2015’s Loathsome, Odd, Heartwarming Workplace Stories

By Kathy Gurchiek Dec 30, 2015
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Did you hear about the Seattle employee who fell asleep on the job and woke up midair? What about “No Face Day” held at one company in China, or the dramatic steps one employee in the United Kingdom took to thwart a lunchroom thief? This year had its share of head-shaking, eye-rolling and heart-tugging workplace tales from around the globe.

Milking a Situation

Don’t you hate it when someone at the office steals your lunch items from the communal refrigerator? One man in the United Kingdom was tired of someone stealing the milk he brought for his cup of tea. He took matters into his own hands by padlocking the cap of his milk carton so the container could only be opened with a key. Take that, milk mooch!

‘No Face Day’

Employees at a property services company in China got a break from the “service with a smile” dictum when they were allowed to wear grinning or smiling masks to hide their facial expressions and avoid stressful social interactions, according to news reports. The event was one of the monthly “relaxation days” the company sponsors.

‘Doggone’ Rug

The sheriff’s office in Pinellas County, Fla., probably could have used a mask to hide its embarrassment over a rug that it ordered for the office. The new, $500 forest-green rug with a yellow badge in the center was lovely—except that the words bordering the badge design read “In Dog We Trust” instead of “In God We Trust.” Maybe someone thought it was for the canine unit?

The sheriff turned the typo into a windfall, though, when he decided to auction off the rug. It sold for $9,650 and the proceeds were donated to a local animal shelter, which planned on using most of the funds for veterinarian bills.

Falling Asleep on the Job

A baggage handler’s early morning shift at a Seattle airport turned into an unintentional jaunt when he fell asleep in the cargo hold of a flight bound for Los Angeles. The contract employee started work at 5 a.m. and was scheduled to end his shift at 2:30 p.m. Team members realized he was missing after they had loaded the baggage onto the flight. Attempts to reach him went unanswered and they assumed he had finished work and gone home, according to an NBC News report. Nope, the man had fallen asleep in the pressurized, temperature-controlled cargo hold and didn’t wake up until 15 minutes after the plane was aloft. His banging and cries alerted passengers and crew to the situation, prompting pilots to make an emergency return to Seattle.

Pretend Funerals

Writing farewell letters to their families and lying in a coffin are part of an exercise for select employees at some companies in South Korea. Before stepping inside the coffin, they are shown videos of people in adversity, such as a cancer sufferer making the most of her final days. Once inside the coffin, the boxes are banged shut by a man dressed to represent the Angel of Death. The country has one of the highest suicide rates in the world and the ritual is aimed at impressing upon participants the value of life and helping them come to terms with their own problems, according to a BBC News report.

Faking Cancer

A former agent with the Transportation Security Administration at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airportfaked abdominal cancer to take advantage of more than a year’s worth of sick leave pay donated by federal employees—an estimated $60,000 in salary and benefits—according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The purported scam went on for five years; it came to light after the 42-year-old man submitted medical paperwork to his employer from a doctor who had died several months earlier. The employee resigned in January 2015 after his fraud was exposed and pleaded guilty in U.S. district court.

Abhorrent Behavior

A team-building exercise went horribly wrong when a few HSBC bank employees in the U.K. made a 7-second video of a mock ISIS beheading that they posted on Instagram, Business Insider reported. The employees involved in the video were fired and the Instagram clip was deleted.

Return to Sender

Comcast customer Lisa Brown decided to cut back on services to trim her expenses, and was surprised when she opened her Comcast bill two weeks later to find it was addressed to A--hole Brown. She marched down to her local Comcast office and showed them the bill. Employees were apologetic, but Brown wanted to speak to someone higher up. The senior vice president phoned and assured her that the employee who wrote the offensive address was fired. Additionally, Comcast promised to refund what Brown had paid in services over the last two years—nearly $3,900, CNN reported.

A Generous Employer

A Chinese billionaire grabbed headlines in May when he gave an all-expenses-paid, four-day trip to France to 6,400 employees of his China-based global pharmaceutical conglomerate to celebrate the company’s 20th anniversary. The lucky staffers started their trip in Paris, where Tiens company CEO Li Jinyuan had booked 140 hotels, and then traveled to Cannes and Monaco where they stayed in four- and five-star hotels. The trip’s overall cost was estimated at between $14.5 million and $22.3 million, according to a news report from Entrepreneur.

Act of Employee Kindness

The kindness that a 17-year-old Hardee’s employee showed an elderly woman was illustrated in a video that went viral over the summer. Kailen Young was outside washing windows one July day when he stopped to help the woman, who was walking with a cane, to her car across the parking lot. A man pumping gas across the street snapped the gallant moment and posted it to Hardee’s Facebook page. More than 26 million people saw the photo and it was liked more than 480 times. Hardee’s corporate office rewarded the teen with a $1,000 bonus. Young planned to use the money for school when he attends the University of Tennessee.

Making a Child’s Dream Come True

For Dylan Johnson’s 14th birthday last September, his mother, Jodie, wanted to do something special. Dylan, who is autistic, loves vacuum cleaners—specifically, Kirby vacuums—and spent hours each day watching videos of different Kirby products, ABC News reported. His mother planned to have a cake baked to look like a Kirby vacuum and wrote the Kirby company to see if a salesperson in training would give a demo at the boy’s party. She even offered to pay a fee. The company sent Dylan a soccer ball, hat and T-shirt with the Kirby logo. What made the day extra special, though, was veteran Kirby salesman Al Archie, who made the nearly 90-minute drive to the family’s home to perform a demo. He also presented Dylan with one more gift: a new Kirby vacuum.

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News. Follow her on Twitter @SHRMwriter.

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