Friday, November 22, 2013

How to Keep Your Job

I want to read the employment section of the Bible. I think it’s simply called Job. ~ Jarod Kintz

For all practical purposes, I retired yesterday.  My last day is December 27, but between vacation and sick time, I'm done.  I've judiciously avoided talking much about my job and still won't until the actual final day.  After that, I might pass on a few tales of my 10+ years with the City of Birmingham.

What motivates me to write today, though, is an article by Monster.com offering advice on how to get fired. Well, their point is to avoid doing this stuff so you don't get fired.  Now, I can speak with some authority on the subject of holding a job because:
  • I've worked for 50 years; 
  • I've worked for 9 different companies (and about 15 if you count summer jobs); 
  • I was fired only once (because I wouldn't spy on my boss to keep the owner's son happy);
  • I've  had to fire a couple of people myself (which pretty much put me off management positions forever).
Some of them make great sense, but on some of them, Monster may be a little off base.  Here are the ones I think will definitely get you fired.

Lying on your resume - Oh, yeah.  There's a good reason this is number one on their list.  There have been some seriously high profile people who got caught seriously padding the old CV, usually claiming degrees that were never earned.

Drinking at work - Of course. In fact, f you're working with machinery, this may well take care of itself.

Having an affair with the boss - Generally, yes, although there are a few people who have turned this into a major advancement opportunity.

Ok, little doubt about those, but the others I can take some issue with.  In fact, most of them are only used as termination excuses to gloss over something worse (like having an affair with the boss).

Gossiping - Unless this gets to the "getting sued for slander" stage, gossiping is not going to get someone fired.  In fact, gossips are usually among the most popular people in the office.

Spending too much time on personal calls - Back when people would use company phones to call Aunt Alice who lived two time zones away, this could get you into serious trouble.  Now, everyone spends half the day on their cell phones either talking or texting. If this was enforced, there wouldn't be an executive who could hold a job for a week.

Spending too much time surfing the web - As a system administrator with responsibility for managing the web proxies, I can tell you that everyone spends too much time browsing the web.  The clever ones use their phones (when they're not texting) so we can't monitor their activity.  The one caveat here is surfing porn sites.  Get caught doing this and you will be escorted out the door by the nice security guard.

Screwing up the numbers - Oh, please.  If everyone I knew who screwed up important calculations was canned, I'd have worked for a couple of ghost companies.  Worst case seems to be that if you do this often enough, they'll give you an assistant who can add.

Alienating your coworkers - Interestingly, the biggest jerks tend to be the people who do perform their job functions the best.  When people complain that the jerk is a jerk, the boss will just tell them to live with it.  I can speak with some authority on this.

Blaming everyone but yourself - What will get you canned is owning up to screw-ups.  Once will be well-regarded as a mark of honesty; twice will be looked at somewhat askance but tolerated; three times and they'll decide you're gossiping or spending too much time surfing the web.

Incredibly, Monster doesn't mention some of the most common reasons for termination.  For example, absenteeism will do the trick.  It can take a while, but it will get you out the door.  In fact, one of the people I fired managed to miss four days in the first two weeks.    Her illness cover got blown when her mother called to complain that we were making her work so much overtime.  What ever work she was doing, it wasn't for us.

Sex or racial harassment can get you off the payroll very rapidly.  Companies do not like being sued because they almost always lose on these.  Oh sure, there are places where people can get away with this stuff for a while, but most of the ones I've been with will show you the door very quickly.

But there is one reason which is never given explicitly, and that is the "somebody's got to take the fall" firing.  Oh sure, we hear about CEO's leaving for performance reasons, but they leave with fat bonuses and platinum parachutes.

No, what I'm talking about is the guys who got canned before the CEO took the money and ran.  These are the foot soldiers who did what they were told and got booted for their trouble so the higher-ups could try to dodge responsibility for bad decisions.  I was ordered to fire someone because of an executive's bad decisions one time.  Basically, a pain-in-the-butt customer was angling for a price cut, so they complained about everything they could, which including some testing being done by guy to be terminated.  The more they complained, the more the executive promised and the farther behind we fell in meeting commitments.

Now, this guy was not the best employee I ever had and had his flaws.  But he was improving..  He most certainly didn't deserve to be canned for the reasons given by the executive because he did the best he could in a situation where promises were being made that we couldn't keep.

And that's why I never got into management again, boys and girls.

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