5 Ways to Get Fired

By Tracy MacDonald
Aug 2016

Almost no one starts a job, or a career, looking for or thinking about ways to get fired. And while not the most pleasant subject to discuss when it comes to work, people do get fired. Often times, it’s not just one event or one issue that gets someone fired, nor does it happen in one day. It’s a cumulative process with a bad result; but one which could have been avoided if one knew what to do or was more adept at recognizing warning signs. Here are just five common causes of getting fired.

Failure to adapt. Environments are constantly changing and in the business world it not just about technology instigating change but also mergers and acquisitions, new markets, new leadership, new products and the refocusing of goals and objectives. Not terribly different from the plant and animal community, those who adapt will survive, and those who do it the best and the fastest will thrive. They will also grow within the new goals and model of the company. Logically, it’s safe to expect that those who don’t will lose their jobs, but in reality it’s not so simple as that. An employee who is stuck in the “old way” can have difficult time adjusting but it’s incumbent on the leadership and the individual to find the place where the employee and thrive in the new model. This individualized approach works well in small businesses. For larger companies, a little help may be required from outside consultants, who are not as emotionally attached, to educate and train the employees to make the adaptation process as smooth as possible. Even with help from outside experts and internal leadership, it’s still the responsibility of the employee to recognize the help and guidance that’s been given and do his or her best to adapt.

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Expecting someone else to solve your problems. We all encounter problems and challenges in the workplace. How we handle those problems and the steps we take to resolve them can be the difference in keeping your job and not. Blaming a poor end result on the fact that someone else couldn’t, or wouldn’t, solve your problem for you is a quick trip to demonstrating that you’re not worth holding on to as a long term employee. And in times when smaller businesses are evaluating who to nurture and invest in as they grow, it’s better to be part of the long term solution. The ability to resolve an issue, even temporarily, shows initiative, creativity, and the drive to  succeed.

Meeting expectations. There was a time when simply meeting expectations was enough to keep your job; and not just keep it, but keep it for decades. With improvement in work systems and software to help do the work that people used to do, people have become more expendable in certain roles. Therefore, exceeding expectations is required for success. Anyone can come into work and do what need to be done to say, “yes, I’m doing my job.” But when change in workflow results in office redundancy, the person who is doing just their job and not much more, could end up on the wrong side of the decision makers’ desk. Exceeding expectations demonstrates that you are capable, enthusiastic, invested and truly view yourself as part of a team. Those are the people who move and grow, not the ones who just show up because they are being paid to.

Ignoring warning signs. Warning signs are everywhere. Yes, some are more blatant than others, and some are so subtle they can be missed, but in the corporate world, they are required and therefore really difficult to miss. Today, even with hire-at-will employment contracts, most human resources departments will require documentation of continued poor performance by an employee before someone can be fired. And when that documentation exists, likely in the form of a performance review, the best leaders will do all they can to help turn things around. Sometimes, the information won’t come in written form, but instead in a conversation, in an office, with the door closed. While it could be more helpful to have information in writing, to be referenced for areas needing improvement, the conversation is a key indicator that something isn’t working and needs to be fixed. In either case, don’t just brush off or discount the information you are receiving. Acknowledge it, ask for help if you need it and above all recognize it as a warning and an opportunity to improve and turn things around for yourself.

Thinking you are not replaceable. This is a big one. People often make the mistake of assuming that just because they have a high level position, that they are not replaceable. Everyone is replaceable. Experience, while valuable, can be learned over time and by anyone who has the ability to adapt, the tenacity to exceed expectations, the creativity to solve problems, and the ability to hear where their areas of improvement are an taking the steps to get there. While those high level positions are respected, and needed, it’s important not to get too comfortable and to remember that even at that level there is always room for improvement.

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