You can tell yourself there’s no such thing as spirits, that there are no monsters under the bed or ghouls lurking in the closet. But the scariest threat is one you can’t outrun – that blood-chilling, hair-raising moment when you realize you messed up big time at work.
These are the tales that haunt us in the night – the accidental reply-alls to the whole company, the database exorcisms, the paper trails that suddenly ghosted. To celebrate the scariest time of year, we asked our Twitter followers to share #SpookyBusiness stories about their most haunting work mistakes. Live vicariously through the ghosts of oh-sh** moments past.
Social media mayhem
My company took over a fan-created FB product page. When we ended the product, we forgot that the fan still had admin access. The fan deleted all of the admins, erased all posts, and hijacked the page. Eventually, FB returned access to us, but what a ride.
Most people give candy
I have a friend who worked for a well-known software house specializing in dev tools. One time, he handed out screenshots at a conference that included the username and password of our production source code repository.
A ghastly miscommunication
There was that time (two companies ago) I spent $15,000 on lanyards – YES, $15,000 USD to make threads that hold name badges – to be the lanyard sponsors at a tradeshow... only to find out that the sponsor should only contribute money; the exhibition company prints the lanyards. We used a few lanyards for decoration in our cubicles and threw out the rest. Gee, I wonder why that company closed its doors?
Two sandwitches, please
My boss gave me her card once and told me to go get lunch. I assumed she meant for both of us. She did not. She was very nice about it, but I ate my free lunch with a side of guilt that day.
You’ve awakened a powerful spirit
I didn’t know my boss had set up alerts for his name in Slack. We set up a channel to discuss a group trip that would make the whole team OOO. I said Steve would be upset if his operation was shut down for a few days but he’d get over it. STEVE was alerted. He dropped into the channel, made a comment, and immediately left, which started a notification war. We started calling him Stove… but he set up alerts for every single one of his nicknames.
Double, double, we’re in trouble
I was working in the mortgage industry and regularly had to wire large sums of money to title companies. One day I sent three wires: $350K, $405K and $850K.
I hit send and got a phone call an hour later that the wires that went out were for $30 million, $40 million, and $85 million. Our total credit line was about $40 million.
My boss, who took the whole thing rather well, tried to wire the funds just to make sure it was done properly and he sent out $15 million, $25 million and $50 million dollars, proving either that:
a. We were both incompetent or
b. Something was horribly wrong with the process.
It took three days to get the funds back, and we almost lost $400k in interest that had accumulated. I later figured out the wire amount in the file we were sending was missing leading zeros and, as a result, the numbers were way off (big difference between 00350000 and 350000).
If it feels wrong, that’s probably fright
After being at my last company for a few months, I wanted to delete a simple page that was a duplicate of information found elsewhere. When I hit the trash can, it seemed to take a very long time to delete this very simple page. When I tried to go back to the page, I couldn't find anything!
All of my information for benefits, HR contacts, processes, and procedures were gone. I went to my coworker and freaked out!
After about a week of recovering it... that lovely, wonderful data was available again.
Once I somehow corrupted the entirety of the client's database that our content developers had spent literally months populating. I went looking for the backup and it wasn't there. Just an empty folder.
Turns out the SLA for the company providing the servers and server admin didn't start until the site launched, so they'd not done any config of backups and I'd never checked. I called my boss on a Saturday afternoon and resigned, then set about fixing it. Based on a couple of scripts I'd exported etc, I'd managed to reconstruct the database before the content devs got into work on Monday morning.
My boss refused my resignation, and I slept for the first time in about 50 hours. The site launched two weeks later.
In loving memory
I once took out the last three days' activity in a PC repair call center's job-tracking database. I was new enough not to have figured out that it kept its indices in separate files from the main table, so it couldn't work out why a clean restore of a table resulted in a corrupt table.
Never did figure out why none of the call analysts tried to strangle me after re-entering everything from memory.
I always feel like somebody’s watchin' me
I was in a meeting where I saw the work of a teammate being questioned, and I felt the urge to go into defense mode on their behalf.
Sitting in the meeting with a bunch of senior people that I didn't know, I sent him a number of supportive (albeit sarcastic and, in retrospect, aggressive) Slack messages.
These promptly appeared on the large monitor in the room, for the whole meeting to see. I only found out later when I received a very understanding message from someone in the meeting. In the spirit of our company values, they wanted to call out that my behavior was disrespectful, unprofessional, and didn’t align with our culture here.
So. Much. Cringe. At. Myself.
I was embarrassed, humiliated, and sad that in my attempt to play as a team and support my teammate, I instead hurt the rest of the team. In one fell swoop, I appeared an insensitive idiot, lost trust I hadn't yet gained, and made an incredibly horrible first impression.
Luckily, my company is full of understanding, supportive people that are interested in helping people grow.
I talked to the parties involved and we came to an understanding. The greatest thing is that my manager didn’t fire me on the spot assured me that it’s ok to fail as long as we learn from it. And that we share our experiences so that we all grow together as a team.
Did these scary stories get you thinking about one of your own? Share yours in the comments. Happy Halloween!
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