U.S. markets close in 2 hours 27 minutes
  • S&P 500

    -2.85 (-0.07%)
  • Dow 30

    +39.98 (+0.13%)
  • Nasdaq

    -93.28 (-0.69%)
  • Russell 2000

    -23.41 (-1.03%)
  • Crude Oil

    +0.05 (+0.08%)
  • Gold

    +11.70 (+0.68%)
  • Silver

    +0.17 (+0.63%)

    +0.0035 (+0.29%)
  • 10-Yr Bond

    -0.0240 (-1.66%)

    +0.0055 (+0.40%)

    +0.0180 (+0.02%)

    -1,056.73 (-2.16%)
  • CMC Crypto 200

    -25.75 (-2.61%)
  • FTSE 100

    +25.22 (+0.38%)
  • Nikkei 225

    -255.33 (-0.86%)

Common Ways Smart People Lose Their Jobs

Caroline Banton
·7 min read
©iStock.com / iStock.com
©iStock.com / iStock.com

Intelligent people can lose their jobs for silly reasons. Although some of the mistakes are due to momentary lapses, others result from serious judgment problems. Even some CEOs have been fired for small and big mistakes.

Find Out: These Are the Best Banks of 2021 – Did Yours Make the Cut?

See common career mistakes smart people make, along with tips on how to avoid them.

Last updated: Feb. 3, 2021

taking a selfie with best friend
taking a selfie with best friend

Pulling a ‘Sickie’ and Posting About Your Day on Facebook

Pretending to be sick and sharing your “Ferris Bueller” experience on social media demonstrates poor judgment to say the least. If you have abused company policies in the past, your boss might even consider firing you for pulling a “sickie.”

Be Aware: Millions Will Call In Sick After the Super Bowl — Here’s Why That’s a Bad Move

family playing on the beach
family playing on the beach

The Takeaway: Put the Phone and Tablet Down

“Using sick time inappropriately is one thing, but blatantly posting about your day at the beach is just careless,” said Dana Case, director of operations for MyCorporation. “Sometimes, employees think of their bosses as separate from their personal lives, so they don’t even think about them seeing those types of posts. But if it’s on the internet, it’s easily viewable.”

Bottom line: Think twice when posting on social media. And consider whether your post is appropriate for all audiences who might have access.

Save Up: 45 Jobs That Can Make You a Millionaire Before Retirement

casual dress
casual dress

Dressing Inappropriately

A savvy employee dresses according to his workplace culture and environment. While ad agencies and tech companies tend to have more liberal dress code standards, law firms are generally more traditional. Your appearance and demeanor should reflect your company’s culture, as well as the types of clients you serve.

Devin Clark, who now works for the medical lien finance company Medport Billing, had a negative experience while working at a credit card processing firm. Despite showing solid potential as an in-house representative, Clark was dismissed because a banking partner found his earrings to be unprofessional.

Vacay: Should Employers Require Workers To Take Time Off?

woman fixing a man's suit
woman fixing a man's suit

The Takeaway: Dress to Impress

Although the way a person dresses is a form of self-expression, at work you represent your company. Your appearance counts, and it pays to conform to the work environment from 9 to 5, as well as when you’re applying for the job.

Stay Healthy: How To Protect Yourself When You Return to Your Office

job interview
job interview

Lying on Your Application

A CareerBuilder survey revealed that 75% of employers have found outright lies on a candidate’s resume. Moreover, just 12% say they are likely to hire a candidate who does something odd or extreme in an interview.

In the long run, exaggerating or lying about your experience or qualifications just doesn’t seem to pay.

Keep It Clean: Handshakes and More Office Rules Changed by COVID

lying on resume
lying on resume

The Takeaway: Don’t Embellish

Tempting as it is to embellish your qualifications, it’s best to list only those resume achievements that can be proven. A certified coach, human resources consultant and speaker, Lisa Barrington advises applicants to avoid even small lies.

“Tell the whole truth,” said Barrington. “Remember, a lie of omission is still a lie.”

Find: What It’s Like To Job Hunt During a Pandemic

being late
being late


Another CareerBuilder survey found that employees have devised some innovative excuses for their tardiness. They ranged from following a spouse’s lover after uncovering an affair to being delayed by a herd of deer.

Creativity aside, CareerBuilder revealed that more than 40% of employers have fired a worker for being late.

Discover: 11 Incredibly Important Work Skills Money Can’t Buy

man checking his watch
man checking his watch

The Takeaway: Practice Punctuality

It’s not surprising that tardiness in the workplace is cause for dismissal. Companies rely on their staff to ensure smooth operations.

“Being even a few minutes late can throw off customer service,” said Barrington. “For example, in a retail establishment, doors can’t open on time or, in a customer service role, phones aren’t answered during posted times.”

According to Pamela Barsky, who designs and manufactures fashion accessories, businesses can even face fines when their employees are late.

“One of our stores is in a communal space, where the landlord has rules about what time we are required to be open,” said Barsky. “We are charged $50 if an employee is even one minute late. We pass the fine on to the employee the first time they show up late — the second, they no longer have a job.”

An HR expert and creator of the management program, From The Inside Out Project®, Laura MacLeod has faced similar issues with hospitality employees.

“Working in a major hotel, I saw many instances of employees arriving late with no excuse,” she said. “Counseling and discipline [were] progressive, but eventually they lost their jobs. This is totally avoidable.”

Consider that your employer has a good reason for demanding punctuality, and set your alarm clock accordingly. If the unavoidable occurs, and you have to be late or absent, take a moment to call your boss. A thoughtful, honest explanation can go a long way toward preserving your job.

Mask Up: How To Interview For a Job When You’re Wearing a Mask

A dirty hipster affecting his coworkers in an elevator.
A dirty hipster affecting his coworkers in an elevator.

Poor Personal Hygiene

Most employees are hired on an “at will” basis. According to Nolo, this term indicates that an employer can fire you for any reason save discrimination based on race, religion or gender. It is perfectly legal for a company to fire you for having bad hygiene, however.

Pay: High-Paying Jobs at Apple, Facebook and Google That Don’t Require a Degree

man shaving with an electric razor
man shaving with an electric razor

The Takeaway: Good Hygiene Shows Respect

“At any one time, I have about 20 to 30 employees,” said Barsky. “One day, I came into the studio to find all of my sewing machine operators with toilet paper stuffed into their nostrils. The new silkscreen [worker] I had hired came into work smelling a little bit ripe. He was fired the same day.”

Not only can practicing good hygiene help you keep your job, but it also demonstrates your respect for your fellow employees.

Watch Out: 6 Consequences for Not Having a Budget

gossiping at work
gossiping at work

Gossiping and Ignoring Customers

Gossiping is a silly but easy way to get fired. And gossiping in front of customers can put you on the chopping block even more quickly.

“We use Square to run our credit cards, which gives customers the option to send us a comment about their experience,” said Barsky. “Recently, I received one from a woman who’d been forced to wait while my salesperson finished gossiping with a friend … she’s now not working for me.”

Read More: What Is Zero-Based Budgeting?

three women chatting
three women chatting

The Takeaway: Save the Gossip for Later — or Never

For most firms, customer relations management is crucial. Even if business is slow, employees should strive to be attentive at all times and not get distracted by personal conversations and gossip.

Not only do employees who gossip wind up ignoring customers, but they also spread lies about their co-workers in many cases. Doing this creates an unpleasant work environment for everyone.

For best results, avoid passing on company gossip or sending emails with salacious information about your team. The last thing you want is a written record of your transgressions.

See: 16 Key Signs That You Will Always Be In Debt



It might seem obvious, but swearing at work is unprofessional and inappropriate — and it could result in your firing.

Pierre R. Tremblay is the director of human resources for Dupray, a company that sells steam cleaners and steam irons in six countries. According to Tremblay, employees should avoid swearing at all costs.

See: Almost Every State Is In Debt Thanks to COVID-19 — What Now?

friendly conversation
friendly conversation

The Takeaway: Be Careful Not To Offend Others

“Swearing fosters a toxic work environment,” said Tremblay. “We actually had to warn a few of our employees to stop swearing because it was offending others… if you can’t speak without dropping an f-bomb, it’s better to not speak at all.”

More From GOBankingRates

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Common Ways Smart People Lose Their Jobs