There's nothing more unnerving than hearing a manager say these words, "I need to speak with ya for a moment." The anticipation and fear that overtake an employee as they walk to their manager's office going over things they may or may not have done wrong can make for a terrible few moments. They never quite know if they are going to reprimanded, fired, or congratulated for their success. It's the not knowing that's the worst part.
A Reddit thread recently asked people to share the craziest moment where they thought they were going to totally get fired. Though the end results differ from story to story, there are a lot of similarities to each of them - people mess up or get caught in a mad situation and have to deal with the consequences. Take a look at some of our favorite stories, which have been edited for clarity and readability.
"The company I worked for was losing money fast and their employees' checks were bouncing. This was right around Halloween, so as a joke, I went to work as a bounced check.
The CEO got wind of an employee wearing a bounced check, he walked around the campus looking for me before he finally found me in the warehouse chatting with some guys. Three days later, I was pulled into HR, and my position was eliminated."
"When I graduated high school, I got a job as a bellhop at a Marriott. The front desk would transfer all request for direction calls to our phone. It was my first night there by myself and the phone rang. It was a guy saying that he must have been close because he had been driving on Route 78 for two hours.
I got confused where he was and turned him around, which resulted in him driving back the wrong direction for an hour before he realized I messed up.
He came in furious. Storming over to the bell stand where I was standing, he said, 'Hi Paul, I'm looking for a moron named Jim. That moron just gave me the worst directions, he's incompetent, and I need something done about this NOW!'
Stunned silence...Paul? Why is he calling me Paul?
Then it hit me! I totally forgot that because I was so new I had to borrow another bell man's name tag.
'Sir, we'll handle this immediately.'
I took out a dry cleaning ticket and wrote myself up a 'disciplinary form' and assured the person that Jim was on probation and would be fired immediately.
He was happy...tipped me 20 bucks and went on his merry way."
"It was the first day of my first job and I rolled a Silverado off a cliff that had under a thousand miles on the odometer.
I figured I would just go turn in all my stuff and start looking for a new job, but my boss was incredibly worried about my safety, told me not to even worry about the truck, and personally took me to the ER to get checked out even though I insisted I was perfectly fine.
It was a government contract and Uncle Sam picked up the bill for everything, and I worked there for another 16 months."
"I started my evening warehouse job right before Thanksgiving. I needed this job, too - it was a great blessing to get it. I was newly married and had a baby girl. We hardly made anything and this job was the answer to our prayers.
After a few weeks, I finally received my forklift certification. I was trying to turn in a tight spot and accidentally broke off the rear light housing off the forklift. Not wanting to hide it, I immediately told my coworkers and they said don't sweat it. Just tell the supervisor, you'll probably get your hand slapped but that's easy to replace. So I went to my supervisor to tell him.
He looked at me with a straight face and said, 'You're fired.' I just wanted to make sure he wasn't kidding (I had a sinking suspicion that he wasn't), so I asked if he was serious. He then said, 'Yes, that's a safety violation in your probation period.' I started to walk away to the locker room-devastated, but then he called me back and said, 'You're not fired, thanks for telling me.'
That one hurt. But I have been with the company for eight years now, and even worked my way into a corporate role. He eventually left. He was miserable in his job and made sure everyone else suffered with him. Surprisingly, we ended up getting along (as well as one could), but I never quite got over that."
"Our company's internet went down. The whole thing. For two hours, technicians were scouring connections all around the dozens of offices around the world trying to find what was causing our entire company's network to fail. We were in the midst of a major product release, we scheduled several major press meetings to discuss it, and the company was losing thousands every minute.
It was me.
We had new hires coming in that morning, so I connected their PCs to the company network. Normally this is a job for IT to do, but it's so simple and easy, they usually let us do it ourselves, trusting we get it right. I'd done it dozens of times before without incident and was generally trusted to handle it without breaking anything.
But that one time, I broke literally the entire company. I brought a multi-billion dollar company to their knees and left them unable to handle any sort of internal business.
The technicians on our floor quickly corrected the problem, swapping a few ethernet cables around under one of the new hire's desk. Apparently, it was creating a connection 'loop' that was prohibiting all bandwidth across the entire network. They immediately took me to the floor director for a severe reprimanding.
I should've been fired. No questions. I was honestly hoping for a quick and painless 'fill a box and go home' dismissal. I circumvented established protocol under the pretense of 'it's an easy task, you would have to be an idiot to do it wrong,' and with this assumption, cost the company hundreds of thousands over the course of two hours.
My supervisor hopped into the meeting right as all the major 'people you don't want to see gathered around you' assembly stood before me. Right as the door was closing, he snaked his way in with a hand raised, stating that I didn't do anything wrong, that there was a weekend team on the adjacent aisle that rearranged the network cables without changing the labels on them to the correct ports. 'If our IT department did it instead, this problem still would've happened anyway. The weekend team did something wrong with all the cables back there.'
He saved me. In the five minutes between my initial reprimanding and the meeting, he did a quick look around on the other side of the aisle, because he was so confident in my ability he refused to believe I could make such an error. And he was right. He put his own credibility on the line to stand up for me, to a bunch of very intimidating people you seriously should never stand up to, and convinced them to let me go with a very stern warning.
They never found out who on the weekend team messed up all the wires, but that person knows who they are. And they know to keep their mouth shut if they value their job. After that blunder, our whole floor was rewired, and only IT and senior level employees could set them up. Fortunately, the incident wasn't held over me for more than a day, and everyone else seemed to move on from it rather quickly. Though I know it shook up my supervisor quite a bit, in ways I didn't fully grasp at the time it happened, because there was one day a couple months later when I joked about bringing down the company again, and he strongly insisted that I don't make light of that incident."
"I worked as a shift manager at an auto parts store. Long story short, there was a guy selling coke out of the back, and I reported him to the store manager and the police. Little did I know that pretty much everyone at the store was in on it, and I had just ruined their gig.
Two days later, an auditor came in from the regional office and started accusing me of stealing merchandise. The next thing I knew, I was resigning under duress for something I never did.
The auditor was there about an account in the system that was selling tons of things at a discount but had no info on file to show it was a real company or anything. Several employees at the store were using it to give discounts to everyone from their buddies to police officers. I don't think there is anything wrong with sharing discounts, but I'm sure there was a way better way or legal way to go about it.
The managers had made a phony account for a guy who never existed and made up all of his details. That's what the auditor was investigating, it was just a coincidence I had recently ruined their little criminal ring a couple of days earlier. As payback, they pinned it on me because I was one of the last people to bill something to that account.
I was just a kid and they took advantage of that. A competitor found out and offered me the same job under them only a week later, so I did that for a while. Had I been older, I would have known more about my rights as an employee and just sued.
I was young and raised in a pretty sheltered home, so I had always assumed adults had integrity, but I guess not."
"I was working retail as an assistant manager, and the very odd time I'd be late, my manager would kill me.
One Saturday night, I went out with friends and got wasted, and a few of us came back to my apartment. I finally went to bed at around 7 am and had to be at work at 11 am before the shop opened at noon.
I woke up the next day at about 12:30 to numerous missed calls and texts from two of the guys that worked there. I slept in and the shop was meant to be opened half an hour ago.
When I drove in and got there, they were sitting in the ground outside the shop with shoppers passing them. It was almost one at the point and I thought I was done. My boss would find out, why weren't the tills opened at 12? No sales put through until after 1, no one clocked in until 1?
I was sure I was done. Somehow he didn't find out and he's still a good friend to this day. But I really messed up and don't know how I got away with it."
"I started working at a company with an awesome policy during the summer where employees could leave at noon on Fridays if they were finished with their work (we were salaried, so we still got paid).
One day, I was 'working late' at 3 pm. I logged off to use the restroom and when I tried to log back in, I got a message reading: 'That account is no longer valid.' I freaked out because it was common knowledge that anyone who was let go was let go first thing Monday morning. Did they fill out the paperwork and IT just flipped the switch early? I was still new and so I had no idea who to call or talk to. The place was a ghost town. I eventually found someone from the AD group and he was able to log in and pull some file down that had somehow gotten corrupted. I was back in and working in like 10 minutes. He'd never seen that error before and I haven't had any problems since.
Another time at the same company, I had a new boss that called upon me during a morning meeting. 'I need to talk to you privately after this meeting. Come to my office.'
Thoughts starting racing through my mind and I was trying to figure out what I could have possibly done wrong. Our group meeting ended, but she went into another meeting. I pinged her awkwardly, 'Hey, you wanted to see me?' She responded with 'Oh, yea, we'll talk later.'
So she rescheduled our talk four times that day, and at 4 pm, I went in there. When I sat down, she said, 'You're getting a raise, here's the paperwork.'
My mind took like five minutes to process that it was good news."
"One time, working at a local, corporate-owned pet store, some lady called with some questions. My manager was unable to speak with her, because she 'didn't like him,' and having dealt with difficult people my entire life, I said I would do it. The manager told me everything to say, and I did what I was supposed to. I kept a cheery voice the entire time.
Me: 'Hello! My name is__, thanks for holding. How can I help you today?'
Customer: 'Hi! I was just calling to check on some orders I put in.'
Me: 'Sure, what were they?'
Customer: 'Well, the first one is a live-animal order of a rat.'
Me: (As told by the animal manager) 'I'm sorry, we are unable to get rats into the store anymore, even for special order, due to corporate policy.'
Customer: 'Well, I got one last week.'
Me: 'Yes, and that is when corporate informed us we are no longer allowed to do that. I'm very sorry.'
Customer: 'Well, the head manager should have called me! Why didn't he?'
Me: 'I just talked to him about that today, actually, he had misplaced your number.'
Customer: 'WHAT'S YOUR NAME!?'
Me: 'My name is__.'
Customer: 'Well, you have a BAD ATTITUDE!'
She then hung up on me.
I then told my manager I was going to get sick (PTSD issues) and I went to the back. The phone rang instantly. Apparently, it was her again, asking for corporate's number. I texted my head manager immediately and apologized. I knew I was as good as fired. He responded with, 'That woman's crazy. She does this to us all the time.'
The next time one of the managers saw her, he told her she can't just go running to corporate every time she doesn't get her way. And that one of the managers was standing there for the entire phone call and heard me say exactly what I was supposed to. I still work there to this day."
"My non-disclosure is expired now, so back in 2010, 21-year-old me built and managed a website for a Slim Jim campaign that they were doing in conjunction with WWE. Basically, you took a picture of yourself and friends with Slim Jims weekly after Smackdown and texted it into a shortcode and you would get points. Most points won some sort of prize and got featured in an ad on TV during the show.
It was sort of buggy dealing with picture messages back then, so if people complained, we would manually update their points in the database. One Friday morning, after being heavily advertised during Smackdown the previous night, I was updating a complainer's account and messed up a query - instead of setting one accounts points, I set every record in the database to the same points count (yeah, nothing more intelligent than working on a live database from command line for a multi-million dollar campaign - but I was 21 and they let me do it). Oh, and, the database backups were 24 hours old and missing thousands of transactions by that point.
I thought for sure I was fired. We restored from backup and I was able to manually set the 'leaderboard' points since that was still cached in Memcached. They swept it under the rug and never told the company in charge of the campaign about the issue.
The whole situation was a near disaster. I was young and in college, and I shouldn't have been the lead developer on that project and also should have never been in any contact with the ad agency and the big deal design company in NYC, let alone their main points of contact. The same company later put me in charge of developing a large product that was a key supporting feature for a Superbowl commercial. I was also the lead developer for one of the first flight tracking apps to notify friends and family via SMS (before smartphones were popular) on takeoff/landing for one of the biggest airlines.
I am a senior level engineer now and manage a bunch of developers, but I still can't believe what kind of responsibility I was given while smoking weed during lunch and barely passing my CS classes in college."
"I used to work in a call center for a supplemental insurance firm. One day, I was making enrollment calls to employees of one of our clients, making sure to leave voicemails if they did not pick up so they can call back.
One of these calls kept cutting me off mid-voicemail and prompting to press 1 to leave a voicemail. I assumed their voicemail wasn't actually recording which is why it kept cutting me off. After several attempts at leaving a voicemail, I just exclaimed 'Son of a' and hung up. An hour went by and the president of my company called me into his office with the call center manager.
It turns out that person's voicemail was recording the entire time and had all of the audio. Even worse, it was the voicemail box of the CEO of our client company that I was calling. He literally played the audio in front of us; it was hard to explain my way out of that one."
"It was right around 21 years ago and I was working my first job as a 16-year-old at a place called Media Play, a chain of music and books stores. It was a seasonal position for Christmas and I was told that if I proved I was a solid employee, I would be offered a permanent job at the store following the holidays.
One day in early December, a lady came through the 'hard lines' section, which was computer software, and wanted to buy a few boxed software suites for her niece who was going to college. Things like the newly released Dragon Dictate, some Microsoft stuff, and a couple of games. Her total was right around $900 out the door, and when she presented me a credit card and her driver's license, the credit card wasn't signed and it didn't even match her last name, but the first name was a real common one and matched. So I told her I couldn't accept the card and asked her to find another form of payment due to store policy. She got all worked up with me and told me too bad, that's how she was paying, it was almost a grand in sales and I was obligated to accept her form of payment. I didn't want to deal with her anymore, and while it was a good sale, we were hourly paid (not commission), so I took her card as payment. She thanked me and said I was a good employee before asking when I worked next. I told her I would be there the next day.
The very next day, the same lady came back in to do a return. She bypassed customer service and came to hardlines where I was working again. She told me how she didn't need it anymore and she wanted a return for cash or store credit, so I went to do the return and she brought all the software out of the bag, but it had all been opened. Back in those days, I could do a return on opened software with a manager's approval, and he just happened to be walking by, so I flagged him down.
The manager popped by and immediately, without hesitation, told the lady to get lost without ever hearing her complaint. He mentioned the words 'police' and 'jail,' and she grabbed her stuff and left without a word. The manager then asked me what was going on, and I told him the story.
He walked me back to the break room and pointed to the wall, and no lying, there was a poster board full of pictures of this lady from all the times she had come in and used stolen credit cards before, and she was so well known that she was banned from the store. She was responsible for thousands upon thousands of dollars lost from stolen credit cards and shoplifting. Being my first job, I was broken. I thought for sure I was getting fired because I had eaten lunch in that break room every day for a month and never once looked at that store-made wanted poster.
I get back to work a couple days later and walked into the break room, and the TV was noticeably missing. Furthermore, all the employees were being real short with me. I found a friend of mine in the music section, and she told me that because I messed up by letting the lady make a purchase with what was likely a stolen credit card, and because I had admitted I had never seen the pictures of her, the GM took the TV out of the break room and everyone in the store was required to go through a loss prevention awareness training. The other employees there hated me so much, but I kept on going strong until I was released from the seasonal position the second week of January."
"I was 15 or 16 coming in for my third shift at a pizza joint. I was stoned in the way you can only be as a 10th grader, where you're thinking that you're sly but everyone can tell because you smell like weed, cheap body spray, and have Cheeto dust around your mouth. I smoked like 10 minutes before coming in and as I started putting my gloves on, my manager came up and said, 'Hey man, go talk to the owner in the back, he needs to give you your new-hire urine screening."
I was freaking out. I had just gotten my first car and needed the money, so I started sweating it thinking I was going to get booted. Right as I went to knock on the owner's office door and accept my fate, everyone started laughing at me and telling me it was a joke. That's how I found out all my co-workers smoked weed."