These 4 Bad Behaviors Drive Your Boss Crazy, but You Can Fix Them

An angry man confronts a colleague in a scene from "The Jim Backus Show"
It’s time to correct your bad behaviors at work. | NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images

We’ve all pissed off our bosses. It might have been accidental, or you might have not even known about it at the time. But just like with our families and friends, there are times at work when we inadvertently cross the line with our bad behavior. And if you’re constantly screwing up or engaging in a disruptive behavior pattern, that can lead to serious consequences.
But not every employer is the same. There are things you could do or get away with at one job that you won’t be able to do at another. If you work in an office, for example, showing up late once in a while or taking a long lunch probably isn’t that big of a deal. But if you’re working in a restaurant, that can cause the whole operation to slow down.
So what are we doing that drives our bosses absolutely bonkers? A survey from Paychex found four key behaviors — or abuses of specific office rules and policies — that stand out. The survey’s main focus was to understand how employees value workplace perks, but it also took a look at policy abuses.
Are you doing something that could ultimately get you fired? You might want to start your investigation by checking your behavior and the remedies listed below. We also discuss your odds of getting fired over these behaviors at the end.

1. Abusing personal day policies

Of the four major bad behavior faux pas the Paychex survey uncovered, the first and least serious is the abuse of personal days. Personal days refer to (usually) paid days you’re away from work. Vacation days would be an example.
The idea that an employee would want some time off probably isn’t what’s driving employers crazy. It’s the method through which employees take them — perhaps during busy times of the year or at the same time as many co-workers. Paychex’s survey said 8.6% of employers named this as the most abused office policy.
Next: What can you do to throw your boss a bone while still getting a vacation in?

The remedy

Co-workers attend a meeting
Let the staff plan for your absence. |

It’s pretty simple really. Just make an attempt to be transparent about when you’re planning to use your personal days. Don’t request a week off from work one week before you plan on being gone. Give your co-workers and employer some time to plan and cover their bases. Most people have a limit on how many personal days they get, too. Respect that limit, and don’t plan on being gone week after week throughout the year. If you have an online calendar your boss and co-workers see, make sure it’s up-to-date so everyone is on the same page.
Next: Taking sick days

2. Sick days

A sick woman blows her nose next to her colleague
A sick woman attempts to infect her colleague. |

Sick days differ from personal days, though some employers roll them into one single package employees can draw from. Certain states and cities have their own laws mandating sick days, too. But no matter where you are, 23.5% of America’s bosses say sick day policies are their most abused. And that’s understandable. A lot of us have called in sick on a day in which we weren’t necessarily ill — perhaps just sick of our co-workers and bosses. Obviously, that can cause problems at work.
But this, like personal day abuse, can be remedied.

The remedy

sick days, file tab with the word employees plus a note with the text sick leaves
Take sick days only when you need to. | Le Moal

The key here is to build trust. Sick days are used often without notice, as you don’t really get to plan to be sick. But most of us aren’t sick constantly. You’ve probably worked with someone who seemed to call out sick once per week. This is the kind of bad behavior that leads to an erosion of trust. So use your sick days when you’re sick, which shouldn’t be that often.
A reversal might also exist. Your boss might get peeved if you’re clearly ill and come to work anyway. People do this in order to save their sick days. If you’re sick, stay home.

3. Long lunch breaks

A group enjoying lunch
A group enjoys a long lunch. |

If you have some flexibility with your lunch break, you might have, on occasion, let it run a little long. Perhaps it was long enough to the point where people wondered where you were. According to Paychex, 27.2% of employers say this is their most abused office policy — good for second place. You probably know whether you’re chronically gone at lunch for too long. The good thing is this is a habit that’s relatively easy to fix.

The remedy

Employees invite the boss along for lunch
Employees invite the boss along for lunch. |

The most simple way to correct this is to manage your time better. Set an alarm on your phone if you have to. Or, if you’re really struggling, start brown-bagging it. Bring your own food to lunch, and eat near your work station. If you really love those long lunches, you can try a sneaky workaround and invite the boss to eat with you. Suddenly, you’re both wasting time — or they’ll make sure you’re not gone for too long.
Next: Now for the one thing employers hate more than anything else

4. Tardiness and leaving early

Stressed businessman looking at wrist watch
This man is late for work. |

If you really want to drive your employer crazy, all you have to do is show up late. Constantly. And skip out early. Constantly. We’ve all been late or left early once or twice, and we’ve all worked with someone who’s never on time or is always disappearing early. It’s maddening, and from a manager’s perspective it’s a very easy way to end up on someone’s bad side. If you’re always late, what can you do about it?

The remedy

A smart watch and iPhone on wood desk top view
If you have access to a clock, you shouldn’t be late. |

The short answer is to be more responsible and disciplined. If you’re always five minutes late, that means you should be leaving 10 minutes earlier. Set your alarm for an earlier time. Get on the bus before the one you usually take. Whatever you have to do, just figure it out. And what if you’re always leaving early? Put yourself in your co-workers’ shoes. How do you think they feel watching you cheat the system while they’re sticking it out?
Finally, if you’re guilty of any of these bad behaviors or abuses of office policy, what are the odds you’ll get fired?


A boss loses it on an employee
A boss loses it on an employee. |

Per Paychex’s data, your chances of getting fired are roughly 1 out of 3. Here’s a graphic from the survey:
Office rules and punishments
Office rules and punishments | Paychex

As you can see, more than 30% of bosses or employers have fired an employee for abusing one of the aforementioned office policies. A further 28.3% didn’t go as far as firing them, but they did bring down the hammer. There are a lot of variables at play. Your boss might be a family member, for example, allowing you to get away with more than the average employee. But your takeaway here should be employers hate it when you abuse their policies, and they will act if you’re out of line.
See the complete Paychex survey here.