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1. Get a DUI or other alcohol / drug related conviction. Decades ago I had some indiscretions along these lines. It came up in every executive job background check, as recently as nine years ago. Didn't change the outcome, but these days, I bet it would.
2. Leak material inside information. That's right, the Galleon scandal snagged top executives from IBM, AMD, Intel, and McKinsey for blabbing inside info to a hedge fund. Career ending for everyone involved.
3. Pad the perks. It's surprising how many bright and successful people take advantage of their company and its shareholders. Depending on the severity, it could be considered embezzlement. Not just career ending; we're talking jail time.
4. Document something in an email that nobody should ever see. I'm not that surprised when executives break the law or do something unethical, but I'm constantly amazed at how often they document their stupidity in email.
5. Sexually harass or discriminate against an employee. In this politically correct era, it doesn't take much. A couple of over-the-top or off-color jokes will do it. Even bullying can be considered creating a hostile work environment.
6. Burn bridges. There are actually loads of ways to burn bridges and you can probably think of plenty. Avoid all of them simply by being respectful and empathetic, and that means behaving like an adult instead of acting out like a child. And don't do what Yahoo's Joanne Bradford did.
7. Lie about something important on your resume. What starts out as doing what it takes to get a job when you're young and desperate, ends up as a terminal offense when you're an executive. Recently happened to a top Broadcom exec.
8. Cut corners on something important. Important means something that's potentially health-related, devastating to your company's or key customer's business, or something that the media...