15 workplace behaviors that could get you fired

Each of these might seem like ‘no big deal,’ but any one action (much less several combined) could be grounds for dismissal. Don’t trash your career over a careless tweet or a stapler.

There are things that many employees at all levels do that they simply shouldn’t do. Here are some common practices that could send you packing:

1. Asking for your employee’s age

A lot of workplaces get comfortable enough to the point where your employees might feel like good friends. However, don’t let your relationship get too comfortable. It’s your job as a supervisor to keep things professional and not ask questions that violate labor laws. HR does not look the other way on this one.

2. Tweeting

OK, so not all of us tweet horrible things like this daily, but one tweet is enough to get you canned. Just ask Justine Sacco, former PR executive at InterActive Corp. She tweeted this right before a trip to South Africa, and while she was in the air, the Internet exploded with anger. When in doubt, just ask yourself, “What would Justine tweet?” Then tweet the opposite.

3. Texting during meetings

Here’s something everyone does that you may not think gets noticed. Yes, your phone is addictive, but pulling it out during a time when you should be focused is inappropriate and disrespectful. If you want to avoid the chopping block during the next round of layoffs, don’t be the guy who’s remembered as a chronic texter.

4. Surfing inappropriate websites

Not everyone surfs porn at work (thankfully), but many employees are guilty of visiting non-work websites daily. A Salary.com survey revealed that 64 percent of employees visit websites that don’t correlate to their job on a daily basis. The main culprits? Facebook and LinkedIn.

5. Lying about why you need time off

Managers and HR are usually pretty understanding of employees’ religious observations and emergencies. Just don’t make things up. In 2010, a Bronx elementary school teacher was fired for lying about her mother’s death to cover up missing three days of work. When her employer found out her mother was alive and kicking, she got the boot. Honesty really is the best policy.

6. Stealing office supplies

A pen here, a notepad there. What’s the harm in taking a little bit of the office home with you? It turns out that almost 40 percent of hiring managers admit to firing an employee for office theft. What gets lifted most often? Office supplies, money, and company merchandise. Don’t ruin your career over a few measly bucks.

7. Posting on Reddit

Just because you think something’s funny doesn’t mean you should post it. Just ask Chelsea, an Applebee’s waitress who posted to Reddit this insulting receipt from a pastor. Apparently, the pastor saw it online and demanded she be fired. The company gave her the boot on the basis that company information such as receipts are not for the public’s eyes.

8. Telling bad jokes

Everyone loves a good joke, but a bad one could send you packing. An Iowa resident was once fired for repeating the Seinfeld line, “You’re so good looking,” whenever someone sneezed (instead of “bless you”). However, once he said this to a particular female co-worker, it was, “That’s all, folks!”

9. Talking when you think the conference call phone is on mute

A senior employee of a technology retailer was fired after he badmouthed his CEO after having a group conference call with her. The problem? After the meeting, neither party had hung up, nor were they on mute. The CEO heard everything. Be sure to keep your angry thoughts in your head at least until you hear a dial tone.

10. Not responding to emails

No one likes to be ignored, especially the boss. If you constantly put off answering (or, worse yet, flat-out ignore) emails, you could put your career in serious jeopardy. People want to hear back from you with any kind of response, even if it’s just, “I’ll email back soon.” Don’t let people think you just don’t care.

11. Telling co-workers you do illegal things outside work

By illegal, we’re not talking murder or robbery. Just by speeding on the highway, you are breaking the law, so keep such things to yourself. In the HR world, the line between confidentiality and a legal obligation to report you to the authorities is very thin. Don’t cross it. Do us all a favor, and just don’t do illegal things in your personal life.

12. Posting a comic strip on your wall

In 2007, David Steward was fired from the Catfish Ben Casino for posting on his wall a Dilbert comic strip that compared managers to drunken lemurs. Personal effects are usually welcome in the office, but don’t push the boundaries with an overly sensitive boss.

13. Blogging

In 2004, Ellen Simonetti, a Delta Airlines flight attendant, was fired when her company found out she ran a blog titled “Diary of a Flight Attendant,” where she posted risqué photos of herself in uniform and wrote about her company. Delta apparently didn’t see the humor in it.

14. Not working when you say you are

This may sound basic, but with the work-from-home debate heating up, it’s very relevant. Just ask John Haplin, a carpenter supervisor who was fired after his employer discovered he was receiving payment for times he wasn’t working. How did they know? His company could track the GPS location on his phone. Ouch.

15. Lying about your professional abilities

In 2013, Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson was fired after the company learned that he posted on his resume that he had a bachelor’s degree in accounting and computer science. The problem? He holds no such degree and flat-out lied. If the CEO of a major company such as Yahoo can fire its CEO based on a little white lie, what makes you think it’s a good idea?

David Zaleski is associate media producer at iMediaConnection, where a version of this article first appeared. This article was assisted by associate media producer Brian Waters.


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