How to Avoid Being Fired

by Evil HR Lady on February 27, 2007

Dear Evil HR Lady

I am a 15 year old high school student who will be starting his first summer job this summer. The question I want to ask you is, What are several basic steps one can do to avoid being fired from his or her job? For example, what did your subordinates do in order to be on your good side, and to prevent you from firing them?

Catsagdn

Dear Catsagdn,

First, if I had a summer job, I would hire you. But I don’t, so I can’t. But I can already tell that being fired won’t be a problem for you.

At fifteen, you’re likely to be in an unskilled, entry level job–restaurants, grocery stores, theme parks, yard work, etc. (I understand landscaping companies pay better than fast food, by the way. It’s harder work, out in the sun, but no grease!)

Most of the people you will be working with will be young and inexperienced as well. So, I’m going to change your goal of “avoiding being fired” to “be the manager’s favorite employee and hopefully get a raise by the end of summer and at least a guarenteed job next year.” Boy, that was a poorly written goal!

Anyway, this advice is coming from someone who has not only had people reporting to her, but was also Burger King Employee of the Month (I have a plaque and everything). Here are the steps:

1. Be on time. Every day.
2. Dress appropriately. If you’re at a place with a uniform, wear it with your shirt tucked in and the proper shoes. If no uniform, check out the dress code and follow it.
3. No bad language. Ever.
4. Smile and be helpful to the customers. Always. Customers are sometimes idiots, but you be nice. If a customer gets belligerant, call the manager over.
5. Work while you are there. I realize this seems obvious, but it’s not. If there are no customers, straighten shelves or wipe down counters. Fold clothes. Volunteer to help someone else.
6. Manager ask you to do something stupid, like wear a cow suit and stand in front of the store? Do it anyway.
7. Be responsible.
8. Go above and beyond in your customer service.
9. When Evil HR Lady comes in, give her a discount. (Just kidding–do not hand out discounts to ANYONE, including your obnoxious Aunt Joan, without your manager’s approval.)
10. Have fun working.

If you do these things, not only will you not be fired, you’ll soar at work. Everyone of us has worked that first job. It’s scary and it’s hard, but you’ll do fabulously well.

I welcome other suggestions for our job hunting friend.

Evil HR Lady

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

TabithaRuth February 27, 2007 at 8:03 pm

Hey, I was a Burger King Employee of the month, too! In the double-knit polyester tunic days. (Must repress memory of uniform. . .)

Catsagdn, it is so true. If you actually work at your job the whole time you are being paid you’ve beat more than half the competiton.

Not to mention the time goes faster and with beginning jobs you really want the time to go faster.

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class-factotum March 1, 2007 at 1:07 am

Never use the words “It’s not my job” to either a customer or a co-worker. (Unless it’s something illegal, unethical or immoral, of course.) Even if it’s not your job, find the proper person to help the customer. Impress the heck out of a co-worker by taking the initiative. “It’s not my job” are the words I hate hearing the most from vendors and colleagues. Your job is to help me get *our* mission accomplished.

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Jon March 1, 2007 at 2:56 am

Don’t blog while at work. (oh, no, I’m doing that right now!)

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Evil HR Lady March 1, 2007 at 3:35 am

class-factotum–I hate the “it’s not my job” line too. Once at Kohls I asked a worker where something was. She gave me a death glare and said, “why would you think I’d know that?” and walked off.

Jon–you can always read Evil HR Lady at work. HR is business related. You’re just increasing your skills and understandings of other departments. :>)

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Kimberley March 1, 2007 at 5:44 pm

All of your advice is great. Coming from a former McDonald’s employee of the month (I still have the Ronald McDonald trophy to prove it) my advice is to learn as much as you can. The more that you can learn, the more your bosses will think of you when they need help(to fill extra shifts for example).

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Anonymous March 11, 2007 at 9:14 pm

Ha ha…cow costume…that brings back memories! On my first job, I was asked to wear a mouse costume. I did have a bit of a choice on the matter — mouse or chicken. The store sold and rented costumes. When the store owner asked for volunteers, and nobody stepped up very quickly, realizing it was going to be inevitable anyway (he was planning on several days of this; none of us were going to get out of it entirely), I bit the bullet and decided to just get it over as quickly as possible. So, at least I had the choice, while the “un” volunteers got to be chickens.

The reality turned out that it was the most fun I ever had on the job. Nobody but the other employees soon to be doomed to the same fate knew who was in the costume, and none of us were going to tell anyone else either. I got to wave to and hug or shake hands with all sorts of people from the high school who I never thought would go ga-ga over a person in a mouse costume (ah, yes, it was quite fun returning to school on Monday knowing what a fool the quarterback on the football team made of himself talking to a mouse, although neither of us would admit to anyone else that we knew anything of the matter).

On the same first job, I started out stocking shelves. When the shelves were all stocked, I’d grab a broom and sweep up the aisles, or head to the stockroom and help inventory new deliveries. From there, I was moved up to cashier. When there were no customers at the register, I still knew how to stock shelves, so would tidy up those within sight of the register or ask someone from the stockroom to bring some merchandise up that I could price and shelve while waiting for customers (these were the days when every item had to have price stickers individually placed on them; no bar codes). This led to them asking me to work as the evening manager. By then, I was starting college, though, so never took the offer (no longer had time).

I’m sharing this because it’s an example of how easy it is to get the respect of your bosses and earn promotions if you just keep busy during work hours. I’m now in a position where I’m the one who hires people, and this trait is severely lacking among many young employees. It seems so obvious and simple that you’re getting paid to work while at work that you may be shocked that it’s all it really takes to keep a job and even earn raises and promotions and added responsibilities that make the job more fun.

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Lance Wiggs April 1, 2007 at 6:35 am

Pay attention and learn – observe how the business is run.

Does the manager manage well? What does she do well, and what could she impriove (try not to tell her)
How does the money get tracked? Why are things done in certain ways? (efficiency? safety? inefficiency?). See if you can find ways to improve processes, and (carefully) suggest them to the influencers.

Burger King and McDonalds are finely tuned industrial machines, and you can sure learn a lot by observing how they have made everything work so well.

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