Mar 28, 2012 04:18 PM EDT

How to Avoid Getting Fired: Never do the 10 Things


Most people start their jobs with the best of intentions, never thinking they could be fired. After all, that's a fate reserved primarily for incompetents and workers caught with their hand in the company till, right? Wrong. You might not realize just how slippery the slope out the door can be.

To guard your job security, be sure to avoid the 10 things on this checklist.

1. Lie on Your Job Application or Resume

Tell the truth from the start, because you will be held responsible for the information you provide, and your employer will check it. Generally, educational background checks can take up to a month after hire.

For example, Bruce Hurwitz, president and CEO of New York-based Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, recalls a staff member at a former employer who noted on his resume that he had his CPA when he did not. He had taken all the coursework, but did not take the exam.

"He had the job, was doing a good job, but was fired on the spot when his boss found out he had lied on his resume. The job didn't require a CPA, but the boss checked to see if he had it anyway," said Hurwitz. "Even though it wasn't a requirement, it reflected on his character."

2. Get Conveniently Sick

It's okay to take sick days when you need them, but if you take too many at the wrong times, it could mean more free time to convalesce.

"If you want to get fired, repeatedly call in sick on Mondays," said Randy Merrell, vice president of operations at Elite Network, a San Francisco-based search firm. "Muscle up and get yourself in there. Hangovers are no excuse."

The same goes for vacation days, said Cohen. Ditching the company for a few days of sun and surf in the middle of a busy season reflects poorly on your dedication to the well-being of the business.

"An administrator in my client's department had a key role in planning a major event, and the admin called in sick for three days the week before the event," said Cohen. A check of her records showed that she had a pattern of calling in sick around major events. "All of the work gets dropped on others' shoulders. Her sick days might have been legit, but they were legit too frequently," he said. That, when combined with her sloppy work and incomplete projects, got her cut from the roster.

3. Be Disgusting

If you aren't diligent with your hygiene, people probably aren't going to go out of their way to keep you around.

"I have a number of clients who are managers that have employees who were unkempt," said Cohen. "When it came time for downsizing, they were at the top of the list."

You might think that hygiene habits should be a personal decision left to each staff member's own discretion, but Cohen said that the reach of bad body odor goes beyond the cubicle around you. "It's engaging in anti-social behavior," he said. "Not bathing, being unkempt... You have to be very careful, especially if you're in a client-interfacing role."

4. Stay Anonymous

If you always keep your head down, never remind your boss of your accomplishments, and aren't a familiar face to the higher-ups, you aren't going to be remembered for what you're worth when headcount is being shaved.

"It's not enough to just work hard, stay late, and be intelligent," said Linda Farley, founder of Farley Training, a San Antonio-based management coaching firm. "It shows you're not a team player. If you don't speak up in meetings and share your ideas, you'll be the one who doesn't have ideas," instead of the one who works late and meets deadlines.

"People need to know you as a person before they can trust you as a worker," she said.

5. Be Ungrateful

A lack of humility can earn you a pink slip. "If you want out, ask for a raise before a round of job cuts, and get angry when they don't give it to you," said Cohen. "It shows poor judgment."

Another way to get the ax, said Cohen, is telling your boss that the work they're providing you with is beneath you.

In one word, complain. "That's how you get your name at the top of the list," said Cohen.

6. Don't Respect the Chain of Command

It's likely that the current chain of command in the office has long been in place, and for good reason. Except in the most extreme of circumstances, experts recommend respecting it.

"When you're emotionally intelligent, aware of your surroundings and know who the players are, you have a sense of what you should say when, and when you should keep your mouth shut," said Farley. "You know when you should go over someone's head, and when you should follow the chain of command."

7. Spend Time With the Complainers, Non-Performers and Gossips

When company information is leaked or major deadlines are missed, someone will likely be fired. Even if you weren't involved, you don't want your name associated with those of the usual suspects.

"Even if you're not a non-performer or a complainer yourself, if you're associated with them, people will start thinking of you in that way," said Farley of Farley Training.

Keep gossip to yourself, and never repeat anything you hear. Winding up on the wrong side of the rumor mill can cost you more than somebody's trust; it can mean your job.

8. Never Take Responsibility When Things Go Wrong

If you do something stupid, don't lie about it. The truth will come out -- and you'll get a lot of negative attention if you're forced to admit you tried to cover up.

"It's not the crime, it's the cover-up," said Hurwitz. "If you're the source of bad news about you and if you admit to your mistakes and you don't repeat them, that's a positive. You'll get credit for it."

But if you blame failed technology, time crunches, or the errors of your colleagues when things go awry and you're to blame, you're expendable.

9. Taking Too Many Personal Calls

Spending much of your work time orchestrating your own personal business usually results in being given an opportunity to spend all of your time on the phone on personal business -- looking for a new job, Star warns.

10.Being Indiscreet About Your Job Hunt

If you are in the market for a new job, don't send your resume from your office computer, which most likely is monitored by IT. Assume your instant messages (IMs) and emails are fair game as well.

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