My Worst Work Mistake

June 17, 2023 | Sammy Tran

My Worst Work Mistake

If you think you’re bad at your job, these will make you feel like a star in comparison. Some of these are funny, some are terrifying—but all of them are entertaining stories about people who had one job… and absolutely flunked it.

1. Mindless Cancelation

One time a member of my dev team was given a task to cancel a few credit cards (less than 10) directly in the database. How he managed to make a mistake this huge, I’ll never know.

He canceled 17 million, the mistake was only caught when the company helpline started to receive millions of calls the next day from all over the country with people asking why their cards were not working.

worst work mistake

2. The Dave Matthews Accident

During the Dave Matthews set, the lighting guy got a little carried away and tripped the breaker for the entire lighting rig.

So they send me, the newbie, under the stage to turn it back on. Problem is, there are 2 disconnect boxes—one for audio, and one for lighting.

And they aren't marked audio/lighting NOR do they have any indication of which way is “On”/”Off”.

The band is cranking away (in the dark, but still playing) and I figure, oh well, I've got a 50/50 chance. Not good enough. I choose one of the disconnects and throw the switch.

Of course, the lights don't come on, and the audio system made a weird burping noise right before going silent.

There is nothing quite like the sound of 10,000 people going “Awwwwwww”.

I promptly corrected my mistake and turned it all back on.

My Worst Work MistakeWikimedia Commons

3. Straight-To-Bankruptcy Mistakes

There was a company I worked for in rural New York that fell prey to one fatal mistake from a consultant. They started out by taking scrap metal, melting it down in big coal-fired crucibles, and making home decor pieces—doorstops that looked like little dogs, bookends, that kind of thing.

Not a huge profit margin but their materials were cheap and they had a steady market.

An industrial consultant convinced them to transition to electric furnaces—significant upfront expense, but much lower ongoing operating costs. The consultant even designed the new electric crucibles for the company.

The company president had been thinking of expanding operations, so asked the industrial consultant to double the size of the electric crucible designs. The consultant did so but made a mistake with the cube-square law in designing the supports for the crucibles.

The first time the double-sized (but about four times as heavy) crucibles were filled with scrap and fired up they collapsed, flooding the factory floor with molten pan metal and chunks of wrecked equipment.

The company went straight to bankruptcy.

People Prove Karma ISN'T RealShutterstock

4. The Accidental (?) Domino Effect

I'm a car mechanic who saw a colleague crash and burn. He had a pretty small job on an engine, about an hour or two that cost like $50.

He made a mistake, quite big, but also quite common and easy to make, it's the "well dang" category, not something to drag him through the mud for. He started fixing it…and made an even bigger mistake.

The issue was the glow plug. He needed to take the cylinder head off, not too bad, just takes some time. But then he stripped one of the cylinder head bolts and we couldn't get it out. We took the engine out and took it to a machine shop (or whatever they are called in English).

At this point, we even had to outsource some issues we couldn't fix in-house. We were looking for about 2 weeks and $500, on us of course, not the customer, but it was still okay.

We got everything back, he started putting the engine back together. All done, first run, whoopsie another big problem, whole engine apart. Once it was back, he put it together, first run, water spews out of it, and he put the cylinder head gasket upside down.

While taking the engine apart again, which requires the removal of the battery housing which includes the ECU, he broke the ECU connector which we also can't fix in-house.

Broke something again, outsourced, expensive. Overall it was about a month-long procedure, hitting $1,000. Once it was done, he got fired. He got away with a lot, but at one point it was way too much.

At this point it was like a circus…you just never knew what will happen next.

Common Courtesy fly out factsShutterstock

5. Warehouse Jenga

Back in 1981, I worked as a tech in a company that re-sold expensive DEC computers when I made a terrible mistake. How expensive were they? Well, the PDP-11 models cost $30K each.

We'd get a bulk shipment from DEC and store them in our tiny "warehouse", then as an order came in, we'd load one up with our software and ship it out.

The "warehouse" area was just a somewhat large room. Due to space shortages, we'd stacked one computer on top of another (they were on skids, and boxed). I went to fetch one with the hand skid mover.

I eased it out carefully but realized there was no room to take the top one off—so I rolled it into the next room. It hit a bump at the doorway...the top computer slowly shifts...slides a little the time I can move, that sucker is already falling, top-first toward the floor. CRASH!

I heaved it upright and unboxed it. The rack was bent, one drive was cracked, and the computer itself was looking kind of wonky.

My boss looked at everyone standing around and beckoned me into his office. He proceeded to ream me out for half an hour while I was frantically wondering how I could pay for it since it cost more than my annual salary. But I was in for a huge surprise.

When saw that I had learned my lesson, he moved on to a new topic. "OK, now let's contact DEC. I'll report that it had hidden damage from shipment. They'll cover it. But don't think for a moment that I won't fire you if this happens again"!

Whew. Thanks, boss!

Ex-Employers’ Hidden SecretsPexels

6. The Guy Who Could Do It Better

I worked at a prison as a corrections tech and one day, an inmate had an allergic reaction. This CO, let's call him Farva, came into the tank with the nurse. This is an open tank. There are 15-20 other inmates in there. The nurse decided to administer an EpiPen. Farva took the EpiPen from the nurse and tried to administer it to the inmate.

Just to clarify, a fully trained and educated nurse has a medical instrument taken by the biggest idiot ever. He holds the auto-injector upside down with his thumb on the needle and plunges it into the inmate's thigh releasing the needle into his thumb.

The CO is on the ground. The nurse has no extra EpiPens.

The inmate is about to die.

The other COs are on their way but I have no idea how to relay what just happened. Luckily the nurse was able to go back to the nurse's station and grab another EpiPen before the inmate kicked the bucket.

The kicker? Farva only got a warning. He almost killed an inmate.

That whole prison was a mess.

Doctor Visits Took A Horrible Turn factsShutterstock

7. The Rigged Giveaway

A local dealership was promoting a contest where they would give away a truck—but oh my god, they messed it up so bad. I was driving around with my parents who were visiting from out of state when we hear the commercial for the giveaway on the radio.

The drawing was in about 15 minutes, and we were right there, so we stopped in and put our names in the collection bin.

I watched them take the bin upstairs out of sight of the crowd. They had clearly selected the winner in the back room and announced that if the winner was not present, they will contact them for the winnings.

They chose a winner that was clearly from out of state—but there was something that they didn’t realize. The winner was my mom, who was visiting for the weekend.

She walks right up to the announcer, showed her license, and said, “I’m so happy I won the truck”! The look on their faces was priceless.

For the next couple of weeks, the dealership tried everything to not give us the truck, It was clear that they had no idea how to even give away the truck.

But we prevailed. And I’m happy to say we loved the truck!

My Worst Work MistakeShutterstock

8. Stacking Bottles

I used to be a product merchandiser for Coca-Cola a few years ago and I had a couple of memorable disasters.

Basically what I did was go to grocery stores, meet the driver dropping the delivery and stock the shelves as fast as possible and get to the next store, repeat.

On my second day on the job, I was stocking 2L bottles at this mega grocery store. I was running a bit behind because the order came in late so I was moving fast.

I dropped a bottle of Sprite on the floor, and it hit cap down. That little nuisance shot up in the air and cleared four aisles.

Luckily, it didn't hit anyone.

On my last day of working for Coke same thing happened, except this time it went flying straight for the cash and nearly hit some lady in the head.

As I headed to the back room to get a mop, every employee was lined up applauding.

One of them offered to clean it up as it was the funniest thing he'd seen working at the store.

And that was the last bottle I stocked working for Coca-Cola.

Biggest Work Mistakes factsShutterstock

9. Who’s Never Forgotten Their Keys?

When I was a kid I used to work at Hess. It was one of those one-man stations where the attendant sits in a little booth in the center of the pumps.

This was before the days when you could pay at the pump. You would go to the booth, give your credit card to the cashier (through the little slit under the plexiglass) and he would open your pump.

One day, one of the pumps jammed, and I had to go out to fix it. As the station was very busy, I hurried out to the pump. That’s when I made a brutal mistake. I heard the click of the door closing behind me and I realized I had locked myself out of the booth.

Needless to say, the variety of people who were trying to get gas and now couldn't were quite upset. Not quite as upset as the people who had their credit cards locked inside the booth, though.

I ended up having to call my manager at home from a pay phone to bring another key to let me back in. I was left dealing with irate customers for the hour it took him to arrive, and turning away other irate potential customers I had to turn away (one whom was completely out of gas and stuck there).

My manager had a chuckle when he arrived and I late learned that this eventually happened to everyone and that you could use the stick used to measure the gas levels in the tank to push through the tiny slot in the front through the booth to unlock the door.

Should have been firedShutterstock

10. Reply All

A well-liked director of our art department was leaving for another company—and that’s when his biggest secret came out.

He crafted a beautiful and inspiring message which announced his departure, how much he'd enjoyed working with us, and how he was now on to a new adventure.

He sent the message to the entire company.

One of his junior employees, accidentally replied-all that her life was devastated, she was heartbroken and she was going to be despondent over losing the best lover she'd ever had.

He was married. But not to her.

And he had 3 children.

The bon-voyage celebration was quietly canceled.

He left, silently, 10 minutes after the reply had been sent.

Without understanding the mail system she tried to do a recall-all and sent a "Please don't read the message this is attached to. It was a private message between colleagues".

Hoo-boy, that was an interesting day.

Workplace Horror StoriesShutterstock

11. People That Shouldn’t Be Allowed To Teach

I taught preschool for 8 years before the pandemic.

It's protocol to count the children before moving from one room to another to make sure no one gets left behind. I had a co-worker on her phone who made a brutal mistake. She didn't count kids, and left behind a child in the toy closet.

The kid was two years old and trapped, screaming and crying in a dark toy closet for 20 minutes before a teacher passing by the empty classroom heard her. My co-worker didn't even get reprimanded and management never told the parents.

This same co-worker forced her class of two-year-olds to "get dressed themselves" for outside play in the winter so one time a little girl ended up playing outside in the Minnesota snow without boots on for ten minutes before my co-worker noticed.

Disturbing studentsShutterstock

12. Not A Full-Time Job

This was over 22 years ago in Asia. I apologize for not remembering the name, but they went under shortly after.

A plant manager let the safety guy go because they didn't believe safety was a full-time job and wanted to cut back on company spending and decided the supervisors could do all the safety audits, and training, and keep the building up to code. Boy, was he wrong.

Not even a week later 2 guys got their arms cut off working on a machine that they weren't trained/certified on.

Also, the back building caught fire due to pallets and cardboard boxes being stacked in the wrong area near the furnace.

My Worst Work MistakeShutterstock

13. Costly Distraction

I worked for a start-up cider manufacturer in my second year of college.

Normally after a day of production, we have to sanitize all the metal components in hot caustic wash. There are hundreds of pieces, so it takes a while.

Anyway, our managers left us an hour before our shift ended to clean up. I had to go do some e-commerce end-of-day stuff before leaving so my co-worker wrapped up the cleanup.

On Monday we returned to the warehouse and made a disturbing discovery. It had burned down. Apparently, he left the caustic heater on all weekend and it caused a chemical fire. Everything was destroyed and it ended up bankrupting the company.

He dropped out of his co-op degree after, because he wouldn’t be able to get recommended for another placement.

But Wait, It Gets WorsePexels

14. Disregard For Health And Safety

I practice as an architect in the UK; I was working on a job which was a refurbish of a listed hotel. The problem was that this hotel had had a fire, and then sat open to the elements for five years before the refurbishment work began.

Obviously, the entire interior basically had to be stripped.

My firm was hired to do design and specification work, but no on-site inspection or design for the demolition and slapping works. If we had been hired we most certainly would have been able to stop the accident.

The workmen on site decided to speed up the demolition work they would bring a small digger up the old hotel lift, to the 4th floor, and begin the demolition work there. The entire interior of the building collapsed. Three people were crushed and lost their lives, and several others were seriously maimed and injured.

I take health and safety way more seriously than most of my colleagues, but it's because I know how stupid mistakes and oversight can lead to tragedies like these.

My Worst Work MistakePexels

15. The Man Who Had It All…

There was a lawyer and justice of the peace in Texas who had everything going for him. A good, well-paying job, a nice career trajectory, etc. He got caught taking two computer monitors from the court's IT room. He ended up losing everything, being disbarred, etc. All over about $600 in equipment which he could have easily paid for.

But it got even worse. He's on execution row now, because he ended up going after two of the people who'd charged and prosecuted him, blaming them for his downfall.

All over two cheap computer monitors.

Lawyers Shared Dumbest CasesPexels

16. Another Exposé

The company director sent his travel plans for a “work convention” to the communal printer in the staff room. It seemed like him and the other director would have had a lovely time.

It was a 5-star hotel, presidential suite in Barcelona for a week—sounded nice.

His wife thought so too and was furious she wasn’t going. She was also surprised that he and the lady director were sharing a room…for a week.

And that when she looked into it…there was no convention.

Things went south pretty fast and now the company is no more.

Mortifying Mess-UpsPexels

17. The Potluck Email Chain

Some woman sent out a Happy Thanksgiving reminder email about some potluck she was hosting for our entire company, a global bank.

It was an email that was clearly meant for a few of her friends at work, as it was a potluck at her personal home in upstate NY. Most people just deleted the email, but of course, a few dozen boomers decided to reply-all with "Please take me off this email chain"—and then it got so much worse.

This started the chaos of endless emails about this potluck for like a whole week because these people just kept replying all asking to be taken off the email chain.

Honestly, it was hilarious.

My Worst Work MistakeShutterstock

18. Misusing The Glue Gun

During my first internship at a chemical plant, I was given the task of reading through safety infringement reports and sorting them. This turned out to be WAY more interesting than I initially expected as the reports were riddled with accounts of sheer stupidity in the workplace. Some memorable incidents?

A woman accidentally glued her own eye shut after trying to reattach a fake nail with industrial strength heavy duty super glue and then subsequently rubbing her eye.

Also, someone somehow accidentally mixed an acidic compound from an unmarked bottle into their beverage…and drank it.

My Worst Work MistakePexels

19. Cutting Costs

I worked for a tree company, and my boss was fond of cutting costs as much as possible. It led to an insane mistake.

One day we had two pin oaks to cut down that were approximately 140 feet tall. He wanted it done in two days but obviously, these were going to be multi day trees to cut down.

We got most of the branches off one and my boss decides to cut it at the base without topping it in a backyard that was way too small. Once the tree started to go it smashed the neighbors' fence and tree line and we left for the day so the insurance adjuster could come out and quote a price for damages.

I left about a week later and about a month ago I heard that one of the guys from that crew almost lost their life cutting down a cottonwood with that same crew, it was a good thing I left when I did.

Nightmare NeighborsPexels

20. The Print Job

Someone printed 500 copies of her gas bill on the company printer. The printer only has enough tray capacity for 250 copies so she had to have reloaded the paper at least once.

Miserable JobsPexels

21. The $100 Bill

I had a girl that worked for me who one day had a guy try to pay with a $100 bill.

We all knew that we did not take any bill over $20 but she didn’t listen sometimes.

This time she took the bill and when she was cashing out her till, the smart safe didn’t take the $100 bill.

I asked if she checked it and she of course said yes. When I looked closer, I burst out laughing. The bill said “Movie Prop” on it.

She somehow missed it.

Bad parentsShutterstock

22. Wrong Container

I used to work and live on a ship. We had a very strict policy of no chlorine bleach for the personal laundry facilities. But people would sneak some on.

One guy decides to use an empty coke can that he half filled with bleach in his cabin and brought to the laundry room so he wouldn’t be spotted.

He left the can there.

Sure enough, somebody else doing laundry picked up what they thought was their coke and chugged a big mouthful of Clorox.

My Worst Work MistakePexels

23. The Injector Pin Mishap

I was working in a tool and die shop in my early 20s and I was watching an old guy (who was perpetually inebriated) pound an injector pin into a plastic injection mold with a big piece of steel round stock.

Well as he was pounding the pin in, he missed the pin and hit his thumb. It was so much worse than I could’ve predicted.

It looked like his thumb exploded. He was in such pain he peed himself. They ended up amputating down to the first knuckle. Then to make matters worse, he got fired for being inebriated on the job.

My Worst Work MistakeShutterstock

24. Misreading In The ER

In the ER, the doctor wrote down an order for 15mg IM of Toradol (anti-inflammatory pain killer), and the nurse I was training misread and started to draw up 15mg of Haldol (anti-psychotic).

That's triple the standard dose for Haldol.

This was for a patient with abdominal pain.

The nurse I was training didn't question it at all. This wasn't a newly graduated nurse mind you, just new to my department.

Yes, I stopped her before she gave the med. No, she did not continue to work in the ER.

I’m Not Faking It: Medical NightmaresShutterstock

25. Caution

While working at McDonald's three years ago, a little kid spills Coke on the floor.

I happily wander over to clean it up. I never was bitter about my job. It's my job! It pays and I chose it!

I mop all of that up lightning-fast with a smile and everybody is happy.

I go behind the counter and retrieve the slippery when wet sign to place over the newly cleaned area, and when I get there, distracted by something, I slip!

My foot slips out like a javelin—but that’s not all that happens. It kicks a baby's high chair, the baby's head whiplashes against his table so hard that both of his shoes fall right off.

I just stared in horror at the family. I place the sign down like an idiot and run back behind the kitchen for my dear life.

Then I proceeded to crack up in the most maniacal nervous laughter accented with breaths of horror.

What had I done?!

The Customer Is Always WrongShutterstock

26. “I Don’t Fear Electricity”

I saw a guy get zapped pretty badly when he stuck a tool in the wrong place on a big dryer at a hotel where I worked.

We had asked him if he should cut the power first, and he said “Naww, don't need to”.

For a moment after, we thought he was a goner.

My Worst Work MistakeShutterstock

27. WoW Marathon

I had a buddy whose wife and he would play marathon WoW sessions into the early AM.

The first mistake was when he was caught by the network admins playing WoW, from work, on the company laptop. After that happened he uninstalled the game and didn't play from the office, but would be on voice chat to guide his clannies in raids while on the clock.

The last straw was when after one of those marathon sessions he fell asleep at his desk, and unfortunately for him, our department head was strolling by and noticed him out like a light at his desk. He got canned that day.

It was really dumb because they had a young teen daughter to support, and while they lived paycheck-to-paycheck, it was a decent one, upwards of $60K (database developer).

Mila Kunis FactsShutterstock

28. Why We Use Safety Harnesses

A man working atop some scaffolding forgot to attach his safety harness and fell from ~20 feet onto his back—but that’s not the crazy part.

The report stated that he stood up, somehow okay after falling from that high, and came back to work the next day good as new.

Near-Fatal ExperiencesWikimedia Commons

29. Hot Oil

I used to work at a fast food restaurant, and I once watched as a co-worker emptied the used deep fryer oil into a plastic bucket. Needless to say, it didn't hold.

Should have been firedPexels

30. Don’t Play With Heat

I told a newbie to clean the steel panels on the deep fryers, expecting them to wipe them down with a cloth. What they did next was mind-bogglingly stupid.

They instead grabbed a jug of water and decided to rinse it, with water going into the still-hot oil. I yanked them back so fast I nearly gave them whiplash.

Another time, a colleague dismantled a machine to fix it without first checking the pipes were cleared. The pipes were full of melted sugar (VERY hot). He got horrific burns that made the skin slough off his hands…

My Worst Work MistakePexels

31. Standard Procedure Who?

I work in a brewery. One morning a brewer went to run a clean in place on a 60-barrel vessel.

After the vessels are empty they usually are under some significant pressure usually anywhere from 5-15 psi. Guy did not de-gas the fermenter before taking the sample port off.

These vessels had two ports on them and we put a 1.5-inch cap on one port and a Perlick sample faucet on the other. He starts with the stainless steel cap. All of the pressure came out jetting.

I could hear from the other side of a rather large facility. Dude got lucky and the cap barely missed his head.

He did get a bunch of yeast and hop residue in his eyes as his safety glasses were on top of his head and not covering his eyes.

I drove him to the hospital and he’s okay.

He just got fired a couple of weeks later.

Prague FactsPublic Domain Pictures

32. Gross Negligence

Last year a man died in his own home. His daughter calls the authorities for a well-being check. The officers show up and find that the dad’s no longer alive.

They called a medical examiner but the man was old and his demise was due to natural causes. There was no need to bring him to the ME.

So the officers call the daughter and tell her to call the funeral home. The funeral home tells officers they're en route to the house. Case closed, right? Wrong.

Five days later, someone from the funeral home comes to Medical Examiner to pick up the body. I'm like "guy never came into the building, he was released to the funeral home. Let me go figure out what happened".

Several phone calls later, we find out the funeral home forgot to pick up the guy and he was still at the house.

Because he was now decomposed he then turned into an ME case.

I don't know what happened after that.

Mayo Methot factsWikipedia

33. The Impossible Project

I work for an IT company and my client is one of the biggest consumer goods providers on the planet.

One time a project manager tried to deploy a 60-man-day project in a single week without any quality control whatsoever and ended up implementing discounts on products that weren't supposed to have them.

So as you can imagine things got super ugly, super fast. The client lost about a billion dollars in revenue (seriously) and our leadership got involved and fought for several months.

It happened in our contract year with them too and we almost lost them over this incident.

The PM who delivered the project was first placed on leave and then eventually moved to another account.

Mortifying Mess-UpsPexels

34. Reactive Chemistry

I had a project to refurbish the sump in a hydrochloric acid containment structure in a refinery. Basically, the HCl tank had a wall around it so that if the tank leaked, the HCl would be contained.

Inside the wall was a sump full of water, used to scrub out the fumes when the tank was filled. Never mind, this sump was full of very acidic water, and even after pumping it out and flushing it several times, the pH was zero. Yes, ZERO.

Well, we couldn't use the special epoxy to repair the cracked concrete until the pH was like 2 or something, so I suggested that we put some NaOH into the next flush to try to bring the pH up enough.

The manager in charge said, good idea, just fill it with straight caustic (the industry term for NaOH). That wasn't my intention, but I went along, and when we came back the next day, the sump was gone. Gone.

The NaOH had just eaten the HCl-soaked concrete in a frenzy of reactive chemistry.

Now, for those of you who remember your high-school chemistry, HCl+NaOH-->NaCl+H2O. For those who don't, I made a puddle of salt water where there had been acid-soaked ground before.

Pretty innocuous, but that's not how the EPA sees things.

It was a spill to the ground of more than one barrel of NaOH and thus a reportable incident. Oh, and the sump was dissolved.

My boss was very cool about it, fortunately.

Fake It Til You Make It factsShutterstock

35. Home Appliance Installation

I'm a home appliance installer and was out working a pretty big job at some 20,000-square-foot mansion.

They had another installation team working on a second kitchen in the basement. One of these guys was drilling the mounting holes for the dishwasher into their granite countertop (don't do this, okay).

He drilled them too small, so when we went to secure it a massive 4ft chunk of granite split off and smashed into the floor, breaking a couple of tiles in the process.

The dude sounded like Yosemite Sam with his cussing and the customer was mad.

My Worst Work MistakeShutterstock

36. Hazmat

I'm HAZMAT so when things go wrong, they go really wrong.

There was the time we were doing an asbestos removal job in the pump house under one of those 250,000-gallon water tanks you see elevated 50 feet in the air.

William broke a pipe fitting before the shut-off valve, so no way to shut it off.

Asbestos waste washed out the containment, through the decon, and out the door. It was everywhere.

And that's how William earned the name "Quarter Mill Bill".

House Calls ExperienceShutterstock

37. A Minor Server Issue

During the crazy days of the early internet crash, I worked at a high-end consulting firm doing high-priced website building and analysis (million-dollar contracts with blue chip firms, etc).

My job was to write software to analyze website log files.

Anyway, one of the clients we had built a website for was seeing super high (75+%) revisit rates (people who come to the website twice) and we had been reporting this to them for some six months or so.

Suddenly, one day the revisit rate dropped to some small amount and we can't figure out why. We find a correction in the timing for one of the log files and proceed for another six months or so (I don't remember the exact time).

So then, suddenly, the revisit rate drops again. My boss has an analyst investigate. To my shame, I dismiss the whole thing as a waste of time. I mean, we can just correct the timing on a log file and be good, right?

Turns out the problem was that my analysis software did not handle daylight saving time correctly. This wouldn't be a problem except that there were three source servers and two used daylight savings and one didn't so twice a year, the files were getting out of sync.

The big problem was that we were correcting it in the wrong direction.

The revisit rate that our entire senior staff had been so proud of as the highest in the industry was BS and we had been reporting it for around a year to the client who was paying us big money to do so. So we started to think of a communication strategy.

The next day, our company puts out its Quarterly Report, and superimposed on a page, the full height of the page is the incorrect revisit rate. I go to my cube and start packing my stuff up.

These are the kind of things lawsuits happen over and I figure it was only a matter of time before someone is going to be fired over this.

But then! the next day, the client company goes out of business.

Woo hoo! Problem solved...

Horrible Workers Shutterstock

38. A Jewel And A Tire

While working at McDonald’s as a teen, I saw someone drop a piece of jewelry into the frying oil...but it was what I saw next that I’ll never forget. They tried to grab it as it dropped. They sank their hand and half their forearm in 450-degree oil.

They ran out screaming and we never saw them again.

While working at a tire shop, I saw someone use an old bottle jack to lift a semi, and then as they began taking the tires off, the jack failed and the whole trailer sank down onto their legs, pinning them under the tire.

It's important to note how you take tires off a semi-truck: you lift it a couple of inches, sit on the ground with your legs around the bottom of the tire, and use your legs to lift it while you pull it off.

Crazily enough though, the guy wasn't hurt too bad for one big reason…He was an enormous guy.

We called him Big Joe because he was 7 foot 2 inches, and wasn't just tall, but proportionally bigger in every way.

It was like someone clicked the drag and expand box on him. Any normal-sized person would have had their legs crushed, but he just had some nasty bruises.

Workday Twisted Turn factsShutterstock

39. Careless Health Professional

A nurse friend told me a colleague hadn’t been checking the PH aspirate from a baby’s nasogastric tube. This has to be done before every tube feed to make sure it’s positioned correctly.

The baby ended up losing its life because the tube had actually been passed into the lungs, not the stomach.

There was an unknown cut being made during intubation the baby had previously had. So she had been feeding the milk into the lungs and essentially drowned the baby.

Absolutely Awful StrangersPexels

40. The Great Horrible Job

I forgot a semicolon in a 25k line firewall infrastructure configuration file that I was cleaning up over several months because the people before me were such lazy idiots. Took about 3 months for it to have an impact.

When it did, it took out a major investment bank overnight; I fixed it half an hour before trading opened and they would start losing bajillions.

To be fair, it wasn't entirely my fault. I'd inherited awful horrible management "tools" that hadn't been updated in years, huge amounts of undocumented cruft and kludges, and obsolete hardware.

I was the only guy out of a team of four who bothered to pick up his phone when everything broke that night (the on-call guy, his deputy, and the manager were all missing), and came in at 11 PM, completely inebriated, to a room full of nail-chewing managers wanting me to DO SOMETHING DO ANYTHING FIX IT NOW.

I could barely see the monitor, let alone type. A colleague came in, looked around, ran out, returned with a cup full of Cubans and an ashtray, and some black coffee, muttered something like "I think you're going to need this", and fled.

It was almost as bad as the time I put in an 84-hour straight day, but that's another story.

Never ever ever never ever never never never.


Tech Support TalesShutterstock

41. Aircraft Mechanics’ Tales

I work with aircraft mechanics and a jet we worked on was launched by a crew chief. They're pretty much in charge of all the maintenance that goes on.

Well, he neglected to do his walk around—as did the crew, apparently—and didn't close a sliding access door on the underbelly of the aircraft. The consequences were disastrous. The jet took off and wouldn't you know? It wouldn't pressurize.

Funny thing is, there's a light that tells you this door is open on the flight engineer's annunciation panel—a dummy panel that tells the crew something is wrong by illuminating a light that's normally off.

But no one caught it.

This was the last straw for this guy as he's no longer on the line taking care of should be noted this guy wasn't a newbie either.

My Worst Work MistakeShutterstock

42. Airline Manager Forgot His Crew

In 1998, I was an airline Duty Manager at the Operation Control Centre.

I was like the Maytag repairman: I only worked when there were problems, and my job description was to save the operation, meaning, find solutions where there aren't any.

In September of that year, Air Canada crews went on strike so my airline sublet two aircrafts with full crews to operate Air Canada flights. That's minus two aircraft for my fleet.

On September 2, Swissair 111 went down off the coast of Peggy's Cove, a terrible tragedy. Less than 8 hours later, one of our flights en route to London did an emergency landing in Halifax because there was smoke in the cockpit—the same thing that had happened to SR111, except ours was a different aircraft type and only a minor technical problem.

Because of all the media attention, the aircraft had to be grounded for over 36 hours to make sure everything was all right. That's a total of 3 aircraft that I can't use.

From that point on, we went into full crisis management.

My phones were constantly ringing and I had to solve each and every single problem. When crises like that occur, we're bound to forget certain things.

For operational purposes, the crew that was supposed to fly the aircraft back from London to Toronto was sent to Lisbon to fly head-on to Toronto.

Only, the Lisbon flight was subsequently canceled and it was the Lisbon World Fair. There wasn't a single hotel room in the whole city and around. The crew purser kept calling me asking me what to do.

I kept telling her that I was trying to find a solution. To this day, I can still hear her sweet little voice: “Berg, it's me. We're stuck in our uniforms, sleeping on the floor of a McDonald's, I'm a bridesmaid Saturday. I have to get back. Please Berg, I have to get back”.

I was so busy, this one got by me. The crew came back the following Wednesday and she missed the wedding. I still feel extremely bad about it, especially because she was so nice about it.

She never freaked out and she kept her crew calm and they just waited...

My Worst Work MistakeShutterstock

43. Stock Broker Mishaps

Right after September 11, I had to go from Chicago to our New York City data center. We're a stock exchange/broker, and this data center was two blocks from ground zero.

There was talk that NASDAQ wouldn't be up and we would have to take over orders for the interim.

While we had 6,000 servers in Chicago, we really needed to get our 4,500 in NYC up too.

So we're hustling and taking shortcuts when we could try to get things up and running.

The cooling tower was drained, cleaned, and refilled. A huge semi-trailer-sized generator dropped off. Begin to fire everything up. We're looking good.

Now it's time to start the backup system/power smoothing and switch from mains to it.

Now this power smoothing system was an ancient beast. We inherited from the previous owners—which was a “big iron” mainframe setup from the 60s.

Now it smoothed power by using a flywheel. I don't know how it all worked, and it had never needed to be restarted before, so this was all new to me, a young 24-year-old systems admin.

The flywheel was a 10-foot-high solid concrete wheel that weighed 4 tons. It spun at 5,000 rpms. To start it, you took off an access door, applied power to the system, and gave it a little “nudge”. There was an arrow in chalk pointing one way, so I “nudged” it in that direction and it began spinning up.

After 2 hours, when it was fully up to speed, you took a timing light and shined it at it to make sure it was going the right way—yes, the system could run in either direction. So, all looks well.

So I grab this huge lever and slowly push it from “BYPASS” to “ACTIVE”. As soon as the lever went past the "T" in “ACTIVE” we heard a dozen large BOOMS, and then a bunch of smaller “booms”. Complete darkness.

Apparently, at some point in time, the wheel needed maintenance. And when they were done, they put it on backward. So the arrow was pointing in the wrong direction. So instead of positive voltage, I was sending thousands of volts of a negative voltage to all of the PDUs and the battery racks.

As you could imagine, they don't expect that kind of thing. The big booms were the $50,000 power distribution units exploding. The smaller ones were all of the control circuitry for the UPS.

And that's not even the worst bit.

So all these booms happen. Then it's quiet. We managed to destroy this semi-trailer-sized rental generator. But remember how I said it was a 4-ton flywheel? And it took 2 hours to come up to speed?

It took roughly that long for it to spin down, as well.

And I didn't flip the lever back to “BYPASS”, so this system is still pumping voltage. 6 fires later...

It cost the company close to 2.5 million dollars to get the system working again—and it took over 3 weeks of around-the-clock work.

We're talking about replacing everything—the PDUs, the switching system, even the wires down to the street.

Didn't get fired though. I miss that place.

My Worst Work MistakeShutterstock

44. Superman’s Filler Bio

Back in high school, I had a job as a web designer at a small web shop servicing non-profit organizations. My bosses didn't let on that I was as young as I was, and they handled all the face-to-face client meetings.

My job basically entailed designing and preparing the website for our clients. One of our big clients was Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. I sliced up the site and put in filler text, knowing full well that only people coming from our internal IP would be able to see the development.

I should mention that my company was small, close-knit, and had a great (albeit vulgar) sense of humor. Rather than going the standard lorem ipsum route, I instead filled in something along the lines of "Herp derp I'm Christopher Reeve, I drive myself with a straw. Weaknesses include kryptonite and falling off horses".

It got worse, but I'll let your imagination fill in the blanks. There were about four paragraphs of filler text.

I came in to work after school one day and all three of my company's owners/my bosses were waiting for me. I thought they were pulling some prank, but they asked me to come into their office.

At this point, I knew something was definitely up.

My boss: "Chris and Dana saw the site".

Me: "What? Who"?

Him: "CRPF. Chris and Dana Reeve. The director wanted to show them the progress. Apparently, he didn't check before he showed it to him in person".

At this point, I think my stomach hit the floor and kept going straight onto the Earth's core. My boss told me he'd let me know what the next steps were, but just to know that I was in deep, deep trouble.

Anyway, I didn't get fired (despite how adamant Dana Reeve was about the fact) and I had to write an apology to the Reeves.

I found out later that Chris actually had a pretty solid sense of humor and thought it was funny. RIP, Mr and Mrs Reeve.

So, I insulted Superman and lived to tell the story.

Fake It Til You Make It factsPixabay

45. Jeff, The Oblivious Southerner

A few other coworkers and I were complaining about a new hire. We were upset because he wasn't showing up, not doing what he was supposed to, and leaving us to pick up the slack.

We're all pitching reasonable punishments: "He should be suspended, he should be written up, he should be fired" and so on.

Well one of our other new hires, I'll call him Jeff, decided to join in on the conversation. What he said was bloodcurdling. He told us: "Y'know, I got a few cousins out in Virginia. We could always lynch him".

We were all dumbfounded and ripped Jeff a new one for suggesting such a thing. He was reported for saying that and was suspended for about a week, and I'm still shocked they didn't fire him on the spot.

Well, a few weeks later we have another new hire, who is Black. He was hanging up one of our safety chains and accidentally dropped it. As the new guy is picking it back up, Jeff comes by and says: "With your ancestry, I'd think you know how to handle a chain".

Jeff didn't get suspended that time, he got fired on the spot.

And he insisted he didn't understand why he was being punished.

He was an idiot.

Reason I Was FiredShutterstock

46. The Managers Who Couldn’t Manage

This whole mess was a management issue. They knew more than six months in advance that the workload on the whole department would triple. We already were kinda pushing the limits, we barely had enough people for even the current workload.

They failed to hire any new staff to handle that vastly ramped-up workload. And didn’t warn us. At all.

Suddenly, work was awful. Customer upon customer flooded in with work, and these were internal, meaning part of the same company, customers.

So when they got mad, they could look us up in the company email system and find out our managers and scream at them to get us fired. Which they did fairly often.

They also screamed at us. It wasn’t unusual to be screamed at 2-3 times a day, or more. Some days, every customer we spoke to screamed at us. The work pace was ridiculously intense.

There were no breaks and managers were recording bathroom break times and handing out write-ups for going to them “too much”. And if we insisted it was needed they’d demand we sign a full HIPAA release so they could access our medical record and judge for themselves if we needed the bathroom that much, and yes, this specific action was directly OK’d by HR.

People quit left and right. I quit and moved.

The department manager got fired, and eventually all but the most crony-like idiots who were terrible at the job were left. I can’t imagine what happened after that, because everyone I knew who worked there quit, or I stopped talking to them.

I’ve no idea how that epic mistake ended.

But I can say that there were huge consequences for the company if they did crash and burn hard.

I dunno if it was the executive management denying money to hire more staff, or if our director just thought he could look good by making people work three times as hard for the same pay.

But there was no way that department wasn’t gonna eventually implode spectacularly. And it was entirely management’s fault.

Tech Support Horror StoriesShutterstock

47. The Explosion

I am a chemist, and over the period of about a year, I was doing a series of very dangerous reactions.

Essentially I had to mix a strong acid with a solvent and several other chemicals, seal the chemicals in a strong glass bottle (high-pressure reactor), seal the bottle, and submerge the reaction vessel in 175-degree (c) silicone oil.

If any of you have heated up a closed container, you know this builds internal pressure inside the container. I kept a valve on top of the reactor to monitor the pressure; the container was rated to be safe at pressures up to 150 PSI.

Unfortunately for me, one particular day I started warming up the reaction, and the heat was applied to the solution just fast enough in just the right way to start a run-away polymerization reaction. If you're a chemist you just cringed.

This run-away polymerization reaction gave off massive amounts of heat very quickly, thus triggering the pressure of this flask from 130 PSI to HOLY GOD RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! The resulting explosion was so loud it sounded like an 18-wheeler slammed into the side of the building.

Luckily for me, and my lab associate, no one was in the room when the explosion went off. Hot shards of glass were thrown across the entire room, as well as a nice spray of hot silicone oil.

Even worse, this explosion happened right next to the CEO's office. He ran out looking for me, to which I assured him "We totally have everything under control”—while thinking: “Oh God oh God please don't walk in there and notice I ruined your hundred thousand dollar lab”.

Luckily the damage to the facilities was minimal, no one was damaged, and I got to keep my job!

Craziest School Stories FactsShutterstock

48. A Terrible Cost

A patient with late-stage Alzheimer's had been progressively getting sicker.

He used to be a walker/wanderer, but eventually just got a bit sicker each day and bedbound. Everyone kept giving his meds like normal. Ate less, tummy became distended. He was found unresponsive in his bed, apparently vomited, and passed on.

The nurse aides were in charge of cleaning him up. One went to clean the strange vomit that came out of his nose. She wiped it with her (gloved) hands. It was excrement. He had excrement coming out of his nose. That’s when they realized the disturbing truth.

He apparently had a bowel obstruction and it got so bad to the point that everything backed up and he was vomiting up his own undigested food and fecal matter. Simple monitoring of his distended stomach would've revealed that.

A simple charting of his last bowel movement would've revealed that. Nobody could find when his last bowel movement was, and the charting that should've been done apparently hadn't been done in months.

It could've been caught. He didn't have to go that way. All those little negligent mistakes eventually lead up to one gigantic mistake.

HOW Did They SurviveShutterstock

49. Failed Ambition

Before retiring, I was a branch manager for my state's DMV. Suddenly, one of the other managers is off sick for a few days. Then it became a week. Two weeks. Then, the auditors completed their investigation, and she was gone.

It turns out she was accepting bribes from aspiring truck drivers so they would pass the written test. She was taking in an additional $100-$250 a week.

The dumb part? The pay was decent, and the benefits were fantastic. So she gave up decent pay, fantastic benefits, and a really nice retirement for extra spending money.

Then there was the assistant manager who would pocket anywhere from $750 to $1,500 a week. So a better payoff. But she was removing it from the day's cash receipts. She had only ever worked for the DMV, working her way up from clerk. She had no idea that there are accounting systems within accounting systems.

The bank would send over deposit discrepancy reports. She thought she had a genius plan—but she’d pay for it. She would blithely throw them out, not realizing that the same exact report was also sent to our central office. The wheels of state government turn slowly, so she was able to do this for over a year, but once those wheels start, they do not stop.

She ended up going to prison and was ordered to pay over $30K in restitution. The full manager also got fired because the investigation revealed that he was rarely in the office, and left everything up to the assistant manager.

Nightmare Co-Workers factsShutterstock

50. This Was The Boss’s Fault

When I worked with a tree-cutting service in Tampa, I was asked by the boss to ascend a nearby tree and cut some limbs—but there was a huge problem. After seeing how close they were to power lines, I refused. He got really mad and yelled at me to clean up the area.

Then he sent up Dallas.

Dallas put on his climbing spikes, roped up the tree, and started cutting. I was worried and kept watching him as I picked up limbs—what I saw next left me in shock.

Sure enough, he leaned back and before I could yell, put his sweaty bareback right against the power lines. A bright blue flash arced across his back and his body jerked away and slammed against the tree trunk. He bounced off and back into the wires.

And again.

Finally, his spikes got dislodged and he fell out of the tree, falling until his safety line snapped taut, leaving him dangling upside down like a broken-back doll.

I thought he was a goner, but a moment later he started moaning, then screaming. "I'm on fire" he yelled. We lowered him to the ground to the sound of sirens approaching; a neighbor had seen what happened and called emergency services.

The aftermath was chilling. A nasty black mark curved across his back and the current had surged down his legs and through his boot heels, seeking out the ground. Both his heels were blown out.

I quit at the end of the day.

Worst thing on the jobShutterstock


Sources: Reddit, ,

More from Factinate

Featured Article

My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.

Dark Family Secrets

Dark Family Secrets Exposed

Nothing stays hidden forever—and these dark family secrets are proof that when the truth comes out, it can range from devastating to utterly chilling.
April 8, 2020 Samantha Henman

Featured Article

Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.

Madame de Pompadour Facts

Entrancing Facts About Madame de Pompadour, France's Most Powerful Mistress

Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.
December 7, 2018 Kyle Climans

More from Factinate

Featured Article

I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.

These People Got Genius Revenges

When someone really pushes our buttons, we'd like to think that we'd hold our head high and turn the other cheek, but revenge is so, so sweet.
April 22, 2020 Scott Mazza

Featured Article

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.

Catherine of Aragon Facts

Tragic Facts About Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s First Wife

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but very few people know her even darker history.
June 7, 2018 Christine Tran

Dear reader,

Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? We’re always looking for your input! Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Please submit feedback to Thanks for your time!

Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. We want our readers to trust us. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at Thanks for your help!

Warmest regards,

The Factinate team

Want to learn something new every day?

Join thousands of others and start your morning with our Fact Of The Day newsletter.

Thank you!

Error, please try again.