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Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
What is your worst workplace blunder?

Thirty billion pounds were temporarily wiped off London's stock market as a result of an apparent blunder by a bank emloyee.

The finger of suspicion points to US investment bank Lehman Brothers where, according to traders, one employee executed a 300m sale order when either 30m or 3m had been intended.

The multi-billion blunder is expected to cost the young City trader involved his job. Not all blunders cost a job, but they can cause serious embarrassment.

Tell us about your worst blunders at work.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

I was once caught by my managing director wandering around our company's basement, with a large cardboard box on my head, pretending to be Dalek shouting 'Exterminate! Exterminate!' Does that count as a blunder? He never took me seriously again after that...
John B, UK

Not mine, but our loading bay staff managed to leave 0.5 million of highly sensitive computing backup equipment outside a door they said they couldn't get through. This was then compounded by forgetting about it and leaving it there for a week in sub-zero temperatures. Oops!
Sarah, UK

I know of a staffer at a Senator's office in Washington who had something of a crush on the Senator and, to make her boyfriend jealous, decided to fax him, on official headed paper, describing all the things she wanted to do to the Senator. Not knowing how to use the fax machine, she naturally pressed the button that said "press". Her fax went to every newspaper and TV station in the state.
Daniel, UK


I once accidentally deleted three years of archived data from a database

Roy, London, UK
I once accidentally deleted three years of archived data from a database. I was rather embarrassed by this blunder, but not as embarrassed as our database support team were when they tried to recover the lost data from the backup tapes: and found that all the backups made since the last software upgrade three months before were corrupt and unrecoverable. They made sure they verified all the backups after that.
Roy, London, UK

I used to drive tanks in the army. In the wide, open desert with absolutely no obstacles I fell asleep whilst asleep and drove my vehicle into the back end of another tank......cringe....
Garry, Scotland, UK

Rebooted the wrong server - resulting in collapse of a large international broker being unable to trade for about 2 hours while the systems desperately resynchronised. How many millions of $ worth of business were lost we never did find out.
Erik de Maunay, France

While I was working at an NHS laundry, the main washing machine (about 20m long) had broken down and was being repaired and re- welded. Unfortunately the Welder had earthed himself to the drum of the machine without realising it and as well as shooting across the building like Gonzo from the Muppets he managed to fuse all the electric's in the washer. The two-week repair delay cost us two major contracts and the laundry closed 6 months later! By then I was working for the local cable company, but that's a different story...
Philip, UK


In the end I thought it safer for all concerned to retire from the workplace

Christine, UK
Having had numerous and varied jobs, my blunders have also been numerous and varied, from turning a woman's hair green as an apprentice hairdresser, to putting overtime on half the mechanics' time cards at a factory while training in the office. In the end I thought it safer for all concerned to retire from the workplace.
Christine, UK

Based in Bedfont, Middlesex at the time, I was arranging an appointment for one of my sales managers in Hull. The person he was meeting with phoned the day before to postpone but I failed to pass on the message to the sales manager. The following day he phoned me from the car on his enormously long journey all chirpy and cheerful 'for a chat' on his boring journey and I happily talked to him totally forgetting about the postponement. A couple of hours later, he phoned again and his tone of voice was much more serious this time. You know that feeling when your heart disappears through the end of your toes at twice the speed of sound????
Sara Barnes, England

I found myself having a cup of coffee with my supervisor when a very attractive woman walked by. I made a low growl and remarked how great it would be to, well, get to know her better. It was his daughter.
Robert del Valle, USA

Some of these 'blunders' described here are actually very dangerous and if the right (or wrong) person saw them and decided to do something about it, they could track the confessor down and take serious action against then! Beware.
Nick, England


Mine was a blunder that could have cost me my job

Patrick, Northern Ireland
Mine was a blunder that could have cost me my job. A friend and I had been e-mailing each other about how much we hated my boss. I listed all kinds of rude remarks about him. Somehow I managed to accidentally forward the mail to the boss concerned. Fortunately I realised my mistake as it disappeared from my screen and I was able to sprint upstairs to the server room and catch it as it passed through the mail system about 30 seconds later! I had never gone up stairs four-at-a-time until then....
Patrick, Northern Ireland

My worse blunder - it still makes me wake up in the night in a cold sweat - turning down the chance to register a selection of .com domains in 1997 - one of which was subsequently sold for $2 Million Dollars six months later.
Darrell, UK

This wasn't me, but a friend of mine. He worked for a company that processed geological survey data for oil prospecting and one day managed to erase a computer tape containing results from a recent survey expedition. I think he just put the blank tape back in the rack and hoped no one would notice. (You know who you are, Gavin!)
Nick, UK


My biggest work blunder was throwing away what I thought was an empty envelope after cashing up the tills

Gavin, England
My biggest work blunder was throwing away what I thought was an empty envelope after cashing up the tills. Unfortunately the envelope contained 500 in 50 notes which was noticed the next day when my boss checked the figures, too late as the rubbish had gone.
Gavin, England

I used to have an evening job in a cafe in a leisure centre where we sold soft drinks through a dispenser on a counter. The drink is made from a highly concentrated syrup fed through pipes from the cellar and mixed with carbonated water as it comes out of the dispenser. We were really busy and ran out of coke so I ran downstairs to the cellar, took off the empty coke box and attached a new one. When I got back upstairs we couldn't pull the coke through so I went back down to discover that in my haste I had attached the coke to the lemonade pipe which had been left unattached after the last box of lemonade syrup was finished.
Gill, UK

Imagine this. You are deputy Prime Minister of the UK during an election campaign when a protester throws an egg at you. Do you i) act with the dignity and restraint that befits your high public office or ii) turn round and smack him in the gob? Guess which I chose! Dohhhhhhh. . .
John Prescot, UK

I worked at a DIY store as a student and apart from the many 'blunders' that were arranged on purpose to alleviate a boring shift (e.g. deliberately cutting the bottom of a 50kg cement bag so it split over whoever picked it up) there was one that I still cringe about to this day. A half-empty tin of white gloss paint had to be put into the skip at the back of the store. I took it out, but as it was cold, decided to throw the tin into the open-top skip about 10 yards from where I stood. Unfortunately, the skip was not of the open-top variety. The tin rolled off the top of the skip and exploded on the ground showering the managers new car with white gloss paint. It cost be half a day's pay in car wash bills.
Dave Robertson, UK

My worst blunder was sending an e-mail about my boss to my partner saying that he was bad tempered and difficult to work with. I had written it in Spanish but my boss not only read my personal e-mail, he also had the e-mail translated. Suffice to say I left the company very soon after as I could not work with someone who invaded my privacy like that. However it is a warning to everyone - it doesn't matter how private you think your e-mail is - the boss will read it even in another language - what happened to trust? Anyway it taught me a big lesson!
Louise, UK, living in Australia

My second worst blunder was ticking the 'overtime' box (35/h) instead of the '24x7 standby' box (4/h) thereby inflating my monthly pay packet by 7,500. My biggest ever blunder was telling my boss, who told me that I was a mug and should keep quiet in future.
Ian, England


It wasn't my blunder, but I made the most of it

Karen, UK
It wasn't my blunder, but I made the most of it... I joined a company (which I have since left, thankfully) and asked the payroll department for my salary details so that I could arrange a mortgage. The lady e-mailed me with the salary details. However, my e-mail inbox said that this message had an attachment, which I couldn't find. I eventually double-clicked on the salary details part of the message - and up came a spreadsheet containing everyone's current salary and bonus allowance, and how much they were to be given in the upcoming salary review! I saw that some senior people were getting considerably less than more junior people, and that the unpopular MD had written some comments on the spreadsheet that were less than complimentary about most of his employees. I got a new job, resigned a week or so later, took the spreadsheet with me and e-mailed it to every employee of the (small) company from an anonymous hotmail address.
Karen, UK

A colleague was called out at midnight to fix a fail in a computer run of an application that ran the factory we work for and deleted the full application by hitting the D(elete) key on his computer keyboard instead of the S(elect). Luckily we have back up copies of every file so he did manage to recover everything but it was a frightening experience seeing years of work disappear by pressing in a split second.
George, Liverpool, England

Whilst enjoying some 'horse play' with several others in our open plan office, I decided to throw a protractor at a colleague. It missed him but continued to sail in a graceful arc like a boomerang until it slammed right into the middle of my boss' face, breaking his glasses and earning me a written warning.
Matt, London, UK


Things worked out well in the end

Matt Simon, USA
I once interviewed the redoubtable Raquel Welch by telephone for the magazine where I work. After opening with a couple of facetious ice-breaking remarks that only made things frostier, I decided to get on with the interview and nearly hung up on her as I wrestled with the intercom system on my telephone. She couldn't hear me; I could hear her, sighing impatiently as she waited for me to return to the line. Things worked out well in the end, but those were a trying 30 seconds that almost cost the magazine a valuable feature article.
Matt Simon, USA

My worst blunder was sending a fax to the CEO of a client company which set out the salary and benefit details for him and the CFO. Both had come from the US parent company to sort out the ailing UK business. Unfortunately I sent the fax to the wrong number within the business and eventually all the UK employees got to see how much the two were being paid. Let's just say the disparity between these two and the rest of the UK team was embarrassingly wide.
Ben, UK

I once lost over 1 million worth of communications equipment in the post from the US. Thing is the company didn't even notice which just goes to show that they're far more interested in stopping people claiming a few more pounds on their expenses than auditing what's going on in the company as a whole - Typical.
Damian, UK


I myself have blundered through jobs and life

Alex Gibbs, Hong Kong
Well, it seems there aren't that many prepared to admit to blunders. I myself have blundered through jobs and life with a recklessness that could be compared to this man's error. However, you only learn by your mistakes and it will very frequently be the management's error which enabled a mistake of such magnitude to occur on trading books. So TAKE HEART whoever you are - go for business on your own grounds where management will not fail and then renounce you!
Alex Gibbs, Hong Kong

I don't make blunders...
Tim, Scotland

Um... getting caught posting messages to the BBC News Talking Point Website? Fortunately my employer is relaxed about internet usage - within reasonable bounds. So the other blunder will have to be talking in less than glowing terms about a former schoolmate who shared the same unusual surname as a co-worker in my office. I don't think I need explain what happened next...
Kate Lovegrove, UK

I committed my worst blunder by joining the company that I work for at present.
Chris, Swansea, UK

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See also:

03 May 01 | Americas
Pentagon 'blunder' on China ties
05 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Questions over Blair's Commons blunders


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