Whenever I’ve hired someone fresh out of college, I’ve told them on day one that they’re going to mess up. I explain it’s inevitable and simply a matter of time. Now before you tell me how much I suck at motivating a team, this isn’t because I lack confidence in them. It’s because no one’s perfect and everyone makes mistakes. I remember the first big mistake I made (well, I thought it was big at the time). In retrospect, it was nothing that anyone else would have thought much of.
So if you’re in a new job or about to start, remember that something – no one knows what, when, or how – will happen, and you will get over it. That said, why not learn from others who’ve had some unfortunate mishaps at work and at least avoid these (slightly hilarious) snafus… This leads me to lesson one:
Lock your computer when you leave your desk
Now I’m not one of those people obsessed with information security (yawn), but here’s a story that’ll make you lock your computer when stepping away from your desk. A mid-level manager heads to the restroom and returns to his computer a few minutes later. He gets a call from the Assistant to the CEO of his department, who asks “Did you realize you just sent him an email…?”. Now in a company with tens of thousands of people, emailing this guy is something he wouldn’t do – ever. Turns out that someone (unknown to this day!) decided it would be funny to send the CEO an email with the simple message, “I love you”. He’s right – it was funny! Needless to say, restroom guy was mortified.
Double check the ‘to’ field when you send an important email
One of my friends worked in HR for a pharmaceutical company a few years ago with a guy who was just starting out. He was asked to pull together an estimate of how much it might cost if they decided to fire someone (and pay her out). Because he wanted to double check some of her details, he had temporarily put the woman’s email in the ‘to’ field to look her up on the company system. Except of course he forgot to remove her email address before he sent the email off. Yep, that happened. Can you imagine how quickly he must have been trying to use Outlook’s ‘recall’ function? What a horrible way to find out you might be getting fired. I’m sure the new HR guy thought he might be next on the list too.
Be careful when you share your ‘current’ salary
Anyone who’s moved between companies will usually tell you that they were asked what their current salary is. Instead of paying people what they should be paid for the job, HR departments often have a habit of finding out what you currently make and then just offering you a bit more than that. Now we all know of people who bend the truth here and there, figuring that the number they gave is still fair because it factors in best possible bonus, encashed overtime, etc. One woman who had been given an offer had shared her salary – verbally over the phone, in writing on email, and online through an outsourced background check. She was specifically asked her base salary, not total comp. Well long story short, she lied – a lot. And then she lied again when confronted about it. Think this is a bad way to start out at a new job? She didn’t have that problem as the offer was swiftly rescinded. Greedy Gus, but I still felt for her.
Ah, the joys of corporate life ;) I’ve seen quite a few other ‘interesting’ events over the years – getting so drunk you don’t realize the difference between your vodka martini with olives and the lychee cocktail next to you, or looking unbelievably miserable and then falling asleep during a team meeting (at a round table no less) when you’re supposed to be taking notes. And um no, none of these were me!
So, what have you seen go down in your office? Post a comment below and whenever you’re having a bad day, remind yourself that at least you didn’t screw up this badly! :)