15 People Reveal Their All-Time Most Traumatic Work Experience


1. Claire, 30

I felt so glamorous when I landed a job at an art gallery in a ritzy neighborhood in Paris. My expectations were shattered on day one, though, when I was handed a few sheets of printing paper and told to scrape the dog shit off the sidewalk outside our front window—in the pouring rain, without an umbrella. As soon as I stepped back inside, the shit fell through the moistened paper onto the expensive dress I’d bought for my first day and onto the gallery floor. Guess who had to mop? Six years of higher education just to scoop poop.

2. Abigail, 29

I like old people, and I thought it would be really rewarding to work in a nursing home setting. What I didn’t know is that dementia is common among the patients at the geriatric center that hired me. Do you know how frustrating it is to introduce yourself to the people you’re caring for several times a day for months on end? I reached my breaking point the day old Marge accused me of intruding, and then threw a sopping wet adult diaper in my face.

3. Larry, 34

I used to work in the photo department of a major department store. On a daily basis I’d have to develop hundreds of pictures, and a lot of them were totally pornographic, featuring the least attractive people on the planet. Of course the one afternoon my female boss decided to look over my shoulder as I opened a pack of DIY porn, I got a raging boner. I’ve never felt more awkward than the moment she said, “Guess it’s hard not to be intrigued.”

4. Polly, 23

I worked for a New York socialite who had her own small event planning firm. Not surprisingly, she was a total narcissist and a stress junkie. My first week on the job, she decided to start calling me by my middle name because she liked it more than my first name. The final straw came a few months later when she abandoned proper names altogether and starting referring to me as “little girl.” I’m actually pretty short, so I probably should have sued her for discrimination or something.

5. Grace, 28

I took a job in a hospital morgue, assisting with autopsies. I thought I could handle it but the first time they wheeled a dead person in, I straight up fainted from the stench.

6. Helena, 27

When I was sixteen I got a summer job working at a run-down dog shelter. I was paid about 9 bucks an hour to work in the sweltering heat. The first task assigned to me was to bury a dead puppy and it sucked as much as you’d think. I buried dozens of dead puppies that summer.

7. Charles, 35

I worked at a mid-sized advertising firm for a decade, clawing my way up the corporate ladder. The worst was finding out that the guy who was promoted over me time and again had been shooting heroin in the office bathroom for years. When a serious drug addict outperforms you it’s hard not to feel completely demoralized.

8. Lance, 29

I’m an actor, but I worked as an executive assistant at a hedge fund for years to make ends meet. The job was insanely dull so I had to find creative ways to entertain myself in between fielding calls and directing visitors to various offices and conference rooms. One of my favorite things to do was masturbate on my lunch breaks. Unfortunately I forgot to lock the door one day and one of my colleagues walked in on me. The most disturbing thing is that he didn’t flinch at all. He stood there a minute and stared, as if he wanted to watch. I quit that day.

9. Gregory, 40

When I was living in Kentucky I took a job harvesting tobacco. It was backbreaking work but I don’t mind physical labor. What I wasn’t prepared for is that you end up covered in sap and strung out like you’ve just come off a three-day meth binge. I guess your skin absorbs all the nicotine and pesticides. I had to quit after the third day I came home with the shakes, like I’d just smoked twenty cartons of cigarettes.

10. Louis, 31

At the prestigious architecture firm where I worked the senior people did none of the work but got all the perks. They would take leisurely lunches and dinners, but they would scream at anyone junior who dared to pause for more than five minutes to go to the bathroom. They had massive expense accounts and enormous salaries, buy they didn’t actually contribute anything. There’s only so long a person can be exploited. The morning one of my superiors instant messaged me demanding that I charge his phone (mind you, the charger was five feet from him and a solid 100 feet away from me), I lost my shit, Office Space style. I marched over to his desk, grabbed his monitor and slammed it on the floor. Needless to say, I didn’t return the next day.

11. Natalie, 30

As a Teaching Assistant I worked for a professor who was the laziest person I’d ever met. He was tenured, so I guess he wasn’t all that motivated. When I caught him scribbling grades on a stack of papers one by one without reading a word of the students’ essays, I thought about quitting. Instead, I told him I’d be taking the next two weeks off and there was nothing he could do about it.

12. Anne, 32

During high school I had a summer job at a popular sandwich franchise. The job wasn’t all that bad but my boss was the creepiest man I’ve ever dealt with. One morning I woke up to a text that said “I had a dream about you. You sandwiched my dick in a hotdog bun and started licking it.” I cried because I knew I couldn’t go in to work and I’d have to find another gig.

13. Sam, 25

I worked construction on weekends throughout college for extra money. It was really good pay. What ruined it for me was realizing where the money came from. My boss would always ask me to deliver a canvas tote to some random location on my way home. One night I bothered to look inside and found a ridiculous amount of cash. I was essentially a bag man for the Mafia, which is pretty terrifying. Luckily I graduated a short time later. I still watch my back more than I used to.

14. Victoria, 28

When I was granted a three-day trial for my dream job at a major global news website I was doing cartwheels. But an hour into day one, it became apparent that I was woefully unfamiliar with the process of fast-churn news: A vast silent room full of whip-smart people typing furiously under several deadlines a day, using computer programs and databases I didn’t even know existed. I spent three days paralyzed with terror during the day and sobbing into my pillow at night. At the end of my last shift, the head of human resources asked if I’d like another trial—as a dishwasher in the cafeteria. In retrospect I should probably thank her for the motivation that kickstarted my career. I’m now a successful editor at a glossy lifestyle magazine.

15. Stanley, 26

After being laid off, I was down and out in Mexico. I needed cash badly, so I took a job on the fly working at a hardware repair shop on the highway. The owner taught me how to receive orders, and trusted me with the keys immediately. We would open the shop together in the early morning, and then he would be gone most of the day on business. I would lock the shop in the evenings. Then one day he just didn’t show up to work. The people next door said he’d disappeared. It was all so shady, I got out of dodge as soon as possible. The shop had .

thumbnail image – Phil and Pam Gradwell