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How to avoid being in the firing line

No-one wants to get fired. It’s a black mark on your professional life. To avoid finding yourself in the firing line, take time to think about the legitimate reasons an employer can let you go.

Here are 12 top reasons an employer could place you in the firing line.

Breaching company policy

If a company policy says that not adhering to the rules is a sackable offence, then you’d better adhere to the rules. It’s smart to be serious about reading and understanding policies—they’re there for a reason and it’s your responsibility to be across them.

If you don’t understand a policy or procedure, be sure to ask for clarification so you’re not unknowingly violating company rules.

Not following procedures

Some procedures are mandatory and are there to protect the entire workplace. If you break, for example, critical health and safety procedures, your boss has the right to deal with it. These procedures aren’t optional.


If you exhibit bullying behaviour, you could find yourself out of a job. Sexual harassment is unacceptable. Physically threatening colleagues or assaulting them is too. The same applies to verbal abuse and unethical conduct, like fraud or breaking confidentially or privacy agreements.


If you’re caught stealing company assets, like laptops, phones or stationery, you would be classed as a thief and can expect to be dealt with accordingly.

Using passwords you’re not meant to use

Even if you spot a password on a colleague’s screen or stumble across one, that doesn’t mean you’re free to use it, especially to access information you have no right to be accessing. Sharing such knowledge with others you work with is a sackable offence.

Sharing company knowledge

Sharing competitive information with other that could benefit from that knowledge is guaranteed to place you in a spot of bother. That includes financial information, documentation outlining unique selling propositions, client data bases and other company intellectual property.

Badmouthing about your company on social media

While we live in a big world, it’s also a small world. Even if you think you can be negative about your employer on social media and not get caught, think again. This applies even if you have strong privacy settings on your social media accounts. Once you badmouth your company, what you’ve said is ‘out there’.


This could include lying on your resume, lying to your boss about doing something important that you haven’t done, or saying you’re finished a project when you haven’t. It could also be that you’re spending time on activities not related to your job, using company equipment and other property to conduct personal business. It could also be lying about being sick. We’ve all heard of employees who say they’re sick and then get ‘spotted’ in public looking very healthy and happy. Some even post pics on social media.

Failing to do your job

If you’re a poor performer, and continue to be a poor performer, you could be in the firing line. If you’re being performance managed you need to ensure your boss can see you’re making concerted effort to improve, even if in incremental steps.

Being intoxicated or on illegal drugs

If you’re caught drinking or taking drugs on the job or show up intoxicated or under the influence, you can expect to be called out for it. Some employers have a zero policy on alcohol or drugs within the workplace.

Damaging company property

Having a bad day and want to take it out on the company printer? Damaging equipment, furniture and other assets isn’t a smart move, particularly if it’s non-accidental. This type of behaviour is also excessively aggressive and could frighten other employees.


Blatantly refusing to do what you’re asked to do by your boss is insubordination and isn’t looked upon favourably by companies. This doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion about a task, but it’s your boss who makes the final decision. If they ask you to do something, they have the right to expect you to do so. If you just choose not to, or become obstructionist, be prepared to pay the price.

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