A common fear shared by employees is making a mistake at work and getting fired. Even the most diligent workers are bound to make mistakes during their careers, especially in the beginning. Fortunately, not every mistake an employee makes is career ending.
Whether someone is fired depends on the severity of the mistake, his or her history at work and the company itself. For example, some companies punish mistakes harder than others because of budgetary reasons.
There are some mistakes which could end your career even if your work record is spotless otherwise. It is important to recognize what mistakes have the chance to end your career. Many of the most serious work mistakes start as smaller mistakes which end up growing into something larger. If you know what mistakes to look for, you reduce your chances of accidentally destroying your career.
1. Playing Politics at Work
You may worry that you will lose your job for mistakes like going over budget or giving a poor presentation. While these are common mistakes, you are more likely to lose your job if you demonstrate difficulty with your co-workers. Whenever possible, avoid any workplace drama.
Do not let yourself fall into a position where you are forced to side with one co-worker over another. Avoid spreading rumors about other employees. If you think the only way to advance in your career is by undermining someone else, you have already made a potentially career-ending mistake.
Related Article: Navigating Co-Worker Conflicts
Remember that playing politics is not the same as creating strong work relationships. It is perfectly acceptable to make friends at work, but do not try and leverage those friendships to your advantage. If you feel like you are put in a position where someone at work is making you choose sides, go to your Human Resources department and explain the situation.
Your first instinct may be to ignore the conflict entirely. However, you do not know if someone plans to accuse you of being involved because the situation involves one of your workplace friends, or someone you do not normally get along with.
2. Overpromising and Underdelivering
A common mistake in the workplace, especially if you are a new hire, is promising something you know you cannot deliver on. When you promise something above your abilities, you set expectations too high.
Failing to deliver on a project or presentation is bad, but it becomes significantly worse when you raise the expectations of your manager. To your manager, it comes off as you lying about your abilities, which makes him or her question everything else about your credentials.
There is already enough pressure in the workplace, so you do not need to add more. If your boss gives you a deadline you know you can complete easily, do not promise to complete it faster. You can impress your boss by turning the project in before the deadline, but if you tell your boss off the bat you can get it done quickly, you end up disappointing him or her if you miss the earlier deadline, even if you still finished before the initial deadline.
Do not try and game the system by doing the opposite and asking for a longer deadline just so you can complete a project earlier. To your employer, it comes off looking like one of the following:
- You do not have the necessary skills to complete your project by a reasonable deadline.
- You are not dedicating enough of your time to work.
- You are not confident in your abilities and may be unable to handle high-pressure projects.
3. Growing Complacent
It may seem strange, but a common career-ending mistake is becoming too complacent at work. When you are too complacent at work, you do not grow as an employee and you often put less effort into your work. For example, when you begin a job you put more effort into your work to impress your boss. If you get too comfortable, you risk only doing the bare minimum because, in your mind, you do not have to worry about your job anymore.
Employers want employees who continue to grow. Even if you are not actively reaching for a promotion, you can impress your employer by attending workshop development classes or accepting more responsibility in your current position.
If you find yourself growing stagnant in your career, take a step back and find out why you are so complacent. In many cases, employees become complacent at work as a result of being stuck in a career they dislike.
Remember, there is a difference between growing complacent and being comfortable. You can be comfortable with your job, but still work on improving yourself and climbing the corporate ladder. Similarly, you do not want to work in a job where you consistently feel afraid or uncomfortable.
4. Irresponsible Social Media Use
Before the age of social media, companies rarely cared about what you did during your personal time. Today, it is not as easy for employers to ignore your private life. If your social media contains your job position and the company you work with, you are now a company representative.
If you say something controversial or post something disrespectful, your post is now linked to your company name. It is not uncommon for someone to see the post, get offended, and contact your company. Even if nobody complains, if your manager sees the post, he or she may preemptively fire you to avoid future controversy.
Keep in mind, not only offensive material gets you in trouble. If you consistently act immature, you look unprofessional to any work colleagues viewing your profile. Additionally, if you spend too much time using social media at work, you may appear unfocused. It may not lead to you being fired, but this can have a serious impact on your image as a professional.
5. Hiding Your Mistakes
If you make a mistake at work, even if it is small, do not try and hide it. There is no such thing as a perfect employee. Your managers do not expect you to go your whole career without making the occasional mistake.
If you made a mistake, let your manager know. He or she may be upset, but once you inform your manager of the mistake, the two of you can work together to come up with a solution.
If you try and hide your mistakes, you risk a relatively small issue becoming progressively worse because nobody else knows about it. Your mistake may be linked to a larger project, and by hiding the mistake, you may ultimately create many more mistakes because everyone is now working with incorrect information.
Related Article: 4 Things Your Employer Notices About You