Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

The TDM Team's Biggest Workplace Disasters

A logo with "the muse" in white text.

Even though it's our job to dole out career and job search advice, The Daily Muse team has made some workplace blunders of our own. Big ones. And in honor of our first-ever Workplace Disasters Week, we're sharing them, so you can learn from (and laugh at) our mistakes. 

No Pain, No Gain?

When I started in the financial services industry and had my first interview at Smith Barney, I felt totally prepared. Super fabulous resume? Check. Snazzy suit for my interview? Check. Prep-work done? Check. I was thrilled to be living in New York at the time, and excited to get moving on my career.

What I wasn't prepared for was my foot falling asleep midway through the interview.

You wouldn't think this was such a big deal, but as I had just been sitting for 45 minutes in the same position, I had completeley cut off the blood supply to my right foot. Thankfully my interviewer had already offered me the job, but as I stood to shake her hand, I put some weight onto my foot and spectacularly toppled over and crashed into the chair next to me, consequently spraining my ankle. I have never seen anyone look as shocked or at loss for words as my interviewer in that moment as I righted myself and started apologizing profusely.

I limped away with as much dignity as I could muster, saying I would be in touch with my answer. As I hobbled out all I could do was laugh at myself, and the absurdity of the situation. Talk about first impressions!

Niki Lowry, Director of Company Relations & Partnerships

Checking for Check Fraud

When you work in banking, you're bound to come across various scams. Most of the time, your gut will alert you to the situations in which you need to be extra vigilant and ask a few more questions. But sometimes, even then, you'll make a mistake.

My biggest was cashing a check of a pretty significant sum—that came back as fraud—for an account holder in his early 20s. Although I'd asked my questions and his answers seemed to check out, they didn't tell the whole story. What he implied was a legitimate paycheck turned out to be a Craigslist scheme, and when he left my office, he wired the majority of the (non-existent) funds to the scammer.

Of course, we didn't discover the Craigslist angle until after we'd contacted him to let him know the check was a fake. And what he (and many others) don't realize is that if you fall prey to a scam and spend funds that come back fraudulent, you then owe that money to your bank. He'd recently taken out a car loan with us and couldn't afford to pay back both amounts. The worst part wasn't answering to my supervisor and our collections department for the oversight on the check—it was watching the account holder turn in his keys when we had to repo the car to cover our loss. He'd really believed the too-good-to-be-true story behind the check.

Emily Sicard, Associate Editor

Always be on Time

Interview for Marketing Manager position, 2 PM.

There it was, inked in my Google calendar: An invite to meet with the VP at a very cool marketing agency in Washington, DC. I had already interviewed once, and was stoked to be called back in. I made up some great excuse to get out of work, put on my interview suit, and headed into the office, right on time.

Or so I thought.

I knocked on the door of the recruiter's office, and he looked up with a quizzical face. "Hey Adrian, what are you doing here?"

"I'm here for my interview!" Weird, I thought. He must have totally forgotten.

He opened up his Google calendar. "Interesting," he said. "I have you down for 5 PM."

"Hmm. My calendar definitely said 2 PM."

Turns out, we were both right. I instantly realized—in a state of panic—that my calendar was set to Pacific Time, as I had moved to DC from California a few months prior. The recruiter and VP were kind enough to reschedule their meetings that afternoon and meet with me, and I eventually got the job, but I'll never forget that feeling of horror.

And I've never forgotten to check the time zone on anything, ever again.

Adrian Granzella Larssen, Managing Editor

Management Mishap

I was managing a group of student volunteers, all of whom I thought were quite sharp. But, precisely because I thought they were smart, I made the unfortunate mistake of under-managing them. When they started, I carefully went through the types of assignments they would have to complete. Then, I handed them a spreadsheet and told them to sign up for the work they could take on, divvy it up amongst themselves, and let me know if they had any questions.

It worked for about a week—and then quickly become a disaster. They waited for me to give them assignments, while I waited for them to pick up a fair load of the assignments I'd posted. They became confused about deadlines, I became confused about why my sharp interns had begun to miss every deadline I'd set. I also made the mistake of not scheduling formal check-ins or feedback, but instead sending them notes whenever their work was particularly good (or particularly in need of improvement, or late). As a result, I had a pile of snapshots of their work, but very little overarching view into each of their respective strengths and weaknesses.

By the time their summer project wrapped up, they and I were both frustrated. Unfortunately, by the time I realized it was really my fault that they were underperforming, their time with me was almost up—and while I tried to change things toward the end, I had to accept the whole experience as a lesson learned the hard way.

Melissa Quino McCreery, Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Get Some Sleep

Fall of senior year was a busy time for me, and I was frequently quite short on sleep. It was understandable: On top of my usual schedule of rehearsals, leadership of a campus organization, and writing my thesis, I also had a whole slew of interviews for the jobs I was hoping to get post-graduation. One week, I found myself in back-to-back final round interviews with two top consulting firms.

I hit it off with both interviewers, and the one I was most excited about went particularly well. I was thrilled. That night, as much as I just wanted to crash, I decided to first make myself get my thank-you emails out the door. I wrote short, thoughtful notes, thanking them each for the specific advice they'd given me, hit send, and was asleep about 10 seconds later.

The next morning, I received back an email from one interviewer saying, "I'm a little confused by your email." I re-read my note to her—and was shocked to find I'd mentioned the name of the other consulting firm four or five times. Mortified, I apologized profusely.

As it happens, I did get the job—but I also learned my lesson. Proofread carefully, and get a good night's sleep!

Alex Cavoulacos, Founder & COO

Crash and Burn

I used to work in a business casual corporate environment as an up-and-coming management consultant at McKinsey & Company. Part of the job meant dressing to impress. One Friday, I grabbed a plate of lamb curry from the buffet and went to discuss something with my boss—and ran right into a frantic co-worker who was moving backwards without paying attention.

The curry splashed all over me, running in rivers down my starched white blouse and light tan pants. To make matters worse, I of course ran into the most attractive man in the office as I was leaving to clean up. Thanks, fate!

Kathryn Minshew, Founder & CEO

Check out more from Workplace Disaster Week

Photo courtesy of Niki Lowry.