This Season on What's Working
This year, Managed by Q released Season 1 of What’s Working, a weekly podcast capturing the realities of life at work through true workplace stories, told directly from the people who lived them. Host Emily Hebner sat down with professionals from all backgrounds (and all kinds of office jobs) to hear what challenged them, what made them laugh, and what almost made them too embarrassed to return to work again. Now that Season 1 has officially wrapped, we wanted to share some of our favorite tales from each episode—the ones that got us out of bed and into the office every Monday morning.
01: We met at work…
Can you be ghosted by someone you see every day… at work? Nicole, Pat, and Sarah relive the butterflies and awkwardness of having a crush on their coworker.
Nicole broke up with her boyfriend, moved to the city, and accepted a new job all in the same week. That was when she met Drew, “a real smooth talker” from her new startup. They saw each other casually for the next six weeks, but then the relationship came to a sudden halt. Shortly after, Nicole was enjoying an office happy hour when she saw her manager, Meghan, leave with Drew. “I think nothing of it at first, but one of my other coworkers says, ‘Oh I guess they’re back together,’ and my jaw probably hits the floor.” Nicole endured the next year and a half while Drew continued to date her manager. “They would be like hugging in front of me, he would come over to our desk area and whisper sweet nothings in her ear.”
02: The office bathroom…
Every office has a bathroom, but it’s not always a place of solitude. Jordan, Clareen, and Mark tell us stories about private moments made unexpectedly public.
Jordan went to the bathroom at work expecting to handle his business in private, but what he got was a front row seat to his colleague’s meltdown. “Chuck was very tightly wound. You could tell in meetings that, although Chuck was very polite, that there was something seething beneath the surface.” Chuck stormed into the men’s restroom that day thinking he was alone, and began shouting at himself in the mirror. “I was just sitting on the toilet with my pants around my ankles listening to this guy dress himself down… and I resolved not to make a peep.” But Jordan didn’t stay hidden for long. In his aggravation, Chuck did a backwards “donkey kick,” throwing open the stall and revealing Jordan sitting on the toilet. “We will always have that moment between us.”
03: Is this my job…
Figuring out the do’s and don'ts of a first job is difficult—especially when you’re eager to go above and beyond. Carolyn and Emmie tell us about doing “work” that formal job descriptions failed to mention.
Emmie’s first job at a museum was supposed to be as an event coordinator, but she ended up acting as a private investigator instead. She worked on a team that managed all of the museum’s events, including food and beverage. “The beverage manager was actually the chef’s wife, and the sous chef was the chef’s nephew, so it was like this whole family affair.” Emmie immediately sensed that something bigger might be going on with this family. When things in the kitchen should have been calming down, more food was being prepped. So she went to Human Resources, who asked, “Can you look into this for us?” Over the next two months, Emmie investigated the case on HR’s behalf. What she found was a second catering business running on the museum’s dollar, without the museum’s knowledge. “They were using the public museum’s equipment… and they were renting it out to other people.” Eventually she had enough information for HR to formally confront the catering family, and send them on their way. “All of a sudden we see security guards walking out the three of them, chef coats on…”
04: Crying at work is in now…
Shedding tears in the office is considered a faux pas by most, but we’re already living in a world where the idea of open, transparent work culture and psychological safety is top of mind. Mark, Samiah, and Gibson share moments where they’ve cried at work.
Mark had a birthday party planned with friends on December 29th. The office should have been a dead zone after the holidays, but he ended up being overwhelmed by work and had to cancel his own dinner plans. “I started… not sobbing… but I was definitely really losing it, and I was going off about this one coworker who had left earlier and I’m like, ‘She got to leave, I don’t get to leave!’ And I’m like, ‘Why?! And it’s my birthday!’ And I said that one phrase, and that one phrase continues to—8 years later—haunt me.”
05: You aren’t making my job easier…
A boss or manager can make or (in these cases) break your experience and motivation at your job. Nicole, Josie, and Taylor tell us about when higher ups brought them down.
Nicole handled reception and assistant duties for her company’s four top level executives. On one occasion, the executives were out of office and missed signing an employee’s birthday card (for the second time) that Nicole had been passing around. So they called Nicole into a conference room. “They only turned on one little lamp. It was terrifying.” They confronted Nicole about the card, accusing her of poor performance and making them look bad. “It was mafia style and all I could do was kind of smile and laugh to myself and go, ‘I’m gonna quit this job next week.’”
06: I could do this job in my sleep…
It’s good to dream big at work, but you should probably do it with your eyes open. Chris, Kathleen, and Jarrod tell us when they’ve caught coworkers snoozing on the job.
Kathleen’s office library serves as a dedicated space for employees to focus on their work, but sometimes people take advantage of the peace and quiet. While working on a project, Kathleen caught a coworker doing just that. “I hear someone come in… and he goes and he sits down across from me and I notice that he doesn’t have anything with him. He doesn’t have his phone, he doesn’t have his laptop.” Kathleen went back to her own work, but when she looked up again she saw her coworker with his eyes shut. “He’s completely passed out.” His excuse? He was meditating. “That is not the posture of someone in deep thought or meditation. It was a slump if I’ve ever seen one.”
07: I think we got our wires crossed…
There’s a reason ‘Strong communication skills’ is listed as a requirement on most job descriptions today. Vince, Blake, and Jordan share what happens when there’s a communication breakdown.
Blake, who formerly worked as a management consultant, was setting up for a workshop with a client when he received a text message he didn’t expect. “It’s from my manager who’s sitting in the room with me… and it said ‘I wish i could put a muzzle on Blake, he’s driving me nuts.’” Blake was totally dumbstruck. What should he do? Should he respond? Should he pretend like he didn’t get it? Rather than confronting his manager, he got up and left the room. A few minutes later he received a flurry of messages from her apologizing, but he was still clueless about how to handle the situation. “I did end up just letting her off the hook.”
08: What was the question…
Interviews typically go one of two ways: completely successful or embarrassingly awful. Colin, Katlyn, and Chris recall memorable job interviews.
Katlyn thought she knew what to expect from her first job interview, but she was wrong. “I guess they Googled weird questions to ask people.” Her interviewer caught her off guard when he asked her what song described her work ethic. “I don’t see this question coming at all. So I sit in silence for like two whole minutes.” Eventually she decided she had to say something. “The first thing that pops into my head is that Mulan song that starts with ‘Let’s get down to business.’” But the unique interview questions didn’t end there. Next, he presented her with two bouncy balls and a set of jacks. “How would you describe the responsibilities of this job using these toys?” he asked her. Was she a ball? Was she a jack? “So I’m just kind of like, ‘Okay, well, I guess I would roll over here…’”
09: When the office space gets personal…
Offices are supposed to be places where people can do their best, most productive work—but that’s not always the case. Josie, Jarrod, and Jordan tell us when their workspaces became a little too close for comfort.
Jordan’s company had just undergone sensitivity training when he received a complaint from Human Resources. In an effort to spend more time outside instead of in front of his monitor, Jordan would put on his running shorts, go for a run, and then tend to the company garden. One day, while back in his business attire, the HR manager told him, “We’ve received a complaint that you’re dressing inappropriately at the office.” Jordan (in khakis and a button down) was confused. When the HR manager couldn’t advise him on what to change, he resolved to keep running and spending time in the garden. Then he received an email from the VP of HR asking him to come to her office, where she revealed that she was the person who brought the complaint. “Every day I eat my lunch here in the office… I watch you bend down and I watch you weed the garden… It’s not what you’re wearing, it’s what you’re doing,” she said. “And I'm like, ‘Okay, so, uh… would it help if I squat?’”
10: Putting the party in holiday party…
Office holiday parties should be a time for employees to celebrate their hard work and wrap up the year—but sometimes they spin out of control. Melody, Eli, and Jeremy relive office holiday parties that snowballed.
When Melody’s company tried to get creative with their annual holiday party, they went a little too far. The party planning team got tickets for everyone to attend Queen of the Night, an immersive theater production. Within the first few minutes of the show, a member of their Sales team was invited on stage, sat in a chair, and “full on made out with” by one of the actors. “I turned and everybody looked so horrified by what was happening. And it was just a precursor of what was to come, because there was just nonstop sexual activity… which is not something you want to be able to say about your holiday party.” The company decided to keep group events simple from then on. “Just open a tab at the bar. Order some chicken wings and nachos.”
If you missed these and other stories from Season 1 of What’s Working, they’re available to stream now on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Follow us there to get ready for the debut of Season 2!
Do you have a story that you’d love to tell on our podcast? Send us an email at: email@example.com.