Intelligent people can lose their jobs for silly reasons. While some of the mistakes are due to momentary lapses, others result from serious judgement problems.
Inappropriate social media postings are a persistent problem, partly because there are no clear guidelines for social media use in the workplace. Recently, Rolling Stone magazine chronicled some egregious social media faux pas that have caused people to lose their jobs. One such incident involved a re-enactment of an ISIS beheading by UK bank employees. In another case, a GOP staffer rudely maligned Sasha and Malia Obama on Twitter. In both cases, the employees involved lost their jobs as a result of their poor judgment.
Here are seven silly career mistakes that smart people make along with tips on how to avoid them.
1. Pulling a “Sickie” and Posting About Your Day on Facebook
Pretending to be sick and sharing your “Ferris Bueller” experience on social media demonstrates poor judgment to say the least. If you have abused company policies in the past, your boss might even consider firing you for pulling a “sickie.”
Dana Case, director of operations for MyCorporation, said, “Using sick time inappropriately is one thing, but blatantly posting about your day at the beach is just careless. Sometimes employees think of their bosses as separate from their personal lives, so they don’t even think about them seeing those types of posts but, if it’s on the internet, it’s easily viewable!”
Think twice when posting on social media, and consider whether your post is appropriate for all audiences who might have access.
2. Inappropriate Appearance
A savvy employee dresses according to his workplace culture and environment. While ad agencies and tech companies tend to have more liberal dress code standards, law firms are generally more traditional. Your appearance and demeanor should reflect the firm’s culture, as well as the types of clients you serve.
Devin Clark, who now works for the medical lien finance company, Medport Billing, had a negative experience while working at a credit card processing firm. Despite showing solid potential as an in-house representative, Clark was dismissed because a banking partner found his earrings to be unprofessional.
Although the way a person dresses is a form of self-expression, at work you represent your company. Your appearance counts, and it pays to conform to the work environment from 9 to 5.
3. Lying on Your Application
A CareerBuilder survey revealed that 58 percent of employers have found outright lies on a candidate’s resume. While 51 percent of the 2,188 hiring managers and human resource professionals surveyed claimed that they would automatically dismiss a candidate who was caught lying, 40 percent said that it would depend on what the candidate lied about. Only 7 percent would be willing to overlook the lie.
Tempting as it is to embellish your qualifications, it’s best to list only those resume achievements that can be proven. A certified coach, human resources consultant and speaker, Lisa Phalen advises applicants to avoid even small lies.
“Tell the whole truth,” said Phalen. “Remember, a lie of omission is still a lie.”
Another CareerBuilder survey found that employees have devised some innovative excuses for their tardiness. They ranged from following a spouse’s lover after uncovering an affair to being delayed by a herd of deer. Creativity aside, CareerBuilder revealed that more than 40 percent of employers have fired a worker for being late.
It’s not surprising that tardiness in the workplace is cause for dismissal. Companies rely on their staffs to ensure smooth operations.
Said Phalen, “Being even a few minutes late can throw off customer service. For example, in a retail establishment, doors can’t open on time or, in a customer service role, phones aren’t answered during posted times.”
According to Pamela Barsky, who designs and manufactures fashion accessories, businesses can even face fines when their employees are late.
“One of our stores is in a communal space, where the landlord has rules about what time we are required to be open,” said Barsky. “We are charged $50 if an employee is even one minute late. We pass the fine on to the employee the first time they show up late — the second, they no longer have a job.”
An HR expert and creator of the management program, From The Inside Out Project®, Laura MacLeod has faced similar issues with hospitality employees.
“Working in a major hotel, I saw many instances of employees arriving late with no excuse,” she said. “Counseling and discipline [were] progressive, but eventually they lost their jobs. This is totally avoidable.”
Consider that your employer has a good reason for demanding punctuality, and set your alarm clock accordingly. If the unavoidable occurs, and you have to be late or absent, take a moment to call your boss. A thoughtful, honest explanation can go a long way toward preserving your job.
5. Poor Personal Hygiene
Most employees are hired on an “at will” basis. According to Nolo.com, this term indicates that an employer can fire you for any reason save discrimination based on race, religion or gender. However, it is perfectly legal for a company to fire you for having bad hygiene.
Said Barsky, “At any one time, I have about 20 to 30 employees. One day, I came into the studio to find all of my sewing machine operators with toilet paper stuffed into their nostrils. The new silkscreen [worker] I had hired came into work smelling a little bit ripe. He was fired the same day.”
Not only can practicing good hygiene help you keep your job, but it also demonstrates your respect for your fellow employees.
6. Gossiping and Ignoring Customers
Gossiping is a silly but easy way to get fired, and gossiping in front of customers can put you on the chopping block even more quickly.
Said Barsky, “We use Square to run our credit cards, which gives customers the option to send us a comment about their experience. Recently, I received one from a woman who’d been forced to wait while my salesperson finished gossiping with a friend … she’s now not working for me.”
For most firms, customer relations management is crucial. Even if business is slow, employees should strive to be attentive at all times and not get distracted by personal conversations and gossip.
Not only do employees who gossip wind up ignoring customers, but they also spread lies about their co-workers in many cases. Doing this creates an unpleasant work environment for everyone.
For best results, avoid passing on company gossip or sending emails with salacious information about your team. The last thing you want is a written record of your transgressions.
It might seem obvious, but swearing at work is unprofessional and inappropriate.
Pierre-Renaud Tremblay is the director of human resources for Dupray, a company that sells steam cleaners and steam irons in six countries. According to Tremblay, employees should avoid swearing at all costs.
“Swearing fosters a toxic work environment,” he said. “We actually had to warn a few of our employees to stop swearing because it was offending others … if you can’t speak without dropping an f-bomb, it’s better to not speak at all!”
Even if you aren’t making one of the above silly career mistakes, you might be doing something at work that threatens your job.
The CEO of GreenPal, Bryan Clayton reveals that most employers find it difficult to fire employees for minor indiscretions if they are proactive about being part of the team. His advice to avoid losing your job over a silly act is to check in with your boss periodically and ask what you can do to help the company succeed.
Said Clayton, “Simply checking in once a month [and] asking that one simple question could save your job.”
From GoBankingRates.com: 7 ways smart people lose their jobs