True horror stories of the most brutal first job faux pas

The objective for the first day at a new job isn’t to make friends or showcase your abilities: it’s to not burn the building down. “Try to stay out of the way”, you tell yourself and everything will be alright.

A recent article from the Guardian readers tells stories of what happened when the first day went wrong. These are genuinely true horror stories of the first days from hell – count yourself lucky that you have never been in these positions.

Learning how to make an entrance

“During my first week in a new graduate job I set off the security alarm and got the entire building evacuated. As soon as I opened the door it was blazing alarms, flashing lights. I had no idea how to turn it off. Everyone in all the buildings trooped out into the street.”

A walking fire hazard

“It was my first day working in my new job as a scientist studying insect pathology. Working away, slightly nervous and hoping to make a good impression, I accidentally knocked over the beaker of alcohol. It seemed OK and I was about to mop up when I saw the back of the cabinet start to melt and droop.”

It turns out that alcohol burns without a trace so there can’t actually see them. The lab wasn’t burnt down but this writer is now a gardener.


“My first job was in marketing at a design magazine. When moving my computer to another desk to be closer to my teammates, I accidentally unplugged the editor-in-chief’s Mac on deadline day, when he hadn’t saved his work. I stayed crouched underneath the desk out of sheer embarrassment.”

This is by far the most common and most feared mistake to make on a first day. One accidental switch press can make you public enemy number one for the few months until you settle in.

Monumental pluck-up

“When I was 18 a new senior manager was brought round for introductions. She had a long thick black hair on her face, which I spotted. I helpfully stated in front of all in the office: ‘Oh let me get that for you” and gave it a tug. Yes, it was growing out of her cheek.”

In fairness, you shouldn’t be touching your boss’ face on day one – that should be common sense.

What now?