Count your blessings. Sure, we’ve all been charged with boring or unpleasant tasks at work. But trust us, it could be worse.
Not convinced? Since misery loves company, we looked to question-and-answer site Quora for some insights into the worst thing a boss has ever asked someone to do in a job. Here’s what some truly miserable employees (and former employees) had to say.
Truly dirty business
When there is dirty work to do, some bosses know exactly how to handle it: they call their underlings. Marti LaChance had to “scoop up a mass of dead and decaying mice corpses piled up under the grocery store's dog food display. They'd been exterminated. And I was the lucky bagger who got to clean up the mess.”
That grimy task pales in comparison to this truly filthy one, however. “As a very junior flight attendant on [a major airline], I was asked by a superior to dissolve an exceptionally large turd that would not flush, with approximately three large jugs of boiling water,” wrote an anonymous Quora respondent. “There are no words to describe the horror. The smell. The visuals. The unspeakable dread of billions of microscopic fecal matter making their way in my direction. For the record, these efforts did nothing to help the turd along its way.”
Take a bath!
Matt Wartell found himself asking an odiferous and greasy colleague to shower when his boss felt too uncomfortable to approach the person.
“During my undergraduate years I worked in a theoretical physics group,” wrote Wartell. “In all my travels I've never seen a group of people so clearly on the thin line between genius and madness... These are people who — as a regular part of their work — will go into their office with one equation which they will spend months developing a solution for. They often forget to sleep and eat. Sometimes they forget to bathe.”
Enter the boss’s outlandish request. “There was one guy, whom I'll call Fred, who hadn't bathed in at least a month,” wrote Wartell, whose boss tasked him to getting Fred cleaned up. Wartell wrote that he spent 20 minutes trying to tactfully let his colleague know “what the issue was and that it should be corrected.”
The subtle bathing equation didn’t seem to compute for Fred, though. Finally Wartell pulled out the harsh ultimatum, telling Fred, “Professor X says you are not to return to the office until you have showered and changed,” he wrote. “This finally got through to him and 30 minutes later all was well and the Fred issue was never an issue again.”
Superiors sometimes use underlings to hide or cover up their own nefarious activities. Aaron Wallis once had to “clean up leftover drugs my boss consumed on my desk the previous evening.”
This simple act had some pretty serious consequences. “I must not have done a very good job as later that week I flew interstate for work and was picked up by security sniffer dogs,” wrote Wallis. “I was strip-searched.”
When Manlio Lo Conte was just 16, he worked at a dry cleaners in Massachusetts. One of his jobs was to empty out the liquid waste from the dry cleaning process. He asked his boss what to do with the dangerous chemicals once he had them in a bucket. According to Lo Conte, the boss said: “Some of that is water and some of that is dangerous chemicals… The chemicals are blue. Go dump the water in the toilet but don't dump the blue stuff... Well, you can dump some of the blue stuff.”
“So every day, I dumped what I can only imagine was an illegal amount of "blue stuff" down the Massachusetts sewage system,” Lo Conte wrote.
Stephen Newton had a particularly miserable task. He was asked “to pick two out of 10 of my close co-workers that the company should layoff.”
What is the worst, most unpleasant, inappropriate or unethical thing a superior has ever asked you to perform at work? Share your experience on our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.
Quora respondents are required to use their true names under the site’s Real Names policy. To help ensure legitimacy and quality, Quora asks some individuals, such as doctors and lawyers, to confirm their expertise.