December 6, 2023 • By Dennis Beaver

One theme in science-fiction is the ability to either “read” others’ thoughts or implant memories or even knowledge. The 1990 film Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the 2012 remake, with Colin Farrell in the lead role, featured a company that could implant false memories into a person’s brain that made them think they’d done or been somewhere they hadn’t. The characters could fulfill the dream of going to Mars and living a more exciting life than the one they actually led.

Just suppose if something like that were possible — you’d be given knowledge that would make you successful and a standout, on the job and in your personal life, a truly unique person, a unicorn, because you could avoid behaviors that could lead to the loss of a job or trouble at home.

Having that knowledge is possible — by reading Be the Unicorn: 12 Data-Driven Habits That Separate the Best Leaders From the Rest by William Vanderbloemen, CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group. This book is one of the most worthwhile, and immediately usable reads, I have come across in a long time.

During our interview, I asked Vanderbloemen, “What behaviors will get you fired from your job?” He shared these:

1. Don’t arrive on time for meetings or finish them on time.

Consequences: Appointments with your co-workers are a mark of your word. If you’re consistently late, eventually no one will trust you. Now, you might think, “Being five minutes late doesn’t make me an untrustworthy person.” But it does if you walk in five minutes late to a meeting with a piping-hot Starbucks drink that you just waited in line for. That could make you lose your job quickly.

“The people who are in the top 1% of employees I’ve ever interviewed are maniacal about being on time, about starting and finishing their meetings on time,” Vanderbloemen says.

2. Don’t get back to people until it suits you.

Consequences: If you’re asked, “Can you make a meeting?” And you take forever to reply, you’ll get fired. If you wait even 20 minutes from when you get a lead, you will probably lose the lead — and lose enough leads, you’ll lose your job.

“We did a deep-dive study and learned that employees don’t know why they got fired when, for example, they failed to return phone calls,” Vanderbloemen points out.

Want to make your manager angry? “Just go silent instead of saying, ‘No, I am not able to handle this now,’” Vanderbloemen notes. “Being silent is not a ‘no’ — being silent is being a coward. So if you want to get fired, don’t get back to people, just go silent and don’t give others the courtesy of a reply.”

3. Don’t do your homework.

Consequences: Employees often fail to prepare for important meetings or a conference with the boss. Yet, we live in an age where it’s easier to do your homework than ever. You can Google it. You can YouTube it. You can ask AI to find out enough information for you to walk into any meeting at least somewhat prepared. But not doing your homework and walking in unprepared is a surefire way to lose your job.

4. Be a jerk by viewing someone else as a commodity or a means to an end rather than a person with feelings.

Consequences: We’ve all had them on our teams — the salesperson who makes all their numbers but isn’t nice to anyone or the engineer who’s super creative but can’t hold a conversation with anyone.

“When it comes down to two candidates, what’s the difference maker between who gets the job and who doesn’t?” Vanderbloemen asks. “Our research demonstrated across the board that it is one who plays well with others.”

If you think you can just do your job and not make the effort to be nice to others, you will end up out of a job. At the end of the day, we spend more of our life at work than at any other place, even more than at home sometimes. “If you’re at work and not being kind to your colleagues — you’re using them instead — eventually you will be out of a job,” he says.

“In time, AI is going to replace jobs for a lot of jerks,” he adds. “The people who will survive the AI disruption that is coming are well tuned in to treating others well. With good soft skills, they are wanted in the workplace. (Bosses will say,) ‘How do we find a way to keep Billy around? He’s good with people.’ Or, ‘How do we find a way to retain Emily? She’s so kind and pleasant, always prepared and on time.’ The people who focus on those soft skills will outlast those who are not kind to others and will be the first to go.”

Be the Unicorn, in reality, is an instruction manual for living a richer life — and that’s no exaggeration. It is the ideal graduation present for that business major or MBA in your family, or for anyone who wants to learn how to be a standout at whatever career they choose.