There are many reasons that companies fire employees. But for most employees, companies don't need a reason. Unless you are covered by a collective bargaining agreement or employment contract, you're likely an at-will employee. Employment at will means that an employee can be terminated at any time without any reason and without notice.
That said, most employers won't fire an employee without cause. Most firings are considered termination for cause, which means the employee is fired for a specific reason. Also, keep in mind that a job termination is different from a lay-off, which takes place when an employee is let go because of a lack of work.
The chart below illustrates a few reasons why bosses choose to terminate an employee due to certain behaviors, and the percent on average that bosses choose to terminate versus those who don't.
10 Reasons Employees Can Get Fired
Take a look at some of the most common reasons that employees can get fired from their jobs. Consider this a list of "what not to do" and avoid making these mistakes at all costs.
- Damaging Company Property. You know that scene in the movie Office Space where three employees destroy the printer? It's funny in the movie, but in real life, that's a fireable offense. Whether intentional or not, if your actions lead to damage to the company's property or equipment, it could result in the loss of your job.
- Drug or Alcohol Possession at Work. Being intoxicated or taking drugs in the workplace will interfere with your on-the-job performance, and with some drugs, may be illegal as well.
- Falsifying Company Records. Not only is this unethical, but this could result in long-term legal or performance problems for the company.
- Insubordination. You don't have to say "yes" to all requests or always agree with your manager. However, a refusal to obey orders, obstructionist behavior, or contentious communications can lead to a loss of your job. If you disagree with your manager's requests or policies, express it politely or get in touch with the company's Human Resources department for help with mediation.
- Misconduct. There's a lot that falls into this category from sexual harassment to bullying to criminal misbehavior. Unethical conduct, including lying, stealing, fraud, and industrial espionage, also falls within this category.
- Poor Performance. Companies want employees who do their work and do it well. Fundamentally, if you are not fulfilling the duties outlined in your job description, you are receiving warnings about your performance, or if your work requires oversight or often needs to be re-done, you are not a good investment for the company.
- Stealing. Not only is it illegal, but it's a fireable offense. This includes petty theft, such as a box of pens or ream of paper, as well as stealing money or large items or equipment from the company.
- Using Company Property for Personal Business. Most companies won't mind if you use the office copier for a personal document or send an occasional personal email from your work computer. However, constant use of the Internet or office equipment for personal matters or for working on your side gig isn't acceptable.
- Taking Too Much Time Off. If you're always late, frequently take sick days, or go beyond all your vacation days, employers will notice. Your absence could interfere with work getting done—both your own work and the work of others on your team.
- Violating Company Policy. Policies vary from company to company, and it's a good idea to review your company's policies when you get hired carefully. Some companies, for instance, may have a policy on office dating, appropriate conduct in person and on social media, and much more. Make sure to follow these rules.
More Reasons for Termination of Employment
Surveys from Career Builder say that employers have terminated an employee from a job for the following reasons:
- 22% of employers have fired a worker for calling in sick with a fake excuse
- 24% of employers have fired someone for using the Internet for non-work related activity
- 41% of employers have fired an employee for being late
- 17% have fired someone for something they posted on social media
Another survey from the Society for Human Resource Management says that employees were also fired for the following reasons:
- 22% of employees know someone who has been fired for wasting time at the office or disrupting other employees
- 33% of employers have disciplined an employee for violating social media policy
Other reasons an employee can be fired include lying on a resume or job application, not being able to get along with co-workers or management, for posting on social media sites—or for no reason at all.
Do keep in mind that many employers have a policy in place which details disciplinary action which may be taken prior to an employee being fired. If you need information on the policy check your employee handbook or ask the Human Resources department for information on company policies and procedures.
Employee Rights When a Job is Terminated
What rights do you have if your job is terminated? Employees do have certain rights when their job is terminated and options for seeking assistance if you have questions about those rights, and/or if you believe you have been discriminated against or have been subjected to wrongful termination.