It’s a modern world – it is not just enough to be good at your job – you have to be cautious about many other things to stay employed. Some of these things are obvious and some are not so obvious which makes it difficult to keep up with what is ok and what is not. In this article, I will attempt to provide you a comprehensive, if not complete, a list of things or ways to get fired.
1. Sexual orientation – Good news America, it is now officially ok to be gay. We do not say that with a pun. Gay marriages (and unions) have been made legal in ALL states in the US. In a sweeping 5 to 4 voting, Supreme Court adjudicated that deciding who to marry, irrespective of their gender is a constitutional right.
For the rest of the world, many countries around the world consider being gay illegal, that is, you could get into prison for being gay and some countries may allow your sexual preferences but do not protect you from getting fired by your Employer if the Employer does not approve of it.
Then there are those countries that go to the length of imposing a death penalty for being gay, for example, these 10 countries: Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, may impose a death penalty.
Whether you are out or in closet, be careful about where in the world you are living and working as your sexual orientation, however, private it may be, could be meddled by your employer, or worse, the legal system and can lead to getting sacked or worse.
2. Social media – you could get fired because of your comments or ranting on social media like facebook, twitter, and a score of other sites. Freedom of speech cannot come to your rescue either, why? Because freedom of speech protects you from Government’s interference, and not interference from the private sector. Do You want examples?
Got sacked for insensitive photo: Lindsey Stone was sacked for posing in an objectionable manner at a soldier’s tomb. The ironic thing is, her facebook post created such a rage that someone created “Fire Lindsey Stone” facebook page that got a lot of traction which ultimately lead to Lindsey getting fired from her job.
Why would employers be concerned about what you do in your personal time on your personal facebook page? They generally don’t care, however, when you do things that are deemed stupid or offensive by the public in general – then employers can let you go to clear any indirect association with your deeds and to save company’s reputation and public image.
Got an opinion about races? Keep it to yourself: A bartender working at Chicago-based nightclub, Proof, Jessica Elizabeth, was fired after her racist comments went viral on facebook. Proof terminated her and clarified that Jessica’s views and racial bents did not represent the values by which Proof operates.
These ten examples cover other social media posts that included comments or opinions that ended up offending others lead to termination from employment.
3. LinkedIn: I am stating LinkedIn separately because I think of it as a professional networking media rather than a social media.
If you post TOO much information about your clients or projects that you are working or have worked on your LinkedIn profile (or similar professional sites) that may reveal things that would have otherwise have been private and confidential, you may be in violation of your company policies that can get you fired.
Best thing to do, never put client’s names or project details that are NOT acceptable as per your company policy on your public profiles (resumes included).
Sometimes, you become privy to information by being employed at a particular place which is otherwise not available publicly. Even if your social media accounts only have your dearest family and friends, once you put it out there, you have no control on where it will end up. In the internet age – nothing is private once it’s out on social media.
4. Misstatements on resume – this is a true story – so listen closely. One of my colleagues back home was a star at his job. He received 20+ appreciation emails and at least half-a-dozen awards for ‘exceeding’ expectations in just 6 months of his starting with the company. We were all awed at the pace at which this guy learned the nuances of the job and in some cases he was better than a senior who has been doing it for few years. We were all sure that he will be on partner track, deservedly so.
What happened was quite different.
One month later (7th month), he was called into HR’s office and was let go.
He misstated his experience to cover up for 3 months gap in his career between his previous job and the current job. Our VP tried to save him but as it fell into the ‘ethical’ category – he too couldn’t reverse the decision. No amount of talent can save you if HR finds out deliberate misstatements during their investigation. Beware and be honest on paper and deeds.
5. Being late: Most employments are now ‘at will’ employments, which means, either parties can terminate the employment at will. That means you could get fired for any reason and no reason at all. If your employment agreement specifically provides for ‘notice period’ then you may be given a notice but you could still be fired for no reason.
With such a liberty at their disposal, employers don’t hesitate to use it once a while to create ‘examples’ for model behavior.
Excuses like: ‘Car needs fixing’, ‘Have a severe hangover’, ‘Something personal came up’, are all the reasons that can get you fired and are not protected under the law.
Read this to learn about an employee who got fired for showing up late and the 5 laws under which you may get some protection from being fired without notice.
6. Going crazy at office parties: Alcohol can make some people do a lot of crazy things, if you are one of those people who tend to loose sense of place, time, and clothes, you are better off not touching the alcohol at the office parties.
Time for another true story, back in 2009, our employer in India decided to throw a party for everyone’s hard work. Few individuals couldn’t handle the free booze well, they danced their ass off (which is ok) but also dragged unwilling female co-workers (not cool) to join them in their monkey feet, in a nutshell, they went bananas. Next day, they were let go for ‘indecent behavior’. Legally, an employer can fire you for your ‘unacceptable/indecent’ behavior at an ‘official gathering’.
Remember, things like sexual advances, talking too much, throwing up on someone (worse, a client), losing control on what’s on (or not) on your body, “under alcohol influence” is not an excuse that will save you from getting sacked.
If you have a history of easily getting drunk, not knowing what you do after being drunk, watch out the holiday season, there will be an invite from your office for holiday celebrations (or a milestone celebration). Show up at the party but keep yourself FAR from the liquor.
7. Sexual harassment: This topic may sound too obvious to you but do you know what can be construed as ‘sexual harassment’ at a workplace? The Manager’s guide to understanding sexual harassment states that “An alleged sexual harasser does not have to intend to offend”, in other words, your intention has no bearing for a particular action to be treated as ‘sexual harassment’. An innocent showcase of a cartoon, which someone could interpret as sexual in nature, to your colleague can be interpreted as ‘sexual harassment’.
According to Equal Employment Opportunity Organization, “Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.” That means, making condescending or derogatory comments about a certain gender can constitute as sexual harassment.
Verbal gestures like whistling or non-verbal gestures like staring at a person up and down can all qualify. These and many other recognized actions are listed in the United Nations list.
If you think that a comment or opinion may be not welcome – you are probably right and you should keep it to yourself.
8. Misusing/mis-stating corporate credit cards: It is always a good idea to keep your corporate card separate and NEVER use it for your personal purposes. If you charge something on your corporate card and it is not ‘business related’, that itself can get you fired. Again if your employment is at ‘will’ then the company is protected by law and they can fire you for any reason or no reason. Where the contract stipulates that a ‘just cause’ needs to be shown, misuse of corporate credit card is a ‘cause enough’ to get you fired.
If you use the corporate credit for things that you ‘want’ for the workplace but not necessarily approved as an expense by the business may also get you into trouble. Your intent, however, noble it might be, may not be a reason good enough to justify the charges for things that you ‘want’ at a workplace.
Note that the issue may not always be the amount involved, sometimes, the company can argue that the ethics and integrity of the individual are what is at question rather than the $$ value. Almost no organization on the face of the earth would want to keep unethical and integrity lacking individuals on their payroll, no matter how talented he/she may be.
Use the business credit card for, you guessed it right, business purposes only.
9. Personal use of corporate email: Office emails are for official business only. Just because you spend most of your waking work day looking at office inbox does not mean you can use it for personal purposes just so you can keep on top of your business. You should NEVER use your corporate email to enroll for offers or anything of personal nature. Your corporate email is for purely business purposes. If your employer finds out that you used corporate email for enrolling for coupons or any other personal purpose, that itself can serve as the ‘just cause’ to fire you.
10. Not giving advance notice: If you have a jury duty – you know about it in advance, doctor’s appointment is same (except when it’s emergency), you know when your kid’s school has events. For these and much more, you have to give heads up to your employer in advance. You cannot send a note on the day of the event and say “oops, I forgot to tell you but I am not coming to office because I have to go to my kid’s school for this cultural event” or something lame like that.
Your employer may ignore such requests once or twice but then they will see the habit pattern and can use that as a reason to sack you…
Dozen other ways of getting fired:
11. Sexual affairs – between people of different hierarchies
12. Lack of talent – at the job to be performed
13. Using company’s property (like computer) – for personal use
14. Inappropriate commenting – and when that gets escalated
15. Stealing – even the pity value stuff from office
16. Showing up under influence of chemicals to the office
17. Insider trading – for owning stock/interest in a client that you directly or indirectly serve
18. Procrastinating at your job
19. Leaking one client’s information to another client – whether or not the other client can benefit from such leak
20. Collusion between employees or outsiders
21. Racist or sexist overtones
22. Starting or spreading rumors that are generally detrimental, or perceived to be detrimental, to the company or its people
23. Bad mouthing or speaking behind your boss’s back about him/her
24. For not complying with your specific company’s policies or independence requirements, whatever they are.
There you have it, many ways you can get fired and a reason why you should be aware of them. Stay informed and stay safe.