Company Culture

BOO! These work ‘horror stories’ really are the stuff of nightmares

From hellish bosses to an email that will haunt you forever, these are spooky workplace tales to tell in the dark.

A real horror.

(Photo by Pexels user Andri via a Creative Commons license)

Try as you might, it’s hard to exist in the workforce right now without a scary story or two (or three, or four) under your belt.

Between bosses who make things go bump in the night, hiring managers who ghost you, or coworkers who haunt you long past the job you shared, the job market can be a pretty scary place.

In honor of spooky season and Halloween this week, we wanted to hear from the community: What are some of the scariest “horror” stories you’ve experienced at work?

And our readers really delivered (some anonymously to protect the innocent). So dim the lights, throw on a scary sounds soundtrack and tuck into these bone-chilling scenarios:

When your office is infested with creatures …

“I tried to tough it out, but I was searching for a new job at just four months. I had more industry experience than those who hired me, which made for a lot of uncomfortable situations and dynamics,” one of our respondents said. “The position ended up being based in a windowless office that had many rats and bugs. I left before the one year mark — still without the benefits I’d been promised at the start. I felt pretty spoiled just being in a normal work environment (with an HR team!) after that.”

When everyone but you quit …

“I used to work as a reporter for a publication in this city where things were so bad that the entire editorial and marketing staff left. I and one other reporter were the only ones left in the newsroom with two interns,” one reader wrote to us. “It was horrible. I started having nightmares, couldn’t sleep, and because we were short-staffed none of our deadlines were being met. The editor even started telling me to make up stories and positioned me as the token black person, which was very uncomfortable.”


When something smells deadly …

“The president of the company would bring his German shepherd to the office. I love dogs, so great, right?” Managing Editor Julie Zeglen shared. “Not when it would occasionally poop on the floor in the hallway by our offices — like, more than once. Talk about a haunting smell.”

When your current job is a nightmare …

“I love the company I work for but my boss has said — and I quote — I’m ‘learning on the job’ and am a ‘junior’ role,” this reader said. “Dismissing years of experience I’ve gained in managing an entire company, having multiple jobs at once, and owning my own business. I don’t think I’m long for this job in the name of my dignity.”

When you’re haunted by your ex …

“My then-significant other and I were hired at the same large company in different offices fresh out of college. He was transferred to my office after about a year, and shortly after, we broke up,” one reader wrote. “Not only was the job becoming increasingly terrible, but three days a week, I had to work about six feet from my ex surrounded by coworkers who didn’t know we’d ever been dating. That lasted about five months before I was able move jobs.”

When the subject line is spooky …

“I was laid off by email at 9:30 at night a few years back,” one Slack user said. “I have a ton of mutual friends with this person and not a day goes by when I don’t think about burning some bridges. SUBJECT: sorry man.”

Join the Slack

When the boss is a shit-stirrer …

“The VP of my department spread lies and made shit up about people literally just for drama. And I know it’s true because it got back to me — from my manager — that he was telling people that I cried and said, ‘I know I wasn’t your favorite but why did I have to be furloughed!’ when I was furloughed last year,” one Twitter user told me. “Pretty sure he’s also responsible for literally turning my manager and my coworker against each other and also behind my coworker stealing all my projects and clout. Great place!”

When the clients send you porn …

Years ago, I worked for a video compression startup. Like a lot startups, we were tight on cash and took any work we could find. We nabbed a decent contract with a company that placed cable boxes in Korean hotels. Onboarding any new client involved getting a test video from them and then running it through our compression algorithm. Our team would spend hundreds of hours scrutinizing the same piece of footage over and over again, looking for traces of pixilation or other flaws. This usually meant we’d have to watch the same 20-minute clip of snow falling for weeks on end,” Joe Cotellese, cofounder of ClipDish, explained.

“But that’s not the type of video our new hotel client sent. When we popped in their tape, we were greeted by a couple of naked Koreans who were clearly enjoying their own hotel room. Yes, they sent us porn. So, for the next few weeks we studied this porn intently as we fine-tuned tuned the algorithm. By the time we were done, we knew these people’s bodies better than their doctors did.

“In the end, we delivered the software and lived to fight another day. Sometimes, to get to the top, you must stare at some bottoms.”

When an email will haunt you forever …

“A few years ago, an HR team was sending over paperwork for an employee who was going through a disciplinary process. Instead of sending it to the individual employee, they accidentally sent it to the entire team,” wrote Alison DiFlorio, managing partner of Exude’s Human Capital Consulting Division, in an email. “Moral of the story — remind employees of email etiquette and remind them to double check everything before sending.”

When the boss is an actual monster …

“The owner sent an email to the entire company declaring that no one was allowed to go #2 at work anymore and anyone caught violating the ‘policy’ would be immediately publicly shamed. And yes, he did follow up with that, both in writing and by shouting it throughout the office,” a Slack user wrote.

Also: “My first day at work, the CEO called me into his office and showed me a video on YouTube called ‘Ass Dance,’ which was — you guessed it — a woman shaking said ass while rolling around in a pile of money. He then looked at me and said, ‘What do you think of this video? And btw, this is your actual job interview.’ GROSS.”

When the flight’s a fright …

“My first job in the marketing field was with an agency based out of Rhode Island. I was the only remote employee. They flew me out and back in one day which wasn’t typical. I knew something was up,” Jen Reid, director of operations at Tapp Network told us on Slack. “Mid-day they told us all they were laying off half of the company and moving fully remote. I was one of the people laid off. We all had to sit in the office together until the end of the day. It was so awkward.”

When you’re demoted on day one (but it turns out OK) …

“I interviewed for a creative director position at a television network. The interview went well, and the hiring managers seemed very relieved … they confessed that they had offered the job to a candidate they loved, but he had turned them down, and they were happy to find someone else they liked as much as him (me). They offered me the job (verbal) on the spot, and I said yes! I walked out of there thinking how fortunate I was that the other guy had passed on the job … but when I got home, there was a message on my voicemail from the hiring managers,” Marc Siry wrote in.

“In the twenty minutes between leaving the offices and returning home, the previous candidate had called back and asked for the job. The hiring managers explained to me that they were going to give it to him, but they still wanted me to join the company — in a new role, working for the Creative Director, the job I thought I had myself. When I met my new boss on my first day, I realized that not only was he a nice guy, he was actually more qualified, talented, and better suited for the job than I was. I quickly came to see that I had a lot to learn from this guy, and I settled in for what ended up being one of the most rewarding and growth oriented jobs of my career.”

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