What Are the Top 10 Reasons People Get Fired?

Surviving Workplace Investigations

Being fired is always a difficult and even traumatizing experience. While it is not always an employee’s fault that they have been fired, there are steps an employee can take to significantly lower their risk for termination – namely, understanding and avoiding the numerous situations which can lead an employer to fire someone for cause. Oftentimes, employers will use these reasons as their arguments in legal battles as to why they were justified in firing an employee.

Here are ten of the most common reasons that an employee may be fired:

10. Insubordination

Refusing to do work, deliberately obstructing behaviors and even using a combative tone to a supervisor or members of leadership can be used as grounds for firing an employee. A notable exception to this is refusing an employer or supervisor’s request to break the law or violate public policy, which is often protected under federal or state whistleblower laws.

9. Inappropriate use of Social Media

In most circumstances, an employer is within their rights to fire an employee based on social media use. Reasons for this can range from engaging in activities that the employer or company do not approve of outside of work, badmouthing the employer online and, with notable exceptions in some states, political affiliation.

8. Tardiness

Clocking in to work late or leaving work earlier than an employee is scheduled is quite common and reflects poorly on the employee. If you need to come in late or leave early, be sure to speak to your employer to determine if it is allowed and the amount of notice required.

7. Damaging or stealing property

Damaging, destroying, or stealing company property are often viewed severely, and are commonly cause for dismissal from any position. Be aware that theft of company property can be the theft of valuables or petty cash, as well as taking small, low-value supplies like pens, paper and paperclips for personal use.

6. Using company property for personal reasons

Similarly, the use of company property like laptops, printers and scanners for non-work purposes is also viewed by many companies as theft and can be used to dismiss an employee.

5. Substance abuse while on the job

Most often this entails drinking, smoking, or the use of any form of recreational drugs on the company’s time. This includes coming to work drunk or high.

4. Violating company policy

This varies from organization to organization, but depending on the policy, an organization can take a policy violation very seriously. This can include things like inappropriate language, dress-code violations, and failure to follow procedure.

3. Taking too much time off

Often in line with company policy, an employee taking time off when they shouldn’t be doing so may be grounds for dismissal. This includes faking illness to take a day off, not coming in to work when requested, or taking unapproved time off.

2. Inappropriate behavior and misconduct

There are many things that qualify as inappropriate behavior and misconduct. Some examples are acts of physical or verbal abuse, sexual harassment, bullying, fraud, dishonesty, and neglect. Depending on the severity of the action, an employee fired for these reasons may ultimately face additional charges.

1. Poor performance

This is one of the most commonly cited reasons for dismissal. Whether it is due to a lack of training, a failure to meet certain quotas, or a consistent need for oversight and re-doing of work, poor performance is ultimately viewed by a company as an employee becoming a liability, wasting valuable time and money.

The Big Picture

Avoiding these behaviors can go a long way towards protecting your job. However, termination is not always under your control, and can sometimes be wrongful despite your best efforts as an employee. If you have been fired or are afraid you might be, and you believe that you are being falsely accused of any of the above, contact a lawyer.