Who Microwaved The Fish? And Other Embarrassing Work Moments.

I was sitting in a meeting in one of our conference rooms a few months ago when I noticed a co-worker standing at the door.  She was peering into the room, kind of looking like Michael Myers in Halloween.  Assuming that she had the meeting room booked, we got up (two other guys and myself) and proceeded out.  In passing, she stopped me, looked at the papers in my hand and asked, “Did you take anything off of the printer?”  She was white as a ghost at this point.  I shuffled through my papers but didn’t see anything that didn’t belong to me.  We went into another conference room and as I was going through my papers again, I saw that I actually did have something of hers.  Her resumé.  Embarrassed that I didn’t find it to begin with, I ran back to the meeting room where it looked like she was preparing for a phone interview.  I sheepishly gave her back the resumé with a heartfelt, “My bad.”  Man, if looks could kill.

We’ve all had (or seen) embarrassing moments at work.  I’m not talking about things that get people hurt or fired, but situations where you look back (maybe even cringe) and think, “Damn, that was funny.”

About three years ago, I was part of this e-mail chain talking about a female co-worker who was in the hospital with a life-threatening illness.  Sadly, she passed away shortly after being admitted.  Unfortunately, like so many of us do with e-mail, one of the guys failed to read the entire message.  He must have stopped at “admitted to the hospital” because his “Reply All” message stated that he could stop by the mall and pick up flowers and a card for us to sign.  He added that he couldn’t “wait for her to get well and return to work.”  Ouch.  And let this be a lesson to those who hit “Reply All” when you send e-mail.

My most embarrassing moment at work happened when I first started with the company almost 18 years ago.  I was very much into health and fitness.  That day I brought rice and orange roughy, leftovers from the night before.  Keep in mind I was in my early 20’s and had no clue about lunchroom etiquette: Thou Shalt Not Heat Fish In The Microwave.  I placed my tupperware in the microwave and put it on high for three minutes.  About a minute later, my manager comes running into the break room and yells: “OK, who microwaved the fish?”  Immediately, I knew something was wrong.  My manager told me that the break room air ducts dumped into the office.  Sure enough, when we walked through the office, it smelled a little like Chinatown.  He had to walk around to individual desks and apologize to customers about the smell.  In the corner of my eye, I could see some of my co-workers pointing and laughing.  That was the last time I ever heated fish at work.

This is probably why we love TV shows like “The Office” and movies like “Office Space.” We can all relate to embarrassing moments and co-workers who are a little (or a lot) off. And even if we can’t admit it, maybe some of these characters remind us of ourselves.

What was your most embarrassing work moment?