I have no intention of creating a list of behaviors that can get you fired. If you want to see that go read your employee handbook. This post is more of a reaction to another list that was published on January 10, 2012 in CBS Money. The article is entitled 5 behaviors that can get you fired, written by Dave Johnson. I don’t know if Mr. Johnson is writing from personal experience or if he was asked to weigh in on this topic because they could not find anyone with HR experience. (Hey CBS Money, give me a call.) The credentials listed for Mr. Johnson are that he “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.” Undoubtedly he is a fine writer and probably a very nice person, however, this list was not exactly top-of-the-line advice. The reactions in the comments section bore this out.
His listed included:
- Abuse your sick days
- Throw bombs
- Undercut your own team
- Evade transparency
- Be anonymous
Here is my feedback on these points. First, anyone who is abusing sick days should get fired. Follow the policies. The point is that they are abused and not just used. Mr. Johnson unfortunately goes a step further and said “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.” That is a bad statement. Someone who uses all their vacation and someone who calls in sick every Monday should not be lumped in the same category.
Second, he was using “throwing bombs” metaphorically. Actually throwing bombs can be very bad or very good depending on your job description. What Johnson meant was always being the naysayer or being the difficult person to work with. Does that get you fired? Perhaps, eventually, most likely in a RIF.
Third, undercutting your own team may indeed get you fired at some point. Having reservations about the bosses’ ability to do the job or the team’s ability to accomplish the work will not in and of itself get you fired. Publicly airing those points of view may. One caveat to that however, is that in today’s environment of NLRB activism that public gripping may actually be protected concerted activity, depending on with whom you discuss it. So bosses be careful in moving on this one.
The fourth point of evading transparency actually meant hiding your poor work or lying about it. And indeed lying about your work should get you fired. There is an old saying about no matter how much you dress up a pig it is still a pig. On a side note about honesty, I saw Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood the other night. There is one scene in which the king is looking for an honest man to tell him the truth about the crusade. Robin volunteers an honest answer. His honest answer ends up putting him in stocks along with his friends. There is another whole lesson there about being brutally honest.
The fifth point is about being anonymous. Johnson makes the statement “… most organizations actively try to grow their next generation of leaders from today’s individual contributors….many companies have an implicit “up or out” policy that requires employees to participate, collaborate, grow and advance.” The truth of that statement is very dependent on the size and culture of the company. I don’t really think that being anonymous will get you fired. It will certainly keep you from being recognized which could work against you in a downturn. But few people really have an opportunity to be anonymous. If you are doing good work your boss will know it. And if her advancement is dependent on your work she will be unlikely to let you go. But she may also be unlikely to let you advance.
Well as it turns out Mr. Johnson’s list was not a terrible one, but certainly could have been “fleshed out” a bit more. He does however need to correct that vacation thing. Though, if you are higher up in the organization there may be some companies that will not look kindly on you taking all your vacation. You just have to decide if you want to work for them. I would not.