5 behaviors that can get you fired

By Dave Johnson


Whether you love or hate your job, you probably don’t want to put it in jeopardy because of some behavior you weren’t consciously aware was a career hazard. And there are a slew of risky behaviors out there — you don’t have to send your boss an angry email to get on his or her radar in a bad way. Here are some behaviors to watch out for:

1. Abuse your sick days. Yes, you have an allotment of sick days at your disposal, but if you read HR’s fine print, you’ll see that they’re not just some sort of wildcard vacation days. If you always use every vacation day to which you’re entitled every year, or have a habit of calling in sick on Mondays, you are flagging yourself as someone who lacks personal integrity and abuses the system.

2. Throw bombs. You’ve probably heard that it’s fine to ask questions, challenge conventional wisdom and say “no.” But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to be confrontational or rude. You can quickly flag yourself as anti-collaborative or difficult to work with if you throw bombs in emails or in face-to-face meetings. Find constructive ways to ask questions and disagree, or you’ll be “the guy” no one wants to work with.

3. Undercut your own team. Know the right time to discuss sensitive issues. If you are concerned with your own team’s ability to meet a deadline or worried about a decision your boss made, make sure your partners aren’t a part of the email thread where you express your reservations. Otherwise, you become the guy that undercuts and undermines your boss and your team in front of partners, and there’s no faster way to the bench than that.

4. Evade transparency. Be honest and up front. It’s the rare boss who has patience for people who misrepresent reality. In the modern age of email, messaging and metrics, it’s difficult to disguise an off-track project for long.

5. Be anonymous. In principle, you might think it’s a good idea to keep your head down and do the work you’re assigned. But most organizations actively try to grow their next generation of leaders from today’s individual contributors. In fact, many companies have an implicit “up or out” policy that requires employees to participate, collaborate, grow and advance. You need to see seen and heard. For starters, see this post on low risk ways to speak up in meetings.

Dave Johnson has written three dozen books, including the best-selling How to Do Everything with Your Digital Camera, and covered technology for a long list of magazines that include PC World and Wired.