Five Mistakes That Can Get Any Programmer Fired Immediately

There are plenty of reasons why software engineers get terminated instantly. These can range from failing to protect business digital assets, failure to fulfill obligations or even an abuse of power for their own nefarious ends.

Then there are situations where programmers are fired for just opening their mouth at the wrong time or, at the other extreme, not opening their mouth at the right time. Some even get caught spying on their superiors, get caught lying, or are directly responsible for thousands of dollars lost during downtime.

These incidents can terminate one’s employment, but the severity of these mistakes can also end careers. Here are some errors that can get even the best programmers fired immediately.

1. Poor Judgment

Poor judgment can go beyond actual programming related activity. It comes down to company policy which programmers must be sure to adhere to.

For example, several years ago, Dustin Curtis wrote a blog post complaining about the poor user interface (UI) on the American Airlines website. While these types of posts usually don’t get a response, this one did.

The author received an email from a front-end designer at American Airlines who admitted that they were experiencing some issues that they were working to resolve. This individual also took it further and explained why it was difficult to create good designs for large companies.

This was a big mistake and a good example of poor judgment!

American Airlines didn’t want their designer to be openly engaging with their customers, and he got terminated. While his intentions may have been noble, he didn’t take the company he worked for into consideration.

Furthermore, there was no assessment to ascertain if he was opening the company up to a lawsuit, admitting fault, or the impact it could have on legal disputes.

Bad judgment at the workplace comes in many forms like the following:

  • Discussing company secrets with the wrong person
  • Humiliating a boss or co-workers
  • Misusing company property
  • Overstepping your bounds

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2. Sharing source code

The software development company, 3DPLM Software Solutions experienced a situation where one of their developers emailed the source code of one their software products to a spouse who was also a programmer working at a different company.

This individual tried to sell the source code to a competitor and got caught, fired, arrested, and charged with $13 million fraud. This type of behavior is down right criminal and will definitely be followed with some jail time too.

3. Failure to maintain backups

One of the most common mistakes made by programmers is slacking on backups. This often results in fatal consequences to one’s job security.

This is a classic horror story that we see over and over again when we start working with a new client. While we check to ensure that all their assets are protected, failure to do so usually results in someone getting fired.

4. Not owning your mistakes

Playing the blame game can sometimes put you on the fast track to the exit door. Even if someone else is late with the code or if the requirements turned out to be more complex than expected, you have to take ownership.

When software engineers resort to pointing fingers instead of taking responsibility, they take their first step towards termination. The better reaction would be to ask for more time while owning up to the mistake that was made.

5. Elitism

Software developers can be incredibly smart people who are trained to think about things in an abstract manner (from beginning to end and from top to bottom). It’s a valuable skill that requires a significant amount of intelligence which, in turn, attracts a hefty paycheck.

This can give way to elitism which can come with a certain degree of contempt and mean-spirited banter. This, however, is not acceptable under any circumstances.

If your developers are being condescending, abrasive, or even laughing at clients and coworkers, you can be sure that it's the beginning of the end.

This behavior is cruel, brutal and extremely humiliating and kills morale. Programmers need to be aware of this as employers will quickly terminate offenders as soon as they catch on.

While the above might seem quite obvious, you have to consider the fact that several experienced and capable programmers are fired regularly for these types of mistakes. While obvious offenses like browsing through adult sites can also get you fired, there are plenty more silly mistakes that can get you canned. Do you know of any to add to this list?

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Andrew is our IT storyteller and copywriter. His current undertaking is big data analytics and CSS as well as digital design and branding.
He is a contributor to various publications with a focus on new technology and marketing.

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