Your First Job Horror Stories

Illustration for article titled Your First Job Horror Stories
Image: Fox Photos/Getty Images (Getty Images)

Y’all hear that there’s a new President of the United States? It certainly isn’t Joe Biden first job, but it is his first time holding the highest office, and so I’ve been thinking about first gigs. My illustrious working life began as a hostess at a theater on an American military base in Germany and I was not good at it. I got the job because I had a crush on the live band’s bass player, who cosplayed like Blink-182 self-titled era Tom DeLonge everyday, and that’s... basically all I remember about it. It’s not a great story, but I bet Jezebel comments have better tales.

Advertisement

This week, I want to hear all about your first job horror stories—either from your first gig, ever, or your first time in a new role—as long as a the stories are good, feel free to approach the prompt however you’d like.

But first, let’s take a look at last week’s winners: this is the happiest you’ve ever been to see a co-worker leave:

Bernd, you win, I’m stressed:

I work for a very, very weird part of the government that attracts an incredibly bizarre group of employees. Mostly this leads to hilarity and good friendships, but sometimes it leads to...this person.

He was a known entity. He had volunteered for us previous years. Despite his general ineptitude, he got hired on for one of our summer positions because we needed bodies, and he didn’t seem any more eccentric than our other characters (including one guy who stalked younger female coworkers, one dude who didn’t shower or wash his clothes ON PURPOSE, one guy who regularly posed for pictures with young girls and would post them to his facebook, and one guy who would sing the Blob theme song to you and always asked if you were catholic, and the woman who got goats, neglected the goats, killed the goats, threw the goats into a dumpster).

He’s a generally inept coworker, and a pretty unpleasant person. But nothing fire-able or quit-able. Then the harassment of female staff begins. And the incel talk (he would go on and on about how no woman wanted to date him, and how women had too high standards and it wasn’t fair because he wasn’t like out of a magazine, but then one day went on a rant about how would never date a woman who didn’t religously shave/wax). And the discussion of women’s bodies in the break room. And the aggressive yelling. And then one day I get to one of my sites, and my normally very jolly coworker looks shook. Very out of it. Very confused. She’s also newer, so she asks if she can talk to me. Says that this coworker was talking with another male coworker about porn, while at the desk. She walked away from them, but then later he asked her if he had overheard them and wondered her feelings on the topic. Particularly on the topic of cum.

Supervisors are called, he is asked to leave for the day. The next day supervisors go through the list of all coworkers individually to see if we have things to add on the subject. The list of coworkers with things to add is long.

Upon the presentation of this giant pile of awful, he quits. His mom brings his keys and stuff back the next day. We are all very very happy to have him gone, and now he’s been added to the lore of the place.

HOWEVER, we became even more ‘oh we escaped a serial killer’ later in the week:

The final tidbit to this has to do with a weird part of job: moving each other’s stuff, including our hats. Mostly to keep our stuff from being stolen, where we put each other’s stuff away when another one of us would enter a building.

We find out later in the week that he had ranked all of the women based on the smell of our hats.

HE WAS SNIFFING ALL OUR HATS WHEN HE PUT THEM AWAY.

Seabassy... this was a RIDE:

Not the traditional seeing a coworker leave, but some great schadenfreude:

I landed my dream job 10 years ago and it was fantastic. Great colleagues, awesome boss who took me under his wing (in a not creepy way) and mentored me to the next level.

Everything went great for 2 full years — finishing projects ahead of deadline, winning team awards, getting regional and national recognition. Looking back, it’s like a montage of awesome for a late 20s-something who finally “arrived.”

Then my boss got a terminal illness and left unexpectedly when I was in line for a promotion (of which the workload had already started, but not the title). He was immediately replaced by someone who was so bonkers, so not qualified for this specific position, and with such terrible people skills, I thought I was on a prank show.

This woman would literally show up to huge meetings (that she scheduled) 30 minutes late, or sometimes not at all. Because I was “2nd in command” by the time she was hired, I was left looking like an idiot because her behavior represented our office. Whenever I’d tried to smooth things over with all of the pissed off stakeholders, she’d blast me in front of them and remind me that I’m “not Associate Director YET.”

She had a personal assistant, which is NOT A THING in my field or organization. She’d throw her purse at the poor thing and demand “FIND MY PHONE AND CALL MY HUSBAND” and make her run her dog’s urine to the vet. I’m not joking.

This new boss would call my phone at all hours of the day, night, weekends. When I’d ignore one number, she’d call me from a different one. I ended up with 8 flagged numbers that I knew to ignore from her. One time, right before she was scheduled to go to a ribbon cutting ceremony for a big deal groundbreaking, she made me go shopping for/with her because she “wasn’t into this outfit anymore.”

I reported her up the chain to every person I could, but everyone dismissed it as her being “eccentric” and “getting used to a new company culture.” I should say this is a white post-middle-aged lady with lots of degrees and it was the Midwest. This was way beyond eccentric.

I ended up quitting that job after 3 years of being at the end of her “eccentrics” and when I gave my 2 weeks, she made me make a 365-day calendar, down to 15-minute increments, of “what I do all day.” That’s when it finally clicked that this lady had been bullshitting her way through a job for THREE years and I had always been cleaning up the mess. (Oh, and she never approved my title change, so I was doing all that shit for 3 years with no financial or name recognition).

1.5 years after I left, I got a call from the organization asking if they can hire me as a consultant on a HUGE project — a project that my awesome former boss and I had worked on together and should have just coasted with minimal oversight. Apparently everything crumbled to shambles after I left because this new boss A) was never qualified for the job, B) somehow skated by for 3 years never doing her job, C) had hired her personal assistant to do MY old job after I left (remember, I was #2 in command), and D) Tried to blame all of her failures on me, that I “set up traps” for her — because she kept trying to call me all hours of the night for over a year after I left the job, and I would never answer.

She got demoted, and I got hired as a consultant to come in and clean up her mess right in front of her for way more money than I made while I was working there. She never made eye contact with me and never tried to call me again.

Relive the horror in the comments below.

URL: Senior Writer, Jezebel. IRL: Author of the very good book 'LARGER THAN LIFE: A History of Boy Bands from NKOTB to BTS,' out now.

DISCUSSION

brickhardmeat
Brick HardMeat

Not even my first job, but an internship at a small but respected industry magazine owned by Conde Nast (I think they owned much more in the early 2000s than they do now).

This was it! This was my opportunity to really launch my career as a journalist! And their offices were located right in downtown Manhattan. Just as I’d always dreamed. This was going to be my life now. How awesome!

I meet my new boss - the editor of the magazine. He takes me around, introduces me to everybody. Here’s the young hotshot from J-school. I feel confident. I feel full of myself. I meet everyone, shake hands, make jokes, ask smart questions. Everyone is gracious when they meet me, pausing their morning rituals to meet the kid. This is an important moment, for them and for me, right? Everyone but Frank, because Frank’s not here - just just started a two week vacation in Florida. But here’s Frank’s cubicle, swing by when he’s back and meet him.

And here’s your desk! Editor sits me down in front of my computer. Tells me to get my stuff set up and he’ll swing by in a few hours to take me to lunch. I push the mouse to turn the screensaver off, get my note book and pen in place, set up my giant water bottle, take the lid off. Editor calls out to me if I need anything his office is right over here, door is always open.

I turn and nod, turn back to my computer. Knock the entire contents of my water bottle directly into my keyboard.

What the fuck. I have been sitting at my desk for less than twenty seconds.

I turn the keyboard over, shake. I pop my head up, look around. No one has noticed. I run-walk across the open office floor plan to the kitchenette, grab many paper towels, run-walk back. Head is constantly swiveling - has anyone noticed? No.

I clean up my desk and the keyboard as best I can. Continue to periodically shake and try the keys. They do not work. I turn the keyboard over onto paper towels and wait, try again. Nothing. The keyboard is worthless.

I cannot tell my new boss I just destroy a piece of IT less than 20 seconds on the job. I cannot. I pop my head up and look around. I remember Frank. He is on vacation.

I very quietly and nonchalantly unplug my keyboard. Carry it under my arm, using my body to obstruct it from view of the editor’s office. Casually walk up my aisle, down the next aisle to Frank’s cubicle. No one is looking. Everyone is checking email, drinking coffee, getting work started. No one is paying attention.

I switch the keyboards. I did it so fast. It was so easy. I was sweating bullets but it was so easy. I have his key board. It’s my key board now. I walk back down his aisle, then back up mine. Connect it to my computer. It works. I start my internship.

I never introduce myself to Frank.