Lying, Biting and Sneeze Muffins: Which Friends Character was the Worst Employee?

It’s 25 years since we accompanied six New Yorkers through a decade-long journey that charted the ups and downs of their friendship. Friends may have finished airing 15 years ago, but its references are still as relevant, and its fandom is just as strong, today as it has ever been 

To celebrate the 25th anniversary, we armed ourselves with a notepad and pen, wedged ourselves into our favourite chairs, and asked one question; which of the famous six main characters was the worst employee? 

What we did 

To answer the question posed above, we sat down to a Friends marathon that included all of the 236 episodes ever broadcast, taking in some of the gang’s finest (and worst) moments at workAlong the way, we marked down any potential workplace indiscretion, from minor offences to firings.  

We then passed over the workplace woes of Rachel, Joey, Ross, Chandler, Monica and Phoebe to experts in HR and employment. Handpicking individual cases, they told us if the punishment fitted the crime.  

Rachel sees off Joey as Friends’ worst employee 

Based on the number of indiscretions committed, Rachel Green was the character that businesses across New York should have been rushing to avoid employing. Here’s the full breakdown of their rule-breaking shenangians: 

  1. Rachel – 16 indiscretions 
  2. Joey – 15  
  3. Phoebe – 9 
  4. Ross – 8  
  5. Chandler – 6  
  6. Monica – 4  

Total: 58 

During her time working everywhere from Ralph Lauren to the famous Central Perk café, Rachel tallied up 16 workplace incidents. Her most memorable lapses in behaviour go way back to season two. In The One With Five Steaks And An Eggplant, Rachel admits to sneezing in muffins ordered by customers she doesn’t like very much. 

As she makes her way up the ladder in the fashion industry, her recklessness continued. At Ralph Lauren, she lies about everything from the sexuality of a colleague to having a fling with the founder himself.  

Coming in a close second is Joey. His various mishaps on set underpin his difficulties trying to breakthrough as a serious actor, showing that his lovability and charm couldn’t outdo his penchant for making bad decisions at workHis total of 15 includes exposing a hernia to a small childshowering in the lead actor’s trailer, and urinating on none other than Jeff Goldblum.  

At the other end of the scale, Flat 20 should be filled with employee of the month awards, thanks to it’s conscientious resident. Monica remained consistently professional in the working environment, racking up just four indiscretions. Among them is her only firing, which occurred in the same season two episode as Rachel’s ‘sneeze muffin’ confession. After accepting a kickback in the form of five steaks, Monica was fired from her job as a chef.  

Phoebe’s firings  

Rachel may be the most prolific workplace offender, but Phoebe also gets a mention for the number of roles she manages to churn through during the show and her reaction when given the boot. She’s fired no fewer than five times throughout the 10 seasons, with her jobs ranging from singer to librarian.  

When fired from her singing job at Central Perk in season 2’s The One With The Baby On The Bus, she takes to the streets to sing hate songs through the café window. In The One Where Rachel Goes Back To Work in season 9, Phoebe is fired for slapping Joey on the set of Days of our Lives. In response, she races through the set, ruining scenes and evading the capture of a security guard.  

Despite Rachel’s 16 slip-ups making her the worst employee of the lot, she is only fired once. In season 10’s The One With Princess Consuela, she’s fired from Ralph Lauren seemingly because she interviewed for another position. Standalone this isn’t a sackable offence, but her other indiscretions make this a justifiable firing.  

 

Fortunate Friends  

Throughout the show, there is a common theme where characters seemingly dodge any punishment whatsoever for a range of serious offencesWith the help of experts in HR and employment, here’s what might have happened to characters after some of their more serious indiscretions.  

Joey 

  • Sackable offences: 8 
  • Got away with: 5 

Offence: In The One Where Phoebe Hates PBSJoey fights with a colleague on live TV as he jostles for a position in front of camera.  

Likely punishment: Assaulting someone is a crime. He should have been fired and removed from the set.” 

Hannah Gillitzer, Job Confidant  

Rachel 

  • Sackable offences: 6 
  • Got away with: 5 

Offence: In The One With All The CandyRachel writes an inappropriate evaluation for her partner Tag, who she also manages. It’s forwarded to the HR department by accident.  

Likely punishment: “If their relationship is against policy, she should have been fired. The fact that she has integrated "revealing" details with an evaluation at work, a case can be made for termination. The combination of her work position and their relationship creates a quid pro quo sexual harassment situation.”   

Hannah Gillitzer, Job Confidant  

Phoebe 

  • Sackable offences: 3 
  • Got away with: 2 

Offence: In The One With The Ballroom DancingPhoebe bites the bum of a client she finds attractive.  

Likely punishment: Phoebe definitely should be fired and have her license suspended. The client could sue and/or file police report. The company should also issue an apology to the client. 

Allie Wait, a Senior HR professional at Engage People Ops 

Monica 

  • Sackable offences: 1 
  • Got away with: 0 

Offence: Monica only commits one sackable offence throughout the show and is shown the door for it. Another indiscretion occurs in The One With The Girl From Poughkeepsieshe fires Joey from her restaurant in a ploy to earn more respect from the rest of the workforce.  

Likely punishment: Monica should have received a harsh warning, and the employees should have had a meeting or training about respect in the workplace. 

Allie Wait, a Senior HR professional at Engage People Ops 

Ross 

  • Sackable offences: 2 
  • Got away with: 2 

Offence: As the title of the episode suggests, in The One Where Ross and Rachel…You KnowRoss sleeps with Rachel in the museum where he works. Despite being discovered by customers the next day, no action is taken. 

Likely punishment: “A person that did this in the real world would be fired for this offence. No questions asked.” 

Brett Holubeck, Texas Labor Law Blog 

Chandler 

  • Sackable offences: 1 
  • Got away with: 1 

Offence: As with Monica, Chandler was also one of the more trustworthy characters when it came to work. His only sackable offence came in season 1’s The One With Two Parts, Part 1He fabricates a story about a colleague being mentally ill in order to avoid firing her. He also happens to be dating her. 

Likely punishment: Definitely a problematic issue and something that should not be tolerated in the workplace. Mental illness can be a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He could be regarding her as disabled, which means that he would have to accommodate her disability. It makes it even worse that he is dating her. 

Brett HolubeckTexaLabor Law Blog 

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