There are some surefire ways to get fired: insult your CEO in public, for example, or complain about your working conditions on Medium. By using your common sense, you can avoid some of the gaudiest ways of getting ejected from your current role.
But even if you dodge some of the largest, most obvious workplace landmines, there are other, subtler ways to end up terminated, a few of which you might not see before it’s too late. Here are a few things to watch out for:
Not Fitting with the Company’s Culture
When Apple appointed John Browett as SVP of Retail in mid-2012, pundits suggested it was an odd choice. Browett had previously run Dixons, a UK-based electronics chain not exactly known for its peerless shopping experience or store design. Within months of the hiring, store employees began complaining about Browett’s determination to cut expenses rather than focus on customer service.
Ten months after he joined Apple, Browett was out. In a subsequent interview, he suggested that he hadn’t been the best cultural fit.
Lesson: You can be the most competent employee on the planet, but if you don’t mesh well with the company’s culture, your tenure likely won’t be long. Your initial job interview can help you determine cultural fit, provided you ask the right questions. Post-hiring, take time to understand how the company’s culture works, and how you can best sync up with it, rather than trying to impose your own views on colleagues and subordinates.
Proposing Excessive Risk
Some firms thrive on risk. Without outlandish ideas, the whole tech industry would stagnate and die. That being said, some companies have more of an appetite for thinking (and acting) outside the proverbial box than others. A startup executive may respond positively to your crazy concept for the future of mobile UX; a midlevel manager at a major enterprise, however, will probably roll his or her eyes (at best) or eject you from the division (at worst).
Lesson: If you earn a reputation as the employee who proposes ludicrous ideas that have no chance of becoming finished products, your days at a company could be numbered. Pay attention to what your firm actually needs, and propose ways to accomplish those short- and medium-term goals. You can always save your more creative notions for specially designated brainstorming sessions.
Playing ‘Game of Thrones’
Some offices are excessively political, with lots of plotting and backstabbing; others, less so. While most tech pros just want to come to the office and do their best work, it’s sometimes tempting to play politics, if only to save your own skin if a project implodes.
Although whisper campaigns and sabotage might earn you a promotion (or prevent you from being fired, at least in the short term), it can just as easily earn you a trip to the (figurative) chopping block. Your colleagues will also remember if you backstab or undermine them, making your job that much harder in the long-term.
Lesson: Focus on your job and what needs to be done. You can always advance your career by showing solid results.
A typical tech pro might accomplish quite a bit in a given day or week, but unless they communicate those results to senior management, there’s a good chance their contributions will end up overlooked. If your boss doesn’t realize how much you’re doing, they may terminate you the next time they need to reduce headcount in order to save budget.
Lesson: Proactively communicate your accomplishments early and often. Whether through regularly scheduled meetings or a periodic email, make sure your stakeholders and superiors know exactly what you’re doing.