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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.
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...
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!
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.
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....
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.
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...
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????
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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. . .
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Alex Gibbs, Hong Kong
I don't make blunders...
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...
I committed my worst blunder by joining the company that I work for at present.
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