Stuff you used to get away with at work that would get you fired today

Obviously this is probably aimed at those older workers who’ve seen corporate culture and work rules change in their lifetimes.

I’ll start.

Practical joking/humor. Seems to be totally frowned upon today, or extremely limited in scope.

In the old says, one could get away with murder in this regard. An example follows:

I was working at a defense firm in the late 1980’s. Instead of offices/cubicles we were in a bullpen area with desks side-by-side (about 4 rows of them). Basically no privacy, everyone knew everyone and everyone’s business. We’re a mix of men and women. The women joked around just as much as the men.

A new guy starts, he’s right out of college. People have surrounded him, giving him the third degree about his life/family/school/etc. He’s a bit overwhelmed but answers everything. This one character, who I’ll call Bill, walks over to this “grilling” and looks at the guy and says, “Hey man, welcome. Let me ask you something. Suppose you’re sleeping out in the woods and when you wake up you find your underwear is pulled off and there’s a used condom next to you, would you say anything?” The guy looks like a deer in headlights. “Uh, no…”
Bill smiles and says, “Do you wanna go camping?”

The new guy took it well (today he’d have headed straight to HR).
The new guy (Rich) became a close friend in that circle.

I can think of other nonsense like this, but I’d like others to share their “inappropriate” work hi-jinx.

Could a mod fix the title? It should be “that” would get you fired…

Called a woman coworker a bitch 23 years ago. Surprised I wasn’t fired then. Pretty much would be guaranteed today.

(In my defense, the consensus in the office was I was correct, but still should not have said it)

(curiously, we still had a working relationship afterwords)

Are you male or female? Male - guaranteed firing. Female - strong warning or maybe firing.

I had Playboy centerfolds up in my supply cage when I was in the Navy. This would probably get me fired today.

So would a lot of our practical jokes, not all but the ones like charging capacitors and get someone to pick them up would probably be bad.

I am just old enough that at one of my earliest jobs the boss had the bottle in the desk. I don’t think that would be allowed almost anywhere now. This was 1984.

Oh come to think of it, a lot of people use to smoke in the restrooms. This would be a serious offense now.

I was just going to say smoking at your desk.


In that time frame we had another supervisor/worker pair (both female) going at each other almost daily. Had they canned me, they would have had to can those two also. Probably too big of a hit for the department at the time for us to meet deadlines with head count down 3. Supervisor/worker problem did not resolve till the worker quit. She got in a good parting shot, however, she keyed the supervisors car and knocked out the tailights last day there. Funny as heck the women could not get along.

My supervisor smacked me up side the head with an RFP (500 pages) one day. I felt I deserved it and did not complain. Only my second physical thing at work ever.

(i won’t tell you what I did, but it was worth it :D)

Exactly, the shipping room at that defense plant had centerfolds everywhere, even visible if you passed their entranceway. An absolute no-no today.
Really bizarre related issue (sexual harassment).

A guy I worked with at a different plant (1985?) had a picture up on his wall that was of the rear view of a horse in its stall. If people asked for his boss, he would point to the horse’s ass picture. (Haha). One day HR calls him in. They tell him there was a complaint about his “horse” picture. Someone found it sexually offensive. My friend responds “Really, sexually offensive? Well I want whoever finds that picture “sexual anything” fired. That’s creepy!” The HR guy actually laughed and shook his head and asked him to remove the picture. My friend relunctantly complied.

Yeah, I was going to say that too. According to some of the old timers where I work, 25, 30 years ago, a lot of people would just light up at their desks.

In a former job of mine, I had one co-worker who’d been there since the late '70s and he said he actually had his bachelor party at the office, complete with booze and belly dancers.

I still remember smoking at desks, but that wasn’t getting away with anything, it was just allowed back then. The bathroom smoking bit was after they stopped allowing smoking in the building and smokers would use bathrooms and stairwells. They weren’t suppose to but they weren’t going to fire people over it usually either.

Used to be able to circulate non-work related, socially offensive emails. No more.

Oh dear God. I am an old-timer?! I used to smoke at work all the time, when I smoked. I think they banned indoor smoking here in the late 1990s .

Rude, sexually oriented joking, by both males and females, as a regular part of the daily interaction. The current HR VP used to be known in those days as “Dirty Harry” for his constant filth - my how times have changed…

Distribution of dirty jokes/cartoons in the office, copied on the office xerox. (My mom used to bring copies home from her office.)

Smoking at work.

Strippers for office birthdays &, bachelor/-ette parties.

Fridays were for getting smashed at lunch.

Apparently smoking at your desk was common at IBM back in the day. When I worked there they’d banned it, so we had to go out into the mall to smoke. Now you can’t smoke in the mall either. But there was one long timer who wouldn’t hear of it. She smoked at her desk until the day she retired.

There are pretty strict rules about drinking in the hospital where I work. Imagine my surprise when one of the surgeons called a meeting, and showed up with a beer.

My second job I worked for what was similar to a government dept. Our finish time was 4.15. At 4pm the female workers (all 3 of us) would head for the restroom & go to the bathroom & fix our make up & then go out to our work area. The guys would have stopped working by 4.05. & we would stand there & wait for the minute hand to be on top of the 3 & then charge out the door. If the phone rang or we had to actually do some work in this time we would be really aggrieved!

Ignoring verbal/written warnings to stop this would get you fired now.

Smoking on campus. My current classroom sits where used to be “Smoker’s Hill.”

Spanking kids. Any form of physical punishment can get you in deep kimchi these days.

We still have offensive (esp sexual) jokes made in person and via email. We sometimes go overboard with the booze on lunch on Fridays and we sometimes share a tipple in the office.

I love my job!

(Though, us smokers still have to freeze outside as it should be.)


It was a little unexpected!

Alcohol is not entirely forbidden here. Wine flows pretty freely at the holiday parties. It was just really weird to see during a staff meeting.

Sadly, in many types of office jobs it’s now true:

Disappearing and remaining incommunicado for a whole hour at lunch–any workday, any season.

Doing the same thing, evenings and weekends.