Certain social media posts, inappropriate jokes over email, or getting a bit too too drunk: these are some personal decisions you make might end up costing your job, recruitment experts have revealed.
While it’s fairly intuitive what kind of behaviours should be side-stepped at work, some aren’t always crystal-clear.
According to recruitment and employment experts, here are some things you might not know could put you in the firing line:
1. ‘Little white lies’
You might have seen other people at work inflate performance figures slightly; but this is a dangerous move, said Indeed head of career insights Jay Munro.
“It may seem harmless at the time but bending the truth when it comes to reporting or performance is dishonest and can come back to bite you,” he told Yahoo Finance.
And if your white lies go as far as covering up misuse of a work vehicle or corporate credit card, for instance, your wrongdoing may be made worse by the fact that you tried to cover it up at all, said employment firm McDonald Murholme’s managing director Alan McDonald.
“If you are accused of making a mistake it’s essential that you explain yourself well and don’t take a short-cut by making a dishonest response,” he told Seek.
“You should take a support person who is well informed to any allegations meetings and secure advice before responding to any allegations.”
2. Inappropriate jokes
You might think you’re sharing a private inside joke with a colleague – but it’s never a good idea to make jokes that are discriminatory in nature or contain elements of bullying or racism, especially through the company email.
“Even when we write well-intentioned jokes or use sarcasm in emails, this can be misinterpreted or received differently to how we intended, therefore it’s important to remain objective and professional when sending emails,” Munro said.
According to McDonald, using insulting language could see individuals lose their jobs.
“Sharing or shouting abuse, even out of frustration, can hurt people’s feelings and lead to dismissal of even the best worker,” he said.
3. Drinking too much
Alcohol can alter your behaviour – and your perception of your behaviour. While you can’t be fired for a drinking problem or alcoholism, if this practice results in harassment, inappropriate behaviour, or affects your ability to do your job, your job could be at risk.
“While you may think you’re a lot of fun after a few drinks, colleagues and your employers may perceive your behaviour differently,” Munro said.
4. Misconduct when applying for a new job
One of two things could get you in trouble: lying up on your job application; or giving away company secrets when applying for a new job.
Exaggerating in your job application might seem harmless but could get you in hot water down the track, said McDonald.
“You must be careful with what you say during the recruitment process as tribunals will support an employer’s decision to dismiss you if the misleading conduct is deliberate and material to your role.”
Meanwhile, you might be asked a sensitive question in your job interview that accidentally reveals confidential information, especially if you’re applying to a rival organisation.
“If your company has a policy where salaries aren’t divulged for example, you’ll be breaching policy. If you don’t land the role, you’ve given away confidential company information, potentially to a competitor,” Munro said.
“And even if a potential employer asked you the question, they might decide they can’t trust you with their own IP when you hand over information you shouldn’t have.”
5. Social media gaffes
According to Munro, this misstep is the “biggest one”. What you say and post online, even if you think it doesn’t concern anyone other than yourself, can risk your employment.
“[This] includes things like calling in sick and then posting photos from a trip away, misrepresenting company values in social media posts, or speaking ill of the company which could be as simple as complaining about a bad day or a colleague,” he told Yahoo Finance.
“Employees are increasingly connected with their employers on social media which adds to the risk here.”
A simple workaround: don’t list your workplace on your social media profiles, he said.
The bottom line
According to employment relations advisory firm Employsure, there’s no hard-and-fast rule for why an employee might be dismissed for serious misconduct if there’s a legitimate reason and the termination has followed all the rules.
“It will depend on the circumstances, and whether at the end of a fair process the circumstances warrant termination of employment,” she told Yahoo Finance.
Some more obvious instances of dismissal include theft, fraud, assault, being drunk at work and refusing to carry out lawful and reasonable instructions in line with the employment contract, she added.
“Some examples of reasons for dismissal that have been upheld by the Fair Work Commission in specific circumstances (usually where there is a breach of company policy), include fighting at work, making negative and threatening comments about a colleague on Facebook, drinking alcohol while on lunch break, and accessing pornographic material via work email accounts,” she said.
“Apart from that, if you can imagine it, someone has done it, and you would be amazed how they don’t necessarily think they did anything wrong.”