The corporate world isn’t a kind place, and that is no news. The employer, who hires and fires at will, or the insipid nature of competition (or office politics), are probably the two most often cited reasons as to why employees are fired. But in a world where mediocrity thrives and is appreciated, and taking ownership of mistakes doesn’t come naturally, the employee can be equally responsible for his/her dismissal from work, maybe without even realising what they did wrong. To further complicate the challenge, there are no situations, platforms or circumstances that allow you to accept, or realise that you are committing a mistake at work, usually, until after you have done it. You can keep your numbers up, meet your deadlines, and maybe even secure a raise or promotion, but in today’s increasingly complex and layered world, small oversights, like the ones listed below can lead you to be fired, rather unceremoniously:
Lying on your resume
You might turn out to be a stellar performer, and become everybody’s favourite in a short span of time, but knowingly lying about your achievements on your resume is reason enough to be shown the door. Uncovering such false information not only negatively impacts your reputation and integrity as an individual, but the magnitude of the lie – like lying about educational qualifications, or past employers, can result in you being black-listed from several networks and fields. So the next time you are tempted to include an achievement that isn’t yours, or manipulate your record, or inflate your skills by vaguely describing them, rethink of the consequences.
Violating Company Policy
Before you get settled in your new job, make sure you learn everything to know there is about company policy and how to use company property. This includes usage of technological devices, or official email, for personal usage. Such restrictions are more stringent in consumer-based companies wherein the risk of information and theft is high. Hence, buffering your favourite TV show from a potentially malware-infected website can prove disastrous. Furthermore, just because other people are doing it, do not assume you are in the clear. The employee handbook was devised for a reason, and if you fail to go through it, you are likely to commit mistakes.
Over-promise and Under-Deliver
If you consistently promise your boss things you know you cannot deliver, only to impress or boast, you will increasingly increase the gap between the expectations you set vs. what you deliver. If you can finish the report in three days, do not say it will be done in two. The best way out is to honestly communicate to your boss the amount of work you can realistically take on, and work on a plan to slowly increase your role and responsibility, rather than unquestioningly accept every task, and then fail to deliver the result.
A bad attitude
You can be at your productive best, and close important deals, but if your style of working becomes a problem for others, and impacts their work, you might be in trouble. Refusal to follow directions, or to work in a team, or constantly evading ownership, or downright dishonesty can all be reasons for the employer to view you in a negative light, despite your performance. You need to keep your attitude cordial and professional at all times, to prevent being in a tough spot.
Misusing Employee Benefits and Company Resources
Taking print-outs of your kids’ homework or sending personal couriers on company expense or spending excessive time in doing personal tasks (social media, online shopping, paying bills etc.) are activities that will be counted against you, despite their monetary value not being high. Similarly, being caught nicking away stationery items, or USB drives will be embarrassing. If certain services and products are offered to you at a discount, selling them, or getting the same for the entire extended family, will actually help your boss build a case against you, if they are looking to fire you. Whatever you do, ensure you do it by the book.
Ranting on public platforms
Getting fired over an offensive or critical comment, or post, on public platforms, especially the social media, is no longer a virtual stretch of imagination. In the last few years, several examples of people being fired of what they post and tweet have set the dialogue for what is considered appropriate to post on social media, and what is the difference between posting personal opinion or endorsing company opinion. The posts have ranged from directly commenting on the company or the work culture, to making offensive or racist jokes.
Inconsistent performance and absenteeism
You might argue that you are productive or creative in certain bursts of energy, but that argument will fall on deaf years. If an organisation is not able to predict, and hence plan, the work and deliverables of its very own employee, the association might not last long. Employers like their employees to deliver stable output, and inconsistencies in performance, or prolonged absenteeism, without providing explanations or reasons will be held against you. Therefore, maintain a healthy dialogue with your superiors as to why your performance suffered, and where you could potentially need help.
To conclude, assuming that the employee is always a victim of a greater scheme – of underhanded politics or a struggling economy – isn’t correct. Being fired, is undoubtedly one of the worst situations one can be in, but being in denial about the reasons for the same, are likely to set you up for repeating your mistakes. Be aware of the rules, and be aware of the several reasons, that you can get fired over, which no one will explicitly talk about or own up to. Learn about what is acceptable and unacceptable in your organisational culture, and when in doubt, always verify before you act.