Career-Ending Mistakes

July 10, 2023 | Carl Wyndham

Career-Ending Mistakes

We all make mistakes at work, but there are some unfortunate people who managed to mess up so monumentally their whole career was ruined in an instant. From badmouthing their bosses on speakerphone to falling asleep in meetings, these people took to Reddit to share the most hilarious and embarrassing mistakes that put paid to their career aspirations. After reading this, you’ll thank your lucky stars that none of these have happened to you.

1. Inside Job?

I was working at a builders’ merchant. A customer calls to place an order over the phone (not unusual) and wants to give me the card details there and then (red flag). I initially refused but another member of staff vouched for them as they were regulars. 

I put the order through, knowing that whoever came to collect would need to come into the office for their paperwork before loading so we would have them on CCTV if it did turn out to be suspect…but there was one major problem—the yard crew didn’t follow the process. When a van turned up for the goods, they loaded it all up and sent them away without asking for any kind of ID or manifest.

The payment card was later reported as stolen and the staff member who vouched for the customer denied even being in that day, which was a lie as she never took time off. I got fired and everyone else got to keep their jobs.

Sad fired businessman in suite sitting outside meetingbaranq, Shutterstock

2. Take A Chill Pill

I worked in retail pharmacy for 10 years.

One day in the drive-thru, we had a belligerent patient. The guy's doc sent his script to our other chain about 1.5 miles down the road. We were on the same street, and our addresses get mixed up all the time. No biggie, give me 10 minutes and I'll have it ready…

But the dude just starts laying into me for no reason. He calls me an idiot, says he knows where his doctor sent it, and that I'm a lazy, lying piece of garbage, etc, etc. After a few MINUTES going back and forth, with this guy yelling loud enough in my drive-thru that other staff inside the store can hear him, I tell him he needs to leave and find a new pharmacy.

The guy lays into me again and refuses to leave. I tell him, "Leave or I'm calling the authorities".

Apparently, that was over the line for my company. There was no interview with HR. No discipline. No suspension. They just straight up fired me about 3 weeks later after an "internal investigation".

Stressed upset employee in blue shirt sitting at a table  disappointedfizkes, Shutterstock

3. Sold Out

I led and recruited a sales team. One of the female sellers admitted that our CEO was being inappropriate with her. I got her to confess to our Sales Manager. Then I found out that more of our female staff had similar experiences so I rallied them as I needed evidence before proceeding. 

The CEO got an ear full from HR and then proceeded to pressure all his female victims until one of them dropped my name. I get fired.

Angry mad female HR representative pointing at door, asking male employee  to leavefizkes, Shutterstock

4. Had To Save Face

My boss misunderstood something I said, thought I meant to resign, and told the president that I was leaving. Rather than simply admit a silly mistake had been made, I was chastised for "putting them in a pickle" and let go -- after 11 years of service.

Unemployed  guy in formal wear holding personal belongings, feeling depressed after losing his jobProstock-studio, Shutterstock

5. Never Outshine The Master

I had security responsibilities added to my duties as system admin at a small university. I was asked by my boss' boss, the IT director, to do a security audit. He asked me to report on the audit at a department meeting.

I asked if I could present my results to him privately instead and have him present to the meeting, but he insisted I could take care of it. So that's exactly what I did—I took care of it.

My report showed major security holes, demonstrations of tests of said holes and recommendations for patching said holes. Many of the patches were at the level of "change the administrator password from 'password' to something less obvious".

As my political acumen was near zero at the time I didn't realize how the report on major security problems made the IT Director look completely incompetent in front of the entire department - he had built and configured the campus computer system pretty much on his own, at least in his mind, and was quite proud of his accomplishment.

He suspended me on the spot, demoted me and tried to convince the university to fire me and try to bring me up on charges for hacking into the university's computer systems. The whole thing completely derailed my career and took some years to recover.

Shocked employee in blue shirt sitting at a meeting being fired on the spotMAYA LAB, Shutterstock

6. You Played Yourself

My brother got fired because he put a dishcloth in a burger that he thought was going to one of friends but actually went to another customer and he got fired on the spot.

Male fast food employee in plaid blue shirt laughingMiljan Zivkovic, Shutterstock

7. Beware The Whisper

This is years ago but I walked up to the boss after he berated me for no reason (Honestly no reason at all he was just a nipple) and whispered in his face that the next time he did that I was going to hurt him very fast and very badly.

This was after telling him on a couple of occasions that I didn't deserve nor would I tolerate him being a jerk to me or anyone else. So I was fired that night via a phone call.

Man speaking on the phone at train stationAndrea Piacquadio, Pexels

8. The Fall Guy

In my case, getting promoted to supervisor started the dominoes falling.

I worked at a correctional institution. I had been there for about 7 years and I knew I was most qualified, so I applied for the open sergeant’s position. I got it, which is where this story starts.

As a sergeant, it was my job to do investigations and document the findings whenever an inmate alleged his life was in danger. I would do the investigation and do a report on my findings, and it would get sent to the warden for them to interpret the evidence and make a final decision.

So, one day, an inmate gets beat up on a building I was in charge of. This inmate had never spoken to me, and had never told anyone he was having friction with his cellmate. Well, when questioned about it, the inmate said he had told me he needed to be moved and I told him I would. 

Initially, my supervisors believed him, but after I pulled up the surveillance camera that showed I had never even gotten down to that area that night due to being on a mission from another one of my supervisors all night, they admitted I hadn't talked to him. However, there was some super shady business going on—the higher-ups needed someone to blame and because it was my area, I got the blame, and got fired.

As a side note, I was salty about getting fired because I cared about my job but I wouldn't go back if they begged me. I have a much better job now and the facility is so short staffed because of how they treat their people, the officers are stuck doing 16 hour days, 6 days a week. No thank you.

Prison officer in blue shirt with handcuffs and a baton walking at  corridor of a jailBigflick, Shutterstock

9. Got Lucky, Then Got Unlucky

A guy I knew got fired for sleeping with the boss's daughter

There was nothing dodgy, it was all entirely above board—he didn't even know they were related and had never met her before

They met on a night out, he went back to her (parents') place and they did it. No problems, no drama etc. The next morning they got dressed and she was showing him to the door when her dad...his boss...walked out of the kitchen.

In my opinion, that's pretty messed up - they were consenting adults, he had no idea it was his boss's daughter. There was no significant age difference, she wasn't out of it or anything, she'd never worked at (or as far as I know even visited) the company when my friend was there or even met him.

Man getting fired and packing office things to leave job carrying belongings in flannel shirtDC Studio, Shutterstock

10. Two-Faced Trainer

I made the mistake of putting my faith in the person 'training' me...

This led to me being fired after only three months. I usually stay at jobs for a couple of years and I've never been fired before or since. Thankfully, it didn't fully end my career, but I've struggled to get new jobs in the same sector ever since. Luckily I can do the same job, but in different (less lucrative) sectors.

It all happened because I thought someone was helping me, when actually she was actually a back-stabbing mean girl. She was helping train me and explaining some VERY complicated inner workings of our company. She essentially explained how "Internally we talk about some products/services as 'B2C' and other products/services as 'B2B'. We don't talk like this to customers though, only internally." 

What she said made perfect sense and it helped me understand some nuances in our services.

A week or so later I was in a big meeting with lots of team leads trying to sort out a problem with a product that we were launching. And I asked the guy leading the meeting: "So just to be clear, is this to do with the ''B2B' products? I'm a little unclear".

He looked at me like I was going crazy. "B2B? I don't understand. What are you talking about?"

Me: "You know, how 'X' products are B2C. But 'Y' products are B2B and that helps us categorize them internally for projects like this".

The guy just stared at me like I was weird. I turned to the girl who 'helped' train me. I kind of mumbled "How did you explain it the other day"? She looked me dead in the eye balls, piercing the window of my soul, and she uttered a blood-boiling statement with a perfectly straight face: "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about".

So she made me look like a total idiot in front of all the team leads, which ruined my credibility.

When I had my monthly 360 performance review, I had really negative feedback from the team leads and she (as my trainer) had given me really bad feedback about "not listening during training". Which was total nonsense.

That incident didn't get me fired immediately, but she systematically worked out ways to make it look like I wasn't doing my job properly. So after three months, my probation period was coming to an end and HR saw my performance reviews and the reports that I "wasn't doing the work" (even though I was) and they said, "We have to part ways".

To this day, I still have no idea why she did this. We were doing similar jobs, but different enough that I wasn't stepping on her toes. We were also at the same seniority and pay grade. And I generally get along with everyone, I definitely didn't say anything rude or mean to her to make her dislike me.

So I can't see a good reason for her to want me fired, other than she didn't like my face or something. She acted so nice to me during training and around the office. I didn't know about all the negative stuff until it was too late.

Close-up Of An employee  Carrying Cardboard Box During Office Meeting after being firedAndrey_Popov, Shutterstock

11. It Was Worth It

When I worked at a call center, I took a call from the manager, put the chap on hold and said to my team member "he is a bit of a tool isn't he"...I forgot to also put the call on mute and he requested a call recording...Whoops!

Then, while on suspension, I broke my leg, and went to my hearing after far too little sleep and too much tramadol. When they asked me what the impact of my actions was, I said it was "crippling". I was far too pleased with that pun to give a toss about the outcome.

I spent the next few months coasting through bills selling bits and bats; then I eventually got into marketing, a win in the long run!

four people working in call center officeTima Miroshnichenko, Pexels

12. Blessing In Disguise

I worked in public relations agencies for quite a long time, and mostly hated every minute of it. I didn't really understand what I was doing, but felt trapped in the business because I couldn't think of anything else I'd be able to do.

I got into it because around 2005-2010 social media was just becoming a big thing and old-school PR agencies would hire anybody who knew anything about Twitter, Facebook and all these exciting new channels. Pretty much all I had to do was show up to meetings and enthusiastically explain what social media was to confused old business dinosaurs.

So even though I knew nothing about public relations and didn't really understand how agencies work, I quickly got over-promoted and for the first time in my life found I was in high demand, so I was getting paid more money than ever before. However, eventually social media wasn't seen as such a big deal any more, so I found myself just trying to do whatever work they threw at me, hoping I could keep hold of that sweet salary for a little longer.

But because I wasn't into the job at all, I was always procrastinating, and I'd pull late nights to get work done at the last minute. One day my boss asked to see my progress on a big client presentation that wasn't due for another week. I literally hadn't done a single thing on it, and I tried to bluster my way out of it, but you-know-what hit the fan.

The result? I got fired.

Overnight I found I could no longer get interviews at agencies that used to be desperate for "social media experts" to work for them, and really started to worry about how I'd find another job.

In the end it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me, because out of desperation I took a temporary three-month contract to do some basic marketing stuff at a small tech company and before my contract expired the company got bought by a bigger company.

They decided they needed a marketing director for my region, and because I was sitting in the right chair at the time, I got promoted and given a permanent contract. I was given plenty of time and space to figure out how to do the job as the company grew, so I felt much more comfortable in the role, not like I was constantly making it up as I went along.

I’ve been there seven years, love the job and the people, and earn more money than I ever thought I would.

Shocked employee in a suit sitting outside with hands on his head after being firedTnkImages, Shutterstock

13. Pam And Jim?

I was involved with the secretary. We thought we were both discrete, but everyone knew.

To clarify, we had a policy that said coworkers cannot engage in relationships. We broke the rules. I hated the place and took all the blame to keep her from getting canned too. It wasn't a full blown relationship yet, we were just starting out. Also, that's all people did was gossip about stuff that was none of their business.

Angry african-american businessman threatens colleague, conflict between male workers at workplacefizkes, Shutterstock

14. Hit Reply All

This set my career back at least a couple of years.

Our senior IT leader was making a horrible decision. I told him behind closed doors it was a bad decision. He said he was going forward and I asked him for his plan. He had none. I did not work for this IT leader, but worked as a project manager that had tech heavy projects. 

He sends an email to company staff on change and stated that I would be working on the project to assist them. Mind you I have no idea on the project, plan, details, nothing. And it was not under my job description. This was right after our earlier conversation showing that he had no plan. 

So I reply all and state, I was not aware I was working on this project and asked for some guidance on what his plan for implementation. This was a red flag to staff that something was not right. As this was going on, I was up for a promotion and the IT leader complained to the CEO and he decided to stop my promotion because of the email.

The CEO ended up quitting a year later and the new CEO promoted me. But I found that the CEO and IT leader had bad mouthed me to other organization leaders and it took years to shake the gossip.

Person in flannel shirt having a meeting with unhappy boss, sitting on a table speaking about bad performanceTero Vesalainen, Shutterstock

15. What A Gas

I got written up and pushed out of the company for passing gas in the wrong place.

To be fair, I was working in our microbiology QA group at a big pharmaceutical manufacturing company that made contact solution and other stuff. It was Thursday because that was taco soup day and this particular day it was extra spicy.

To get into the fill room, you have to spend like 45 minutes getting dressed in sterile room garb without touching the outside of your suits. It's quite the dance. So I'm in there sampling 100+ points of contact around the fill needle and my stomach starts grumbling. It's the end of the day, I don't want to leave and get dressed again. 

I look around and there are a few ladies working upstream on the conveyor belt looking for jams or whatever, and immediately after the fill needle, it goes out a little cutout in the window to be immediately packaged. The fill room itself has these cascading air pressures blowing away from the fill needle and is super loud.

So, that's my spot, I start to sample in that area, and let out a little 'pffffrrrrrrrrrrt!'. I feel better and go about my business. But then I start to hear alarms—and everything goes into chaos.

I look around unconcerned and see the ladies upstream are laughing their faces off. I look out to the packaging area and everyone is staring in the window at me. The line boss bangs on the window and demands that I see him outside.

There are hydrogen sulfide sensors around the sensitive areas of the line. That's because it causes pink eye and I had just contaminated the product. Thousands of bottles were thrown away and the line had to be purged for minutes before and after the 'incident'.

It took 15 minutes to properly disrobe, the whole time the rest of my QA department came to stare and laugh at me through the windows (they have to supervise you changing to make sure you do it right). 

When I got out, I had to sign several forms that claimed that I broke wind in the fill room. I got written up for it, but in my defense, so did the guy who trained me since he didn't mention the yellow alarms apparently. My boss let me go home early and I was forced out soon after.

Cropped image of handsome businessman in formal wear holding a box with his stuff and leave after being firedGeorge Rudy, Shutterstock

16. The Way The Cookie Crumbles

When I worked for a bank as a lender, a guy came in to do a bunch of paperwork for a loan he was applying for, and I didn't notice until I was scanning the documents that he hadn't signed an address change form. My manager was itching to get everything submitted in hopes that the loan would hit that month's scorecard, so she took the paperwork and said she'd stay until he could come back, which was after hours.

The next morning, she gave the folder back to me, saying that the loan guy had showed up later than they'd agreed, which meant the compliance department wasn't open, so she hadn't bothered to scan the documents and went home. She asked me if I had time to scan them, which I said I did.

I did one last check to make sure everything was signed (as well as reorganize the documents in my preferred order), and triple checked to make sure the name change was good, then scanned everything.

Two days later, I got pulled aside when I walked in the door. I felt a pit in my stomach, and I instantly knew what was going on. I got canned. I guess compliance runs signatures on loan documents, which is mostly used to confirm that signatures match, but also pings if signatures match *exactly... and two signatures in the loan packet did.

I got accused of copying a signature from a flood zone advisory and pasting it onto the name change form. They knew it was me because I'd signed the document list, I'd notarized several documents, and it had been scanned under my employee ID. Open and shut.

I never got the satisfaction of asking my manager why, or what happened, but it doesn't really matter... like two months later everything went under lockdown due to COVID, including my daughter's daycare. I got to spend four months with her doing nothing but playing three-year-old make believe and mastering chocolate chip cookies, coasting off of unemployment. I found a job right when I needed to, and was making more money than I'd ever made within six months, and a series of title changes in the following year.

So, thanks for that, manager! I hear your bank just got bought, and everyone hates their jobs now!

A male employee  standing in front of a bank and looking  stressed  holding his head after being fired from jobCreativeAngela, Shutterstock

17. Took The Fall

An old guy in my department messed up. Big time.

He had been there a million years, was getting close to retirement, and was literally crying. I tried talking him down but he was beside himself with worry, so I told him - I'll take the fall. It's not that bad.

I took the fall, he proceeded to go full "I tried to warn him, he wouldn't listen, I couldn't stop him". to the bosses on review. I had already admitted to "my" mistake, and was told that my contract would not be renewed after that quarter.

So I walked that day.

I lost the house (no job market), had to move across the state, lived in a spare bedroom at my MOTHER'S house with my wife and kids for a year.

But I'm better for it. Better job, better pay, regarded as one of the best in my field and have climbed the ranks to bossman. New house, nice car, everyone is better off for it...

...but I STILL occasionally have nightmares about getting fired for "my" mess up.

Fired male employee  reading the notice of job terminationtommaso79, Shutterstock

18. Sofa, So Good

I've been in teaching 25 years.  It's a union job, so you have to either suck, or harm a student or colleague to get fired. And even if you suck, they put you on a sucky-to-OK teacher program of improvement to give you a full year to straighten up. This is a district with 6000 kids, hundreds of staff.

So you can step on toes all day long and not get fired. But there are some things people have done, that I remember, that got them marched out the door by the superintendent. 

There was one teacher who collected money for supplies from students, pocketing any and all cash. Another teacher collected money from kids for Christmas gifts for poor kids in the area, pocketing the money. 

And a teacher who got caught sleeping with a colleague on an office sofa before school–both married, both forced into early retirement.

Teacher teaching a class at collegefauxels, Pexels

19. Formal Punishment

I needed to hand in a form. I found an old form in my folder. It was already filled out properly but it had the wrong date on it. So I put white out on it and changed the date. When I handed it in my boss saw the white out and asked about it. I told her. 

She said I couldn't do that and she would have to inform corporate. About three weeks later they fired me for it.

Shocked woman with glasses reading a letter of job terminationfizkes, Shutterstock

20. Career Climber

I used to be an arborist. I specialized in awkward tree removals, preferably big trees with structural issues and loads breakable, non movable objects (e.g. buildings, etc) around that needed to not be damaged.

My career was to the point where other local companies would call the company I worked for and ask if they could hire me out for a job that they were worried about. This isn't meant to be braggy, I'm definitely not proud of who I was at this time in my life.

I took pride in the fact that I would climb almost anything. I used to love working, turning up every day and being pointed towards a sketchy tree and having a big adventure taking it down. Looking back, though, it was the most egotistical I've ever been in my life.

I was a show off, I was extremely competitive towards anyone who I thought had similar or, god forbid, superior abilities than me, and I needed to be seen as fearless and a cut above the rest (no pun intended). I even got to the point where I would be incredibly rude to the ground crews if I thought they weren't working hard enough and were going to cause me to complete the job at a less impressive speed.

Anyway in all my hubris I agreed to climb a tree that never should have been climbed. The experience left me totally traumatized—only by sheer luck avoided being squashed like a bug between the trunk and the roof of an outbuilding when the tree decided to fall over as I was half way up getting ready to cut the second branch of the day off.

I was mostly uninjured, but the mental toll was quite large. I totally lost my edge and started getting jittery and even backing out of perfectly stable trees. I ended up having to take a pay cut, nobody was requesting me anymore, that's for sure. I also developed vertigo, and any time I was up a tree it felt as if the tree was falling and the ground was rushing up at me.

I couldn't sleep any night when I knew I had work the next day (which is most nights when you think about it). And I started having crazy anxious moments where my heart would beat really fast. I carried on like that for two years with minimal improvement because I had financial responsibilities and no skills for anything else.

Luckily, I was eventually able to get work as a consultant in the same industry, which is a mixture of office based work and site visits that involve looking at trees instead of climbing them. But my career as a climber is definitely over.

Arborist cutting treeJorge Salcedo, Shutterstock

21. Communication Breakdown

I worked full time at a company contracted to do onsite IT for a school district. A teacher asked me about a cart of MacBooks we were working on for her. My mistake may* have been talking to her in a noisy classroom, because for some reason, "They should be done in a week", turned into, "I'll do them when I get to them, probably next summer".

The superintendent sent an email, I refuted it and stated my intentions well, that this school was my number one priority and that I'd never be so rude (I can honestly say both of those were true). My boss was mad, told me it didn't look good, and after trying to argue my case, I was fired a few days later.

It wouldn't be career ending if I didn't find out they blacklisted me from half my surrounding area. Not through any official means, but since word spread fast all of the people I never worked with would badmouth me to their clients. I know of at least two companies where that was the direct reason I wasn't considered.

I had to start using short term contracting companies for jobs. They didn't work out well either. I followed that up with a mental breakdown, physical illness, losing my dad, and several more things. I will likely be six feet under before I see the other side of this.

I really liked that school.

Man working on a computer at office smiling and happyAndrea Piacquadio, Pexels

22. Take Your Kid To Work Day?

I brought my kid to work with me so I didn't have to call out—I needed the money. It was an afterschool program at a school. I worked off site so I thought I was good—but my coworker ratted me out. I lost my job two weeks ago. I'm not sure what’s next.

Sad woman being firedKaspars Grinvalds, Shutterstock

23. New Car Or New Job

I was a part time intern making $9 an hour (USD) and my boss asked if I had any plans for the weekend. I had said I was going to buy a new car (very much old and used as that's what I could afford) and he asked if I was buying a brand new car. 

My response was that my budget isn't big enough for a new car and a couple weeks later during my one-year review my manager said they didn't have the work for me and that I was disrespectful for telling the boss I didn't make enough money. At the time I was living comfortably as a college student and just needed different transportation. I tried not to be disrespectful but apparently I was.

Sad fired businessman sitting outside meeting room after being dismissedF8 studio, Shutterstock

24. Irreplaceable

I got fired because I couldn't do the work of three people. The company had just opened and expected me to keep an eye on things, even when I was in another building keeping an eye on things, while expecting me to run everything smoothly.

Months after I got fired, my former coworker gave me the most satisfying update—they were still trying to fill the position.

Fired Employee in suit With Box of his stuffAndrey_Popov, Shutterstock

25. Slippery Slope

I fell down a flight of concrete steps and broke my back. I was a very successful dog trainer and my clients were supposed to de-ice their stairs in the winter and they didn't. I ended up lying in the snow for over 45 minutes before crawling to my car. 

I had to have my tailbone removed (coccydectomy) and I'm now handicapped from the waist down, although I can still walk (I have a cane for bad days and I stay in bed on flareup days). I was making $60-$100 an hour and now I get $850 off of disability for the month. 

And no, I didn't get a penny out of a lawsuit or a settlement or anything like that because I was too afraid to even tell my boss what happened because it was a very small business and I just couldn't afford to lose my job. Instead I lost my life.

Worker Injury And Disability CompensationAndrey_Popov, Shutterstock

26. Rock Bottom

One day I showed up to work noticeably intoxicated (I broke my typical Smirnoff-for-breakfast routine) and it ended everything in my life as I knew it…

But in the best way possible. I worked a corporate insurance job and was already on notice for poor performance/attendance. I went to work, and was in a black out, which wasn’t unusual, but because I drank more and added a different beverage than usual I wasn’t really functioning. My boss had a coworker take me home. HR called and told me basically that I could take some time off and take care of my “health issues”…they strongly suggested FMLA…I even saw my therapist that weekend— I’d been lying to him about how much I drank and how  I've been desperately trying to get him to help me manage my drinking better.

Turns out I’m addicted to drinking! I checked myself in rehab and haven’t had a drink in eight years.

At that particular job, I went from being on the brink of being fired to being promoted to assistant vice president, and being sought after by competitors in my industry.

I ended my career as a drinker—and I shifted the trajectory of my life. Quitting, drinking and reflecting on the reasons why I was drinking and learning that I can’t control jack aside from my reactions and responses changed my life. I’ve been through some of the most difficult adult situations in these past eight years and I would still say that my life has only gotten better and better over time.

If you think you have a drinking problem, I say it’s worth a look at yourself. quitting substances is not easy, but my God it’s so worth it.

Young handsome businessman in suit  in light modern office with carton box collecting his stuff after being fired4 PM production, Shutterstock

27.  The Truth Will Set You Free

I graduated from law enforcement academy, took local town tests and went through the interview process. When it came to the background check I was asked “Other than your current employment, do you have any additional earned income”? (real estate, stock investments, etc). I answer no.

When it came time to take the polygraph I was asked if there was anything I didn’t mention in the background packet that I thought they needed to know about. I told them I was receiving disability compensation with the VA for my time in service, but didn’t think that met the definition of earned income. The guy administering the test said no big deal. I took the poly 3 times and passed all 3. Little did I know a storm was headed my way.

A week goes by and I get a call to come in to meet with the detectives. I think I’m being offered the job, 23 years old making a great salary doing what I always wanted to do. Instead, they told me I was disqualified for lying on my background packet. That I intentionally withheld information about my income.

I went on several interviews after in other towns and the only thing the departments were interested in was why I didn’t get hired in that first town, and I had to explain. I never got hired anywhere and had to get a new career altogether.

What one mistake ended my career? Opening my mouth and being honest when I shouldn’t have.

Young man in suit sitting at the desk at job interviewfizkes, Shutterstock

28. Followed The Money

I left the company for a job that paid more (not that much more). I left arrogantly (I was twenty something back then). To this day I regret it. 

They liked me there, had a plan for my career, and had a lot of training, but I cared more about some more money and having a company car. The truth is I was not as good as I thought and got fired after six months from the company I went to.

Young businessman with beard fired holding cardboard standing over white, Shutterstock

29. Don’t Bank On It

This happened to my fiancee before she met me. She reported a board member of a bank to HR for repeated inappropriate behavior. Her fifteen year very successful career as a VP at that bank was over a week later. 

They said take your buyout / settlement offer or we will drag you through the courts for years. She never got another job in banking again. To this day she says she should have kept her mouth shut.

Worried female employee sitting at her desk  receiving an termination letter from her bossAntonio Guillem, Shutterstock

30. Off The Clock

I was accepted to lead a team of freelancers in a high stakes project while being a middleweight contributor, because my boss was in an awards festival. Someone from the global office put a boss from another company of the same holding to keep tabs on us halfway through the project.

 The guy turned the project upside down, would ask us to have things done by 9AM only to show up at 4PM and ask to redo everything for the next day. After three weeks doing that (amounting to 230h of work) and getting nowhere, I arrived home hearing my heart beat very loudly and decided to never work in that industry again.

Even in a different industry, I still have PTSD and can’t bother to work a minute past official clock-off.

Why Do We Yawn?Shutterstock

31. Thrown Away

I was in college Track and Field as a Thrower. I would practice for three hours, lift weights for two hours. One night I practiced more than usual, must’ve exhausted my body, and I tore three ligaments in one knee during a throw. 

My coach and I were both bummed, but I had to quit the sport. The thought of not being able to be mobile when I’m just growing into adulthood, and the thought of maybe not being able to play with my kids in the future? 

I couldn’t bear the thought of it. I was very excited about the prospect of going to the Olympics, and although it would have been arduous road I was showing promise. Despite that, I’ll never be the guy who says out loud “Yeaahhh I woulda gone pro but, clicks tongue ol knee went out on meh”.

Composition of male discus throwervectorfusionart, Shutterstock

32. Sold Out

I gave a customer the discount she qualified for. Unfortunately, the person who sold the item and didn’t give the discount to the customer complained about it because she lost $12 in commission. We worked on 100% commission.

Since the customer should have had the discount, and a manager approved the discount, the original salesperson made some excuses and I got fired while she kept her job. It didn’t matter that I had zero write ups in my 13 years, and she had a folder so thick it was pitiful.

I ended up winning my wrongful termination suit against the company.

Boss dismissing an employee  carrying a box full of belongingsldutko, Shutterstock

33. Family First

I had a child and could no longer work past a certain time.

I was hired at this warehouse job where my schedule was 6:30 am-3 pm, which was perfect for me. My girlfriend would take the kids to school and I would pick them up. I also had time to relax or pursue other personal endeavors before their schools closed as well.

About nine months in, they changed the schedule to 8 am-4:30 pm. In addition, we were constantly behind on work, so they scheduled us until 5:30. I told my manager at the time I can’t work past 4:30 as it takes me almost an hour to get to my son's school at that time due to traffic and it also makes it very hard for me to cook dinner and get them to bed on time. I offered to come in early to work 9 hours when needed, but he understood and let me leave early instead.

Then a new manager came along and everything changed for worse. I informed him of the same thing—I was leaving at 4:30 everyday for almost 6 months without any issue (we weren’t constantly behind those 6 months, but there we we’re always scheduled until 5:30 on Mondays). I also tried to talk to him about my struggles with the schedule but was constantly ignored.

Two weeks ago I got called into a conference room and told I was being fired for abandoning my workplace without authorization. I told him that I’ve been doing this for months and it’s never been an issue, I’ve also never received a warning but he didn’t care.

I hated every moment of being here, so I didn’t fight that hard to stay, I just wish I had something lined up before leaving.

Warehouse manager in bubble jacket holding tablet in warehouseTiger Lily, Pexels

34. Leaving A Legend

Back in 2001, I worked for a dreadful company as a contractor for one of their suppliers. The work was super dull but easy data entry with a finite amount to do each day. Every morning I worked hard and did it all, then every afternoon I chilled out and chatted ot coworkers, etc. Even though I worked 'for them' they couldn't give me any extra work because I was doing the work for a different company. Anyway, the work always got done.

One day, I was walking past my supervisor's desk and saw an email from her boss with my name at the top. It said "Check his productivity, I don't want him out as much as you do but I'm not far behind". That's when I actively decided to 'ruin my career'.

I set up a fake email account and created a persona of a high ranking exec in the company and proceeded to email leadership as if I was the chairman. The first email I sent was straight after witnessing the CEO go to the bathroom and not wash his hand,  so I sat back down and immediately sent an email to the whole company outlining basic toilet hygiene. 

Other emails I sent included pretending I'd been on a leadership course and teaching new business jargon, but instead it was just slang words for goofing off, so I instructed the senior leadership to now use phrases such as: "The way you have choked Kojak this quarter has improved profits by 17% etc".

Others included inviting the leadership team on a fox hunting team building trip as I knew the CEO enjoyed hunting. I made sure to include photos from hunt sab sites of foxes being torn up by dogs in the invite mail.

Overall, I sent about two emails a day for around three months, and the whole place was going mad, senior managers bursting into offices around the building demanded to know who it was. I couldn't believe they hadn't caught me. Eventually they suspected a co-worker and when he got pulled into a meeting, I told them it wasn't him, it was me. 

The next day, I got hauled out to face the disciplinary committee where they had printouts of all the emails I sent and one by one we went through them all "Did you send this?" I replied, "Yes I did." Eventually they asked why and I just said, "It was funny and you deserved it," to which they replied, "What do you think is going to happen now?” I said, "I'm going to collect my stuff and leave".

For some reason it was a casual day so I happened to be wearing bright pink shorts and a loud retro shirt...I also had a pair of cheap plastic gold Elvis shades in my desk so I put them on and strolled out, past a guy who had accused me of sending 'hard fun' emails just the day before, which I denied at the time, but I later admitted. As I walked past, I could swear smoke came out of his ears.

On the way home through town, I stopped off at the library to send them one final message from my persona congratulating them on hunting down and firing me for daring to bring a smile and some personality to work. They absolutely hated it.

Apparently, it has gone down in history there, a friend of mine joined only three or years ago and asked about it and people still remembered, it's also still one of my best creative projects I've done and was very worthwhile and the right thing to do. They've gone bust now anyway.

finger pointing at fired signDaniel Schweinert, Shutterstock

35. Stairway To Indiscretion

I got caught doing the deed on the stairs of a rental property by the manager. I was the maintenance technician of said property.

fired gentleman in sweater  cleaning his workplaceYAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV, Shutterstock

36. Never Too Late

I wrote my first film script too young. This was before any prior writing courses.

I was denied by every producer sitting behind the table.

That ended my writing motivation for 12 years. But this month, I’m trying again. Gotta keep fighting for it.

Photo of a man wearing dark shirt reading on his laptop.George Pak , Pexels

37. Honesty Is The Best Policy

My first job after university was at an airport. One day, I left the shift like five mins early (I'd been relieved by the guy on the next shift) so I could get an earlier train home. My supervisor called me a couple of minutes later and I fessed up that I'd left early. I could have just said I was in the toilet or something but I didn't and ended up getting the boot.

Then I had to take a temp job, and that's where I met the woman I ended up marrying, so I guess that makes that decision to answer the phone and get fired (which I kicked myself for at the time) pretty much the best decision of my life.

Waist up portrait of smiling airport worker.Olena Yakobchuk, Shutterstock

38. Programmed For Failure

My mistake was taking the wrong job.

I was desperate for a programming job and ended up taking a job using a virtually unknown tech stack. God awful programming practices, terrible management, low pay, etc. I did that for a few years before I was let go. But I didn't let that stop me.

I then spent months looking for another job realizing that while on paper I was a mid to senior level, in reality I was more like a junior due to the terrible code standards. Interviews I went to were expecting me to perform at a mid level which I couldn't do. 

Finally I was able to start again as a controls engineer and let's just say that I hate it. Two years in and I've effectively destroyed any passion and career aspirations that I've had with programming.

Man working on laptop sitting at his desk in office in green shirtLinkedIn Sales Navigator, Pexels

39. Whistleblower

I worked at a homeless shelter. I found out about mistreatment and neglect by my coworkers targeted at the guests, some of whom were children. I reported a bunch of the instances, got fired without reason (at-will employment) but I know why.

Horizontal photo businesswoman holding cardboard box with belongings and plant in hands leaving the office after being firedfizkes, Shutterstock

40. Times Change

I mistakenly believed that following my boss's lead in doing things in the “gray” area of policy, field work, administration, etc. was an accepted practice. Everyone was doing it, and it was “understood” that these practices were common and there would never be an issue.

For example, I worked for a civil service  and we had to use up our annual vacation by a certain date.  This date was also our fiscal year end so it was common practice to mark down that we were “on vacation” while actually working the last 2-3 weeks of the fiscal year. And it was “understood” that one would take a vacation day the next fiscal year and mark it in the attendance sheet as “working” to make up for what happened at year end. 

This has been going on for years and is common practice, that is until a change in government. People hide under rocks, and this “practice” is no longer acceptable and construed as theft of time and a reason for termination.

Things change very quickly, and I would advise any young person entering to resist the allure of confidence of your bosses, and that they have your best interest at heart. In the end you need to be self aware, and know your standing and potential consequence of your actions bc when it’s all said am done you are cleaning out your desk on your own.

Office white collar worker with things collected in a box leaving the office after being firedKekyalyaynen, Shutterstock

41. No Joke

I got sacked for not doing a 60 hour retraining module. We had six months to complete it but it was to be done in our own time and was unpaid. 

The manager kept pulling me up asking me how I was getting on with it and I told him the straight-up truth of how I felt—I kept saying I’m not doing it if it’s unpaid as it’s essentially homework and I don’t take work home with me. This happened a few times and for some reason he kept thinking I was joking (I’ve a real deadpan sense of humor, so even when I’m joking I always sound and act so serious).

 Eventually it came to the deadline day and asked if I had completed it. told him no and I was fired.

Sad Fired / Let Go Office Worker  in suit Packs His Belongings into Cardboard BoxGorodenkoff, Shutterstock

42. Sleeping Beauty

I fell asleep in a big executive meeting with 30 or so people and when they called my name, I looked up to every person looking straight at me.

Lost a 80k/yr job. Ended up getting fired about a week later.

Person in blue shirt  sleeping in the conference room during a meetingLittle Pig Studio, Shutterstock

43. I’m Out

After three years of working I decided I wanted two days off and the owner gave me the go-ahead. It was a couple weeks after I lost both my grandmother and great grandmother (within about a week of each other) so I wanted to get a little vacation with my nuclear family. 

The day before my two days off, the "manager", not the owner, told me those days weren't approved and if I didn't show up I'd surely be fired. I gave her a quick "I hate you" look, finished my day, and never went back. No regrets.

Sad woman in front of office building with belongings just quit job or is firedTrzykropy, Shutterstock

44. Look On The Bright Side?

I was fired because our store was going out of business and I was "too negative about the store closing".

Woman crying on her work placeGround Picture, Shutterstock

45. Hang In There

Somebody left the freezer door open, so they fired everybody working that shift. I had another job anyway so it didn't really matter in the long run. This was back when finding a new job was pretty trivial anyways.

My latest job let me go due to corporate downsizing after working there for 25 years. I was unemployed for six months. I now make half as much money for doing twice as much work, making roughly the same amount I made 20 years ago. 

But I'm working on starting my own business and I've made a few hundred dollars here and there, and could potentially make a lot more someday if I keep working at it.

Fired text on paper envelopewitsarut sakorn, Shutterstock

46. Beast Mode

I worked at a Blockbuster my senior year. It was a really slow day and I was receiving all the new videos and re-packaging them. Because it was slow it was only myself (The receiving manager) and one cashier.

There were no more than three people in line at any time and the line was moving rapidly so I didn't think there was a need to open another line. But, then, the Beast of Babylon walked in the store.

The minute she walked in, we all sighed in despair. We knew we were all staying late. 

She knocked everything off the shelves and had her three kids running around like little turbo powered brats mucking the place. The instant she gets on line she starts screaming and yelling about the wait time.

She got to the head of the line in under a minute, but decided to give us an earful of how terrible we are and Blockbuster sucks (she was right about that one), etc… We finally get her videos rung up and were glad the storm was passing... until the automatic printer didn't print her receipt. 

She threw epithets toward the cashier and called me a goofy cracker. I handed her a complete stack (probably 15-20) of free video rentals and asked her politely to leave. I guess she thought the cashier girl sniggered or laughed at the whole thing as the Beast was leaving, because she came back in and began her rant again, but this time grabbed a pair of scissors and threatened to stab the girl.

I stepped in between them (being 6'4 and 220 pounds, I said I got this) and I yelled at the lady while taking the scissors from her. Her reaction gave me chills—she started "rage-talking" the incoherent babble a psycopath in full derp mode spew and starts chanting that I'm a honkey and I did this because she was black. 

To which I replied: "No I'm doing this because you’re a cow, now get out". The next day I get called into the office and rehashed the story with the head manager admitting I had called her a cow. I was immediately fired. The lady received a $500 voucher for use in the store.

Some Sweet Karma: I locked the voucher to our store only and put a note it required the person's ID to use. The cashier she attacked filed an official report and restraining order. She isn't allowed within 50 feet of the store.

Young woman getting fired from work in officeTero Vesalainen, Shutterstock

47. Unhappy Camper

I was the assistant director at a summer camp. One of the very last nights was a sleepover night where all of the campers were there, but not all of the regular day staff.

A counselor was caught drinking, and in an attempt to weasel his way out, he did the unforgivable—he told the head of the camp that I gave him permission to do so (I most definitely had not).

While I didn’t get fired on the spot or have my year end bonus withheld like the other two, I was told I wouldn’t be asked back again for next year where there had already been talks of me being a full director in the future.

The Scout director is teaching activities in the middle of the lawnjittawit21, Shutterstock

48. Lax Supervision

I remember a coworker of mine getting fired because he put laxatives in his own lunch bag. I'm not too keen on the specifics since that coworker and I weren't exactly friends or anything. We just kind of had simple conversations during lunch and whatnot. 

But basically, someone kept taking parts of our lunches. When we found out who the culprit was, we were furious. it was our supervisor.

Apparently it is against the law to poison food with malicious intent. And some of my friends who worked there said he got into some trouble because of it. Nothing came of it from what I heard. But that's about all I know.

Young businessman sitting behind the desk and being worriedB-D-S Piotr Marcinski, Shutterstock

49. Linked-In Lunatic

I went on a first date with a girl who turned out to be a horrible person. 20 minutes in, I did what I could to get out of it because she was telling stories about crazy things she’d done and was proud of. 

I didn’t pull anything to get out of it; I just dodged the subject and asked a ton of questions about her so I could get out of it sooner. Then I said I wasn’t feeling the connection and I wanted to be honest so we didn’t waste each other's time. I would soon regret having ever met her at all.

I found out a week later that she contacted my previous employers, because she found my LinkedIn, told them all stories about how I badmouthed them all. And now I can’t get a reference from my previous three jobs… and people I was on good terms with.

All because I went on a date with a psychopath.

African American Couple Having Unsuccessful Blind Date In RestaurantProstock-studio, Shutterstock

50. Everyone’s In On It

I was opening my packages in the mailroom, using a pocket tool to slice open the package tape. Secretary came in and chatted. We’re both Italian so we gesture a lot while talking.

Sometime after the conversation, the Ops manager came down from his office and made me leave the building. His explanation shocked me—apparently, the secretary and she made an accusation that I had threatened her with a sharp object during our conversation. The reality was, I simply forgot I was holding it in my hand during our conversatoin.

I was fired three days later.

I had worked with this woman for almost a decade. I helped her children with their homework etc.

Years later I learned that corporate wanted to take down my boss, and started the process by going after his biggest supporters. I was the 3rd domino to fall. After I was railroaded, almost 40% of the branch’s staff left the company. I guess the secretary was in on it, and leapt at any excuse to take me out.

It was a shame, since I really loved that job. And I also got fired when my first child was due in only four weeks. It was very demoralizing for quite a while.

Employee in a suit being fired holding a box of belongings leaving officeVerin, Shutterstock

Sources:  Reddit,

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