Share your work horror stories!
Do you have a story about a crazy boss, co-worker, or customer? What is the most ridiculous moment you've ever experienced at work?
Don't suffer alone! Share your work horror stories in the comments section for a chance to win your pick of the following prizes:
- The Office Season 3
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss (read a review)
- $20 Amazon Gift Certificate
Before they got their wonderful blogging gigs here at Wise Bread, our bloggers had to suffer through terrible jobs just like you. Here's what they have to say about the terrors of working life:
There's really no way to guess how long it will take to fix a software bug, until you know what's wrong--at which point you're usually 90% done. The fact that it's often impossible to provide a useful estimate for bug fixing brought out the worst in management at once place I used to work.
They'd always want an estimate of when you'd complete your analysis. That's not completely unreasonable--after all, however much the engineer's estimate is a wild guess, it's still a better-informed wild guess than the manager would make. But these guys would compound their barely reasonable request (that the engineer estimate the unestimateable), by wanting continual updates to the estimate. "Yes, boss. The almost, but not completely random guess I gave you yesterday is still the best guess I've got today."
They wanted daily updates for every problem, but for hot issues they wanted updated estimates two or three times a day. For a really urgent problem, I would literally be spending more time reporting my current status than debugging the issue.
The few people who could just work on something used to get a lot more done.
This one sticks in my mind the most. I was part of the creative department at a rather unsavory place and was basically responsible for the look and feel of the brand, products, marketing and so on. I was paid a fairly healthy salary, approaching $30 per hour, and many of the people around me earned even more. But the CEO was insane.
He was tired of coming in to work and seeing things like the occasional coffee ring on the kitchen counter, or paper towels on the floor. But instead of hiring a cleaning crew (or person) to buzz around doing the cleaning during the day, he launched the SHINERS. Every two weeks, 5-8 people were nominated from the 40+ management crew to do not only their regular jobs but clean bathrooms, the kitchen, pick up litter, dog poop and cigarette butts (I don't even smoke!) outside, and the list goes on.
Not only was it demeaning (I graduated college in the top 1%, had an esteemed career in London) but it made no financial sense. Why have us stop doing our job and clean up on our management salaries when he could pay much less for a professional cleaning service?
Not only that, but morale (which was already in the gutter) sank even lower. The place had gone from being a nightmare to work for to something beyond hellish. I left. I still pity the poor folks who have to do double duty at work, creating million-dollar deals in the morning and picking up trash and crap in the afternoon.
By the way, does anyway out there know if this violated any kind of work ethics or standards? It certainly wasn't what any of us were hired to do.
When I worked in food service, I often would supervise the "back of the house," or kitchen. One day while talking to my friend in food prep, I watched her put a dozen chicken necks into a roaster pan and set it in the oven. Confused, I asked her when we started serving chicken necks.
She told me that while we didn't use the meat for anything, the drippings were used in our famous spaghetti meat sauce. "So THAT's the secret ingredient", I thought. I had been a big fan of the stuff until that day. It was just too much information. I never found out what the neck meat was used for (even though I asked quite a few times!)
My first job was at Showbiz Pizza. I had to wear a plastic top hat, clip on polyester bow-tie, and polyester vest. Not to mention at the time I had full-on teased 80s bangs and a rat tail! All the employees had to take turns being "Billy Bob" which meant donning a big furry bear suit. Initially it was an exciting thing to do, then after a week or so, the novelty wore off.
Since I was, and still am barely five feet tall the suit didn't fit me very well, but that didn't keep them from making we wear it. Our only rule regarding the donning of the bear suit was that you were not to speak, and the children should not see you come out of the suit. One day as my co-worker walked me out to a waiting table of kids, Billy Bobs head fell off and there I was with my big 80s hair, and all the children started freaking out. Talk about a party pooper.
The kids got their revenge. I was brought out another day to a birthday table of 8 year-old boys.
"Give Billy Bob A Hug" said my co-worker.
"Pow!" I was punched in the stomach through the bear suit, mind you I was in the mountains of NC, "I ain't given Billy Bob no hug! I ain't no fag!"
"Yeahhhh" screamed the other boys as they walloped me through the bear suit.
It was definitely an interesting place to work, from running a token racket, getting my first kiss in a Pole Position game, to almost getting beat up by a toothless redneck who accused me of smiling at her toothless husband. I still stink at video games, but I can fix the hell out of Punch-Out. Good Times.
Okay, so I can't even come close to matching most of these, but I used to work for a nasty old lawyer who I think had mixed up Machiavelli and de Sade. His idea of "good business practices" was to torture me.
The only winter I worked for him, I had to commute an hour in to work. Temperatures got down below zero, and the heat in my car went out. I ended up bundled up to the eyes and wrapped in blankets to drive to work. Mr. Lawyer Man insisted that I had to be at the office at 8:00 AM exactly - no mercy for accidents delaying my commute or a full parking garage.
To make things even better, he refused to trust me with a key to the building, so I had to wait for him to show up every morning. While he was obsessed to the point of insanity with my punctuality, he wasn't at all concerned about his. Most mornings he arrived around 8:30 (though he would show up at 7:45 some mornings to be sure I was getting there at eight sharp), but at least twice a week he would turn up around 9:30 or 10:00.
But, it gets better! I had to park in a garage a block away, and he refused to allow me to sit in my car and wait for him. I had to wait - in below zero temperatures - on the street, a street lined with tall buildings that acted like a wind tunnel. So, there I stood, on the street for anywhere between a half-hour to two hours, with the temperature below zero, and the wind nearly blowing me into the next zip code. If I wasn't standing at the door when he walked up, he would refuse to pay me for the time I'd been waiting, on the grounds that I "really hadn't been there at all."
Eventually, after about three weeks, other attorneys in the area found out about it (from passing by me every morning and finally asking "What are you doing out here?") and it started to get around town. He finally - begrudgingly - gave me a key, but he called in every morning at 8:00 (by his watch, of course). If I didn't answer, he'd call back every five minutes until I did, at which point he would respond "Good afternoon."
Needless to say, I found another job as soon as I could - one located in an office tower with a doorman.
When my employer was acquired by a competitor, I attended a managers' meeting with my boss (the corporate controller) and co-workers to get a briefing on the acquisition. Among other things, we were told not to worry about our jobs. As we were leaving the meeting and walking to our cars, my boss said, "when they tell you not to worry about your job, you need to start worrying about your job."
At an employee meeting, we were told that two things would not happen: managers would not have to wear uniforms (a quirky but interesting requirement of this company; the CEO wore a worker's uniform with his first name stitched on front) and the brand name would stay intact.
The first two things that happened? Managers wore uniforms and the brand name on packaging kept shrinking until it disappeared.
My boss provided me with some nice insight into interpreting corporate-ese.
It was Valentine’s Day, 2004. It was a Saturday and I was stuck reviewing documents in a tiny conference room. I was kind of sad about having to review documents on Valentine's Day, the holiest of all made-up Hallmark holidays. Working insane hours hasn't exactly given me a whole lot of time to develop personal relationships. The only people I see are lawyers, and trust me, they are not a pleasant bunch of people.
But my personal woes is not what made 2/14/04 the worst day ever at work. The worst part of it is that I wasn't alone. Sitting across from me was this very nice partner (we'll call her Jill). She just got married recently and I'm sure she would prefer to be spending Valentine's Day with her husband. We worked until eleven that night. Our only salute to V-day was us polishing off a whole box of See's candy we stole from my secretary's desk.
When I said goodbye to Jill that night, I realized something: There is no end to the misery of a lawyer. Someone once said that making partner means more money but also even more work. That's like winning a pie eating contest only to find out that the first prize is more pies.
Sorry Jill. No amount of money is worth that.
So, I used to work as a secretary for this really handsome lawyer, but I eventually had to quit when he kept STEALING MY SEES CANDIES.
Tell us your crazy work story and be entered in a random drawing. One lucky winner will have his pick of the following prizes:
- The Office Season 3
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss (read a review)
- $20 Amazon Gift Certificate
Deadline to enter drawing is 9/15 midnight. Non-US residents can only win the gift certificate. Don't forget to enter your email address in the field provided and only one entry per person!
This drawing is over. Congrats to Milehimama, our winner for the drawing. Thank you to everyone who participated!
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