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Friday Fail: Worst Workplace Romance
 

Tired of success stories? Every Friday on Inc.com we bring you epic tales of failure and shame. This week: Good lovin' gone bad in the office.

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Most people like a good success story, but who can resist an epic tale of disaster, humiliation, embarrassment, and shame? I know I can't.

Here's how the Inc. Friday Fail works: Every Friday I post a new topic, invite readers to send in their favorite stories, and publish the best the following week.

Last week's topic was The Worst Fireable Offense.

This week it's Worst Workplace Romance: The dumbest fling, the one with the worst consequences, the one that was carried out less than discreetly...

Here we go:

4. The Telltale Hands

I am a waiter (I'm female but we are all called "waiters") in a hipster restaurant in NYC. We wear white blouses, black skirts, black hose, and small black aprons. One of the other girls had a thing for one of the chefs. She was like a frenzied Halley's Comet, somehow her orbit took her into one of the pantries every time a certain chef went inside. They would only be in there for a minute or so, so it was no big deal.

Until one day. She came out and sashayed by me. I turned to look and she had two white flour handprints on her apron. I started to track her down but the owner got to her first. She took off her apron kind of sheepishly and scurried away.

Too bad there were white handprints on her skirt too.—Michaela

3. All That Glitters...

Sometimes the owner and a few of his "boys" go out for lunch and come back smelling like they took a perfume bath, and not in a sparkling, lingering, subtle hint of flower kind of way either. They come back smelling like a French ladies of ill repute house.

The smell was bad enough but then I started noticing glitter on the conference room table and chairs. Hmm, glitter and perfume? I'm not a rocket scientist, but it was easy to figure out. There are a few "gentlemen's clubs" near our office.

One day my wife noticed glitter on the back of my sweater. It had to come from a conference room chair. She found that hard to believe, but luckily she let it go.

Evidently something similar happened to one of the owner's buddies, so now the cleaning staff pays extra attention to all the chairs and upholstery in our office.

I'm not sure it will help, because one of our new temps, whose credentials are suspect but charms are undeniable, seems to be a real fan of glitter.—Bernardus

2. 50/50

You're probably looking for funny stories but this one isn't. The owners of the company I worked for were married and each owned half of the business. Not 51/49, but 50/50. The wife walked into his office one day and told him she wanted a divorce. (I sat at the desk right outside of his office so I heard everything.) First he begged, then he cried, then he started yelling. Ugly.

Two weeks later he starts dating a sales rep. Openly. He figures his wife wants a divorce, so what does she care. Well, she does care. So she fires the sales rep. He hires her back. She fires her again. He doesn't hire her back because now he's dating a woman in accounting. So I guess her getting fired worked out for him after all.

Then the wife starts dating some guy who works in the warehouse. Somehow that guy gets promoted a week after they start dating. Then she dumps him. At least he got to keep his promotion.

What had been a pretty good company was a disaster.

They eventually got a divorce but they both kept equal ownership shares and still work there. I don't, though.—Name withheld by request

1. Roll the Videotape

Years ago the company I worked for decided to install security cameras in various parts of the facility. Some were for security reasons, like at entrance doors, but others were supposed to cut down on employee theft. Seemed a little Big Brother-ish, but it was hard to complain since the only reason you can get upset is if you get caught doing something you shouldn't be doing, right?

The company installs the cameras over a weekend when people are off. On Monday they come in to demo the system. Me, the CEO, the controller, and a few other managers are sitting in the conference room watching the tech scroll through different views from different cameras.

We sat there kind of bored until we got a view of one of the supply rooms. Two employees were getting intimate. Because of the camera angle we could see his face but not hers.

"Is that...?" someone said.

"Yep," someone answered. "That's the HR manager."

"Who's the woman?" someone else asked. "I don't recognize her but she looks kinda hot."

The CEO, who was the most buttoned-down, formal, by the book person I ever met, shocked us all when he said, "She is kinda hot."

We stared at him. "Well, I should know," he said. "I think that's my wife."

The HR manager was fired but oddly enough the CEO's wife kept her job.—Ian

Next week's Friday Fail Topic: Strangest Policies. Describe the goofiest procedure, or the most far-fetched policy, or the guideline that makes the least possible sense.

Send your stories to fridayfail@blackbirdinc.com. If you want to remain anonymous, let me know.

Then tune in next Friday!

Last updated: Apr 13, 2012

JEFF HADEN learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.
@jeff_haden




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