Sunday, December 10, 2023
HomeJob Opportunitythe creepy playhouse, the inexplicable insult, and other stories to cringe over...

the creepy playhouse, the inexplicable insult, and other stories to cringe over — Ask a Manager

It’s Mortification Week at Ask a Manager and all week long we’ll be revisiting ways we’ve mortified ourselves at work. Here are 14 mortifying stories to kick off today.

1. The kitty playhouse

This situation still makes me cringe. My first professional experience after college was a national service position, which meant we were poorly paid and always on the lookout for cheaper housing. My fellow service member “Robert” and I would email Craigslist listings to each other (on our work email!), especially if we found weird or funny ones.

On that fateful day, I found a creepy and hilariously awful listing. It was something like “Seeking 7 pretty kitty cat ladies to live in Meow King’s playhouse” and it was obviously some oddball fetishist offering low rent for women to pretend to be cats while living in his house. I forwarded it Robert.

An hour later I got an email from a partner organization’s director who I’d met and started working with earlier that week. His name was also Robert.

I had forwarded the creepy Craigslist with a message saying, “I’ve found the purrrfect place for you!” to Director Robert.

Director Robert was very confused. I hastily told him I accidentally sent the email to the wrong person, but I was mortified and I still had to work with him for the rest of the year. He graciously never spoke of it again.

2. The problem

Fairly mild one but it still haunts me. Years ago I was working retail at a small local store. I was stocking shelves around the corner from the door and register when I heard the motion sensor bell go off, meaning someone had walked in. I go around the corner to help her, right as she rounds that corner too. It’s a blind corner so neither of us saw the other coming. We didn’t quite run into each other, but almost, and we were both startled. She said, “Oh, sorry!”

I then apparently had a short-circuit in my brain, because I tried to say “You’re good!” and “No problem!” at the same time. Instead, what came out was a slightly halting “Your problem!”

She looked confused and offended and I had no idea how to recover. She bought her stuff in silence and it was so awkward.

3. The breast gymnastics

I work remotely and have a young child who I pump breastmilk for. One day I was participating in a company-wide, full-day performance review, so I had to pump while the meeting was ongoing. No big deal, tilt the camera up and all was fine.

Well, we went to take a break, so I turned my camera off (so I thought), finished pumping, but was having some issues and so I was engaging in “breast gymnastics” (which pretty much is exactly what it sounds like). Realized belatedly my camera was NOT off, after all. So I had vigorously shaken my boobs in front of our entire company, including the CEO and president.

Fortunately everyone had the good grace to have selective amnesia about it!

4. The slip

I was almost late to work, so I parked somewhat illegally, then took a shortcut through a grassy area rather than along a sidewalk. It had been raining, and there was a huge mud patch. I slipped and fell, then slipped and fell again trying to get up. It was like a scene in a movie, and when I finally emerged from the puddle, I was coated in mud head to foot. I abashedly made my way to my office and informed my manager that I was going to go to Target to buy some clean clothes (much faster than going home to change due to the length of my commute) and that I would be back soon. I was then late for the meeting I had scheduled that morning, and it turns out my boss had told them I’d “had an accident.” I’m pretty sure they all thought I’d shit myself, but I’m hoping they thought I was in a car accident instead. I wouldn’t have minded them knowing I had been wallowing around in mud like a hog.

5. The plumbing

Our office has very, very old plumbing. One day when I was quite new at the job, I was alone in the office and the pipes burst. Water/toilet content started leaking from the pipes onto the bathroom floor, then slowly spread into the hallway. I cleaned as best as I could and called our Office Manager. She arrives, stands on the large damp toilet patch, looking aghast. I liked her and wanted to show that I’d done all I could so, for reasons unknown, I said, “I tried to clean it but right now you’re standing on my pee.” Whut.

6. The insult

Fresh out of college I worked for a company with a famously petite male CEO. I’m a rather tall woman and back then wore heels every day; I had about 12 inches on the guy. We never had any reason to interact as he worked out of a different office (and I was the lowliest of the low). One day he was visiting and came into the break room while I was in there. He was looking for a coffee mug but when he opened the cupboard, he saw they were all on the highest shelf. He chuckled a bit, looked at me, and said, “Would you mind?” For some reason I will never understand, as I handed him the mug I said, “We moved them up there because we knew you were coming! Haha!” Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy???? He took it in stride but I evaporated into a shame-filled smoke.

7. The sign language

As part of the orientation week for a new job, we had a party at Grandboss’s house for all the new people and their partners. I was coming back to full-time in-person work after a stint of staying home with my daughter for her first several years and doing freelance work and grad school. We had done sign language with our daughter when she was a baby, and a few signs remained in use in our family — one of which was the sign for thank you, in which you put your hand up to your mouth and then lower it, kind of similar to blowing a kiss. When my partner and I were ready to leave the party, it was still pretty packed, and Grandboss was way across on the other side of the room. I started to make my way towards him to thank him for the party, but it was like an obstacle course of food tables and people, and at one point he caught my eye. I just instinctively, without thinking, signed “thank you” to him. He looked quite confused, paused, and then blew me a kiss in return.

We worked together for a number of years, but I never had the guts to explain what I was doing. It was too mortifying. I think he would have been amused, but I just couldn’t.

8. The baby

When my daughter was an infant, I worked from home on Fridays while my mom watched the baby. It was a lovely set-up because I could nurse her and hold her occasionally while still getting my work done. One Friday, I was on a conference call – one where I was mostly listening, but would occasionally ask a question. After asking a question, I forgot to mute myself, picked up the baby, and said very loudly into my headset, “Uh oh! I think somebody pooped!” Never living that down.

9. The confrontation

I was in my early 20s doing field work with a (mostly) equally young group of people. I had recently had my heart broken and noticed that one of the men on the team, who had talked about his girlfriend back at home, was paying a lot of attention to one of the local women where we were staying. Internally, I was beyond angry. Externally, I cornered the guy one day and asked tersely if he was cheating on his girlfriend, and when he said no, they had broken up, I blurted out how relieved I was because “something similar happened to me recently and I would hate to be working with someone who would do that” or something to that effect. Well and truly, it was none of my business! He was very gracious about it.

10. The buttons

Ughhh it was my first day at a new government consulting firm. I am large busted and I bought a new suit, blouse, etc. My boss and grandboss were giving me an introductory orientation when suddenly they excused themselves. I heard them whispering and grandboss say, “You are going to have to manage her; deal with it.” They came back in and boss says, “Um … your blouse has … come undone.” Sure enough my top two buttons had popped open. I buttoned them. We began talking again. Five minutes later he sighs, “It happened again.” I look and am mortified to see my bra on full display AGAIN.

11. The singer

I was working in a lab for the summer and there was a separate closed off room specifically for working in cell cultures. I had wanted to try out for American Idol that fall so I spent most of my time when in that room belting out pop songs … badly. I don’t know why I had convinced myself it was soundproof but I had. At the end of the summer, I walked by the room while two people were talking in it and I could hear every word. Thank god no one said anything to me about it and I left shortly after that so I didn’t have to live with the embarrassment for that long.

I have no idea why people put up with it and didn’t say anything about it. Hopefully none of them wrote you a letter about their awful loud coworker with a terrible singing voice!

12. The autocorrect

I was texting with a resident physician trainee and typed “…epi pen is…” and autocorrect changed it to “epic penis.”

13. The unmute

September 2020, the ultimate “accidental unmuted” nightmare. I had a quarterly one-on-one with my boss back-to-back with a departmental training session. One-on-one finished five minutes early so I signed on to the training session meeting. I thought I had pressed the mute button … except I in fact had UNmuted myself, turned my back to the computer (thus missing all the desperate texts asking me to mute myself), and preceded to animatedly recount the entire check-in to my partner. Highlights included my going on a whole tirade about how “obviously I deserve this promotion” (my boss had promised it might actually happen after they’d been promising it to me for three years), good-naturedly making fun of a friend coworker, and shit-talking the hell out of my nemesis coworker until I finally realized what had happened.

I missed the entire training session because I spent a half an hour with my face buried in a couch pillow wailing in embarrassment and anguish. Thank god only about five other people had also logged on early and heard it; my friend coworker who I razzed thought it was hilarious; and somehow no one heard the details of my shit-talking my nemesis coworker. As my boss predicted, it blew over quite quickly with no lasting repercussions, but I never had experienced the “wanting to die of shame” emotion until that day. Needless to say, I no longer gossip with my partner anywhere close to work meetings.

14. The typo

I once sent out an all company email about our upcoming Flu Shot Clinic. Unfortunately I titled the email Flu Shit Clinic and hit send before proofreading.


Most Popular

Recent Comments