Professionals Share When They Had the Hardest Time ‘Staying Professional’
When you’re in the workplace, it’s important to stay professional and composed — even when it’s really, really hard. Sometimes, your limits may be tested by minor inconveniences, slightly rude associates, or annoying customers that you can forget once you clock out. Yet other times, it’s nearly impossible not to break out of your professional state to argue, laugh, scream, cry, or sneak in a petty comment!
Do you think you’d be able to bite your tongue if you were forced to sit through a meeting discussing the intricacies of using the washroom? Or spent the day assisting your all-time favorite celebrity? How about helping a grown-man record a mischievous message inside of a Build-A-Bear? These are only a few hilariously true incidents that these professionals were forced to confront in the workplace.
A Brutal Bridezilla
I’m a wedding planner. We had an unexpected death in the family when our 6-month-old nephew had passed away in his sleep. I knew the funeral was going to be the day of my clients’ upcoming wedding, so I gave her a call to explain the situation. She’s clearly not paying attention to the call or the words I’m speaking because I hear her laughing with friends in the background. I get irritated and tell her I’ll call her later. I call back that night and again tell her what has happened and that I’d be sending an assistant to cover for me so I can attend the funeral. She tells me that I need to send my assistant to the funeral and that I better be at her wedding. It took me a few seconds, but I calmly stated that I’d be sending her money back and that no one would be covering for me. The nicest way I’ve ever said go away. I really wanted to slap her.
A Hilarious Interview Interruption
Oh jeez. A guy had an interview with my company, and my coworkers and I were looking at his resume beforehand. We noticed that there were several spelling errors, including spelling ‘project’ as ‘roject’.
So the guy comes in and I’m (along with a coworker) interviewing him, asking technical questions and whatnot (he wasn’t doing that well). The guy’s back is to the rest of my office and the wall is glass.
In the middle of the interview, a coworker on the outside looks at me and slowly raises a piece of paper from his desk, facing it towards me. On it is a single word in capital letters: “ROJECT”.
I had to excuse myself to “get a drink of water” when in reality I needed to catch my breath to prevent myself from cracking up.
Direct, Dismissive Insult
I was a pizza delivery driver and brought a restaurant manager to a management meeting. I wasn’t really supposed to be there, but I was well-liked and helped them out a lot, so I got to stay.
They were talking about how they were having some problems with the drivers doing what they were asked when one of the account managers said, “We need to remind them that they’re easily replaceable and that anyone can do their job.” I think that was the most willpower I every summoned to remain quiet.
Demanding, Demeaning Customer
Working my first job as a server at a horrible Tex Mex chain that has since closed. I only lasted two months. One night in particular I had this family of six, and the mother was just a horrible shrew of a woman. Demanding constant chips and tortillas, more queso, more salsa even though they still had plenty on the table. She got snotty with me after I put ice in her husband’s coke and insisted they had specified no ice (they hadn’t). I went in the back and cried. The other servers ran my food and one of them told the customer that I was new and trying my best so maybe give me a break. The woman made up some lame excuse about her daughter wanting to be a server so she just wants her to see how to do the job right. I finished out the table, got a terrible tip. But I did make $100 from a nearby table that had watched the whole show, so that was nice.
Empathetic Piano Teacher Vs. Crazed Mother
I once had a piano student whose mother made him take music lessons. After several weeks, it became apparent to me that the boy’s heart wasn’t in it and that allowing his mother to force him to continue was not in his best interest.
When I explained this, his mother insisted that I continue teaching him — no matter what — and that if I didn’t, she’d “spread the word” that I had failed him as a student.
At that point, I told her to do whatever she felt she had to, because forcing a student to study music against his wishes would do harm, long-term, and that I wouldn’t be a part of it.
Stubborn Concrete Trash Bin Owner
Not my current job, but when I was in college I worked as a garbageman for three summers straight. I have many stupid, sad, funny stories, and I also have one that would fit right here. During my first summer, there was a trash container that we couldn’t move for some reason. Like, even us three dudes in our late teens/early twenties couldn’t move that thing. So, we followed the protocol and just ignored it (it’s not our responsibility to collect it if it’s unmovable).
After a few days, the man who the trash belonged to waited for us and asked us why we didn’t collect it. We took the time to explain the situation, and he very calmly told us that he poured some concrete into his trash because people kept knocking it down. I’m not even joking, half of his trash was filled with concrete.
Flabbergasted, we basically told him that he had no right to do that (the trash belong to the city), but when we told him that, he got angry and started yelling at us, saying that our attitude was “unacceptable” and he called us “lowlifes”. He then proceeded to take the bags out of his trash, threw them on the floor and told us to pick it up.
A Terrible Teacher Shut-Out
When I was teaching a fourth-grade class in England for one year, the headmaster told me that there was a teacher returning from maternity leave and they would be team-teaching with me. Alright, that’s fine. Turns out that meant that I would only be teaching half the week, but I would still need to mark everything, including the stuff I didn’t teach. Not cool, but whatever. Soon, I was locked out of meetings with parents. I wasn’t considered the “classroom teacher” anymore, and I wasn’t allowed access to my classroom on the days when I was in the school but didn’t teach. I knew they were trying to push me out. I almost lost it one day when a parent had asked to have a meeting with me, and when I went to the meeting, I was told by the head teacher that my team teacher was attending instead, and they didn’t need me. I quit two days later. I was so mad.
Criticizing a Difficult Teaching Job
When a parent told me that the only reason I was a special education teacher was that I “wasn’t good enough to teach normal kids.” Even thinking about it now gets me heated.
A Literally Crappy Accident Prevention Meeting
We have meetings on accident prevention every time a major accident in our company happens. Every time. A couple years ago, a man straining too hard going to the bathroom passed out and fell forward, leaving a large gash on his forehead and a concussion. Imagine sitting around with eight other people discussing how to prevent head injuries while on the toilet.
A Sarcastic Slip of Disappointment
About six months ago, I’m sitting in a meeting with high-level Microsoft reps along with all of the management and directors of our IT department. Essentially, it was a meeting where Microsoft was trying to sing the praises of their InTune product. I had been demonstrating it internally for three months, and they wanted to get my feedback.
So I gave it to them.
They were expecting me to come out and announce my love for it, but I gave them my honest feedback with many reasons and examples about why it wasn’t right for our organization. After about 10 minutes, the lead InTune guy started talking over me and changing the subject.
The meeting ends, and I start getting ready to leave when the InTune guy hands me his card and says something about looking forward to working together. I took his card and involuntarily said, “Oh boy.” In front of my boss … and my director … and all these Microsoft managers.
I didn’t sleep that night. By far the most unprofessional moment of my career.
Proud University President Letting One Rip
I used to work at a university, and we had a staff Christmas party. The president acts all friendly and even rolls up his sleeves to serve ice cream to the peons.
Anyway, he was up on stage giving an inspirational end of the year speech when he rips a massive fart. There was dead silence, but I couldn’t handle it and just burst out laughing. Everybody else followed suit and for a good two minutes, the entire room was dying from laughter.
I felt really bad because he recently had some kind of stomach surgery and probably couldn’t control it, but it was hilarious.
Assisting a Super-Sweet Celebrity
I work for a performance venue that has a lot of guest artists come in, some of them very well-known. No matter who it is, we’re expected to be absolutely professional around them. It’s a point of pride for me that I’m able to stay collected in front of some pretty famous people. But it’s really hard sometimes.
The one that stands out most is a year ago when we had an actress visiting who I was a huge fan of. Not exactly a celebrity, but someone anyone who has watched a decent amount of sci-fi TV would recognize. I was asked to basically be her assistant for the day. I had to fight the whole time to keep from completely fangirling out on her. She was also really sweet and awesome and basically just hung out with me when she wasn’t rehearsing.
When she left, she gave me big hug and a card thanking me for taking such good care of her. No joke, I considered having it framed. I definitely still have it somewhere.
A Hysterical “Escorting” Miscommunication
I used to work for a company that scheduled personal support workers to go see seniors in their home. I was taking over the desk from somebody else who did a similar job but with slight differences. I picked up the phone, and a nice elderly gentleman calmly stated that he would like to order an escort. The only escort I had ever heard of at the time was of the nice pretty ladies that you can take out for a “good time”. I had a hard time believing that this gentleman thought that our company provided this kind of service. I didn’t quite know what to say, but I remained professional and I requested a bit more detail just to be sure I understood what he was asking for.
Turns out our company also provided personal support workers to take the elderly to and from medical appointments. Because the desk/region I coordinated didn’t provide this kind of service, I was unaware that our company as a whole provided this kind of service. Needless to say, I’m glad I kept my composure.
Unbearably Cruel Parent
When a parent of one of my students said, “Tick tock, you don’t have forever,” referring to me having children … a week after I had a miscarriage.
Unbelievably Unmotivated “Quality Control” Worker
I used to work at a full-service car wash and there were some complaints, so management hired a quality control guy who made more money than those who had been there for years who had never washed a car in his life. But nonetheless, he was an extra pair of hands.
Every single day the guy was not only late, but like two hours late and since he was the manager’s friend, they didn’t fire him. And the cherry on top was that he drank too much the night before.
In the car wash realm, every person matters. If you’re late, now the other guys there are stuck doing more work, but they don’t get paid for it. One car in the bay is fine, but when five or six would pull up we’d be short-handed. 15 minutes of extra work is one thing, but two hours?!
Side-Splitting Build-a-Bear Voice Recording
I was helping a man make a bear for his wife’s birthday, and he wanted to record his voice to put inside of it. Let me preface this by saying this dude was like a 6’7″ black dude that was also a cop. This large man kneels down at the tiny sound station and says into the mic in his deep voice, “You know you the sexiest thang I ever seen in my life, right?”. I tried my hardest not to lose it. I set up the sound to download, turned around, and held myself together as best I could. I lost it as soon as he left.
Personal Nightmare During 12-Hour Shift
I found out my fiance had been cheating on me about an hour into a 12-hour overnight hotel desk shift. I still want my Oscar for no customers seeing the inner turmoil of my life ripping itself apart through the veneer of customer service polish.
Perfect Moment for Pettiness
I’m a special education teacher. My boss knows nothing about special ed (small district, they’re also a principal) and doesn’t trust anything I say. I suggest an idea and am immediately shot down. She calls in an expensive PhD consultant. I meet the consultant at the door and, while chatting, tell her my idea. We go to a meeting with my boss. Consultant shares my idea. Boss loves it to high heaven, and no one seems to realize I had shared it with both of them. Hard to keep my mouth shut and not be petty, especially when the district shelled out dollars to hear what I had said all along.
Perfect Puppy-Dog Sabotage
Having a young kid stamp on my feet as his mother was busy on her phone, laughing about it. I told him his mom had a puppy waiting at home for him after they go to McDonald’s.
It was worth the official warning.
Crack-Up Over Iced Coffee
It was my first day as a cashier, and the customer’s bottle of cold brew Starbucks coffee wouldn’t scan because the barcode ran along the ridges. The customer asked, “Does that mean it’s free?”
Totally cracked me up and I about lost it. Now that I’ve been on the job a while, I realize that is a cliched joke, but my family is American Gothic serious so I didn’t grow up with any humor in my household.
Ridiculous Request From a Failing Student’s Parent
I had a student miss 68 days of my class in a 90 day semester. The reason she missed was because my class was “too early” in the morning. The school calls the house every day a kid is absent in any class and sends letters. Grades are available online at any time, and letters are sent home saying when kids are in danger of failing. The child, shockingly, did not pass my class. She ended up with about a 40 — a passing grade is a 70.
The mom called me after finals saying that I should pass the kid because she was “pretty close” to passing and that’s pretty good for missing that many days. She said that if she had come every day, she absolutely would have passed, so I needed to pass her because Mom wanted her to graduate on time. She would not stop arguing with me, although there was no way I was going to pass the kid.
I’ve never had to restrain myself so much from cursing at someone or just flat out hanging the phone up on her.
Mistreatment From the Money Makers
I used to work for a failing (it still is) online marketing company. The sales department was under pressure and stressed out, since if they didn’t meet some crazy goal, they were immediately let go. I was not in sales, but rather fulfillment.
I had to work with sales every single day. These people were allowed to say or do anything to us that they wanted because they were the ones bringing in money (to a failing business that needed it). On my end, we worked with a vendor who basically took our instructions and did as poor of a job as possible because they were cheap and there was a language barrier (overseas). So whenever they messed up, sales took it out on us. I’ve been cussed out, called stupid, told I was terrible at my job, told that it’s insane that I actually got hired since I’m so incompetent, etc. They could say this without so much as a slap on the wrist, and they were even on recorded lines. I have since quit said job, but there were so many times that I wanted to tell them how I really felt on the phone then just walk out.
An Impressive Clap-Back in College Meeting
Early in my career, I worked at a university help desk. It usually wasn’t that difficult, but a series of events changed that. There was a hiring freeze, and some people left, so we were short staffed. Our manager was relatively inexperienced and scared of her manager, so she would do whatever he asked and never stood up for us. Since I was young and inexperienced, I usually just kept silent and bit my tongue.
One day, we were in a meeting with my manager and her boss when they announced yet another duty we would be taking on despite being severely short-staffed already. I shook my head but didn’t say anything. They noticed this and asked what I thought. I told them it wasn’t important, and to continue. They kept pressing me, and something snapped. I started with “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard … ” and proceeded to rant for the next few minutes, and for some reason, nobody stopped me.
I finally came to my senses, left the meeting and went to my desk to start packing it up. I was certain I was fired. Oddly enough, I didn’t get fired, but I did get a “discussion” about my concerns. I believe if we hadn’t been in a hiring freeze, I would have been fired.
Brushing Off a Bad Student
I was giving a quiz at the end of class when this bad student ducked out about halfway through, and I asked who was missing. When someone said it was that guy, I said, “Ah, forget that guy,” and it got a laugh, but it was unprofessional.
Diminished for Being Female
When I’m treated like a secretary by older male colleagues because I’m a young woman. I’m in a management position. Google that yourself, Steve, I have real work to do.