With any job, it’s important to have thick skin and stay professional when someone does you wrong. It’s not always easy but typically, the person who reacts to a conflict gets punished instead of the person who starts it. However, sometimes you just get pushed too far and when that happens, chaos ensues.
All content has been edited for clarity.
In Hindsight, I Would Have Felt Bad Too
“I worked in a production facility that catered to businesses, mainly law firms, providing documents and bindery with a quick turnaround for the kind of money only rich clients were able to pay.
We had a job that, based solely on math, we were able to do in the time allowed if we turned down every other job that came in for the following 48 hours. We accepted the job and it involved this massive palate of printed paper leaving the shop shrink-wrapped by dawn two days out.
We did the job with the ‘anchor’ production member working overnight to make sure the machine kept running and the documents were wrapped. Everyone left at the end of the shift with the run going ahead of schedule.
I was in charge of the production team and I left last, probably at eight in the evening. The guy I put into the overnight was one of the most tenured production people I had and I trusted him. I left knowing all he had to do was keep feeding the machine and call me if anything went wrong.
I slept in. I had no calls. The first time my phone rang was at nine in the morning, two hours after the massive paper brick had been delivered.
It was my boss. ‘I need you here. Now.’
That was the voicemail I heard at nine-thirty – the first of three increasingly angry messages. I didn’t call back. The tone in his voice was terrifying. I knew something had happened. I threw on a baseball cap and jeans, rushed to the shop, and walked inside to find the massive paper brick sitting, partially unwrapped just inside the loading dock. My overnight production guy was also there, sitting on the dock smoking.
The General Manager, my boss, was livid. I’d never seen him that shade of red. He was standing next to the Sales Manager, who was about to explode from the neck up. They saw me and I saw Death. They tried to pull me over to them with their minds. I walked over, trying to work out what I was seeing.
The Sales Manager pretended to be calm. ‘So, here’s where we are. Um, I made the run with our delivery driver before dawn this morning, helped him wheel this job into their office, and start to unpack it. Imagine how surprised I was when one of the lawyers showed me a pile of papers covered in blood.’
If you know how to respond to that kind of statement, let me know because I had nothing to offer. My General Manager took me by the arm and led me to the paper brick and pointed to the edges of several print sets – dozens of reams of printed paper – smeared at the edges and saturated with red matter. My first instinct was to assume it was ink from our 4-color machine, but the GM shook his head, inviting me to check in on my star production guy out on the dock.
I went out. The kid – he was a grown man, but at this point in my life, I know he was just a kid – was chain-smoking and terrified. He looked strung out and for the moment I thought he might have been using. I sat down on the dock with him as he took a drag and I noticed two important things. He looked like he hadn’t slept in a week. More importantly, his fingernails were cut to the quick, dried blood around the remaining nubs.
My initial impression was that he snorted, injected, or did something to lose his mind the previous night. The single job represented not only a six-figure payment but the profit we desperately needed to keep the shop running. His blood-stained fingers held that smoke and shook in front of his face.
I went off on him. I trusted him and he messed up a simple run in the home stretch. How, I screamed, could he miss bleeding onto paper and then wrap it up without noticing?! What was he trying to do to us, to me, to himself by doing all that? Did he do it on purpose? What in the absolute world?!
The kid didn’t react. He was just dead inside. He knew he did it and he accepted he could do nothing about it. That just upset me more.
I got up and walked away suggesting he go home and wait for a call from us to come back. When I looked at the big cube of paper on the production floor, I found myself breathing hard, my heart pounding and my head swelled with anger. All because of this brick of paper.
I passed out. I was so upset about it, I lost consciousness over it.
It wasn’t what the kid did. It was that the job was my responsibility and that it meant a lot to the shop. People were going to receive a bonus and the shop would pay its bills. Failing that time-sensitive but achievable goal, I lost my mind.
This production operator was a good kid. He was starting out and he had things happening at home and in life that he brought to work. He didn’t eat and was always nervous. He bit his nails. That was it. When he was stressed, he bit his nails. I put him as the final baton holder in a marathon and he knew it, couldn’t handle it, and forced himself to get it done by any means necessary. He was so invested in getting it done, he abandoned the idea of getting it done right. He didn’t see that he was biting into his own flesh to calm his nerves. He didn’t understand that his diet and lifestyle were causing him to operate exhausted. He was a zombie by the time I put him on that shift and neither of us saw it.
Oh, I went off on him and I felt justified for years after. We lost the account and it was ugly at work for a while. The kid kept his job (which was partly because the Sales Manager’s promise was unreasonable and more costly than our original estimates) but he left soon after. I learned that, regardless of his failure, my job was to understand why it happened. As his boss, I should have seen it and, when it happened, I should have been more constructive than vengeful. People mess up. This wasn’t being under the influence and driving into an iceberg neglect. This was a kid pushed past his ability to work. He deserved to be accountable, but he didn’t deserve to be beaten down by three levels of management.”
She Had That One Coming
“I began work in a medical school as the senior graphic designer/art director in media services. Our photographer had started just a couple of months after I did. She was talented enough, but she wasn’t one to go out of her way to get a shot.
One day, we were out on a shoot for an interview for the alumni magazine. I explained the shot I wanted and how she would have to get it, and she refused. She just didn’t want to. I insisted, and eventually, she did as I had asked. It was quite embarrassing, as it was in front of the subject of the interview.
When we returned to work, she was complaining mightily. I would have ignored her, except that this was by no means the first time she had ignored the directions. Our relationship was already more than strained by a hurtful comment she had made after my beloved brother had died. I had another assignment for her, but when I went to talk to her, she acted as though it was a terrible imposition. After that, I’d had enough and I just lost it.
I let her know that I wasn’t putting up with her anymore, that there was no room in our department for a prima donna, and that she just needed to stop complaining and do her job. A shouting match ensued. My junior designer came and shut the door so no one would hear us.
Finally, I told her, ‘You don’t have to talk to me, you don’t have to like me, but you do have to take the pictures as requested by our clients, so suck it up and get to it.’
I opened the door and left the room.
It was pretty quiet around the office for a while, but thereafter, she did what she was supposed to do, and no one ever brought it up again.”
He Took A Big Risk
“I was promoted to national sales manager for Canadian operations of a division of a multi-billion dollar multinational company. (From the US to Canada). The two men who interviewed me for the position were my immediate boss, who worked at the division headquarters where I worked, and his boss, who worked at corporate headquarters, 1200 miles away.
‘Dave’ didn’t come to the office very often because of the distance, and the fact that he had other divisions to manage as well. He seemed like a nice enough guy during the interviews. I kind of liked him. However, he had a reputation as a stickler when he visited the locations.
I had been working for a couple of months when he showed up at the office for the first time since my hire. When he walked in, it got pretty quiet. Pretty much everyone was working head down to avoid the wrath. Dave started pointing out to various people things that were wrong. I sat in my office, where I could see and hear him quite well.
After about 10 minutes of seeing people cowering, and listening to him not quite ranting, I decided I didn’t need to work in a place with that atmosphere.
So, I walked out of my office and up to him, and said, ‘Dave, you’re just right full of it today, aren’t you?’
It got even quieter in the office. His face turned bright red, and I was waiting to hear what he would have to say to me. After about 12 seconds (which seemed a lot longer than that), he broke up laughing. We walked over to my office, went in, and closed the door for a conversation.
He asked me why I had said that in front of everyone, and I told him that everyone was so scared of him that they couldn’t get their work done while he was there. I asked him if he realized that, and he said that he hadn’t. After a bit more conversation, we both went back out into the main office, where we chatted with various people in a friendly manner.
Instead of getting fired, which I expected, I kept my job. Dave seemed to realize that he didn’t have to be a stickler to get things done, and he turned back into the guy I had interviewed with. From that time on, for the few years I worked there, people looked forward to Dave coming, instead of dreading it, and he enjoyed the trips a lot more.
I don’t think people’s work improved or deteriorated, but the atmosphere sure was a lot better. Overall company performance did improve. We went from a net loss to a net gain in profit within two years.”
Okay That’s Hilarious
“I’ll start by saying, don’t ever do this to another individual. Seriously. Do not.
That said, here’s the story. I was being let go from a great job because my boss was retiring and they weren’t replacing him. So, my job was ending. Since he didn’t want me jobless, he called around and found me a potential position as a receptionist/senior executive admin/office manager for a department that was being broken off into a separate company (so I needed to know how to do a little of everything). I interviewed and got it. The person I was replacing was getting a promotion. Sounds great, right? Wrong.
Turns out, she was doing a horrible job in the position she was in, and rather than let her go, they promoted her to a different department. So, I’m in the new job and it’s boring. I complained to some friends that a monkey could do this job. Most days, I was scrounging around finding things to do or hiding out in one of the VP’s offices for the parent company (she’d invite me up).
Now, the person I replaced had a stick up her butt about me. Probably because my job was easier than her new one, I didn’t take the job seriously, I was friends with two of the VPs, and my reporting structure was very different from hers. She would go out of her way to criticize my meeting notes and where I stored them on my computer (easy fix, I moved all my files to the network so anyone could access them), the clothing I wore (the office was business casual, I never wore jeans and always dressed better than she did), what time I came into the office (usually it was before my boss (the company president), but not always.
One time, as she was ‘giving me advice,’ the president walked by so I stopped him and asked him what my hours were. He gave me the strangest look and said whatever works for me so long as I’m present when there’s a planned meeting.), and the criticism goes on and on. She’d been told several times by her direct supervisor that my job was not her business and she needed to butt out.
We also had monthly birthday parties for the employees and she would go to Costco and buy the sheet cake and have the names put on it. While I have nothing against Costco, I do not like sheet cakes and the cakes were much too large for our small group. Since that job should now fall to me, I told her I’d take care of it. For each birthday, I’d check with the birthday folks to find out what kind of cake they wanted (which they appreciated) and I’d order it from the local bakery—the same cost as Costco, but much smaller cakes so there were no leftovers. Come to find out that she was intentionally buying the sheet cakes that she knew her kids liked and would take home the leftovers to them and she was also stealing from the supply closet to outfit her kids with school supplies for school (easily remedied by keeping it locked).
All that said. It was after one of the birthday parties and I was cleaning up the kitchen. She came in to see if there were any leftovers and was complaining about the cake (she didn’t like the fruit filling the birthday person asked for) and was going on and on.
This is the part where I remind you never ever to do this to anyone. Ever.
I’d finally had enough and I told her that she needed to go back to her workstation. Now. She wouldn’t shut up. One of the IT guys was in the kitchen with me when I snapped. I had the book of matches in my hand. I lit a match and tossed it at her. She smacked at it and put it out. I lit another and tossed it at her. And another. And another. Effectively chasing her out of the kitchen and sending her back to her workstation. Finally. Thankfully, her snide comments diminished greatly but they didn’t stop completely.
For those who are going to freak out over the lit matches, the way I was throwing them, they were going out mid-air and they were cleaned up after. Yes, she did complain to the company president. He called me into his office, closed the door, and started laughing. Told me not to do it again. And all this happened a very long time ago, I was much more easily angered and I didn’t put up with anyone getting in my face about things that were none of their concern.”
A Man Can Only Take So Much
“At work, I am mostly a non-confrontational person. Good-natured and more so happy-go-lucky. Eventually, supervisors or co-workers seem to take advantage of that and tend to go off on me. One supervisor once told me that upper management was trying to take advantage of my good nature because I did seem to be a pushover.
The last time I did this was in a fabrication shop and the management was there only three months longer than I was. They were inexperienced and I had lots of it. Since I was the newest guy in a shop of guys that were there for 25 years and more I was the one who took all the nonsense. Now, I’m not bragging in any sense of the word, but I am good at what I do. I have every type of experience that any fabricator should have and for the most part, I’m modest about it
So my supervisor would receive notes at the beginning of the second shift on things that needed to be done and also what Keith had done wrong the night before. The things were very stupid and rather nit-picky. The guy running the other machine thought that he knew everything there was to know about running it and when I did it faster that I must be doing it wrong and he would tell the management who didn’t know any better. It was so bad that the entire shift would gather around the supervisor at the beginning of the night to see what they complained about me. It was big fun. But a man can only take so much. I finally had a belly full when we got the note that they wanted to see me and my supervisor in the floor manager’s office the next day.
I told my supervisor that this was going to be fight night and I was going to unload on him. And I did.
I was already mad and speaking in a ruff tone but when he held up his fingers and said, ‘You are this close to losing your job.’
I lost it. I would never dream of writing what I had to say to him after that comment but it wasn’t close to nice. I slammed the door and started cleaning out my toolbox after about five minutes of unloading. My supervisor came out and told me to go around and tell the guys goodbye and he was sorry things worked out as they did.
The day after that my supervisor stopped by my house and told me that management had come to him the next night asking him where I was at.
After all that, they thought I would still be in. He also told me that if I did show back up that they wouldn’t have a problem with it. I probably should have because it is never smart to quit a job if you don’t have another one first.
The shop had been there literally 100 years. About a year after I quit they closed the doors putting guys that had worked there for over 25 years out of work. Sad.”
Really Tame Considering It Was Stealing
“I worked in an appliance store on commission. In big department stores, they used to keep a ‘be back book.’ If someone didn’t buy from me, I would write down their name in the ‘be back’ book. If they came back when I wasn’t in and bought from someone else, I could take the “be back” book, show the manager the name, and take the commission away from the person who made the actual sale.
I didn’t work in a big department store. Just a little, local appliance store. We didn’t have a ‘be back’ book. We had an owner who lost it every time someone walked out the door without buying something. We had a rule among ourselves that if someone came back while you were out of the store. If they mentioned your name, you were entitled to at least half the sale.
If they just walked in and said, ‘I talked to Dave about this. Here’s my money. When can you deliver it?’
The writing salesman wrote it up in my name and got nothing. If the salesman had to finish the sale for me, then we split the commission. If the customer didn’t mention my name the writing salesman took the full commission. If the writing salesman should have shared but stole the commission, then the rule was I could do the same to him. For as long and as hard as I felt. We all took our days off so this could be quite expensive.
I showed up for work on a Saturday morning after being off Friday night. As was the custom, I went through all the other salesmen’s sales book looking to see if they had written up anything with my name on it. I saw a familiar customer name in Pat’s book but no split on the sale. Hmmm. Could be valid if the guy didn’t ask for me. I looked up the manager.
‘Did Jones tell Pat he had talked to me?’ Yes, the manager had heard that part of the conversation. Okay. I have been robbed. This guy is taking food out of my kids’ mouths.
Two hours later, Pat shows up to work the late shift. I approach him with a smile on my face. I reach into my pocket and pull out my change. ‘Here, Pat,’ and hand him the change.
‘What’s this for?’
‘While you were picking my pocket last night, you forgot the change. I wanted to make sure you got it all before I collected it back.’
He was in a panic. Not only was I a much better salesman than he, but I also worked many more hours than he did. I was in the store when he wasn’t more than he was when I wasn’t. I could take a lot of commissions from him. He began apologizing and blaming the owner’s kid. He said he had worked pretty hard closing the sale and Eric told him to take the entire sale to teach me a lesson. He ran to the office and added my name to the invoice so that I would get half the commission. I thanked him and bought him a cup of coffee.
Of course, then it was time to have a chat with Eric.”