10 Reasons You Can Be Fired

By Kelly Eggers

Nobody wants to get fired. Most people avoid it by generally doing good work and keeping complaints about their jobs to themselves or close family.

Unfortunately, it's not that simple. There are many things that can get you fired beyond the obvious; you don't have to burn down the office to earn a pink slip.

"If you have created a situation for yourself where there's some level of dissatisfaction with your performance, any organization with figure out where there is an option or a point of entry where they can separate you from them," said Roy Cohen, a New York City career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide. "Assuming you're in an employment-at-will environment, you don't ever have to be told why you're being fired."

Most professional employees are "employees-at-will," which means that they can be fired for any reason – or none at all. Employment-at-will laws vary from state to state, but if you're not in a union or don't have a contract, they likely apply to you.

It may not be fair to get fired because you choose not to shower, think you're smarter than your boss or have issues admitting when you're wrong, but it can happen. Here are ten ways to get thrown off your job.

1. Get Conveniently Sick

It's okay to take sick days when you need them, but if you take too many at the wrong times, it could mean more free time to convalesce.

"If you want to get fired, repeatedly call in sick on Mondays," said Randy Merrell, vice president of operations at Elite Network, a San Francisco-based search firm. "Muscle up and get yourself in there. Hangovers are no excuse."

The same goes for vacation days, said Cohen. Ditching the company for a few days of sun and surf in the middle of a busy season reflects poorly on your dedication to the well-being of the business.

"An administrator in my client's department had a key role in planning a major event, and the admin called in sick for three days the week before the event," said Cohen. A check of her records showed that she had a pattern of calling in sick around major events. "All of the work gets dropped on others' shoulders. Her sick days might have been legit, but they were legit too frequently," he said. That, when combined with her sloppy work and incomplete projects, got her cut from the roster.

2. Lie on Your Job Application

Everyone beefs up their resume, and assumes that once they have the job, it's no longer important what they did to get it. Not so fast. If your job performance lags, your resume may be reviewed again. An inconsistency or poorly timed embellishment could be used to get rid of you.

"If they're dissatisfied with you and then they find out that you lied, that's an easy ticket for them," said Cohen.

For example, Bruce Hurwitz, president and CEO of New York-based Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, recalls a staff member at a former employer who noted on his resume that he had his CPA when he did not. He had taken all the coursework, but did not take the exam.

"He had the job, was doing a good job, but was fired on the spot when his boss found out he had lied on his resume. The job didn't require a CPA, but the boss checked to see if he had it anyway," said Hurwitz. "Even though it wasn't a requirement, it reflected on his character."

3. Be Disgusting

If you aren't diligent with your hygiene, people probably aren't going to go out of their way to keep you around.

"I have a number of clients who are managers that have employees who were unkempt," said Cohen. "When it came time for downsizing, they were at the top of the list."

You might think that hygiene habits should be a personal decision left to each staff member's own discretion, but Cohen said that the reach of bad body odor goes beyond the cubicle around you. "It's engaging in anti-social behavior," he said. "Not bathing, being unkempt... You have to be very careful, especially if you're in a client-interfacing role."

4. Stay Anonymous

As the old adage goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If you always keep your head down, never remind your boss of your accomplishments, and aren't a familiar face to the higher-ups, you aren't going to be remembered for what you're worth when headcount is being shaved.

"It's not enough to just work hard, stay late, and be intelligent," said Linda Farley, founder of Farley Training, a San Antonio-based management coaching firm. "It shows you're not a team player. If you don't speak up in meetings and share your ideas, you'll be the one who doesn't have ideas," instead of the one who works late and meets deadlines.

"People need to know you as a person before they can trust you as a worker," she said.

5. Never Compromise

An ego is arguably a necessity in the business world. But a big head that's consistently getting in the way of efficiency and teamwork is a head that will roll.

"If you're not forceful to the proper degree in promoting your own ideas, you're not going to get anything accomplished," said Hurwitz, but you have to be able to do it in the proper way.

Those who always need to do things their way, "come across as single-minded and critical of others' ideas," said Cohen. "If your ideas are smarter than everyone else's, they'll rise to the surface and be appreciated -- unless you don't listen to anyone else, ever."

6. Be Ungrateful

With unemployment hovering around 9%, try to be thankful for what you have, instead of whining about what you think you deserve. A lack of humility can earn you a pink slip.

"If you want out, ask for a raise before a round of job cuts, and get angry when they don't give it to you," said Cohen. "It shows poor judgment."

Another way to get the ax, said Cohen, is telling your boss that the work they're providing you with is beneath you.

In one word, complain. "That's how you get your name at the top of the list," said Cohen.

7. Don't Respect the Chain of Command

It's likely that the current chain of command in the office has long been in place, and for good reason. Except in the most extreme of circumstances, experts recommend respecting it.

"When you're emotionally intelligent, aware of your surroundings and know who the players are, you have a sense of what you should say when, and when you should keep your mouth shut," said Farley. "You know when you should go over someone's head, and when you should follow the chain of command."

No matter how much you hate your boss or how dumb you think he is, it's usually career suicide to reveal those sentiments to a higher-up.

8. Spend Time With the Complainers, Non-Performers and Gossips

When company information is leaked or major deadlines are missed, someone will likely be fired. Even if you weren't involved, you don't want your name associated with those of the usual suspects.

"Even if you're not a non-performer or a complainer yourself, if you're associated with them, people will start thinking of you in that way," said Farley of Farley Training.

There's a "birds of a feather" mentality to this one -- if you're in a clique with your most toxic colleagues, it's easy for your boss to liken you to them. "If you are associated with the gossip, it's going to be assumed you are spreading rumors too," said Hurwitz, of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing.

9. Never Take Responsibility When Things Go Wrong

Take a page out of former Rep. Anthony Weiner's book on this one. If you do something stupid, don't lie about it. The truth will come out -- and you'll get a lot of negative attention if you're forced to admit you tried to cover up.

"It's not the crime, it's the cover-up," said Hurwitz. "If you're the source of bad news about you and if you admit to your mistakes and you don't repeat them, that's a positive. You'll get credit for it."

But if you blame failed technology, time crunches, or the errors of your colleagues when things go awry and you're to blame, you're expendable.

10. Take Credit for Other People's Work

No one likes a freeloader. If you are the worker who never presents an original thought at work, or you take credit for others' accomplishments, you're likely to find yourself out the door.

"One guy stole commissions from co-workers when everyone was out on Christmas break," said Merrell at Elite Network. Commissions at the company were given to the person who did the legwork and sold the services to the client, said Merrell, not by the person who answered the phone when the client called to conclude the sale. "The company policy was that you gave commission credit to the correct person, even when they were out," said Merrell. "I took great pleasure in firing this guy."

Write to Kelly Eggers

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And don't forget the Most Important Reason:

11. Failure to be a butt-kissing 'yes' person.

Yes, loads of bosses say they appreciate an employee who has self-respect and that they don't like sycophants. And if you can believe this, there's a bridge in Brooklyn I'd love to sell you.

June 25 2011 at 9:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to DrMallard's comment

Yes I completely agree with that. And that's why I decided to work for myself. I'm sick and tired of all the BS working for somebody. I have too much respect for myself to stoop that low to kiss butt along with licking it clean.

June 26 2011 at 1:48 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

THE BOTTON LINE: All those things are ok because at most companies,politics and favortisium are the rule of law. always was and always will be.

June 24 2011 at 8:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

talk about horror stories, well I had a umpa lumpa ex-colleague who looks like a baboon sabotage my work, who told lies on me, walked into work every single day for 2 years and a half 15 to 20 minutes late, always went missing in action, did mediocre work but seemed to have been the best worker on earth according to my boss and others make my life miserable for the same amount of time, then conspired with another person to have me fired.
but this seems to be the kind of worker one needs to be these days, all you have to do is kiss ass to qualify you as a good worker... guess that didn't qualify me,.........And somehow she always brought up my past history, not really sure what that was about, I was not the one with the history of having had screwed a married man.....more like being falsely accussed by someone who got caught with his john in his hand........Projection........always seems to get the best of us.

June 24 2011 at 7:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Another HUGE mistake to make at work that has gotten me fired more than once: Casual Fridays does NOT mean Pants Optional.

June 24 2011 at 6:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to chasrusso's comment

chasrusso - LOL!

June 25 2011 at 3:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
the kid

tell your boss you don't work fridays and on monday you will always be late as you drink all weekend, and make sure the coffee is always fresh, and for lunch you need a 3 hour break, you will be fired

June 24 2011 at 6:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
the kid

tell your boss i make the rules around here, so don't tell me what to do, that will do it

June 24 2011 at 6:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Future E

Think outside the box when it comes to finding employment. Companies are hiring people to work at home to cut costs. The website BestTopJobs has a FREE list of work at home jobs offered by real employers. I save on gas, lunches, clothing and day care by working as an employee at my home. Good luck!

June 24 2011 at 4:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Add to the list being constantly late - number one on my list. Reporting in late. Getting back from paid lunch hour late, Leaving that few minutes early every day. Ugh - and a quick exit from my company.

June 24 2011 at 4:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I can't believe those things will get you fired.......... thank you so much for that info........another grade school writer.................................

June 24 2011 at 3:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ok, let's see... there used to be this TROLL of a woman I worked with that only bathed once a week.. you could wring the grease from her hair.. but she was 3 ft tall & 3 ft wide, so she played the 'disability' game the whole time she worked here, until she up & quit. Then we have a butt kisser who NEVER admits when she is wrong or makes a mistake, but is ALWAYS willing to point out when OTHERS make a mistake and ALWAYS goes out of her way to always be the first one done with any task.. UM are we like in school here or what??? OH yea, did I mention she is a registered sex offender & our home office & HR staff have NO idea of it??? and the management here thinks her rear is lined with GOLD.. its really sickening..

June 24 2011 at 2:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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