We all do and say incredibly dumb stuff. All of us. It just usually gets forgotten, or blows over in a relatively short amount of time. Other people aren’t so lucky — things follow them for the rest of their days, dragging down their career prospects, and making them permanent pariahs in the eyes of the public.
It’s at those times you should be glad you’re not a celebrity. But just because you’re relatively insignificant doesn’t mean your words and actions don’t have gravity — and can lead to some unfavorable outcomes.
Recently, a federal appeals court in Cincinnati ruled on a case that involved one such stupid mistake: a butt-dial. That butt-dial had some pretty heavy consequences because what the individual ultimately said, in what he thought was privacy, led to his eventual firing from his position as an airport’s CEO. The individual in question sued, thinking that his privacy had been invaded, but alas, the federal courts have ruled that anything you say during a pocket or butt-dial can, indeed, be held against you.
If you weren’t already paranoid in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations, this should push you closer to adopting that tin foil hat. But seriously, if something as simple and stupid as a butt-dial can take down a CEO, what else can lead to an individual’s professional crucifixion? If you watch the news, you’ll see that a lot of stupid mistakes can generate that outcome, from social media posts to public outbursts caught on camera.
That means you need to be vigilant in keeping your behavior in check, especially in a professional capacity. There are a million ways to get fired, and the overwhelming majority of them are easy enough to avoid that nobody should have to warn you about them. Even so, every once in a while, somebody falls victim.
To expand on that, we’ve put together a short and succinct list of three stupid mistakes that can lead to your firing, if you’re not careful. Read on, and behave yourself.
1. Intercepted communications
Obviously, this is inspired by the ‘butt-dialing’ incident mentioned previously. Think about it, though; how many times have you accidentally sent a text message to someone that you did not intend, or even call a wrong number and immediately spout off, to the wrong person, as soon as they answered? Granted, it may not happen a lot, but it happens to everyone at some point — you just need to make damn sure that you’re careful when scrolling through your contacts.
Though smartphones have made it a bit more difficult to straight-up butt-dial these days, it can still happen, as we’ve witnessed. If you have coworkers and friends with similar names, especially populating your contacts list, be extremely careful — or just choose not say anything awful via text or on the phone that could come back to bite you.
2. Falling asleep
Face it: that spreadsheet isn’t holding your attention. It’s not holding anyone’s attention. The numbers and formulas are so dull that they’re boring you to tears. You just need a break for a couple minutes. Just to close your eyes. It’s awfully warm in your office, too. Like a sleeping bag.
BOOM! 20 minutes later, the boss is wondering why you’re treating your desk, and his office, like a Best Western.
We all get sleepy at work, especially if your job is sedentary, and you don’t move around a lot. So, what can you do? Get up, walk around, talk to people, or get a bit more strategic with your sleep schedule. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a few different things to try: take a walk, take naps, up the caffeine intake, and keep moving throughout the day.
3. Social media posts
This, along with butt-dialing and sending inflammatory texts to the wrong person, involves using common sense in your communications. A lot of people run into trouble with their social media habits, and many end up losing their jobs because of it. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and all the others — they are on the Internet. They can be found by anyone who really, really wants to track them down. Yes, there are privacy settings, but there are also ways for employers or other people to get around these things, and see all the moronic diatribes you have posted or “liked” over the years.
Rule of thumb: don’t write dumb things on the Internet. Don’t comment on how much you hate your job, your financial situation, or any other personal details. Leave that stuff for in-person discussions. Airing your grievances for the entire world — and your family and social circle — to see may be satisfying in the moment, but it can come back to haunt you.
Follow Sam on Twitter @SliceOfGinger