The Dumb Stuff That Gets You Fired

Dumb and Dumber

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There is the regular stuff that gets you fired; this is about the dumb stuff.

First the regular stuff that causes you and your job to go different ways: position different than advertised, working relationship with boss or key clients never really worked out, company reorganization, you were too good in your role (and it scared people), you were not very good in your job (and it also scared people), somebody senior just didn’t like you, someone bought somebody else (and your job went away) or your company went out of business.

That may well cover 98% of employee terminations – getting canned, fired, whacked, laid off or booted – depending on how the employment status change gets described.

Then there are the others – the dumb things that make you wonder how the person got to the position they held:

Last August Hewlett-Packard fired their CEO Mark Hurd. Hurd had led a financial turnaround at HP since his hiring in 2005. Time Magazine reported the company found that Hurd submitted inaccurate expense reports that concealed his personal relationship with Fisher (an external contractor who was female). These expenses totaled about $20,000, according to reports. HP also says Fisher was at times paid for nonexistent work.

While Hurd’s firing was for a breach of corporate behavior and ethics – see the others who join Hurd on the Wall Street Journal’s list of the Decade’s Top 10 Executive Ethics Scandals – others have been fired for what can only be described as not a lack of the ethics but a lack of smarts.

Sometimes it’s the people who work for you – their lack of smarts – that gets you fired.

Two weeks ago a senior exec at NPR described the US Tea Party as “racist” and claimed that the NPR broadcasting operation could survive without public funding. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), the conversation was caught on video tape. That guy got fired; because of recent bumpiness regarding political fairness, his boss, CEO Vivian Schiller was also fired.

As noted in a post almost two years ago – “Wait! Have You Seen THIS on Video?” – all of us should assume what we say can and will be shared with friends and strangers. It’s not that you can’t say things – it’s just that now you should assume that what you say is shared widely.

And as the Mark Hurd case and a number of ones similar to it show us, doing dumb stuff – like fudging expense reports – can bring down anyone.

Common sense,” as Voltaire noted, “is not so common.” But if you have some, it’s really helpful.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, new role, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.