4 Ways to Avoid Getting Fired


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.

Not Communicating

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.

3 Responses to “4 Ways to Avoid Getting Fired”

  1. Michelle

    The job market is NOT doing fine! In fact I just lost my job about a month and a half ago … My supervisor claimed it was because of the budget …. and that may be, but, after reading this article I think ultimately it was because I had a hard time fitting in with the company’s culture or it’s environment. I couldn’t do my job properly because I was given inferior tools (slow as molasses computer, phone system that would shut down on its own in the middle of a support call, ticketing system that was constantly crashing etc) and I was extremely vocal about my frustration and displeasure-ment. And even though I wasn’t “playing the Game of Thrones” I would email my bosses asking them to look into situations with certain people or certain incidents and I think THAT ultimately painted a target on my back … silly me for not wanting to be taken advantage of or harassed.

    So this article actually shed some much needed light on the situation for me.

  2. TrojanSpirit2

    Michelle, I agree with you although I do the sarcasm in emilov’s response. This article seems to address some of the obvious issues that can cause termination. One specifically is cultural fit. You can’t truly define the culture of an environment from one interview, if you can you’re in the wrong line of work and should be a millionaire giving advise.

    Your response shows motivation and forward thinking, which can be intimidating in today’s new work (or lack thereof) environment. People who want to do there job and truly excel in a culture where management is learning and afraid to take risks will find themselves expanding their resume elsewhere. It’s jungle out there for truly motivated people.