23 Workplace Horror Stories That'll Make You Say, "WTAF?????"
"My manager shows up while I’m having chemotherapy to talk about work."
Ask a Manager is a great workplace advice blog with questions that are a good mix of simple/basic, unique and interesting, and ABSOLUTELY BANANA CRACKERS.
Here are some of the most jaw-dropping letters:
"My food is always really, really spicy. I just love it that way. Anyway, I was sitting at my desk when my coworker came running out, having a hard time breathing. He then ran into the bathroom and started being sick. Turns out he ate my clearly labeled lunch. (It also was in a cooler lunch box to keeps it cold from work to home, as it’s a long drive.) There was nothing different about my lunch that day. In fact, it was just the leftovers from my dinner the night before.
Fast forward a day and my boss comes in asking if I tried to poison this person. Of course I denied that I had done so. I even took out my current day’s lunch and let my boss taste a bit (he was blown away by how spicy it was even though he only took a small bite). I then proceeded to eat several spoonfuls to prove I could eat it with no problem. He said not to worry, and that it was clear to him that I didn’t mean any harm, my coworker shouldn’t have been eating my food, etc., etc. I thought the issue was over.
A week later, I got called up to HR for an investigation, claiming that I did in fact try to do harm to this person and this investigation is still ongoing. What confuses me is there was nothing said about this guy trying to steal my lunch. When I brought it up, they said something along the lines of 'We cannot prove he stole anything.' I am confused at this. I thought the proof would be clear."
Yeeeeeeeup. Update here.
"A woman in her mid-30s left my department after a little over a year. HR sent me the results of her exit interview and wanted to discuss 'the cultural problems in my department.' On the exit interview, the former employee mentioned that my staff leaves at lunch one day per week to go to a brewery for a beer run (which is true, I allow this) and she was often the only team member in the office; her fellow associates were unwilling to assist her and spent time on social media such as Snapchat, creating an exclusive environment (she was more quiet, older than the 20-somethings in the position, and not as much into social media); and that interdepartmental relationships created power dynamics that ruined morale (one of my newly promoted seniors was sleeping with an associate and it wasn’t noticed by me or any other executives).
I don’t feel like this is a cultural issue; I think this was her not being a good fit for our team. I do allow my staff to go to breweries as long as they have coverage. I encourage my staff to be friends in and outside of work and I cannot monitor relationships. At no point did the employee bring this to my attention during our informal one-on-ones. She was extremely quiet and kept to herself, and she didn’t mingle with the team because of her commute and commitments she had (she’s married with a kid and had recently bought a house)."
The thing that was so wild here is that the letter writer doubled down in the comments, and added more details that just made things worse:
"Her coworkers in her pod had taken pictures of her and captioned them inappropriately on Snapchat — making fun of her weight, her clothes/style, how much water she drank, etc. Someone who had seen them had saved them and also complained to HR. When I find out who complained, I want to move them to another team."
"After the party, at the office, I overheard a conversation in which one of her coworker friends was like, 'so uh, what’s up with the master thing?' and she explained that she was in a 24/7 dominant/submissive relationship, and he wasn’t her boyfriend or her SO or her partner, he was her 'master,' and needed to be referred to as such. Her coworker was clearly flummoxed and didn’t have much response to that.
Later, I heard her correct someone who referred to her boyfriend as her boyfriend/partner, saying that he wasn’t her partner, he was her master, and should be referred to using his appropriate title. She compared it to gay rights, saying that if she was a man, they wouldn’t erase her relationship by referring to 'Peter' as 'Patricia,' and so they shouldn’t erase the D/s relationship by calling him a partner instead of a master. It’s pretty clear that her coworkers aren’t comfortable asking her 'will your master be at the end-of-summer barbecue?' or 'did you and your master do anything fun this weekend?', though, and thus have just stopped referring to Peter at all."
This headline really undersells it. Here's the full question:
"I’m a manager. I’m having an issue with a two of my staff, Liz and Jack. They were returning from an off-site meeting and had parked in front of our building. According to Liz and other witnesses, there was a bird on the sidewalk and when it flew away, Jack ran. Liz was less than a step ahead of him and he pushed her out of the way when he was running. Liz fell off the curb and got hit by a car that was parking. She ended up covered in bruises and breaking both bones in one forearm. Liz had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance. The breaks were in the middle of her forearm and were so bad that Liz had surgery on her arm the next day and required a total hospital stay of four days.
Jack didn’t try to help Liz after it happened. He stood far away and came into our building as soon as the ambulance arrived. Jack told me, my boss, and HR he has a phobia of birds and later produced a letter from his therapist stating he has been in therapy and treatment for ornithophobia and anxiety for over two years. He explained it was why he tried to run from the bird and said he didn’t help Liz after she got hit because the bird landed on the ground close to her. Understandably Liz is angry. She wants Jack to be fired. HR was wary of firing Jack when he has had no previous trouble and has a phobia and mental illness that rise to the level of needing treatment, and so am I.
When Liz found out that Jack wasn’t going to be fired, she quit. Liz was working on a few projects, and without her the could be delays and extra costs incurred. We have tried to get her to come back, but she refuses unless Jack is fired. Jack called her with HR present to apologize but she didn’t accept and yelled at him. With Jack’s permission, his phobia and mental health issues were explained to Liz but she says she doesn’t care. What should I do? I don’t feel comfortable firing Jack or recommending it given what he disclosed. I’m not sure where to go from here."
Yiiiikes, right? There's also an update here.
"One employee asked to come in two hours after the start time due to her college graduation ceremony being that same day (she was taking night classes part-time in order to earn her degree). I was unable to grant her request because she was the employee with the lowest seniority and we need coverage for that day. I said that if she could find someone to replace her for those two hours, she could start later. She asked her coworkers, but no one was willing to come in on their day off. After she asked around, some people who were not scheduled for the overtime did switch shifts with other people (but not her) and volunteered to take on overtime from others who were scheduled, but these people are friends outside of work, and as long as there is coverage I don’t interfere if people want to give or take overtime of their own accord. (Caveat: I did intervene and switch one person’s end time because they had concert tickets that they had already paid for, but this was a special circumstance because there was cost involved.)
I told this team member that she could not start two hours late and that she would have to skip the ceremony. An hour later, she handed me her work ID and a list of all the times she had worked late/come in early/worked overtime for each and every one of her coworkers. Then she quit on the spot.
I’m a bit upset because she was my best employee by far. Her work was excellent, she never missed a day of work in the six years she worked here, and she was my go-to person for weekends and holidays."
It GETS WORSE!!!
"Even though she doesn’t work here any longer, I want to reach out and tell her that quitting without notice because she didn’t get her way isn’t exactly professional. I only want to do this because she was an otherwise great employee, and I don’t want her to derail her career by doing this again and thinking it is okay. She was raised in a few dozen different foster homes and has no living family. She was homeless for a bit after she turned 18 and besides us she doesn’t have anyone in her life that has ever had professional employment. This is the only job she has had. Since she’s never had anyone to teach her professional norms, I want to help her so she doesn’t make the same mistake again. What do you think is the best way for me to do this?"
"Recently while I was having chemotherapy, Ned showed up at the clinic and started asking me about work matters. I was completely surprised that he even knew where I was and that he was asking me about work on my off-time. The things he was asking about were not emergencies or work with deadlines. When I went back to work after my days off, Osha was waiting to speak with me and apologize. She was almost in tears because Ned had asked her about my schedule and whether I was on days off or at a meeting. She didn’t want to tell him at first because the calendars are supposed to be confidential, but he threatened to fire her if she didn’t tell him, and he also demanded the name of the clinic after she admitted that she knew what clinic I was getting my chemotherapy at.
I was really upset that Ned had threatened to fire Osha for following the rules and trying to keep the calendar confidential, and for coming to ask me about work stuff on my time off while I have having treatments. When Robert was actually in the office, I complained to him about Ned’s behavior and he assured me it would be dealt with. Well, him dealing with it was firing Osha for revealing confidential information that was on the calendar when she wasn’t supposed to. He gave Ned access to the calendars instead, so now Ned has access to my schedule and will come to the clinic when he has questions about work."
"I have a situation that is so out there I almost wouldn’t believe it if it wasn’t happening to me. The company I work at has three branches and around 100 employees. The owner of the company has a brother who needs a liver transplant. Two weeks ago, a company-wide memo went out that all employees would be required to undergo testing to see if they were a suitable liver donor for the owner's brother. No exceptions.
Last week at the branch the owner works out of most of the time, his assistant went around to schedule days off for everyone so they could go get tested. People who declined were let go. One of these people was born with liver disease and therefore ineligible to donate. She had a doctor’s note. Other people also had medical reasons as well and some were just uncomfortable with the request and didn’t want to do it. One was pregnant. They were still terminated. My employer’s assistant has said that because our employment is at will, he can legally fire us."
"We returned from Thanksgiving break to find everyone’s cubicles rearranged, with all of our personal items in boxes, and many items were missing. Most things were there, and there was lots of exchanging, but my grandfather’s little cast iron caboose was gone. I was sorry to lose it, but I was sure it would turn up.
It just did. My best friend from high school was invited to the annual Independence Day party at the home of his CEO. That CEO is a real railroad buff and showed my high school buddy the cast iron caboose given to him as a gift last Christmas by my manager — with my grandfather’s initials carved/welded into the bottom."
13. "I’m in trouble for what I wore when when my boss made me pick him up from the airport in the middle of the night."
"On Thursday, shortly after midnight, my boss phoned me. He was at the airport with two other supervisors and their transportation had fallen through. He wanted me to come get them and drive them all home. I didn’t even know his schedule and it’s not my job to pick people up at the airport. I didn’t want to do it, but at the same time he is my boss and I didn’t want to leave a bad impression because he implied I didn’t have a choice. I got up, picked the three of them up at the airport, and drove them each home. I had previously booked the day off for an appointment, so when I got home I slept for a few more hours because I didn’t have to work that day.
When I got to work on Friday morning, I was called into my boss’s office. He said I was being written up for my lack of following the dress code, and he lectured me on dressing professionally. I wear a skirt suit to work every day and have never had an issue, but he told me he was talking about when I picked them up at the airport. Since it was the middle of the night and it was an unexpected request, I had worn a knee-length t-shirt, leggings, running shoes, and a bench fleece jacket. I had brushed my hair and my teeth and my clothes were clean. He wouldn’t let me explain myself, and in addition to being formally written up he suspended me for a day without pay (so tomorrow I am serving my suspension).
I didn’t see this coming. It was after midnight when he called me and told me to come pick them up and he knew he was calling me out of bed. Doing this is not part of my job description in any way and no one who knows about this has ever heard about such a request being made before, even for assistants (I am not an assistant but a junior underwriter). I had to drive for over an hour to get them, do another hour and three separate stops to drop them off, and then drive another hour home. I was not reimbursed for mileage or gas, and it was my personal car and not a company one. Only the other two managers thanked me and my boss never did. They all have company credit cards, but none of them used one to get transportation home. Also, when he called me he didn’t mention anything about me needing to dress up in my work clothes to do it. My clothes were clean and not ripped or anything like that."
Like, WHAT????? Update here.
"I often struggle with thoughts about people not liking me. I’m in therapy and on medication, but sometimes the thoughts overwhelm me and it’s one of the worst parts of my anxiety. The incident I’m talking about started when one coworker didn’t say goodbye to me when we were leaving for the day on a Friday. I obsessed about it all weekend. I tried to tell myself it would be fine because I would see her on Monday and she would return my greeting, but when I got in on Monday she wasn’t there and I found out she was off for the week. My anxiety went into overdrive even after a visit with my therapist. I was obsessing over what I did to upset or make her hate me.
Her pay stub had been dropped off at her desk and was still there because she was off work. I opened it so I could see her address and I went to her house. I don’t know what I was thinking and I didn’t have a plan. My coworker was angry. She came in even though she was on time off and told our manager and HR about me opening her pay stub and coming to her house."
Eeeesh. Update here.
Last week my boss gave me an envelope with my coworker’s name on it and told me to leave it at the grave of my coworker’s relative. He said it was a condolence card at first, but I didn’t buy it because our work had already sent a card. When I asked him about it again, he said it was a note with some work-related items only she knows about and he needs answers ASAP and she won’t answer her (personal, not work) phone when he calls her. He gave me directions to the cemetery and everything.
Very depressing update here.
"But lately, since I made a turnaround re: professionalism, he seems to be pushing back on everything I say and ask him to do more than ever. He will deliberately ignore things I ask him to do a certain way (“I’ll do it differently when someone tells me to”), gripes and complains loudly when I ask anything of him ever, and sometimes won’t even answer basic questions. (For example, one time I noticed he was covering overtime at the front desk and called upstairs to ask why — he responded to every variation of me asking 'why are you still upstairs?' with 'your mother' and would not give me an answer.) There’s also a lot of name-calling, which I know is all facetious and I don’t really get offended, but it does get grating to tell him 'hey, I need you to do this report' and hear 'shut up, bitch' in response, jokingly or not. It gets REALLY profane in here (I’m talking tons of F-bombs and the C-word, among everything else imaginable) and I am trying hard to curb as much of this as possible because this is just… not how anyone should be talking at work regardless of who can overhear it, ever. We all joke and rib each other here, but neither I or anyone else comes anywhere close to how off the cuff he gets.
"I’m completely fine with my girlfriend having one or two drinks with her boss for an hour in the hotel lobby. Not a big deal. Perfectly fine. The problem was they spent 3+ hours drinking together and she didn’t get back to her hotel room to call me until 11:30 p.m. When she called me, she was totally drunk. Now I believe her boss crossed the line from 'business' into 'personal.' He encroached on our personal relationship.
I would never show up at his work and encroach on his business, and if I did I would expect he would address it with me. Likewise, I would hope that he would never encroach on our personal life, and if he does then I have the right to address him professionally, as it now involves me.
Needless to say, I sent him a professional email outlining my concerns. He was lucky I didn’t involve HR as I think it was extremely inappropriate. Do you agree that I was justified in doing so?"
"One of my long-term staff has a common, easy-to-pronounce Indian name, but since well before I was hired, she was given a nickname: a westernised version of her name. We were chatting about my (slightly unusual) name one day, and she expressed that she hates the nickname, wishes people would just use her real name, and that she’s never felt confident asking people to do so. I offered, as her manager, to handle this for her, and she agreed, stating that she’d be grateful.
Responses were mixed but generally negative, and many of the team are refusing to call her anything but the nickname. The general consensus is that it’s 'prettier' or that her name 'isn’t very feminine.'"
Aside from being rude and lazy AF, THIS IS RACIST, Y'ALL.
"We had an intern who has a broken arm and is wearing a cast. I manage the intern’s manager. Someone who works here drew an offensive picture on the intern’s cast when people were signing it. She was in a meeting and talking to several people, and an employee said he was going to draw something else but he drew male genitalia and wrote profanities instead. His manager did not do anything when the intern complained, and she ended up going back to the doctor to have all of it covered up because all of it was quite large and visible and embarrassing to her.
She was upset the employee was not disciplined over his joke and that the manager laughed about it and would not give her permission to leave to get the offensive material covered and made her still deal with clients and other employees for the rest of the day. She tried to use marker and white-out to cover it but it did not work and everyone saw it. She has resigned from her internship and ceased contact. She provided an email chain and photos of the cast as proof and every employee I have spoken to has corroborated her version of events. I’m at a loss as to how to deal with this. How do I deal with what happened?"
Bummer of an update here.
"My boss is having multiple affairs. I am his assistant, so I know about all his visitors and his schedule. He is married, but he often has visits from two different women, and he outright told me to never tell his wife about them. When either of them visit, he locks his door and tells me he is not to be disturbed. This happens almost weekly.
He sometimes asks me to book local hotel rooms for an hour or an afternoon, and he sometimes buys jewelry and flowers for the two women he sees regularly. I know this because he sends me out to pick up the jewelry (which I later see them wearing) or asks me to have the flowers sent to them. He never does anything like this for his wife. One of the women just had a baby who is named after my boss and has his surname.
One time, his wife showed up for a surprise visit to take him out to lunch, and he directed me to lie that the woman who was in his office was there for a job interview. He also submits expenses from his business trips (where he has traveled alone) and I have to re-calculate everything because he has upgraded the company-provided hotel room to a better one on his personal credit card and bought breakfast for more than one person the next morning. When this happens, he tells me he had 'company.'"
"On Sunday evening, I was traveling home on a packed train with my bike. Suddenly, I was approached by a lady who asked me, rather rudely, to give my seat to a man, her father, who was traveling with her. Since I was sitting on a regular seat (not a seat designated for disabled passengers) and had to read some materials to prepare for my interview, I ignored her. Unfortunately, when I was getting off the train, I accidentally moved my bike in a way that it caught and left dirty stains on her coat.
I did not think much of this till the next day when I ran into the same woman and one of directors in the lift in my office building. It transpired that she is the CEO’s wife. She said nothing and did not acknowledge me, but it was very clear to me that she recognised me.
My interview that day went very well. However, I was not offered the job! I was given some feedback about the skills that I have to develop but that was all. I am not sure HR knows about the above as nobody mentioned it. The HR person who handled my recruitment was very surprised, in fact he was in shock about this. In any case, I am very disappointed as I am sure that this is the result of the said woman badmouthing me to her husband. I have worked so hard to get this job and feel it is extremely unfair to be rejected for something that has nothing to do with my performance and ability to do the job."
Oh, buddy, no. Update here.