27 September 2023

Blunder bust: How simple mistakes can lead to earth-shaking disasters

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Travis Bradbury* says people lose their jobs every day for seemingly innocent mistakes that have far-reaching consequences.

There are so many things that can get good, hard-working people fired.

Honest mistakes often carry hard-hitting consequences.

A recent study from the ePolicy Institute surveyed more than 300 organisations and found a third of them had fired employees for the misuse of technology.

Organisations are getting so worried about employee abuse of technology that 45 per cent of those surveyed admitted that they tracked employee technology use (some all the way down to the keystroke).

When it comes to reasons for getting fired, digital faux pas steal the spotlight.

Every week, it seems, we read about someone getting fired for something they posted on social media.

Digital media is far from the only way that people slip up and lose their jobs.

People get fired all the time for seemingly innocent mistakes.

While we snicker behind our coffee cups at the more egregious examples, there are still plenty of other ways to get fired that may surprise you.

Over-promising and under-delivering:

You made an implied promise when you accepted your job.

You implicitly promised that you were capable of fulfilling all of the job’s responsibilities.

Accepting a job when you know you’re not qualified catches up with you.

Even when you are qualified, telling your boss you’re making great progress when you aren’t or committing to a deadline you know you can’t meet makes you look bad.

Don’t be surprised if you get fired for failing to do everything you said you could do.


You were hired to make your boss’s and your team’s jobs easier, not harder.

People who constantly spread negativity through their Department, complain about others, and whine that the work isn’t part of their job description complicate things for everyone else.

Those who make their boss’s life harder are usually the first ones to go.

Having to tiptoe around you so as not to dislodge that massive chip on your shoulder isn’t something he or she is likely to be willing to do for very long.


Whether you’re sending out e-mails inviting co-workers to your party or hanging up an order form for your child’s school fundraiser, you could be violating policy.

Don’t assume that you’re in the clear just because other people are doing it — this type of policy violation is what managers hang their hats on when they’re unhappy with an employee’s performance.

Lack of emotional intelligence:

Everyone knows that you can get fired for being unable or unwilling to play nicely with others.

What trips up a lot of people is having a poorly developed poker face.

If everyone can tell when you’re bored or irritated or that you think something a colleague is saying is stupid, this will catch up with you.

Emotional outbursts, belittling others, shutting co-workers down when they speak, and just generally being a jerk are other ways a lack of emotional intelligence will leave you looking for work.

Misusing supplies or resources:

Many people don’t think twice about taking a pack of printer paper home when they’ve run out.

However, in the eyes of your employer, this is stealing.

Abusing the organisation’s resources is a serious offense, even if the monetary value of the item doesn’t add up to much.

Catching you in the act can also be a good excuse if your boss is looking to fire you.

It’s a lot easier to document and justify firing someone for stealing than it is to fire them because they are just okay at their job.

Speaking on behalf of the organisation:

This isn’t just about sending out an unauthorised press release or venting on the organisation’s Twitter account.

Most people already realise that these types of things will get them fired.

I’m talking about answering a question when a reporter sticks a microphone in your face or identifying yourself as an employee of the organisation when sharing your personal opinions online.

This creates the perception that you’re speaking as a representative of the organisation, even when you aren’t trying to, and that’s definitely something that can get you fired.

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that they can only be fired for getting caught making one huge misstep, such as sexually harassing a colleague or bad-mouthing the boss.

The reality is that it’s usually not that dramatic.

*Travis Bradberry is the co-founder of TalentSmart, a provider of emotional intelligence tests, emotional intelligence training, and emotional intelligence certification. He can be contacted at TalentSmart.com.

This article first appeared on the TalentSmart website.

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