Don’t Worry. You Aren’t Going To Get Fired From Your Job

I’m lucky that at 31, I’ve found a job I both love and am fairly good at. Not enough people get to enjoy that combination and I should be thankful for that every day.

But I’m not. In fact, I’m a pretty terrible employee. I bitch at my boss whenever he tells me to do something simple, like refrain from cursing for a day. I consistently underperform in terms of the number of articles I’m supposed to produce on a given day and the traffic they should bring in. Hell, we have freelancers who do six stories a month who do better than me. We should give them my salary. And if it’s a day of the week where I have to be in the office to ‘perform’ at my ‘job,’ it’s assured I will show up 20 minutes late with a hangover that renders me functionally illiterate until at least two in the afternoon.

And this is the best—by far and away the best—I’ve ever done at work. So you can only imagine how bad I was at jobs that were ten times more demanding than blogging, twenty times as stressful and which I was 100 percent less qualified. Of which I’ve had a few.

The other day our company’s CEO was in town. In passing, I pitched him the idea that we should have a job swap day at work, where I got to be president for the day and he tried his hand at blogging. He was not remotely enthused by this, sort of dismissing me under the pretense that he had a multi-million dollar company to run. I told my boss, J Camm, about the encounter.

“It’s a wonder you haven’t been fired,” he said.

“Actually,” I retorted, “I’ve never been fired from any job.”

“How is that possible?” He asked, completely bewildered.

Side note: I don’t think it’s a good sign when the person who is responsible for employing you openly wonders about your ability to be employed.

I told him I smiled a lot, which is kind of the truth. I do smile a lot. People think I’m nice. But there had to be more to it. Because I’ve done some fucked up shit at some very serious, legitimate places. Prior to BroBible, I spent seven years in the real world, first as a field superintendent at one of the country’s largest construction companies, then in the communications department of a D.C.-based lobbying firm, as well as having some other gigs along the way.

In that time, oh god, where to start? Let’s just say I wrote one of my old bosses wondering if I could interview him about why he never fired me. I got a reply within twenty or so seconds.

“Are you talking about the time you were caught doing Jager bombs before coming into the office or when you blew off work several times to go to Caps games or when you forgot to shut off our job site’s water one weekend and caused a massive flood?”

That was without him spending even a minute to think about the time we spent together. Plus, he doesn’t even know the half of it. In my time working real jobs, I’ve been caught forging time sheets and sleeping with a client’s adopted daughter. Obviously I failed to perform pretty much any task that aided in the long-term development of any company I worked for, and once left a job for three days in the middle of the busiest work week of the year to go to Dewey Beach, turning off my phone and not telling anyone where I was.

When I met with HR when I got back from that, they actually shrugged and told me I could keep my job.

Along the way, I’ve been legitimately freaked out about losing my job. Palms sweating. Heartbeat racing. Getting really paranoid about the possibility after smoking pot. But I should never, ever have been worried, despite doing a litany of shit you would think rose to the level of firing. You shouldn’t worry either, because even though you suck at your job, and you fuck up all the time, and your boss wants you gone, you aren’t going to get fired. Because it’s really fucking hard to fire someone at work.

[Now is where I need to say two things: 1. All my past employers agreed to speak to me on the condition of anonymity and 2. If you get fired, you cannot show this web page to your former boss or the court system and say, “But the BroBible said I couldn’t get fired.”]

“I think most employers are more afraid than the law would require them to be, but there are a lot of considerations that go into firing someone beyond just what the law would allow, including risk to the brand reputation and concerns over what a firing (or failure to fire) communicates to the existing employees,” said one former employer of mine.

Added an old boss at a firm which does over a billion dollars worth of work each year, “I’ve wanted to [fire someone], but it’s a lot of red tape and (mainly) finding replacements is hard.”

Because every employer is worried the next person is going to suck more than you. Which seems impossible, because you really suck, but they didn’t expect this shit performance when they hired you. Just don’t think of your boss as your boss. Consider them as a quasi-willing participant in a romantic relationship gone to shit. You don’t dump someone. That’s so much work. You just act as passive-aggressive as possible until the other person is forced to act.

“In general we do avoid termination,” said one boss. “Usually people get shuffled around amongst teams, without getting raises, promotions, etc. until they figure out its not working and leave on their own.”

Said another, “If a person isn’t working out for one reason or another, I prefer to spend the time to communicate what I see as the disconnect between their performance and my expectations, mentor them to try and reach those expectations and if they can’t … help them understand that it’s probably time to move on.”

Yea. You can literally suck your way into a [fairly] lucrative career simply because of other people’s reticence to pull the firing trigger. That’s got to be comforting to know, that actual incompetence is not grounds for termination. Let’s stop worrying about that and instead embrace our collective inability to excel and keep collecting checks.

But what about that worst part of work? Doing things and stuff. The work part. It’s not as important as you would think. One former employer described me as the employee “most prone to neglecting [his] duties” that he ever had. Yet I stayed at that firm. Not one person I spoke to brought up “not working” as a problem. It’s amazing.

So what do you need to do to stay employed? The real trick, according to several former bosses, is to smile. Pretend to care (or actually care, if you are into that).

That can go a lot longer than actual work ethic.

When asked why I wasn’t fired after one major transgression, a boss said “I could tell that you WANTED to do the right thing… That type of attitude is way more important in the long run than perfection.”

You have to wonder what’s the point of doing any work at your job at all. Why exhaust yourself with bullshit that doesn’t require your attention such as work tasks. It’s much, much easier to not perform. Just look like you care, smile, and keep on not trucking. And if hour upon hour of not working gets boring, there’s always meth, right? Meth. That’s gotta be a fireable offense.

Nope. You gotta get really caught caught caught. From an employer who heard from coworkers that I’d been drinking on the job (which, full disclosure: I was).

“You got lucky,” was the initial response. They hadn’t actually seen it and weren’t “comfortable taking someone else’s word for it without secondary corroboration.”

So keep your drugs away from your boss is all. Smell like weed. Don’t sell it to your superior. Unless they ask. Then it’s entrapment and you can sue. For a lot of money. But really, the bar for doing illegal things at work is as high as you are at work right now.

From another.

“If you’d been caught by someone other than me railing [the client’s adopted daughter (which again, full disclosure: I was)] or doing drugs or drinking by our client, that would have forced my hand. I think you also bought drugs from another employee (also true) and [had that gotten out] that would have been a problem as well. But it would have had to have been a very severe transgression [like involving] the police or burning the building down.”

That’s an old boss of mine listing off all the numerous ethical rules and legitimate laws I broke while working under him. It’s met with a collective shrug. Arson! Actual arson is one of the only fireable offenses in corporate America. So, like, I know you don’t like your job, but put the lighter down and keep collecting paychecks. It’s so much easier.

Why though? Why isn’t everyone in America firing all the dredges of the corporate workforce?

General inertia is one.

“I think organizations can get complacent and take too long to either fire people who don’t fit/aren’t carrying their weight or help them understand that it’s time to move on.”

Image is another.

“I have noticed people won’t fire employees they hire because of their ego getting in the way.”

People are afraid to make a mistake, say they fucked up, say they hired your dumb ass, so instead of eating it, they’ll just keep dealing with your headaches. It’s like when your parents thought about putting you up for adoption. Sure, it would make life easier, but it’s like, we made this mistake, we might as well own up to it.

But if you do meet all the criteria for getting canned, you still might not. It’s so much more work. Think about when one of your subordinates—ha ha just kidding you don’t have subordinates—went on vacation and their work fell to you. Five days was absolutely agonizing and you couldn’t wait for them to come back.

Imagine that process times seven.

“Right now it takes two to three months to find someone who is at least semi-qualified.”

That’s from a company which hires between 25 and 50 people a year. That time doesn’t include training. Nowadays, jobs are so specialized, they all have a tremendous learning curve. The question most bosses ask is would I rather have the person who knows what they are doing but doesn’t do it all that well, or a person who doesn’t know shit and also may fucking suck.

It’s actually a pretty easy decision. So relax, dude. You aren’t going to get fired.

Even though you probably should be.