the stolen toilet paper, the fake committee, and other petty moments at work — Ask a Manager


Last week I asked you to share stories of petty moments at work — your own or other people’s. Here are some of the stand-outs.

1. “At one of my early jobs one of my coworkers was a, shall we say, interesting character. She was called out about something in a meeting and was fuming at the rest of us. The next morning she came in, went into the rest room (so I hear) and then went into her boss’ office to quit on the spot. She left without a word to anyone else.

Later it was discovered that she had removed every roll of toilet tissue from the rest room.”

2. “Had a client tell me to move their name down 1/32nd of inch on their biz card. I changed the name of the file to indicate it was revised, sent it back to them with a cheerful ‘here you go!’ and they replied back it was perfect!”

3. “I…once made up a non-existent ‘change management committee’ to avoid this kind of thing (endless requests for minor changes). There was a form. The form was *very* detailed.

It was at a government job, as a web developer, with a lot of middle managers. There was a lot of bueracracy in everything else, but we were friendly and would generally just change things on request, at least for internal sites. This…was a mistake, because no one else could get anything done, so they’d go on the warpath about font choices. When I started telling them there was now a change management committee for the internal site, no one questioned it, and the requests disappeared after we introduced a form (we still fixed and improved things, just stopped swapping fonts every week). We even held committee meetings, which were really a extended coffee break.”

4. “I got fired from a position, in a pretty awful way. I was mad and then spent the next few months randomly writing ‘missed connections’ ads on Craigslist, posting various manager’s office phone numbers as a call back.”

5. “Once upon a time, I worked as (what was essentially) a copy editor for a healthcare company, in an environment that I would definitely label ‘toxic.’ Most of my job consisted in making comments in PDF documents – remove this comma, we can’t legally use that word, etc., etc. and people would invariably try to avoid making any edits (even stuff that was an obvious typo or a legal liability) and complain the whole way through. Couple this with a boss who was a people-pleaser, and it was eventually decided that, even though PDF comments are already the easiest thing in the world to read, we needed to write out a separate description of every single comment whenever we submitted any edits: where the comment was in the doc, what the comment was about, and the rationale for making the comment.

My colleague and I did so, with some grumbling. ‘On page two, second paragraph, there is an comma that needs to be removed. We adhere to AP style, which doesn’t use the ‘Oxford’ or ‘Serial’ comma.’ Then, our boss told us that people were complaining we weren’t ‘detailed enough’ in our descriptions.

Fine. You want to play that way? My colleague and I would turn five small comments into 500 word essays. ‘On page two of the attache brochure, inside the green box in the second paragraph, three lines down, in between the fifth and sixth word, the comma should be removed. This comma is an Oxford comma. An Oxford comma is also known as a serial comma…’ [insert explanation of what an Oxford comma is, along with examples, then conclude by stating that as we adhere to AP style, we do not use said comma. However, the AP itself has some exceptions…you get the picture]

We did this for a couple of weeks before they finally said: ‘Okay, maybe you don’t have to be *so* detailed.’”

6. “I’m a graphic designer for a company that has a lot of athlete ambassadors, and thus a lot of my coworkers fancy themselves elite athletes as well (they’re not). For a New Years post on social media, we had a ‘meet the team’ post where everyone on the team had a picture and a bio of them using their favorite athletic product we manufacture. I have one coworker that particularly thinks he’s god’s gift to the world and has a huge ego about his supposed athletic ability, and it drives me INSANE. So as the graphic designer, I built out all of the posts before posting on the brand’s social media. This coworker put one of his personal records in his bio, so I decided to take his bloated ego down a couple pegs and added a zero to the end of his record time. After it was posted, he noticed immediately and had a total temper tantrum, crying about how people are now going to think he’s super slow! It was so *chef’s kiss* satisfying.”

7. “When I worked as a cashier in Target, if a customer was especially horrible to me (seriously though why are some people so mean to cashiers) I would start to scan the items on the conveyor belt slower…and slower…..a n d s l o w e r.. .. .. . .a n d s l o w e r . . . . until I could see them seething at my incredibly frustrating pace. I would take their money and punch in the amount slowly and bag their items at the same pace too. And to make sure they knew I was being a d*ck specifically to THEM, I would then make sure they saw me scan and bag the next customer’s items very fast as they collected their bagged items. I’m lucky I never received a complaint.”

8. “I once worked a soul-crushing job in a very toxic place. The company was having some financial struggles, and they were doing a lot of hasty layoffs and trying to guilt everyone into saving as much money as possible. I finally found another job, after 8 years, and I gleefully put in my 2 weeks’ notice. The place had gotten so stingy in the past 2 years, that they completely stopped buying office supplies. A lot of people brought their own and kept them locked in their desks, but the remaining supplies were hoarded often and there was a lot of drama surrounding the sharing of these supplies. The office only had one good, heavy-duty stapler, and our office produced reams and reams of paper reports needing said stapler. It sat in a place of honor in the middle of the department, and screaming matches erupted if it was moved even an inch from its spot. Taking it back to your desk, for even a moment, was career suicide.

I staying late on my very last day in the office, and I took that stapler with me when I left for the last time. I have it at my desk at home, and I barely ever use it, but it’s my trophy of pettiness. I was underpaid by 30% there, lied to when I brought it up to management, and pressured to donate my time to the company ‘off the books’ all the time. I now have a much better job and a really great heavy-duty stapler.”

9. “A manager at our small not-for-profit would often eat in the resource library that doubled as a meeting room. Sometimes she would bring her daughter to work and the daughter would do craft projects and make a huge mess. This meant staff would be scrambling for other meeting space, but the executive director never said a word about the mess or the room being used as a daycare. The manager would often direct the receptionist (a revolving series of temps) to clean it up at the end of the day. This would include lunch containers, food spilled, and glue and glitter all over the table and require a lot of scrubbing.

Our board personnel committee used that room for a committee meeting before the regular board meeting. One night, supposedly because we were so busy doing board meeting set up in the other room, the receptionist ‘forgot’ to clean the small meeting room. The first board member who walked in said, ‘What the HELL happened in here!?!’ and the receptionist sweetly said ‘Oh, that’s X’s daughter’s playroom. Sorry, I haven’t had time to clean it up the way X likes yet. I usually bill an extra 15 minutes to do it after my regular work day.’”

10. “A coworker, Jane, was very protective of her lunch hour (and the culture of our office was you eat lunch when possible and sometimes that might be late or early to accommodate other meetings) so her attitude was out of sync with the office. We had a grand boss that liked to schedule meetings right at lunchtime, and when Jane asked for them to be moved for her lunch grand boss said just bring lunch in with you if needed.

So Jane brought in a loaf of bread, peanut butter and jelly jars, and a tray of cheeses and proceeded to make everyone in the meeting a sandwich and cheese plate during the meeting. Neither she nor the grand boss blinked at this and for awhile we all had yummy veggie trays, sandwiches, and once a full salmon (like the ENTIRE grilled fish cut into servings conference table side) during lunchtime meetings. It was the craziest showdown ever- and both people were pretty miserable so it was great to watch.”



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