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Sex, violence, and incompetence: How people lose jobs

Elizabeth Bromstein|

People get let go from jobs. Sometimes it’s their own fault, sometimes it’s not.

There are some obvious reasons for getting fired, though they would not qualify as the most common. Then there are the most common reasons.

Combine these and you’ve got the top reasons for getting fired. So, we suggest you avoid doing as many of these as possible, if you want to keep your job.

The most obvious reasons include:

Sexual harassment: If you sexually harass a co-worker, there’s a good chance you will get the sack for it. Don’t sexually harass people.

Violence: Getting into a physical altercation is a pretty good way to get yourself let go. I know someone who was in mid conversation with a co-worker when another coworker flew across the room and punched the first co-worker in the face. You should not do this. It will get you fired.

Stealing: If you steal things from work, like large amounts of money or industry secrets, you will likely be fired. Ditto for taking things from co-workers like wallets and jewellery. Obvious, right? You’d think so but someone took my brick of cheese out of the office fridge the other week. They should be fired (not really. I don’t think cheese stealing merits dismissal). You might not get fired for stealing things like staplers, but that’s not carte blanche to load up.

Dissing your company or the boss online: This keeps coming up in the news, like the woman who was famously fired after displaying a startling lack of awareness when she posted a nasty rant about her boss on Facebook, having forgotten that her was one of her Facebook friends. Still, I believe it remains relatively uncommon, as most people are perhaps not that stupid.

Being drunk or stoned at work: This is featured, along with a couple more of the reasons on this list, in this Business Insider article about the most common reasons for getting fired. Again, it’s probably not that “common” a reason, but rather just a “good” one. That being said, it likely depends on your boss. I once had an employee show up still drunk from the night before at 9:30 am. I sent her home to sleep it off, but did not fire her. I did fire her a few weeks later for other reasons, though.

Here, on the other hand, are the most common reasons people are let go.

Fit: An HR professional tells us that “fit” is the number one reason people are let go at her company. Your manager and co-workers have to like working with you, or at the very least be able to tolerate working with you – especially your manager. So, if you complain, argue, and are generally difficult, you up your chances of getting sacked. But this doesn’t just mean getting along with people. It means having a symbiotic working relationship with your superior and shared visions of what you should be doing and the direction in which you’re headed. Often, a new manager will come in and things will change, and you won’t fit anymore. That’s when things start getting “restructured.”

Incompetence: Sometimes bosses make a mistake and hire someone incapable of doing the job. That person has to go. But, even if you didn’t embellish your abilities, and were able to do the job when you started, things can change. The same HR person tells us that sometimes the skills required to do your job evolve over time, and you suddenly find yourself unable to fill the position. The role might come to require knowledge of a different coding language or ability to use certain software. Again, that’s when you will be restructured out of the equation.

Inability to adapt to change: Say you were allowed to work from home two days a week but the job requirements have changed so that you can no longer do that – hello Yahoo! – and you can’t make these changes. This is a common reason to let someone go, I’m told.

Lying: People often lie to get the job. You need work so you “embellish” your skills, education, or work history to get it. I’m told one story about someone who claimed to have been a VP of marketing and it was later discovered that they were really an inside sales rep. But – surprise, surprise – if you lie in your application process and it comes out later, that will very probably get fired.

Genuine restructuring: Sometimes the business really is restructuring and it has nothing particularly to do with you, other than that you no longer fit the plan. You haven’t, technically, done anything wrong, but businesses shift direction, plans change, employees lose their jobs. Alas, that’s the way it goes. You pick yourself up and move on.

That’s not always easy to do, but remember that career setback happen to everyone.

Head on over here for some tips on what to do immediately after you are let go:
What to do right now if you just lost your job


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