In-House Designers: 37 Ways to Get Fired

In the book “The Corporate Creative,” Andy Epstein offers tactics for thriving in an in-house design environment. He lays out a tongue-in-cheek list of ways for an in-house designer to get fired in the hopes that you’ll not try them.

37 ways to get fired

Illustration by Aleks Sennwald

Undoubtedly, the quality of your creative problem-solving skills, insights and final deliverables are the primary determinants of your professional success. Equally important in the corporate setting, though, are your communication, interpersonal and collaborative skills, as well as your attitude, temperament and mindset. I can recall times I’ve helplessly watched excellent creatives crash and burn because they didn’t practice proper business and personal etiquette. Some were incapable of understanding the rules, some were dead set against following the rules and some just didn’t care. It’s critical to understand that how you choose (or not) to conduct yourself in your relationships with your clients, peers and companies is more than just greasing the wheels of corporate politics—those behaviors are actually essential to the process of creating effectively designed materials for your company.

Conversely, there are times when corporate policies can compromise your and your team’s creativity, productivity, integrity and even humanity. Sometimes logic and simple decency buckle under the quest for efficiency (read: standardization) or legal priorities of companies. It can feel as if you’ve walked through Alice’s looking-glass and the very behaviors and practices that should be rewarded or condemned become inverted. At that point, it’s best to push back and assert yourself even if it means confrontation and possible dismissal. No job, no position, no title is worth giving up your ideals and beliefs.

That being said, there are ways to stand up for what you believe in that are effective, and there are ways that are potentially self-destructive. Some ways will empower you to transform yourself, your colleagues and your work environment. Others will piss off your peers and upper management and, at best, get you fired, or at worst, leave you working in a hostile environment. The aim of this article is to offer strategies and tactics that will support you in the former and help you avoid the latter. To do that, I’m serving up ways to get fired in the hopes that you’ll not try these at work. (However, if you’re truly miserable and want to get out, by all means give them a try.)

Are You A Corporate Creative? Check out Andy Epstein’s book that’s written just with you in mind.


1. Avoid your clients.

When they call, don’t answer the phone. Leave messages only when you know they’re not there. Don’t respond to e-mails and don’t talk to them when you see them in the halls. Never, ever have lunch with them.

2. Be rude and abrupt in the few communications you do have with clients.

Don’t use proper salutations in your e-mails. Don’t say please or thank you. Keep your sentences short and grammatically incorrect, and add numerous misspellings, lest they think you care enough about them to use spell check. Never sign your e-mails or leave your contact info in a voicemail. Bonus tip: Eat and type on your keyboard while you’re on the phone.

3. Interrupt your clients when they’re giving you direction or feedback.

Know they have nothing of value to offer. If they do get a word in, shoot them a disdainful and dismissive look.

4. Miss deadlines. Need I say more on this point?

5. Say no as much as possible. Never say yes—just sigh and, if they happen to be in the room with you, roll your eyes for added effect.

6. Bad-mouth your clients to others in your company. Complain that they don’t understand design and that they’re control freaks (which you, of course, are not).

7. Don’t ever try to assist your clients with issues outside of design. If they don’t understand the routing or review process, don’t explain it to them. If they don’t know how to issue a purchase order for your outside vendor, never let on that you have the document from finance that explains how. It’s not your job to help them in these areas.

8. When something goes wrong on a project, never accept responsibility for it. Do your best to make it the client’s fault.

9. Talk to your clients like you would talk to your friends at a party. Address them as “dude.” Mumble, ramble and speak in one-word sentences. You shouldn’t have to change who you are by speaking their language—you’re a designer, not a suit!

10. Don’t give the client what they asked for. Go off brief: It was wrong, anyway.

11. Throw around lots of design terms that they don’t understand. It’s not your problem if they don’t know kerning from leading. Aren’t they in marketing? Didn’t they learn anything about design in business school?

12. Don’t design effective pieces for clients you don’t like. They don’t deserve the best of your talents and neither does the company for being stupid enough to have hired them in the first place.

13. Be late to meetings—all the time. Better yet, don’t go at all. Meetings are a total waste of your time.

Check out HOW’s value bundle of books just for in-house designers.


14. Make it all about you.

Take credit for as much work as you can (and more). Never share credit with others. Bonus tip: Do not participate in any team-building events, departmental social gatherings, welcome parties for new staff hires or send-offs for departing colleagues.

15. Work on freelance projects on company time.
If your manager can’t keep you busy, that’s her problem. Never offer to take on a long-term project such as archiving all your stock images.

16. Complain about your peers to your fellow designers, managers and staff in other departments.

17. Never do any work that you can pass off to a more junior member of your team.

18. Keep personal files on the company workstation—especially pirated music and movies.

19. Hand off files that are a complete mess to your production artists.
Use low-res images, apply font styles in your layout programs and don’t include dielines or correct dimensions.

20. Use company resources for personal use.

Send personal FedEx packages, make personal long distance calls (preferably international) and use company printers for your yard sale posters.

21. Complain to your manager as much as possible and never offer up solutions.
That’s his job.

22. Never work overtime, no matter how critical the project is.
Your manager gets paid more than you; let her give up a Saturday afternoon.

23. Leapfrog over your manager to his supervisor when you have a disagreement.
Make sure to bad-mouth your manager when doing so.

24. Dis your co-workers, managers and company on your Facebook page.
No one you work with would ever find it, and even if they did, you weren’t posting to it on company time so it’s a private affair. Bonus tip: Start a blog about work and invite all your co-workers to join in the fun. This will help them get fired, too!

25. Send inappropriate e-mails from your work account.
Cram as many sex jokes, ethnic slurs and links to porn sites into your missives to friends as you can.

26. Bypass your team and contact the client directly without your peers’ knowledge or consent.

You need to get the project done, project manager be damned.

27. Create folders on your workstation with titles like “Bullshit.”
Then, put company notices, promotion announcements and departmental policy e-mails in it.

28. Be a yes-man.
Never offer up ideas that may challenge your peers or your manager. Make sure they know you’re a brownnoser by nodding in constant agreement as vigorously as a bobble-head on the dashboard of a Jeep. (This may not get you fired, but you’ll be first in line at layoff time.)

29. Be uncoachable.
Brush off anyone’s attempt to offer constructive criticism and support. Be defensive. Act like a know-it-all. Argue with those trying to help.

Are You A Corporate Creative? Check out Andy Epstein’s book that’s written just with you in mind.


30. Pay more attention to the brand than your audience.
It’s all about the logo and the brand style guide. Who cares if the design resonates with your company’s customers or not?

31. Don’t worry about whether the piece is printable or not.
That’s the printer’s problem.

32. Don’t be concerned about whether the design meets the client’s objectives.
Focus only on whether it will be a good piece for your portfolio.

33. Forget about marketing materials compliance—or any compliance for that matter.
These inane policies are a waste of your time and take the fun out of design. If the company gets sued, the lawyers will handle it. That’s what they’re paid for.

34. Abuse your vendors.

35. Don’t stay current on your design software.
Fall behind your peers in your understanding of the applications you work on every day. Your co-workers can always open your legacy files and, if the fonts and images convert incorrectly, well, that’s their problem.


36. Always, always make everyone else wrong and let everyone else know that you’re right.
This applies to your company, your co-workers, fellow designers, managers, upper management and clients—and for an added effect, apply it to your family and friends, too. Nothing you can do is more effective at angering people and making you a pariah than asserting your rightness and everyone else’s wrongness.

37. Be apathetic.
Have absolutely no passion for your craft, your peers, your company or your job. Know you should be someplace better than where you are right now.



2 thoughts on “In-House Designers: 37 Ways to Get Fired

  1. Pingback: Cool / Useful Stuff Found Online April – August 2011 « Designerd

  2. slt294

    Very entertaining post, thanks:) I have always preached to my fellow designers that you should never burn bridges, you never know when that person can help you in the future. I’ve worked for some really bad companies, but I never bad mouthed or become unprofessional. It’s paid off, because people within those companies have given me freelance opportunities to awesome, loyal clients of today because of my professionalism. You don’t have to stop being who you are, you just have to be sure to always be patient, polite and professional. After saying that I have been guilty of doing #30, sometimes I get so focused on the aesthetics, I lose sight of what the ad is really supposed to be saying.