My client Jessica hated her job. She felt stuck, bored, and useless, but she didn’t want to leave. She didn’t feel financially stable enough to quit without having a backup lined up, but her work simply wasn’t giving her enough to do.
When I asked her if she had a game plan, she shrugged and said, “I don’t know. All I do now is just scroll Instagram. I think my coworkers are starting to notice.”
And that’s when I realized that she had made a vital mistake. Rather than trying to create new opportunities for herself within the workplace, she had given in to using her phone at work to pass the time. As she told me more, it became clear that not only had her coworkers noticed, but it so had her boss, and I understood that it probably was a contributing factor to why she wasn’t getting more responsibility.
She certainly wasn’t alone in her social media use at work; a quarter of employees asked in a Careerbuilder survey admitted to taking out their phones using the internet at work for non-work related activities (i.e. checking in on Instagram). However, 28% of employers have fired their workers for just that. It seemed that Jessica subconsciously understood something fundamental — self-sabotage is a great way to get fired from a job you hate.
My job as a career coach isn’t to teach you how to get yourself fired. I’m here to help you succeed! However, I understand that in these insane times, with the workforce in flux and remote working challenging everyone, situations are different and difficult. People, like Jessica, may find themselves frustrated and unsure how to move forward. And in my line of work, I’ve definitely learned the myriad ways in which someone can get themselves fired, intentionally or otherwise.
It’s good to understand the ways you can get yourself fired, so you can be aware of how your actions may impact your job and career.
- Dating coworkers
We’ve all seen some sort of work romance play out on TV or in movies. And it’s not rare — Over half of employees have dated their coworkers. It seems so romantic; you both really get each other, and you get to see each other every day! But in reality, getting involved with a coworker (or even worse, your boss) can have ramifications that even include getting fired.
In fact, many companies have explicit policies against dating coworkers. And even if they don’t, being romantic at the office can lead to gossip, distraction, or envy, all of which will almost certainly lead to diminished focus and productivity. If you’re thinking of dating a coworker, it’s probably best to just look elsewhere.
- Dressing inappropriately
It’s tempting to want to dress comfortably when you’re going to be somewhere for 8 hours a day (or more). But there’s a reason that offices tend to have dress codes, spoken or otherwise. It’s especially important if you work with clients face-to-face, or have frequent team meetings. You always want to present yourself in the most professional way possible. You don’t want your dirty sneakers scaring away a potential client because they think you’re sloppy, or your stained shirt to signal to your boss that you don’t care. When it comes to dressing for the office, if there isn’t an explicit dress code, always err on the side of professional and neat. Remember, you’re here to be taken seriously and get work done — let your appearance reflect that.
Has your boss ever asked you if you’ve completed a task, and you’ve given a half-hearted “yes” before scrambling back to your desk to actually finish it?
How about calling in sick, only to forget that your boss follows you on social media and saw you posting from the bar?
My point is, lying at work never gets you anywhere. At the minimum, it causes undue stress on you; at most, it negatively affects how you’re perceived, and will engender mistrust. And yes, if it’s enough of an issue, it can get you fired. It’s always better to be honest and own up to your mistakes than try to cover up (especially if you’re a bad liar!)
- Talking about others
Did you see what Susan wore yesterday?
Did you hear about Tom’s divorce?
It can be fun to have a salacious chat here and there with your coworker. Maybe it feels like a way to relieve tension in your own day, or bond over a shared interest. But if you’re gossiping about your coworkers — or even worse, your boss — it’s only a matter of time before it gets out. And you don’t want the reputation as the person who goes around talking about other people behind their backs.
After our conversation, Jessica made the decision to step up at work and have a conversation with her boss about how she felt. She ended up leaving her job amicably, and is now at a job where she feels fulfilled and valued. But if she had moved forward with her rampant social media use, she certainly would have been fired, and perhaps found herself with fewer future career opportunities, and a poor recommendation from her old job.
Understanding how to get fired from a job, even one you hate, isn’t just key to stopping yourself from making mistakes; it’s crucial to supporting your future career, and keeping yourself accountable.
So next time you’re tempted to do anything mentioned above, take a step back and ask yourself: is it really worth getting fired over? Or is there something else I can do to improve my situation?