Look, everybody makes mistakes. Most of them are minor, possibly cringe-worthy, but recoverable. Sometimes, however, they’re mistakes that haunt our dreams, or possibly just make for great cocktail party conversations. Here are a few of the more memorable stories of workplace mistakes we’ve read lately.
Wise advice: “Measure twice, cut once.”
“A brand-new hospital was built and they brought all the really expensive hospital beds to start filling the rooms — you know, the kind that can roll in and out of all the rooms when the patient has to go to X-ray or whatever? Well, they didn’t build the doors of the rooms wide enough to accommodate the beds. This resulted in a long delay opening the hospital while the doors were torn out and fixed.” – Reddit user Viking042900
Always double-check your time zones
I worked at a financial institution a few years back. Peer found a server with the wrong time zone set. Being a good employee, he changed it from Eastern to Central Time zone, moving it back an hour.
Unfortunately that system orchestrated loan processing jobs. Scheduled debit transactions that had already run for the evening were triggered again, causing about 1,200 “loan repayment” transactions to be processed a second time. Twelve-hundred people were double-hit with their monthly (or weekly) payments, causing quite a few of those to zero out their checking and start bouncing checks and other payments. The NSF charges piled up incredibly high!! I don’t know how much the business lost but the guy was fired and everyone else got a lesson reinforcing IT change control procedures. – Reddit user pm_me_ur_thr0w4w4ys
Read your emails carefully before sending
As ed assistant, I once forwarded an email about someone’s secret pregnancy instead of one about a press trip … to the entire office. – Twitter user @MissSisiG
The client isn’t always right
Accidentally published a wrong phone number for a doctor’s office — instead it was a phone sex line. Heads were going to roll over that one, until it was discovered that the client actually gave us the wrong phone number. Phew! – Anonymous
Parking brakes are your friends
6 a.m., cold winter morning. Some guy forgot to engage the parking brake in his brand-new, three-ton International Boom Crane Truck, which was sitting in the shop, in front of an open door. I was across the street, and watched it slowly roll forward, across the parking, push past three parked cars, and push two cars down into a 20-foot ditch. The truck soon followed. The guy didn’t notice until it came to a stop. He ran out of the shop screaming, “Oh god, no, no, no! Not again!” AGAIN? – Reddit user Jorgon123456
Watch your volume!
When I worked as a department for Chain Bookstore #2 (ca. 1994), someone called looking for a book on some software thing. She was grasping at random words that might have been in the title while I was typing stuff into our computer. I was cradling the phone with my shoulder but had the receiver (I thought) far enough away from my mouth when I muttered “You don’t @#$% know the title…” And then the customer replied, “No. I DON’T @#$% KNOW THE TITLE!” And hung up. And called back seconds later, right after my heart fell through the floor. Fortunately, I was the only manager on duty, so even though I was not able to grab the phone first, when the bookseller said, “Some angry lady wants to talk to a manager,” I was like “I’LL TAKE IT!” I dropped my voice about an octave (my “phone voice”) and listened politely as she talked about some horrible, rude customer service person who swore at her, and I promised to get to the bottom of it and punish that scamp severely, and I found the book she was looking for and offered to special order it, and basically provided a stellar customer experience immediately after being a huge @#$% to someone who never realized she was still speaking to the same person. I shook like a damn leaf the rest of the night. – Anonymous
Strange men are often important
First job, first week. Blockbuster. I refused to let a “strange man” into the shop before opening time. He was the regional manager. – Twitter user @freethestones
The safest road is often the longest
I work for a nationwide appliance repair company. Was helping a technician on a super old oven. These old ovens use a tube filled with mercury to tell the oven when to turn on/off the flame with temp increase/decrease. He was changing it out for a new part and I told him not to cut it and just go through the slightly lengthy process of removing it safely. After I told him what he needed to do, I left, as I was just a there for the technical support. After I left, he decided that the easiest way to remove the old one was to just cut the line and rip it out. Mercury spilled underneath the oven. Then he decided he would just vacuum up the spilled mercury. Customer walked in and saw this. Customer ended up suing the company stating he had to go to the hospital for mercury vapor inhalation. The tech was fired. – Reddit user JackOfAllTrades777
Racism won’t stand at all
I was sitting with a colleague and our supervisor just chatting. This supervisor was terrific, and I’m still friends with her. My colleague started talking about how her “typical Jewish” doctor (her description included references to his nose and his expensive shoes) and “typical black” nurse (her description made this healthcare professional sound like a stereotype from a 1930s movie) talked her out of naming her child Basil. I’m Jewish, and when I told this to my colleague, she said she didn’t know while staring at my nose. My supervisor signaled to me that she would take care of the issue. Fifteen minutes later, the colleague had been fired and asked to leave the office. – Anonymous
Submissions have been lightly edited for clarity.
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