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3 Horror Stories About Workers’ Worst First Day of Work

Topics: Work Culture
first day of work
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Heading into your first day at a new job? If you’re like most brand-new employees, you’re probably just hoping it all goes smoothly.

A lot can go wrong on your first day, from late trains to spilled coffee. But when the disasters are big — and we mean BIG — it can be hard to see a silver lining.

Here are a few tales that can inspire you to move forward, even when you get off to a rocky start.

1. Bad Times at the Helm

Congratulations! You’re in charge!

When you’re the new boss, whether you’re managing a small group or your own business, it can be super scary. But when a 17-year-old student pilot took off for her first solo flight (a right of passage for all students seeking their pilot’s license) she wasn’t expecting the wheel to fall off  — literally.

The pilot, whose name wasn’t released, lost a wheel on takeoff and had to make a careful landing.

“The teen’s instructor and officials in the airport tower guided her through the procedure and technique for landing and provided support until she felt comfortable executing the landing, said Gloria Bouillon, the airport’s manager,” wrote Alejandro Serrano at The Boston Globe.

What you can learn from this young pilot’s travails are threefold:

  • When problems occur, don’t be afraid to ask for help, even if you’re “in charge” and new.
  • Take an assessment anytime a problem occurs. What could you have done differently?
  • Don’t be afraid to take the reins again!

Starting a new job? Here’s how to navigate the first three months.

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2. The Vanishing New Girl

Some folks start a job and immediately realize it’s not for them. Some folks vanish accidentally. For one newbie, it was a complicated door lock system that put her out of pocket on her first day.

“Mid-morning, I got up to use the loo and forgot to take my keycard with me,” related Tessa at Total Jobs. “I found myself locked out of sight in between two of the outer and inner doors. All I could do was wait until somebody came to find me, problem is that it’s only a small company so not many people work here. I was waiting a full two hours before anybody discovered me, they thought I’d gone home!”

While Tessa probably didn’t ever forget her keycard again, there are some pitfalls that could be avoided at your next first day on the job:

  • Get main contact phone numbers in your phone before day one. They might include your boss, HR, or even an emergency contact.
  • Go over any protocols several times. You’re going to get a lot of new information on your first day, including where to park/arrive, what’s needed for security, etc.
  • Laugh it off! While I’m sure Tessa’s coworkers had a good laugh about her mistake, that isn’t a reason to run for the hills. Enjoy having a bonding moment with your new coworkers that neither you nor they will forget.

3. “Are You My Manager?”

Sometimes, things are tough for reasons beyond your control. And, no matter how tough your first day turns out to be, chances are, it won’t top the experience of this Lifehacker commenter, who arrived at work to find that their entire team had been laid off:

Showed up and the HR manager informed me that my group had been laid off but don’t worry, we have plenty of opportunities for you here. She then proceeded to walk me around from manager to manager asking if they needed a new hire.

The first few scoffed because if they had budget for another employee, they’d have asked for one obviously. Finally she found a manager willing to take me and she left.

I didn’t know what they did, they didn’t know my qualifications. They didn’t have anything ready for me so I spent the first week in a computer lab while they negotiated for office space with another group.

My network login had been requested by and assigned to the group that had been laid off so every morning an automated process would inactivate my account.

How to Have aN excellent First Day of Work:

First impressions are important. On your first day, make sure that you’re radiating all the attributes that got you hired. Besides staying productive, on-time, informed and reliable, you should also try to:

  • Get connected: Meet and greet your coworkers, especially team members, and try to learn something interesting or personal about them. It’ll help you build connections and also give you insight into who does what.
  • Don’t offend. Look, keep the crass at home. Don’t go overboard and judge those you don’t know. Watch the blue humor, keep things PG-rated and avoid all those topics that might ruin your first impression.
  • Don’t worry about making a mistake — you can clean it up. It’s not the end of the world if you come off as nervous, goofy, or even a little scattered on your first meetings. It’s to be expected, and you can work to remedy any weirdness.

“Don’t be afraid to initiate some real talk, and fess up that you know how weird you came off and want to re-establish yourself,” wrote Gina Escandon at Her Campus. “Your boss or co-worker will appreciate your transparency. Apologizing doesn’t have to be embarrassing. Recognizing a problem openly shows that you value the preservation of your relationship.”


What’s your worst tale from a first day at work? We want to hear from you (really)! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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