Things People Do to Get Fired (and How to Avoid Doing Them)

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 25, 2020

By Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.

In a growing but stable economy, job hunters face greater competition for the jobs that are available. Everyone has to work harder and be sharper. Just as your employer cannot be sloppy when competing in world markets, you have to be more serious about the way you conduct yourself at work with colleagues and supervisors and maintain a business-like demeanor at company outings and off site.

Actually, job security is an oxymoron. Companies cannot afford to retain employees who are merely competent; they expect people to go above and beyond the responsibilities they were hired to perform and to seek out assignments that signal an interest and willingness to move up the ladder. What’s more, any mistakes people make in judgment or comportment are less likely to go unnoticed. In fact, certain gaffes can stall or derail a career.

Here is a list of mistakes people make at work that put them at risk of losing their jobs or being overlooked for a promotion or raise. If you are guilty of any of these snafus, now is the time to stop.

  • Be Careful How You Use Your Computer
    Your computer is company property and the company may be privy to any message in your e-mail box or on your Web browser. People often send jokes or inappropriate messages to co-workers. Sometimes these e-mails end up in the wrong inbox and can cause embarrassment or hurt feelings. If they include racial or sexual slurs, they can be cause for legal action or dismissal. Be careful with your Web browser. Some people have been caught shopping too much on Amazon or browsing pornography sites on company time.
  • Don’t Misbehave at Company Parties
    Some people think company parties are merely opportunities to have fun and relax. Wrong. A company party is a business event and it’s very likely your behavior is being monitored by everyone—from the company intern to your boss and his or her boss. Watch your body language and don’t stand too close or whisper to co-workers or subordinates of the opposite sex. Drinking to excess is inexcusable and will only get you in trouble. Bad reputations are often the result of inappropriate behavior at company parties.
  • Don’t Disagree with Your Boss in Public
    Don’t use meetings or public forums to disagree with your boss. If you have a different approach to a problem, don’t question his or her strategy or point of view in front of a group. It won’t make you look good and it might make the boss’s supervisors question his leadership skills. If you want to present your views to your boss, ask to speak with him or her privately. If you find that you frequently disagree with your boss, you’re probably not in the right position and career advancement is going to be difficult. Your boss will eventually say, “I don’t need this person around.” It’s probably a good idea to start looking for a new position, either inside or outside the company.
  • Respect Your Company’s Culture
    In every business there’s a corporate culture or value system you need to embrace if you are to fit in and get ahead. If you come in at 8 a.m. and leave exactly at 5 p.m. and everyone else starts later and stays later, adjust your schedule. If you eat at your desk and everyone else puts lunch on a company expense account, do the same as the others. Fit in or you’ll be viewed as the odd duck.
  • Don’t Speak to the Press Unless You’re a Spokesperson
    Typically, one person or department is charged with the task of speaking to the press. They have specific messages prepared to address issues or defuse difficult situations. Even if you say something positive, it might not be the same message the company spokesperson is trying to communicate. So, don’t speak to the press unless you’re authorized to do so.

Used by permission of The Five O’Clock Club (

About The Author(s)

Carol Kinsey Goman coaches executives, helps teams develop strategies, and delivers keynote speeches and seminars to business audiences around the world. She is the author of nine books, including her latest, The Nonverbal Advantage: Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work. For more information: telephone: 510-526-1727, e-mail: [email protected], or  the Web: