Sometimes people get jobs when they shouldn't. Whether the hiring person didn't realize that the person was incompetent or just didn't care, people slip through the cracks. Here are stories from real people about others that royally messed up at the workplace. Stories were edited for clarification purposes.
“Some Days It’s Good To Be On The Bottom”
“I was once a bank teller. One day, a guy comes in to pay off a line of credit that he shares with his son. Apparently, his son is an addict and ran the line of credit balance up to $10k (maxing it out). The guy comes in, talks to my fellow teller, pays it off, and signs to close it out. He asked my coworker at least 3 times if it was closed and she assures him that it is (she is also addicted to her phone and gives most of her attention to it). The guy leaves.
Several months later, the same guy comes in enraged with a line of credit bill. He comes to my window and explains the situation. He thought it was closed. It turns out that our bank’s policy is that both he and his son have to sign off to close it out unless there was some sort of special circumstances that never happened. The dude owed another $10k because, of course, his son isn’t going to sign off on closing it out so he can run up the balance again. He says he is going to sue. I point him in the direction of someone more qualified than me. My manager tells me he has a good case and will probably beat our corporate bank in court. I’m just a teller. Some days it’s good to be on the bottom. Glad it wasn’t me that messed it up.”
The Careless Caregiver
“I work at a group home for people with mental and physical disabilities. Most of the residents cannot walk or even stand on their own so staff will help them stand or hold onto them while they walk so they don’t fall over.
Well, I had one coworker that was…. stupid – there’s no better way to put it – for multiple reasons but this one takes the cake. She helped one of the residents stand up to use the restroom, had her put her hands on the handlebar attached to the bathroom (similar to a bathroom stall), and left to get things that the resident needed to take a shower. She left her standing there alone for a solid 3 or 4 minutes.
Of course the resident fell and hit her head pretty good. Had to go to the hospital and get stitches (she ended up being fine afterwards).
My boss is an amazing woman, competent and caring. All the residents love her and I see her as a second mother. She’s normally very calm and forgiving but sweet Jesus when she came in that day I’m pretty sure my coworker saw the fury of God. I don’t blame my boss for getting mad at all. We all consider our residents our family, so we were all extremely ticked.
How on earth my coworker wasn’t fired is completely beyond me. She got transferred to our sister location where the residents basically just require monitoring to make sure they don’t hurt themselves and help with cooking.”
And You Wonder Why People Hate HR
“I used to work in a grocery store and I had an HR person repeatedly ‘lose’ my doctor’s note stating that I have Raynaud’s Syndrome and couldn’t be in the freezer (it causes the blood vessels to narrow when you are cold). I got a stack of them from the doctor and would have to bring in a new one every few weeks. Finally, I had a department head fax a copy in to corporate for me before dropping off yet another copy to HR Witch.
The next week the HR Witch called me into her office and told me I was going to have to put the frozen load for bakery away. I told her I couldn’t do it and I had a note on file. She told me she didn’t have any paperwork on file for me and that she could ‘make me do anything she wanted to’ so I called my department manager into the office and told him what she had said. He got corporate on the phone and asked if they had received the copy of my doctor’s note detailing the fact that I had Raynaud’s Syndrome and had already previously gotten frostbite at work from being forced to be in the freezer when I wasn’t supposed to be.
They said they had it, and he then told them what HR Witch had said. He then handed HR Witch the phone. She had to hold the phone about a foot and a half away from her face because they were yelling at her so loud. It was one of the most satisfying days ever working there. She went on leave shortly after that and never came back, with the official story being that she was having health problems.”
I Wouldn’t Let Her Near My Baby
“I work with preemies (premature babies) in a neonatal ICU. We get morphine in a multi dose syringe that is good for 24 hours. We generally give doses from it every 4 hours. Every time we dose, we have to chart the amount in the electronic medical record, calculate a safe dose, draw it up, show it to another nurse along with the calculations, and scan it- there are a million safety checks. A nurse did exactly none of those things and gave the whole syringe to the baby. Then she ordered another and did it again in 4 hours. And then she did it again 4 hours later. They baby got way more than 3 days worth of morphine in 12 hours. He had to be put on a breathing machine. Somehow (there was a nursing shortage in Pennsylvania at the time) she did not get fired.
Jesus. Who is so flippant about blood products? We have a million safety checks and that is a serious error! Glad the patient was OK, but whoa. Every nurse will make a medication error in his or her career, but I cannot imagine how this happened. She never checked the order or the label on the syringe, never did the math, never recorded the dose, never verified the dose. And she only stopped because pharmacy red-flagged her requisition of three opioid syringes. She would have done it over and over. The crazy thing is that she wasn’t too mortified to come back to work. I saw her there for another year before she moved on to another hospital.”
From Promoted To Fired In The Same Day
“A coworker received a promotion and a large raise. They were told they should thank the CEO as he initiated the entire promotion. My coworker went on a rant about not asking for any of it so he’s not thanking anyone, and it escalated from there. Our boss continued to tell him he needed to thank the CEO and the coworker in question just got more an more angry and started MF’ing everyone around. It looked like a mental breakdown over the course of about 6 hours or so.
By the end of the day he was fired. My coworker actually turned a promotion into a termination.”
A House-Sized Letdown
“When I initially transferred to the agency I currently work for, I took on the previous manager’s caseload. This person had worked for the agency for several years prior, and had left on good terms with the company. As I began to meet with people and learn their files, it slowly became clear that the previous employee had been applying EVERYONE for only one housing program. In addition to this, after a little research, it turned out that no one who had been applied even qualified for the program in question.
This person had applied their cases with an easy form without doing any individualized leg work at all, logged it to make things appear as though they were making progress, and then never followed through with any options. Imagine being the person to tell 30+ homeless people, ‘That thing you’ve been waiting on for months or years that gave you a little hope? Sorry, it’s not going to happen because the person that has been helping you actually didn’t care about their job or you at all.’ It took a massive toll on me, needing to let down so many people, all because of one person’s idiocy.”
He Was “Dismissed And Forbidden From Campus”
“A grad student was invited into a professor’s office for a meeting and was left alone for a moment. There was a pile of cumulative exams on the professor’s desk that had just been graded. These are subject exams for grad students, wickedly difficult, and you need to pass 4 to continue in the program.
This jack-wagon decided he’d take a look at the stack of exams, then upon finding that some of his fellow students did poorly, he took pictures of their grades so he could use them to ridicule them and pass the results around the department. This was a big deal because numerical grades aren’t ever given out for these exams, only pass/fail, and also it’s a pretty big FERPA violation to distribute personal academic information like that.
He was found out almost as soon as he sent the pictures around and was dismissed and forbidden from campus immediately. Someone else had to pack up his desk because they were that serious about him never setting foot in the building again.”
“Let’s Rock Bro”
“Kind of a tandem effort. So my sauté guy and my dishwasher decide to get into it one night. Dishwasher is training somebody and sauté guy is in the weeds so he’s burning through pans. He turns to dishwasher and trainee and goes ‘Yo I need pans scrubbed ASAP.’ Dishwasher says to trainee ‘Yeah you can just tell this guy to get bent.’ and flips off sauté guy.
Sauté guy grabs a blistering hot plate of nachos out of the broiler and, being pretty irritated, chucked the ceramic napalm at the dishwasher. It breaks against the wall and things devolve. The dishwasher tears his shirt off like he’s in the WWE, flexes basically all his muscles which actually the dude was ripped so it was pretty impressive, and bellows across the kitchen ‘LETS ROCK BRO!’.
At this point the whole world stopped on what was otherwise an insanely busy night. After his big reveal, the dishwasher grew confident of what he had just done, and he left. Sauté guy got yanked out by the scruff of his neck and got sent home. In the end, everybody got fired. Dishwasher for never showing up again and sauté guy for trying to kill someone with a plate of nachos. Always good times in the restaurant.”
“Last April someone was using a scissor lift to paint the inside wall of our warehouse. This warehouse area had in the past contained a small office which, according to code, required a sprinkler head inside the office. There was a long pipe extending down from the ceiling that now just had a sprinkler head pointed at the ground considering the office had been removed.
The operator of the scissor lift did not realize this pipe was here and ran into it with the scissor lift. The pipe broke off in spectacular fashion, spewing disgusting 30 year old black water all over the warehouse for an hour before anyone came in to help him considering it was the weekend.
The water had pooled up so much it created a river that flowed directly into the office area.
I was watching on the cameras since I was at home far from the warehouse. The look on the guy’s face was heartbreaking.
I do remember the CEO of the company being there in his weekend attire helping clean up. When he walked into the office area where the guy who broke the sprinkler was, I could see the dread on his face.
Almost brought a tear to my eye when I saw the CEO give him a pat on the back and a hug.”
A Major Health Violation
“I used to work at Popeyes, this fried chicken chain. It sucked and I eventually quit. A week after I quit the night crew decided they didn’t feel like putting the boxes away from a truck shipment. Someone could deal with it next day. Few days later, and several reports of food poisoning later, they got in a load of trouble. Boxes were full of raw chicken. So glad I quit.”
Do You Know Where The First Floor Is?
“Let me tell you about Joe. Joe was hired as an entry level developer. He started on a Monday. Every Tuesday, our team had a meeting in the 1st floor conference room. Meeting time rolls around, no Joe. We wait. After a couple of minutes, I walk over to his cube. Not there. Check the break room, nope. Stick my head in the men’s room, empty.
I go back to the meeting and tell my boss I have no idea. Maybe he forgot and was still at lunch. We start the meeting. A few minutes later, Joe walks in, about 15 minutes late. He apologizes and says he had been downstairs looking for the 1st floor meeting room. Yes, he was wandering around the freaking basement looking for the 1st floor meeting room. This was an omen of things to come.
He was constantly falling asleep at his desk. He called out sick about 12 times his first month. My boss finally told him one morning that they needed to have a talk. He had meetings most of the morning, so he told Joe to stop by his office around 11:30. Joe doesn’t show up. Boss waits and waits and finally at 12:00, we go to get lunch. While we are gone, Joe comes in, gets all his personal belongings from his desk and disappears. Never heard from him again.
Now, whenever a newbie makes a mistake and is apologizing for it, we say ‘Well, at least you know where the 1st floor is.’ Big oof.”
Down And Dirty
“I work on tanks in the army. We frequently take our equipment to the desert in California for training (every year or so). Driving around the desert can be awful on the air intake for any vehicle because soft sand/dust will clog an air filter really quickly.
Now, bear in mind that the Abrams tank has a built-in ‘self cleaning’ system for the air filters and said filters are rather large to begin with. Also bear in mind that unlike most vehicles, the Abrams has a turbine engine (like an airplane) rather than a piston engine.
Now imagine what would happen to an airplane engine if you started it and ran it on the ground in the middle of the desert…it would basically suck up TONS of sand directly through the engine itself as if the sand was just air! Yeah, not healthy…
ANYWAY, a couple years ago we were out in California and one of our tank commanders thought, ‘We should clean out our air filters’ (no need with the self cleaning system, but he’s dumb) and has his guys pull the filters and bang out the dirt/sand in them. While reinstalling them, they forget to put the seals back in place. I was completely unaware this event had occurred. A day later their engine fails…there goes half a million dollars for an engine and two days of labor for myself and my mechanics! 8 hours after installing the new engine it dies AGAIN!
While waiting for the SECOND brand new engine to arrive, I decided to investigate the cause, because at this point I’m ready to hammer someone to the wall for a million dollars in repair parts! When I opened the air filter housing the filters were buried in 2 FEET of sand! When I checked the inside of the air inlet of the engine itself, the impeller blades looked like freshly sandblasted steel, just like a mirror!
When I told my commander I wanted to make the crew pay for the cost of both engines, his reply was, ‘People make mistakes. It happens. How could they have known?’ THEY HAD BEEN TRAINED SPECIFICALLY BY ME ABOUT NEVER REMOVING THE AIR FILTERS UNLESS A MECHANIC TELLS THEM TO DO SO BECAUSE ITS BAD FOR THE TANK!!!!! God, bless America.”
“A 16 year old lifeguard in ONE DAY did all of this:
-Left his chair without another guard to go up.
-Pushed 2 kids in the pool for no reason.
-Joked with another guard to ‘Quick let’s get her!’ referring to a 12-year-old taking off her pants so she was just in her bathing suit (the other guard was not amused).
-Approached another guard who just came from the shower, dressed but wrapped in her towel, tugged her towel and said, ‘Show me what’s under there.’
All of this happened within 20 minutes. He was fired on the spot and all the campers who heard and saw what he did immediately came to myself and their team leaders to report him. No one thought he was funny, and I have no idea how he thought any of that was ok.
In days previous, he had a terrible habit of being on his phone in the chair, not doing any lifeguard chores, chatting with instructors and coaches while they’re working, stuff like that. We didn’t fire him sooner because: 1) his mom is an intense lawyer and 2) he technically has disabilities that would risk us discriminating and getting sued by aforementioned mother and/or her lawyer friends. At this time, we were a poor rinky dink club that couldn’t afford that risk. We got bought by a larger company so we probably would have a fighting chance now, but he’s gone so, whatever.”
We Almost Died
“This happened when I was in the National Guard. Some of our vehicles were inside of the drill hall (I don’t recall why anymore, but for those not familiar with Guard drill halls, they often have a massive garage door setup along one wall so you can move equipment in and out).
One of the vehicles was a crane, and when this guy went to move it back outside, he forgot to put the boom down. It took out a huge chunk of the wall. A couple of friends and I had been smoking by that entrance (yeah, I know, not allowed), and if we’d lingered just a minute longer, the tumble of bricks absolutely would have seriously hurt or killed someone.
But, being the Guard, nothing happened to the guy. Still, a pretty spectacular mess up, basically destroying a building. I still have one of the bricks as a souvenir.”
The $100,000 Mistake
“One of my first jobs was at a plant that made mining trucks. These things can be as big as a house. Very expensive. I was an expeditor, so it was my job to monitor inventory and make sure our orders for parts were on track to be delivered on time, and to resolve any issues if it turned out that something would be late from a supplier.
We had a truck scheduled to leave the plant on a certain day. Part of the contract was that for every day the truck was late, my company had to pay a penalty of like $100k. So this was a huge deal, we had to watch this thing like a hawk to prevent any delays.
Except I neglected to notice a bracket that was worth about $10 had run low and no order had been placed to replenish our stock. It was scheduled to leave our plant by the end of the day and it couldn’t because we didn’t have a $10 bracket. And it was only reported to me at the end of my work day because it’s a simple install that should only take a few minutes at the end of the line to do. I called my usual emergency suppliers and had to beg one to get their guys to stay late to give us an order so we could attach whatever this part was on to our truck so it didn’t cost us $100k. We paid triple what we normally did, but the bracket came in within a couple of hours, and the truck was able to leave the plant in time to make the delivery deadline.
It was a really, really good lesson in never neglecting the small stuff. One little mess up could have massively messed up things for me. $10 will never be worth $100,000. That was about 15 years ago and I’m no longer in that industry, but it’s a lesson I have carried over to all the jobs I have had since.”
“I Walked In To The Unholiest Nightmare You Have Ever Seen”
“This one time I worked at a company who made shelter cloth (for orchards). It was woven from plastic thread. There were these huge banks of needles that just ran and ran making these giant rolls of cloth.
The night shift guy was pretty new. And the night shift was just him and the machine. It would take most of the shift to do a full roll with setup and take down. The night shift guy basically just had to babysit the weaver all night and then change the roll out and setup for day shift.
I came in early one morning because I wanted to pick up some gear I’d left in my locker and I walked in to the unholiest nightmare you have ever seen. A Gordian Knot at least thirty foot high. The dude had sat there until like 2am, the darkest part of the night. Then he decided to grab a snack in the breakroom and had fallen asleep. He woke up hours later to the sound of the weaver smashing itself to pieces.
One of the needle banks had moved during the night and he hadn’t seen the warning indicator, so then it had worked its way loose, then snapped, then flipped over and snapped the one next to it. Then it had made hundreds and hundreds of meters of messed up Frankenstein cloth with giant kilometer long thread bunches.
I walked in to him screaming. He had woken up 15 minutes prior and had not got past freaking out. I could think clearer than him so I went and got the big forklift and pulled this huge birds nest off the machine. He took it way out back of the yard and hid it from view. Then we grabbed some spare needle banks and slammed them in and likewise hid the busted up ones in the dumpster.
Then we started feeding in a new roll and just got the machine going again when the day shift came in. They were surprised that the night guy had got through the overnight materials so fast but since it happened sometimes when the machine behaved they didn’t make a big deal.
I went back to university about two months later and never found out if anyone ever figured out what actually happened that night. But really, the crazed look of the night shift guy screaming and holding his chest has stayed with me for thirty years.”
Not-So Breaking News
“Newspaper reporter here. One of my former colleagues was notoriously scatterbrained, and on at least two occasions she completely botched breaking news stories. One time, a well-known pizza restaurant in a small neighboring county burned down. We didn’t find out about this until after she came into work – she lived in the same town as the pizza restaurant. She casually strolled in, got to work, and then my boss says something like, ‘Hey, they’re saying that restaurant burned down.’ My coworker then says, ‘Oh, yeah, I heard about that, too. I meant to tell you about it.’
Another time, a grain truck got into an accident on the highway, spilling grain and causing traffic on the two-lane road to get extremely congested. Someone tipped us off to it, and as I was getting ready to head up there, she walks into work and says, ‘Oh, yeah, I drove past that when I was coming in.’
And you didn’t think to call us and let us know?! And I didn’t witness this, but another coworker of mine told me she completely fumbled covering a Fourth of July parade. For those who aren’t in the news industry, covering a Fourth of July parade is about the most simple assignment you can ever get at a newspaper. Literally all you have to do is take pictures and talk to a couple people.
She ended up quitting on the spot after coming into work one day after missing the deadline on a major project. My boss called her into a meeting and it got really, really heated. I don’t know if she was going to be fired or if she was just going to discipline her, but it ended with her storming out of the office while another one of my bosses stood over her shoulder as she cleaned out her desk.”
“Giant Black Snake Firework”
“I watched another firefighter open a hydrant too early during a training exercise.
The idea is to drop your hydrant man off, he wraps the hydrant with the hose and the engineer drives away, the hydrant man then attaches the hose to the hydrant and waits for the engineer to tell him to open the hydrant. He’s supposed to wait because the engineer needs to hook the other end of the hose to the pump.
We carry 1000 feet of 5 inch, or supply hose, on the top of our engine, there’s a coupling every 100 feet; my buddy went ahead and opened the hydrant before the engineer could uncouple the section of hose he needed and hook up to the pump.
Before he could run back and turn off the hydrant about 700 feet of hose fired off the top of the engine, like a giant black snake firework, weighing hundreds of pounds. I’m so glad nobody got hurt from his stupidity.”