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5 Ways To Get Yourself Fired

Not too long ago, I coached an executive who I’ll just call Joan.

She was working in a Fortune 100 company where she had done very well for herself, but she was starting to feel stuck and was confused about why she wasn’t getting promoted.

“I’ve done well thus far…” she told me. “I have no idea why I’m so … stagnant.”

After digging for possible reasons, she off-handedly said,  “I slept with my boss once— but no one knows.”

It was like time stopped when she told me this.

“You … what?”

The more adamant she was that no one knew, the more clear it became to me thateveryone knew. No wonder she wasn’t getting promoted: What got you to Egypt won’t get you to the Promised Land, sister!

In some cases, this kind of behavior can get you fired. However, there are many other reasons people lose their jobs that have nothing to do with the employee’s job performance: 50% of companies have fired workers for abusing the internet; other common factors are boozing at work, theft, lying, or missing too many days in the office.

There are other behaviors that can lead to being fired, and some of these might be more surprising: According to studies, 22% of employees know someone who has been fired for wasting time at the office, so avoid lingering too long on your lunch break. Not surprisingly, 33% have of employers have fired employees for violating the company’s social media policy.

Here is a breakdown of five of the most common mistakes you can make that will put you past the point of no return in your current position:

  1. Sleeping around. According to data, 40% of all people have dated a coworker at some point in their career. It’s not surprising in light of the fact that we spend so much time at work, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. In fact, many offices implement non-fraternization policies or encourage one party to the relationship to pursue employment elsewhere. At a minimum, most workplaces prohibit relationships between managers and their employees. We’re all looking for love in this world—I get it… But if you’re sleeping around for the hell of it, do it with people who don’t share your cubicle wall.
  2. Dressing (and acting) unprofessional. A roommate during my days running a program for the Pentagon worked for an elected official in the U.S. Capitol building, yet she dressed as if her office was just a pit stop on the way to a nightclub in Ibiza. According to, 93% of executives believe that an employee’s office style influences his or her chances of promotion. Don’t handicap yourself by assuming no one cares that your skirt is a few inches too short; chances are, someone is taking notice.
  3. Being dishonest. I had a client who came to me saying he lost out on a big interview. When looking at his resume, it was clear he broke confidentiality with his employer. The resume said “worked for a top government intelligence agency in Langley, VA”… Really? I’m surprised President Obama himself didn’t show up at his house for that. The reader of the resume undoubtedly knew that he broke confidentiality. It’s not worth it to break confidentiality in the name of helping an employer know where you work and grasp your world. Find a way to be honest without breaking your word. If you’ll break your commitment to one employer, they go into it already knowing they can’t trust you.The importance of honesty applies to the little white lies, too. Every boss has a horror story about the thoughtless employee who called in sick and could have pulled it off – until he got caught posting a picture on Facebook FB -1.46% of himself eating churros at Disneyland when he was allegedly getting his tonsils removed. Whether you’re a potential new hire or a long-time employee at your company, your boss will never forget being lied to, so make it easy on yourself and don’t break the trust in the first place.
  4. Gossiping. When I worked for an ad agency, the executive assistant to the president was always talking smack about him right outside his office. She was always playing the victim, going on and on about how hard the boss was making her life. What she would say was pretty terrible, but the worst part was having to listen to it.  It all came to a screeching halt on the day the boss stuck his head out of the door unexpectedly, just in time to hear her badmouthing the anniversary gift he’d bought for his wife. It was an agonizing moment: We all stood there looking guilty while he gave her an earful. When it comes to office gossip, don’t do it! Furthermore, don’t put your colleagues in a position where they have to listen to it, or worse, look like they are a part of it.
  5. Lying about your abilities… and then not performing. There is a lot of truth to the old saying, “fake it ‘til you make it.” Most of us will experience this at some point in our careers: Finding ourselves in over our heads, we imitate and improvise to get by, learning as we go. Employers do not expect you to know everything, but they expect you to do everything in your power to get where you need to be in order to get the job done. Studies show that millennials crave on-the-job coaching, but 46% feel they lack the training they need to get ahead at work.  Unfortunately, that’s not an excuse for you to pass go and collect $200: Actively engage yourself in learning the ropes. No one wants to carry the weight of an employee who lacks the motivation to make a meaningful contribution.

We are all human and unfortunately, as such, we’ve all made mistakes at one time or another. If you worry that the fallout of your past mistakes is insurmountable, it may be time to make the jump to a new company.

No matter what, always let your bad decisions be a guide for the future. You can be a victim of your own decisions or you can be empowered, so ask yourself: What can I learn from this?

One of the most powerful takeaways from my work with Joan was the importance of learning and growing from her past mistakes. After working together, she accepted the fact that she was going to have to move on to move up…But she also realized that if she was willing to grow, there was no reason why she couldn’t achieve the success she was destined for in the future.

Fortunately, the doors started to open for her as soon as she came to this realization…And she is already back on track to being the executive she is meant to be: two huge interviews next week.

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