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Editor’s note: The following article has been adapted from
the chapter “50 Ways To Get Fired” from author Andy Epstein’s
book, The Corporate Creative, to be published by HOW Books
in April 2010.
There are plenty of ways for designers in the corporate
environment to succeed beyond the obvious practice of producing
top-notch creative work. Professional behaviors and skills are
every bit as important to your in-house success as being a good
designer. I can recall times I’ve watched helplessly as excellent
creatives crashed and burned 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. Beyond that, though, is the fact
that how you choose (or not) to conduct yourself in your
relationships with your clients, peers and employers is more than
just greasing the wheels of corporate politics—those behaviors are
absolutely essential to the process of creating effectively
designed materials for your companies.
Conversely there are times when corporate policies can
compromise you 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 get you fired—or even worse, 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 15 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.) Then
I’ll list 8 ways to break rules in order to succeed where your
corporations might be unintentionally setting you up to fail.
Here are ways to thoroughly alienate, aggravate and lose the
trust of the people whom you’re supposed to be supporting.
These are the others in your group whom you're supposed to
There are times when it’s appropriate to push the envelope and
possibly risk getting yourself fired. If you challenge the status
quo with a clear and positive rationale, you may affect needed
change within your company and minimize the possibility of
termination. Use your judgment, but chances are, that gnawing
feeling in your gut that something is just not right will be your
best guide on when and how to take a stand.
Having found myself involuntarily pushed into the ranks of the
unemployed, I can honestly say that it was a sobering but
liberating experience. I was fortunate in that I had planned ahead
for just such a contingency. I urge you to do the same. With a bit
of preparation, you can greatly increase your chances of finding
new opportunities quickly and be positioned to choose the job that
truly meets your needs and desires.
Andy Epstein started his career as a freelance designer and illustrator with clients as varied as Bacardi, Canon, Bantam Books and Merck. Jumping into the world of in-house in 1992, Andy created and grew in-house design teams for Commonwealth Toy and Gund.
He later restructured and expanded the hundred-person creative team at Bristol-Myers-Squibb and consulted at Johnson & Johnson. After a three year stint at Designer Greetings leading an in-house design team responsible for the company’s product lines and Point
Of Sales materials, Andy moved back into pharma heading up a 65+ managed services team at Merck.
Andy has written and spoken extensively on in-house issues and published “The Corporate Creative”, a book on in-house design, in partnership with F&W Publications in the spring of 2010. He is a co-founder of InSource, an association dedicated to providing
support to in-house designers and design team managers. Most recently he was head of INitiative, the AIGA program dedicated to in-house outreach and support where he expanded on his efforts to empower in-house teams and raise their stature in the design and
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