as an adjunct during the pandemic. Most of my job was going from English class to English class to teach students how to use databases. A small part of my job was to train new staff from various departments on how to use this scheduling app that the campus used to post different professional development opportunities. Well, when COVID hit, we all got sent to work from home with very little direction and the assumption that if we had our own computer, we would use it so that there would be enough equipment for the staff that didn’t have a home computer/laptop. Everyone adapted pretty well and my classes and training sessions transitioned to Zoom easily. However. I didn’t think to use a different browser or clean my cache or anything before presenting and the first presentation on the scheduling app that I did, when I was showing folks how to fill out the form to register, all of my previous form responses – including ones that I had put in OTHER forms – showed up “helpfully” as suggestions. I had taken a personality quiz a few months back where I’d put my name in as “Angry B****” and sure enough, that was the first suggestion to type in the app’s name field. I was MORTIFIED, but the new employees didn’t seem fazed by it, so I kept going. No one ever brought it up, but I mentioned it to my unofficial supervisor during one of the “how is work from home going” check-ins and he thought it was hilarious.

  117. Mail Truck*

    I worked for a summer in college delivering the mail. I got overly confident in my driving skills since I was puttering around all day in the little, zippy mail truck. It was fun since I was driving from the left seat and usually kept the door open and a leg hanging out the door to cool off with my music blasting. I got wayyy too confident and was driving fast and ended up hitting a mailbox–completely taking it out. I had to call my supervisor and they ended up replacing it. I seriously considered not telling anyone but ultimately decided to own up to it. Probably the only professional decision I made that whole summer.

  118. Delynn MacKenzie*

    As a private therapist I once blurted out “You have weird thoughts!” in session with a client. Then I scrambled to recover.

  119. Anonforthursday*

    Me, twenty-one years old so it was 2003, in my first ever office job straight out of uni. Basic admin tasks including copying and filing. I had been told that was literally my job, nothing else.

    I’d been at the job a while so I’d made a system for the copying and filing that was different to the way I’d been shown, but was more efficient. My manager lost her mind when she found out I was doing things different to how she’d shown me and demanded that I went back to doing them the old way, despite the fact that my way was faster and more was getting done, and this had been noticed.

    When I went back to doing things the old, slower way, my manager commented on how my productivity had dropped. I snapped back and said ‘I thought I wasn’t allowed to do things a different way.’

    Manager, no word of a lie, said ‘You’re not here to think.’

    So we were both unprofessional, I guess.

    I was paid £9,000 a year for that job. They treated their entry level staff so badly, I was once written up for daring to wear hiking boots into the office because it was freaking snowing. Ugh. Noped out the moment a job in my field came up, but I had to eat so you take what you can sometimes, right?

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*

      Manager, no word of a lie, said ‘You’re not here to think.’

      I’ve heard that too. Charming, isn’t it? That manager sounds like the bad side of one of the letters revisited this week (it certainly reminded me of a few of my bad ones)

  120. JMA*

    It’s May 5th, 2000, I’m 20 years old and working in my first professional job for a large retail bookseller, doing .com and bibliographical research. That day, the Love Bug virus crippled large swaths of the internet, including all of the computers in my office. It being a lovely spring day at the time, I decided to go outside and fetch the kite I had in my trunk. I was thoroughly enjoying my kite flying in the open space outside when the department director pulled up next to me in her car and asked what I was doing. “Flying a kite!” was my obvious, enthusiastic reply. She then went inside and had a few unkind things to say to my manager (who had signed off on my kite flying because they knew that with our system down, nothing could be done). Soon after, a no kite flying policy was introduced.

    1. BradC*

      Amazing. No additional clarification offered to the (implied but clearly obvious) *actual* question: yes, I can SEE you are flying a kite, the question is WHY are you flying a kite??

      1. JMA*

        She just rolled her window up and parked to go inside. I gave it another half hour before packing the kite up and heading in to see how things were going.

  121. Triplestep*

    I have a problem hearing “yes” or “no” in vague answers to questions. If I ask a “yes or no” question, I wait patiently through the response, but if I don’t hear a “yes” or a “no” I might genuinely be confused. (I attribute this to my straightforward communication style and having grown up in NYC.)

    I once showed up to a training at work for which apparently my electronic registration did not go through. I sat in the room with many of my closest co-workers to wait to speak to the coordinator; I wanted to ask if I could stay considering there were so many no-shows and empty seats. Looking back, she was one of those people who don’t like to use the word “no”. So her answers were things like “There were lots of people who wanted to attend”. I truly did not understand she was telling me “no”, and to all of my colleagues I must have looked like I was badgering her by asking the same thing in different ways. Confused, I finally asked “I don’t understand, can I stay?” This was answered by a chorus of my closest colleagues yelling “NO!” I was so mortified, I just gathered my things and left as quickly as possible. How could everyone else have understood this young woman except me? I’m sure this does not seem super embarrassing in the grand scheme of things, but anyone who has ever been “coached” about their “tone” knows how I felt in that moment.

    1. ferrina*

      Nah, she should have been clear. Lot of people have trouble reading between the lines (and it’s common in certain neurodivergent conditions). That’s not on you, she should have clearly said “You can’t stay, but we encourage you to sign up for the next one.” It’s not that hard to say!

      1. Triplestep*

        I agree she should have been more clear, but for whatever reason, she couldn’t be. Some people are conflict-avoidant to the point where they cannot say “no.” As someone who has been coached about my tone, I know that to those people, I am like a bulldozer. That’s part of what was embarrassing here.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      You weren’t in the wrong! “There are lots of people who wanted to attend” is not an answer to your question.

      1. Triplestep*

        Tell me about it! Heaven help my husband if he should dare ever answer a “yes or no” question with a reply that doesn’t include the words “yes” or “no”. I’ll just stare blankly at him and say “I didn’t hear a ‘yes’ or ‘no'”. We end up laughing about it (it’s an ongoing 0n-joke) but it would not have gone over well in the scenario I describe, with this sweet young woman half my age and new in the working world. (And me, having been told I have a strong personality.)

    3. NeutralJanet*

      Ehh, that was at least partially her fault, though I can imagine that it was super embarrassing for you. After she gave you one or two soft “no”s and you didn’t understand them, she should have straight-up said “no”. It’s not really fair for her to expect you to get the hint that the answer was no while not taking the hint that she needed to be more blunt.

      1. Triplestep*

        I agree with you, but I think she was doing the best she could. She was so young, and I think women are socialized to “be nice”. Saying “no” is not nice I guess.

    4. Luna*

      “NO!”
      *Thank* you! Was that so hard to say?
      I am on the spectrum and I really do not understand vague or subtle things, in speech or body language. My questions are to the point, I much prefer to the point, if not blunt, answers. Makes it so much easier to avoid misunderstandings in the long run.

      1. Triplestep*

        I am not on the spectrum, and I still agree with you. I am a New York Jew and just super direct which I find that the easiest way to be. I have had to learn to be less sharp in my tone, and I still get called out on it.

        The worst part is that for most people, they can’t really point to what it is about my communication style they don’t like, and they can’t give me examples. No one tells me in the moment, but I have heard it in reviews. Still there are other people who – when I tell them I have been talked to about my “tone” – will say “What? That’s crazy! I love the way you talk! You’re so up front, I never have to guess what you mean.” So … go figure.

  122. I'm Better Now*

    Probably relatively minor in comparison, but my first post high school, non-fast food job, I had nothing to do so I started balancing my checkbook at work. I was so used to someone coming and giving me work, not looking for it myself, that I thought the office setting was the same. You just sat at your desk and waited for someone to come give you work. My manager saw me and asked what I was doing, and to his credit, didn’t lose it when I told him matter of factly “just balancing my checkbook while I wait for work.” He was actually pretty understanding and patient in explaining that if I had nothing to do, I needed to ask.

  123. Mrs. Burt Wonderstone*

    I once very aggressively pursued someone in another department romantically to the point of harassment when they were politely trying to put me down gently. They never complained to anyone but it wasn’t until much later I realized how inappropriate that was.

  124. Anxious Small Talk*

    I have horrible social anxiety, like, constantly thinking that everyone secretly hates me or is judging me. So, when I first started out in the working world, I had trouble coming up with small talk to bond with my coworkers. This was a very creative office, and I didn’t want to ask the same boring old questions, and it was near Halloween, so I decided to ask the ~spooky~ question of “Have you ever seen a ghost?” to one of my coworkers… except I panicked. HARD. I’m talking thoughts going 300 mph while I’m in the middle of the sentence. So, instead of asking “Have you ever seen a ghost,” I went (internally), “Oh gosh, did I already ask this the other day? What if she thinks it’s a weird question? It is kind of a weird question, isn’t it? I should ask something else, but I’m already halfway through this sentence. What can I replace ghost with? Ghosts are dead… dead people… zombies… zombies died… zombies are people who died – uh-”

    And then, as casually as I had started the sentence, asked this poor, unsuspecting coworker… “Have you ever seen someone die?”

    Cue a completely warranted incredulous reaction and a lifetime of cringing to myself. Thankfully I no longer work there or live near her.

    1. Awkward*

      I’m screaming!!!! That obviously wasn’t funny that but it is gold the way you tell it now.

  125. DisneyChannelThis*

    The most unprofessional I’ve ever been was during my first time supervising summer interns (college undergrads 18-21 age range, they were paid), I had a intern who kept napping on the job. He wasn’t discreet, napped in the hallway table chairs (popular lunch spot), he napped in the random chair by the elevator, he napped in the chairs in the waiting room area. In conversations it came up that he played video games to 2am and that’s why he was so tired at his 8am job. Talking to him about better sleep habits didn’t work, talking about how even if it’s his lunch break he still can’t sleep in the public hallway (especially since he slept well through lunch into the afternoon missing tasks), I offered to send him home if he’s that tired. I was getting crap from my boss because he was hearing from the director about how bad of optics this napfest was. Finally, I lost my temper after finding he failed to come back from lunch yet again and when I found him napping in public view, I threw a plush beanie star wars droid (office mascot) hard, slamming into the glass just above his head. Woke him right up. We didn’t have nap issues after that but I had a lot of talks with my boss though.

    1. Esmeralda*

      When I’ve had students fall sleep in class, I first try raising my voice. If that doesn’t work, I head over to the sleeping student, stand behind their chair, and teach from there, loudly.

      And if THAT doesn’t work, I keep teaching from there, loudly, rap them on the head with my knuckles, and never say a word about it.

      No one sleeps in my classes any more…

      1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

        I am hoping you are telling us the unprofessionalism is you hitting a student on the head, not the student sleeping in class.

      2. Gabrielle*

        Don’t do that! Are your students children?
        It might be fine for many of them assuming this “rapping” is enough to get someone’s attention, not to hurt. But even then, chances are some of the kids you’ve done this to were missing sleep because of not being safe at home, and for you to scare them is cruel.

  126. GythaOgden*

    This is gonna sound a bit Not Always Right, but here goes. I work on reception in an NHS office. I’ve been here 8 years now and I enjoy the phone work I do because, for someone who is introverted to the point of hermit at home, I’m surprisingly sociable at work.

    We’re not a public facing office but we do get calls from the public because a service user helpline (complaints and signposting people) is based out the building. But mostly we’re admin/IT focused, so the calls are boring stuff.

    We do have a few ‘frequent flyer’ (FF) callers who are disgruntled service users and who will stop at nothing to speak to someone in the adminstration office, who are distinctly not public facing.

    Given the nature of what we actually do, quite often, the callers are under a lot of personal stress, so we try to deal with them as compassionately as possible and 99% of the time we can get them on to the helpline and not have them directly going through to the staff who don’t directly liaise with patients.

    But a few FFs know who they think they need to speak to, as if their case is super special and therefore they get to badger a team lead whose responsibility is not to directly administer their treatment. It gets exhausting, because inevitably they won’t take no for an answer and we’re stuck telling them they need to go through their actual service providers rather than the management who don’t deal with the public at all.

    Think of it in the teapot paradigm: guy goes and buys a teapot from Whittards, purveyors of fine hot beverages and accessories for making them. It breaks the first time he uses it, so he asks the local branch of Whittards to fix it for them. Then when they suggest he buys some glue or a new teapot, he gets angry and demands to speak not to the manager, nor the head of teapot production…but to the woman who purchased the clay from which they are made at the factory from whom Whittards buys their pottery goods. (Fun fact, my mum’s cousin worked in real pottery manufacturing. So I know how it is in that biz.)

    So they think they can get the clay purchaser to speak to them about the clay that their teapot was made out of and demand … I don’t know what exactly but something to do with their broken teapot. I’m on the phone to them trying to get them to listen when I say Clay Lady is WFH and in any event I can’t make her pick up her phone and the only way to reach her is through the Teapot Repair Helpline and…

    It’s the first cold day of autumn. The fire alarm is busted. There is a loud screech going off behind me, maintenance is running all over the building. Because our system is ‘fail to safety’, the automatic front door is wide open, and I’m sitting in my parka because it’s freezing. And FF is begging to be put through to Clay Lady.

    I grit my teeth and actually say: ‘Look. You can probably hear a siren in the background. That’s our building’s alarm. I’m sitting here really cold because the door is locked open and we’re trying to find a way to shut it that doesn’t end up simply trapping people inside. My head feels like it’s going to explode and my foot feels like an elephant has sat on it because I broke my ankle last March. I can put you through to the Teapot Repair Helpline, or I can simply put the phone down. I cannot get Clay Lady to help you, but if you want us to help mend your teapot, then there is no other option.’

    From the other end of the phone came a big gulp and a small voice. ‘OK. Put me through then.’

    I felt both good and bad. My colleague and I bust a gut for the few members of the public who phone us. I hope I wouldn’t behave like that if it really was my job to help FFs get the care they need. At this point everyone was wondering about another lockdown and there’s still a huge ‘teapot’ backlog that providers are working through.

    But at the same time I feel like I was honest, there was no comeback and he hasn’t rung back, so while what I said wasn’t totally professional, it was decisive.

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*

      This is pretty awesome. Not precisely professional, but awesome.

  127. TRC*

    I got promoted into a full accounting position. This put me squarely in the sights of the accounting manager. She scheduled a 15 minute check in (on the day the CFO was out) and completely tore into me. To set the stage, the last person who had the job got up and walked out one day because of this type of abuse. Accounting manager was SPECIFICALLY told she could not do ambush meetings like this. Yes, I cried and left a wildly unprofessional message to the CFO. It was kind of the last straw and I told them the next day I was moving back to my home state. I was supposed to stay on two or three weeks to train my replacement. On the Friday of the first week, I was told it was my last day, since I had finished training. I hadn’t spoken to the accounting manager all week so she had no idea where we were at with training. I spent the rest of the day trying to cram as much in as I could. At the end of the day, I was saying goodbye to a coworker in the remote corner my office was in. We were both crying. The CEO comes around the corner handing out cookies (something he’s never done) and come upon us and has no idea what is going on. He excuses himself awkwardly. I leave, coworker explains to him it was my last day, he gets it. But despite crying a river over multiple days in an unprofessional manner, I gave one hell of an exit interview to HR. Crying unprofessionally was NOTHING compared to many, many unprofessional things the manager said or did over two years. One highlight was that she said to two of us that when she hears a phone vibrating during a meeting she wants to grab it and stick it between her legs. My replacement only lasted a few months.

  128. anon e mouse*

    1) Showed up to an interview not having read a document I was asked to read, at all, bombing the interview with the senior manager because I knew none of what they expected.
    2) Showed up on a client meeting day I’d forgotten about in jeans and a polo. The jeans had a semi-busted fly, for good measure. Dressy business casual to formal business was expected for these kinds of meetings.
    3) Got deep, like 20+ minutes, into a phone interview before realizing it was with a completely different organization than I’d thought, one with a similar name but only a loose relationship, and gave a lot of answers that were targeted to the other place/position. (This was back 10+ years ago where sometimes interviews were still arranged entirely by phone; much harder for something like this to happen now.)

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      While not work related, I can sympathize about #3. I once had a conversation about some single activities before I picked up on exactly whom I was talking to. (He was a member of the group)

    1. Wisteria*

      Are you the one who bit that guy’s arm when he blocked the door? He was an ass, and you are my hero.

      1. Awkward*

        Yeaaah. I quit a few years back, but see him at brunch with others once or twice a year. We have never mentioned it and the overall vibe is much better. We were all going a little crazy there.

  129. Maltypass*

    This doesn’t really count as I’m not mortified by the fact I personally did this, more by the fact I worked somewhere where this was normal behaviour; my manager had the idea to have a cheese and wine night on the clock. I work retail. On the late shift we put (fairly nice) platters of crackers and cheese behind the tills along with cups of wine, and everyone was allowed, nay encouraged, to partake. The manager would even cover for you if your placement that night didn’t take you near the till area. There was no fear it was a trick or would blowback as she was also taking part and far, far more illicit things took place in that chain. If the head of the company found out he’d probably congratulate us. We proceeded to go out after the shift and I got the most drunk I’d ever been. I dread to think of the service anyone received in store that night

  130. beanie*

    The ones to get us started are amazing!

    I once sent an SNL video to a coworker would respond to everything I said with “ok.” It started to feel like the skits with Pete Davidson where he responds to everything with “ok.” Which I sent without actually watching the video and it definitely had some NSFW content in it (as I definitely should have known). He responded with “Ummmm?”

  131. Alexis Rosay*

    I sent an email to an external partner with the salutation “Dear XXX”. I couldn’t remember the guy’s name when I was writing the email so I had put a placeholder and saved it in drafts. Later, I couldn’t remember why the email was in drafts and I sent it without reading.

    Thankfully, he was nice about it.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      This is why I have a 2-minute delay on sending emails. The number of times I’ve hit “send” and then “oh no” is in the high double digits.

  132. Elle Woods*

    For some reason, t-shirts with your dorm name were a big darn deal when I was in college. Each dorm would come up with a design and residents would wear them to show pride about their dorm.

    My alma mater also had a gigantic end of the year celebration. One year, I was on the board that helped organize the festivities and was assigned to order the t-shirts for it. I got quotes and chose a vendor. The day the t-shirts arrived, I met with the vendor to inspect things and said they looked great. Then I said, “I sure am glad that these look better than the (dorm name) t-shirts that have a picture of broccoli on them. Those shirts look awful.” Turns out the same vendor had done those shirts. Oops!

  133. PerplexedPigeon*

    I wore those Vibram tow shoes back when those were a thing. They were grey and neon. I was working as a journalist at the time and I totally got called into my (female boss’ office) and told in no uncertain terms to never wear them again because the freaked people out. Womp womp.

  134. Critical Rolls*

    I work with the public. Anyone who does has had moments when their patience fails. There may have been a time when someone was banging on our door before we opened and I walked down and said through the glass, “As you can SEE [pointing to sign] from our POSTED HOURS, we are NOT YET OPEN. We will assist you once we are OPEN.” In a tone that was not what I’d advise.

  135. Kaworal*

    The tea example brought this rushing back: right after college, I had an unpaid internship at a small NGO. They honestly didn’t have enough work for one intern, let alone the three that they had, but they were super flexible around the restaurant job I had that actually paid (some of my) bills and it was something to put on my resume. Because it was so slow, I was constantly doing interviews and applications for other gigs while I was “on the clock;” once, however, I stupidly scheduled a two-hour TIMED writing test, which of course ended up being the only time that the executive director EVER wandered back to the intern office to chat. I was flat-out researching and writing for this test while he tried to make small talk and I kept responding with monosyllables and “uh-huh,” clearly preoccupied, until he – who was a really nice man and a former Congressman, who it would have behooved me to make a good impression on – said, “well, you’re clearly too busy to talk” and I said “yes, sorry.” He had to have known what I was doing or thought I was brushing him off, because I had zero time sensitive work at this org. All’s well that ends well, though, because I ended up getting the other internship, which was a great stepping stone and actually paid me!

  136. JJ*

    Early 20s and my only job experience was at a very casual office. During an interview at a new company I told the interviewer “sometimes I feel silly on Friday afternoons and sit under my desk.” Not sure what compelled me to share that tidbit. That company was Uber before they were huge.

  137. East of Nowhere South of Lost*

    I was in my 20’s, first job. My boss came in dressed in all black. I looked up at him and asked point blank ‘Who Died?’

      1. East of Nowhere South of Lost*

        No, he just liked to dress in all black. He thought he looked ‘dressed up’. Guy had zero fashion sense FWIW.

  138. Janet Snakehole*

    I had a coworker that was the most unpleasant person I’d ever met. She was always negative, nasty, mean, unhelpful, etc. Everyone, including our manager, went out of their way to avoid interacting with her, but I, unfortunately, had to work very closely with her every day, and it was stressful and draining. I approached my manager about her several times but he would just listen and nod and then not do anything about her attitude.

    One Friday night there was a work happy hour and my unpleasant coworker didn’t attend. I ended up getting VERY drunk and was having a conversation with my manager when he mentioned something about her. I ended up saying, “You know what? F*** that c*** and her b****y attitude. I’m SO glad she’s not here tonight to ruin this happy hour!” My boss’s eyes widened and another coworker I was friends with (thankfully) dragged me away.

    The following Monday morning, I went into his office, mortified, to apologize, and he just said, “Hey, what happens between 5pm Friday and 9am Monday is none of my business.” It was nice of him to give me a pass, but he never ended up doing anything about my horrible coworker and I ended up quitting because of her a few months later.

  139. Mockingdragon*

    Ooooh get ready.

    I went to an interview for a publishing house in New York, looking for an internship. My parents had set the interview up for me and didn’t adequately explain to me what was happening – I wanted an internship for the upcoming fall semester, and it was June. They were hiring for a summer intern. My mother insisted that I wear a pencil skirt and shoes I couldn’t walk in, it was some 90+ degrees in the middle of the city, I was overwhelmed by the fact that I’d only been offered the interview the day before, and I now know that I was dealing with undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder. I was too young and dumb to insist on knowing what I would have needed to know.

    I showed up at the interview and when they asked me for a copy of my resume, I burst into tears because I didn’t know I was supposed to have brought one. I still hadn’t quite caught on that they were hiring for an immediate need, and that when I clarified “Oh, I was looking to start in September,” I had basically taken myself out of the running already. I just sat there humiliated watching my interviewers give each other side-eyes at this poor kid crying in front of them at the start of the process.

    I. did not get the internship.

    1. Meeeeeeeee*

      My teenage son was just diagnosed as well, these are the things I really think about for him. I hope you don’t beat yourself up and have had better experiences since then. <3

  140. Potty humor*

    Being a male in his early 20s at the time, even the mildest potty humor was of course cause for full-on hyena laughing. At one of our company gatherings, our CEO wheeled in a large sheet cake to commemorate a great quarter. As the CEO gave his speech, one of my colleagues leaned over to me and whispered, “I dare you to pull down your pants and sit in the cake.”

    This might as well have been the funniest thing I’d ever heard. I literally could not control myself. I turned bright red, had tears streaming down my face and made all kinds of bizarre noises to stifle my laughter. I even had to bend over and pretend to tie my shoes at one point to try and be less noticeable. It was no use. I finally pretended to have a coughing fit, at which point all 50 or so in attendance were now staring at me, and went to the bathroom, where I collapsed on the floor in the throes of hysterical laughter.

    My boss did later ask (rightfully so) what the hell happened. I told him the truth, and he said, “Well, I guess at least you didn’t actually sit in the cake.”

  141. Soprani*

    During my college years I worked summers as a switchboard operator. One day an anxious customer called to speak with their favorite account rep. Account rep was not at his desk so the procedure was to put the line on hold and page the account rep. I must have been an off day for me because I, somehow, transferred the customer to the page function. The entire building, several hundreds of employees, were treated to anxious customer’s “Hello? Anybody? What’s going on? Hello?” There was no way to recall the line and anxious customer stayed on the phone for a good 3 minutes querying the Universe. For the rest of my tenure at that company I was regularly teased about sending calls to page.

  142. The Other Katie*

    In my second to last IT job, I worked for a guy who truly believed I should be available and on-call at any and all hours. At one point the night shift called me at about 2AM to ask about a process. I didn’t answer, because it was 2AM, and he followed up with a rather sarcastic email at 7AM the next morning about how I was on call (I was not on call) and I had to answer emails at any point.

    This didn’t really excuse my CCing his manager on my response, in which I told him I was not on call, as he neither paid me nor scheduled me for it, and he had no excuse to be sending me shitograms at 7 in the morning about something the night shift should have been able to handle easily.

    (This didn’t make it any less satisfying, but older and more temperate me recognises that was incredibly unprofessional.)

        1. Murphy*

          To be fair, if there was a textbook definition of “shitograms” that would definitely be it.

  143. Ms. Yvonne*

    At ~28 yo I used to wear a tee-shirt with “Petit dejeuner” across my tits. To an office – a weird offshoot of a major university. I just thought it was cute, not a signal that I was lactating.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      I also would not have thought anything of it and wouldn’t have jumped to “lactating”.

  144. TransmascJourno*

    The summer after I graduated college in Medium Size City, I was temping for the summer before making my big move for grad school to Major Metropolitan City. My temp assignment was at a hospital, where I essentially scanned charts and patient documentation to input them into the hospital database. (I used to joke with friends that my job was looking at lung nodules all day.) I was…not the best employee.

    – I’m a writer, and I spent what I considered downtime (emphasis on “what I considered”) to essentially use the office printer to print off — and I kid you not — twenty copies of any given completed short story to send off and submit to literary journals. This means I probably went through hundreds of printed pages. (This was around 2010, so not all literary pubs had switched over to electronic submissions.) I would use office envelopes and office stamps to send those submissions. In front of my coworkers. Openly. (Did I mention that it was an open floor plan in our small, semi-basement office? And that I was one of four people who worked in that office?) For some reason, I was never reprimanded. I have no idea why.

    – Because so many of my college friends were moved away that summer — either back to their hometowns, to grad school, or to start new jobs — it seemed like there was a big farewell party once or twice a week. While it was never at the level of obnoxious, black-out drinking, it certainly made for some very late nights. To that effect, it also led to some less-than-stellar decision-making on my part when it came to getting to work on time. Most of the time I’d wake up very late, sometimes too late to shower (or do anything but throw on a work outfit and brush my teeth). Half the time I was hungover, and my vibes were something akin to “lugubrious Roman post-bacchanal.” One of those mornings, I walked into the office and smelled something sharply antiseptic and alcohol-like. (I still don’t know entirely what it was, but then again, my office was in a hospital.) I then turned to two of my coworkers and joked, “Hey, something smells like gin, and for once it isn’t me.”

    I lasted in that temp job until about two weeks before I was due to move. In retrospect is honestly shocking. Now that I’m older, a stickler for professional norms, and drink a lot less, I want to find a TARDIS, go back in time, and unleash a sense-shaking for the ages upon my younger self. Even typing this out has made my insides disintegrate with cringe.

    P.S. I promise I am not anything like Ryan from The Office in real life.

    1. TransmascJourno*

      *moved away. I promise, none of my college friends were picked up and relocated by a large giant against their will. (Also, this is what I get from typing such a long post on my phone.)

  145. hiptobesquared*

    Not unprofessional, just mortifying.

    I was interviewing for a new job and got disconnected. I went to call them back and instead accidentally called an employee.

    “This is hiptobesquared calling for Mr. so and so. We were in an interview and I got disconnected.”

    Employee: What?!

    I made up this story about how I was interviewing to do some volunteer work. Thank god I got the job.

  146. cleo*

    I gasped and said “oh no” when my boss announced that she was pregnant at a team meeting. (Her previous maternity leave had been a freaking nightmare for a lot of reasons and that’s what I was responding to, but yeah, really not cool).

    I still cringe thinking about it, even though I apologized many years ago and we were able to laugh about it. She said everyone at the table looked stunned – her first maternity leave had really been that bad (the 2nd went much better). We did pull it together and threw her a really nice baby shower.

  147. Damn it, Hardison!*

    I was working in an archive, and one of my projects was to deal with hundreds of boxes of old student theses. I was to put them into protective envelopes, make sure they were in the catalog, re-box them, and send them to storage. I was almost done, so my colleagues pitched in on Friday afternoon to help me finish the last twenty or so boxes. We finished just before the end of the day, and to express our exhilaration, decided to take the empty boxes and build a triumphal arch in the reading room, taking as our model the Arc de Triomphe. It was a thing of beauty, and surprisingly sound. We may have done a victory March through it on our way out.

    We came in on Monday morning to a scathing letter from the janitorial staff, and rightly so. This was a university with a student population given to pranks, but apparently our misguided creation was an arch too far.

  148. El_steena*

    First professional job out of school, I was hired as a copywriter at a small (~100) person marketing firm. The firm did a fairly specialized thing, so when we were busy, we were VERY busy … and when we were not busy, say, at the end of Q4, the creative team was beyond dead. Every single campaign was on hold until January.

    Three days to go until Christmas Eve. I’ve copyedited a library of 500+ articles; I’ve organized the shared drives; I’ve written 30+ new articles; I’ve attended trainings; I’ve assisted other teams with tasks; I’ve written style guides and onboarding documentation; I have asked around until I’ve been told there is literally nothing left for me to do until January. Most people who have accrued vacation have smartly used it, as this happens every year. But I’m pretty new, no vacation yet, still have to come in.

    I resign myself to three days of reading style manuals and other guides (think Bill Walsh’s Lapsing Into a Comma). Which would have probably been … ok, maybe, had they not just looked like novels. And had I not done this with my feet propped up on the desk of my cubicle. While wearing torn Chuck Taylors from grad school. In full view of the CEO. For three entire 8-hours days. On the third day, as I was getting ready to leave, there was A Discussion.

    I’ve since left marketing, but one piece of advice I always give to students and new grads is to perfect the art of looking busy, even if you are actually bored out of your skull.

  149. HugeTractsofLand*

    In my first job out of college, I helped plan and lead overnight service learning trips for teenagers. Our building was very informal, just a school/church/office setup without a security guard. Kids and their chaperones would sleep in the church in sleeping bags, and as a trip leader you’d sleep in the church in YOUR sleeping bag, then wake up around 7:30am to prepare breakfast and wake up the kids for their day of service.

    In my personal life, I spent a lot of time hanging out with my friend who was a bartender. As some of you might know, “hanging out” with a bartender means you chill out at the bar, drinking comped drinks and chatting until they actually close…and in my city, the bars didn’t close until 4am. So there came a night when I didn’t have to be in at the office until 8am the following day. There was a (weeknight) service trip, but a different camp leader was handling it. On that night, I enjoyed quite a few variations of free drinks, and stayed with my friend until closing. We then stayed out for another hour after THAT at the one bar that (unofficially) stayed open even later. So 5am rolls around , and I have to be at work at 8am. I was 1.5 hours away from my apartment by train, and work was an hour away from my apartment. I was sober enough to calculate that travelling home was a waste of time. And I was drunk enough to think that it was smart to go right to work. As in, right then. At 5am. About 6+ drinks in.

    Work was only 30 minutes away, so I got there at 5:30 and figured I could get a couple hours of sleep. I used my key to get in and crept up to the office. The trip leader was downstairs sleeping in the church, but it there was a slight chance that she might come upstairs for bandaids or something. So I went to the very back of our L shaped office, and, to make sure that I was absolutely hidden…I curled up under a desk. The company owner’s desk.

    Yes, I still shudder to think about how unprofessional this all was. No, I didn’t *exactly* get caught. My alarm went off at 7 and I crept back downstairs to the bathroom to change my shirt. As I exited the bathroom, the trip leader was running by with hot coffee. She looked surprised to see me, but hurried on. I found out later that she’d figured I was just there early to help out, since it wasn’t unheard of. Ugh. Never again!

  150. no name*

    In college, I worked a summer job where we’d meet at the office at 6am. From there we would split up into work crews and head out to our sites in work trucks, usually a 20-40 minute drive. The crews consisted of fellow college students working seasonally like me, the supervisor stayed at the office. Almost every day I’d fall asleep in the work truck on the way to site. My coworkers thought it was amusing at first, but by the end of summer they were very much over my naps.

  151. Anonymousse*

    I was a wee public interest lawyer starting out at my fellowship which turned out to be a toxic hellfire. The ED made us all non-exempt bc he didn’t want to pay the legal minimum for exempt in NYC but we weren’t authorized for any OT, of which there were many. He also required standing weekly meetings (a euphemistic way of saying his weekly therapy session) which never started on time and usually went on for about 2-3 hrs. Mind you this was a small team of ~5-6 people. On a particular Monday, I had a urgent reply due at COB and he started the standing meeting 1.5 hr late. Two and a half hours into this meeting, I finally broke down and I swiveled my chair around and went back to working on my reply in the middle of him talking about how underappreciated he was as an ED. I got an email from him later that day fuming that I would do such a thing and he disinvited me from all future meetings. I maliciously complied. Yes I was unprofessional and I would never do this again at any other job but he deserved it.

  152. TJ*

    My department had an annual “pub games” team building offsite. Each manager (of which I was one) headed up a team and we competed in snooker, darts etc. There was some money behind the bar so everyone was drinking.

    One year it fell the day after my last accountancy exam which I felt I’d bombed. I preceded to get hideously drunk along with the rest of my team.

    My boss spoke to me about my professionalism the next day

  153. Demelza*

    In the early 00s while on break from college, I applied for an administrative position at the local jail (it was for inmate intake). Being young and dumb, when the interviewing sheriff asked if I could pass a drug test, my response was “hmmm…. I don’t know.” It wasn’t until he asked me to clarify my reply that I realized my mistake. I stuttered out a “well, I was at a party…2nd hand smoke….you know…”, but that interview was definitely over.

  154. Jamboree*

    I had recently taken on my first supervisor role, and my team of three include one verrrry long term employee with a reputation for being difficult to manage, to the point that I’m pretty sure I was only given the job to our distance between her and our mutual manager. She, for example, alphabetized some (this was a long time ago, around 1990) index cards at my behest, giving me back the cards with Z in the front and A in the back. When computers came into the department she did not always put spaces between words. We were the technology group, which pre-computers included typewriters, for Pete’s sake! I could stand supervising her for approximately 33 hours a week, but I ended up in tears in my boss’s office so regularly by Friday afternoons he eventually bought a box of Kleenex for his desk. I’m still mortified.

  155. Completely Catty*

    As I prepared to move from one city to another for a new job, I had painters and other people in and out of my apartment, and I moved out all my furniture a few days before I left. I was concerned about the impact of all this activity and the paint fumes on my cats, but didn’t have the money for an apartment and didn’t want to impose on my friends. So I packed up my three cats and my sleeping bag and moved into my office at my outgoing job. For two days. I literally slept on the floor of my tiny office, with my 3 cats, and just put a sign on my office door that said ‘Don’t open! Cats inside’ so that anyone who needed access to anything in my office didn’t accidentally let them out while I wasn’t there. I was almost thirty. I still can’t believe I did this.

  156. I had a lot of feelings*

    First job out of college…Executive Assistant at a small professional association that worked out of a converted historic home at a prestigious college in The South. High degree of polish & professionalism expected, and I was the first person you saw when you came in the fancy front door.

    My boyfriend of 2 years and I broke up and I brought that mess to work in the cringiest way. I had purchased a special journal just to process the break up and I would have it out on my desk all day, just writing in it every time I felt my feelings, and when I had breaks/lunch I would CURL UP on the couch in the sitting room just behind the foyer (my desk was in the foyer) and OPENLY CRY while I, again, wrote in my journal. I did this for a week, at least.

    God bless the patience of my boss, who still wrote me a great recommendation when I left for grad school.

  157. No Dumb Blonde*

    Not something I did, but something I witnessed. A couple decades ago, when email was not new but company policies on appropriate use weren’t quite what they are today, I worked for a very large defense contractor that had offices all across the country, including an outpost in our rural Western state. Some local staff had only a glimmer of an idea how large our parent company actually was; I recall traveling to D.C. for a conference and being amazed at how many tall buildings had our company’s logo on them. Anyway, our rural office was part of a large sector doing mostly IT work, not building planes or anything. One of our coworkers was even more… um… “rural” than most and he decided to share an off-color joke (mistake #1) by selecting the email distribution list for the entire sector (mistake #2), which must have included 10,000 or more employees. Several used Reply to All to express their displeasure, and this was back in the day when mass distribution lists combined with employees’ automated Out of Office messages could create an email-storm sh*tshow. The employee was let go.

  158. Do YOU want a job here?*

    I worked for a popular fast-casual restaurant chain as a manager. It was a particularly hard week of consecutive closes where I was short 1-2 people every day. A customer called to put in an order for some chicken. I told her it would be 30 mins as I had a lot of orders and a line in the cafe. Of course, the person picking up arrived as I hung up the phone. In due time, we got the order together and as soon as they left, the phone rang again. The customer complained about how long it took, about how we seemed to be always short staffed lately. I was exasperated. So, I told her we were hiring and asked, “Would you like to apply for a job?” Her response? “I am a wife and mother, I do not need a job.” I fessed up to my boss the following day and she had a laugh over it. The customer had already called back to speak to someone else…to get a free sandwich next time she visited.

  159. Brienne the Blue*

    So many.

    * In my first job after college, I changed the desktop background on my computer to a giant headshot of Tom Selleck as Magnum, P.I. So every time I closed a window, his giant face would stare back at everyone. I thought it was hilarious but most of my very serious coworkers did not.
    * At that same job, I would regularly kick my shoes off under my desk and proceed to walk around the office barefoot.
    * A few years later but also in my twenties, I worked with a bunch of young, snarky people who drank way too much. We all routinely got wasted together and knew absolutely everything about each other’s personal lives. More than one of us had a morning where we barfed into a trash can on the way in to work and kept on truckin’.
    * I once went to a job interview straight from the gym. I had showered, but I had wet hair, no makeup, and was packing a huge gym bag. I had mostly decided I didn’t want the job already, but I definitely didn’t get the chance to turn them down.

  160. Retail Dalliance*

    When I was 22, I was working 2 jobs: substitute teaching Mondays and Fridays and retail at my local mall Tuesdays/Wednesdays/Thursdays/Saturdays/Sundays. The retail store announced it was going out of business and was laying everyone off in 3 months. Employees were permitted to take some clothing items we wanted to purchase and keep them in the back room until the price dropped low enough in the liquidation sale (think 50-70% discounts!) so I was doing this too. Well, one day I was trying on a shirt I wanted to “put on hold” in the back room. It was on my 15 minute break. I put the shirt on, and walked outside the store to the Starbucks (the next door shop in the mall). I got my drink, came back to the store, changed back into my regular work attire, and hung the shirt on the rack to save for myself. Well, it turns out if you leave the store with clothing on, you technically stole it (even though I (and the shirt) was only outside the store for about 4 minutes, and the shirt went to the back room with everyone else’s reserved stuff). I was immediately and summarily fired. I was so dumb at 22 I didn’t understand what I did wrong–it felt like being fired on a technicality. I kept repeating “but I didn’t steal it!” to my manager, who was in a tough spot because of the store’s zero tolerance policy for theft. I cried and begged for my job back, to no avail. I got a job teaching full time the following school year, so thankfully I get to leave my firing off my resume entirely. Truly one of my dumbest moments as a person on the earth. Thank GOD we are not 22 years old forever.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      If it helps, I did something so, so much stupider. I was the only person working at a small toy shop with a broken cash register. Since it wouldn’t lock and I had to do work in the back of the store (out of sight of the register), I took all the 20s out of the cash register and *put them in my back pocket*.

      Then I *forgot to put them back and walked home*. I didn’t realize what I did until the store owner called about several hundred dollars missing from the till.

      I didn’t get arrested, or even fired. Possibly because store owner was so disorganized that she paid me 3 months late once, claiming that it was because she thought she’d already paid me, and I believed her

  161. Josephine*

    I’m a female engineer and this happened over 20 years ago when I was fresh on the job as a process engineer. I was asked to go on a site visit to a manufacturing plant in the US (I’m in Canada). I decided that even though it was an overnight trip I wasn’t going to check any luggage – or bring a carry-on! – other than my briefcase. I somehow figured no man would bring a carry-on and I didn’t want to stand out as I knew I’d be the only woman in the group. When I landed, the colleague I was travelling with saw me with just my briefcase and assumed I’d checked a bag (he had a carry-on), so he headed towards baggage claim. He was a little surprised when I told him I only had my briefcase! I had a clean shirt, a change of underwear, and a toothbrush in there and not much else. I wore my steel toe boots the whole time I was there. I can only imagine what he thought… and it only got worse from there. When we got the hotel I just stood there, not realizing that I was meant to pay for my hotel room. I only had a student visa with a $200 (Cdn) limit and when I realized what he and the hotel clerk were waiting for, I started panicking because I knew I wouldn’t be able to cover the room. I did manage to blurt out “Oh no, I forgot the corporate credit card!” and my colleague paid for my room, but I have never stopped cringing at that whole trip. The folks we were meeting took us out for supper at a fancy restaurant and I sat there in complete mortification in my jeans, crumpled t-shirt and steel toed boots while my colleague kept up the conversation in his suit and tie. Yikes.

    1. Wolf*

      To be fair, they really should have told you ahead of the journey that you need to pay for the hotel room.

  162. Cookies for Breakfast*

    1) At my first job out of university, I developed a habit (once every 1-2 weeks) of helping myself to a posh breakfast food my bosses stored in the office kitchen, along with the tea and coffee available to employees. In my defense: those bosses were ultra-toxic, and there were way bigger privileges they flaunted in front of staff; I was very underpaid (hired for a barely-living-wage entry-level role that turned out to be three specialised positions rolled into one); and the reason I knew the food was there was that they offered some to me in the first place. But I should have realised sooner that it had been a one-off offer, and when the box containing it moved from the kitchen counter to one of the (still shared) cupboards, it must have been because they noticed the contents going down in volume.

    2) Got caught exchanging an eye roll with a colleague, when our most demanding and rude (but also highest-value) client made a particularly egregious request in a video call. I can’t remember what it was, now. Thought we’d been subtle, until my manager mentioned the client had contacted him directly to complain about it. Then again, that client complained about a lot of things without having a leg to stand on (e.g. an Internet Explorer bug messed up the formatting of a blog post that looked perfect on Chrome, and the client told my manager that the page looked terrible because of my lazy writing and editing). I learnt a mortifying lesson about my complete lack of a poker face on that day, and was ready to apologise to the client, but my manager also understood that I’d had an extreme reaction in a situation where my limits were continuously tested.

    3) Mild but pointed politics remark said with a lot of conviction, and a slightly-too-loud voice, in an open-plan office. I was having a conversation with someone who shared my views, and probably thinking “I’m an immigrant ranting against a party that hates immigrants, surely that’s my right?”. A moment later, I realised a few people had raised their heads, and the silence around felt a little heavy…which, in hindsight, tracks with the fact over half of the country had just voted for the party in question. Another lesson learnt. I actually don’t regret this one, but it wasn’t one of my most professional moments, for sure.

  163. Yaz*

    This isn’t mine exactly but when I was right out of school, I interned at a tiny think tank. The other interns and I generally worked in the conference room, which was also where the executive director often hosted visitors (like… from Congress). The other interns were a bit younger than me and mostly still in school, and one afternoon they had the idea to print a bunch of SpongeBob pictures and plaster them around the conference room. The same room that the ED showed a congressional delegation on terrorism into bright and early the next morning… after the incident, I took to working out of the tiny kitchenette to avoid being associated with that group.

  164. Kshoosh*

    In my early 20s I worked in the staffing field and every few weeks we would have a massive call with our major clients and all of the recruiters, account managers, and vps that worked on their account. The calls *never* started on time, and for some reason I took that personally. I also had not exactly figured out the mute settings on the phones…

    One day, not more than 5 minutes past when a call should have started, I was complaining to myself (out loud of course) something like “the call is set for xx time it should start then, how rude that people think it’s okay to make everyone wait.” After a moment of silence the call host said, “it sounds like someone thinks they’re on mute but isn’t. We’re waiting for vps xx and yy, they’re coming from (different important meeting) and will join us soon, then we’ll start.”

    The only thing that saved me from dying from humiliation was the belief that the call was large enough there was no way anyone would know it was me.