Halloween Special: 6 Real-Life Workplace Horror Stories

By Susanna Quirke on 27-10-2016 0 comments | 520 views

Everyone’s got a workplace story terrifying enough for October 31st. But which tales really take the crown? We have picked out our favourite workplace horror stories – all of which actually, definitely happened.


The one where you mess up live on air

Ah – the joys of live television! Nobody knows the dangers of the lens like newsreaders. Whether it’s misreading the autocue to disastrous effect, or getting overly-attached to office supplies, you know that every mistake you make will be broadcast to thousands, if not millions, of viewers. Though small mistakes on the air are unlikely to get someone fired, the Youtube half-life – and shame – is pretty much infinite.

Our personal favourite? Tomasz Schafernaker, who was caught flipping the bird in one 2010 BBC News programme. Alas, the poor guy was no stranger to controversy, having previously referred to the West Country as ‘Nowheresville’ and Glastonbury as ‘muddy shite’ while live. Whatever the weather, we’re sure that we’d rather not know the ‘stunning secret’ he revealed to Attitude Active.


The one involving an over-competitive colleague

It might sound crazy, but if we were inferior to another at a sport, we’d probably try to accept it and move on. Not so Tonya Harding who, when her spot at the top of US figure skating was threatened in 1994, had rival Nancy Kerrigan attacked instead. The real issue? They were on the same Olympic team.

Kerrigan’s injury ruled her out of the US Figure Skating Championships, but she recovered in time to nab a silver medal in the 1994 Winter Olympics. Harding received 8th place and an indictment from her ex-husband that led to her unmasking.

Following a ban from all competitive skating and a $160k fine, Harding replenished her bank account by releasing a sex tape with said former husband. Her reputation, alas, was not so easy to recover.

The one which happened 170 years ago

As long as there have been workplaces, there have been workplace scandals. Peruse the Morning Chronicle and Times headlines of May 1842, and you might have come across ‘disturbing’ reports of women and girls working in mines. Normal, we might call it – but not for Victorian readers, who immediately decided that a blight of immorality had descended upon the women of their country. Needless to say, the female miners movement didn’t last long.


Think things couldn’t get any more sensational? Not only were these women doing work alongside men, but they were – in some places – even working topless! Okay, in just one place: the Hopwood pit at Barnsley, where women were forced to strip off due to soaring temperatures underground. Jelinger Symons, who investigated the operation, labelled it ‘a nursery for juvenile vice’.

Sounds pretty fun to us.


The one where you hit ‘reply-all’

We’ve all of us experienced that embarrassing moment when we hit ‘reply-all’ on a message meant for one. Or forwarded an email to the wrong person. Or bitched about a colleague on a thread they can actually see.

But it all pales in comparison to tech consultant John, who managed to cc an entire university campus into his erotic email exchange with colleague Lisa. Both were married at the time of clicking ‘send’. While we can only wonder how those relationships are holding up, we have to admit: he has a winning way with CAPITALS.


The one where you get caught on camera

Chocolate. Sometimes, you just gotta have it. Everyone in the world understood estate agent ‘George’’s feelings when a video surfaced on the net of his grabbing a bar of Galaxy from a sideboard.

Unfortunately, the sideboard was located in another man’s flat, around which George was showing a client. The video was being taken from a hidden security camera. He had been caught red-handed nabbing the tasty snack.

Upon being confronted via the medium of text, ‘George’ eloquently described his motives for the theft. “i (sic) didn’t feel right,” he wrote. “I needed sugar I was desperate I saw the chocolate on the other side and took it, I no that no an excuse (sic) and at the end of the day it wasn’t mine and it is stealing. I’m sorry and I know how series (sic) it is. Please don’t take it any further. My apologies.

Predictably, the thieving agent was fired. “I know it is only a chocolate bar,” said the flat’s owner, “but it is the principle - it breaks all the trust.” Quite right; nobody messes with our secret Galaxy stash.


The one where you fire thousands of employees via mass email


No? Not something you’ve done? Maybe it’s just Microsoft, then.

That’s right. Back in 2014, Microsoft decided to lay off 12,500 of its employees via a general memo. Pretty cut-throat, right? But then you read the email.

“Hello there,” it begins. “Hello there.” Is this a PTA update? Did Stephen Elop, Microsoft’s then-head honcho, really address his soon-to-be ex-employees like normal people would a match on Tinder?

The rest of the email is so convoluted and jargon-bloated that it wasn’t until paragraph 11 that the recipients actually learned that they were being let go.“We plan that this would result in an estimated reduction of 12,500 factory direct and professional employees over the next year,” typed Elop, lovingly.

No ‘sorry’s. No ‘thank you’s. Thanks Microsoft – we shed a tear.


Susanna Quirke writes for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internships and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse internship London, visit our website.

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