"Sooner or later you will be found out. Hopefully by that time you'll have made yourself indispensable and they will look the other way. This is called reaching the Churchill Stage. This is that glorious state when you have made yourself appear (it doesn't have to be true) so invaluable that you can walk around the office with a bottle of bourbon hanging from your hand and no one will breathe a word."
Eyeshield 21 has Gaoh, who constantly and deliberately injures opposing players, even to the extent that they will never be able to play again. Everything Gaoh does is strictly within the rules of football, as he's never seen hurting a quarterback after he's gotten rid of the ball. He's just insanely strong, such that he can cause bruises with his pinky.
Forget the opposing teams, the main example is Hiruma. Of course, it's more his extensive blackmail files that keep him from being expelled or banned, but even those rarely get brought up later on because, hey, he wins.
If it weren't for the fact that Shinryuuji's coach is more like something out of a martial arts movie, Agon probably would've been kicked off the team a long time ago.
Dojima in Witch Hunter Robin comes in late, leaves early, takes extra-long breaks, and spends most of her time looking at fashion magazines, plus she was only hired because of who her father is. Subverted in that she's really there as a spy for the parent company, which is suspicious of the new procedures instituted by the Japan branch - she acts like a slacker who owes her job to nepotism, but this may just be her cover.
Vice-Admiral Garp in One Piece is known as "The Hero" to the common man. He was going to report that he let Luffy escape on purpose, and implicitly would have gotten away with it. His subordinate convinces him that a simple lie would at least be less trouble. He can brag about his son, considered by the Marines to be one of the most dangerous men in the world, in public and be beyond punishment. Basically, nothing he ever does will ever result in discipline. It helps that his boss is also his best friend.
The Shichibukai can get away with a lot. Only an extremely public scandal and/or defeat to a rookie, or a significant amount of Badass Decay can get anyone kicked out. As long as they're still perceived as strong enough to be useful to the World Government, and don't attempt outright rebellion against it, they're virtually guaranteed to keep their very cushy positions. For perspective, one was able to get away with planning a Zombie Apocalypse, until his Badass Decay got him kicked out.
And another of them was able to form an alliance with Luffy, who by this point has twice openly declared war against the World Government, which is considered the worst crime anyone can commit. When this was discovered, one of the Admirals told him that he could still keep his position as Shichibukai, so long as he declared Luffy to be his minion rather than his partner, nothing more than a token display of loyalty to the World Government.
Higurashi: When They Cry has Dr Irie, whose behavior around Satoko would get ANYONE fired, let alone the only doctor in the Village.
Team Rocket of Pokémon. Despite almost never succeeding in anything, as well as spending large amounts of money on Humongous Mecha, Giovanni still hasn't just fired them.
Since he no longer pays them, and reassigned them to Hoenn/Sinnoh, it's likely that Giovanni simply doesn't consider them to be a part of the organization anymore. Letting them roam on their own is much simpler than filling out the paperwork necessary to fire them.
Eventually averted. After Jessie, James, and Meowth wind up getting credit for the takedown of Team Galactic, Giovanni assigns them to be the Rocket Admins of Unova, at which point the massive confidence boost makes them incredibly effective at their job.
In Durarara!!, Shizuo's property-destroying antics would have (and has) gotten him fired from any other job long ago, even with Tom vouching for him. Shizuo himself is aware of this and really has no clue how he's held on to this one job for as long as he has other than the possibility that his manager is just really, really nice. That and his antics make him scarier than Satan which is an asset in their job.
His antics do have a detriment — all the property he destroys is paid for by the agency, and they dock his pay in return. Seeing as Shizuo really can't get a job anywhere else and that his little brother is an idol who is undoubtedly filthy rich, he doesn't really care. If anything, he's more surprised that he's paid at all.
Gunslinger Girl. In the first episode cyborg girl Henrietta flips out and kills an entire roomful of terrorists. Jean wants her reconditioned despite the objections of his brother, but Chief Lorenzo overrules him. Justified as Section 2 is a new unit that's still proving its worth against rival departments — it's better for Lorenzo to pass this off as a success than admit to glitches in the cyborg program.
Lorenzo: "I agree Henrietta's got some problems, but she's an excellent assassin. Besides, we got the man we were looking for, and lost none of our own. You need to look at the bigger picture, Jean."
Ugen Kokonoe of Cage of Eden blows up his classroom on a regular basis and has never been arrested, let alone fired. The students are completely baffled as to why.
Koi Kaze: Odagiri's persistent perverseness and obsession with high-school girls ought to get him fired from almost any job... and he works for an arranged dating company. How did he even get through the interview?
Judge Dredd. Although he refused the position of Chief Judge when offered it, Dredd is not just unfireable; because of his capacity for saving the world, he's literally one of those types who are too indispensable to be allowed to die. There were a number of times when he resigned, but it was never because of him being forced out by someone else.
Dilbert: Wally is a notorious slacker with a bad attitude, but has avoided being fired through a combination of office politics and the Pointy-Haired Boss' inability to judge the contributions of (or remember the identities of) his subordinates. Methods include: personal favors to the PHB, reporting his more ambitious colleagues to threatened superiors, having the PHB beaten on the occasion he *was* fired, tricking the PHB into signing favourable documents without reading them, and... just plain being lucky (the PHB admitted once that he's fired bald guys at least 7 times after mistaking them for Wally.)
Borderline case of Cut Lex Luthor a Check - if he put as much effort into work as into protecting his work-free lifestyle, he'd be at least as productive as Dilbert. Based on a coworker Scott Adams had in Real Life, who was deliberately attempting to get fired after having discovered that the company's severance package is better than its pension plan.
In Wally's specific case, he's been on the job long enough that he remembers some things about the company's old computers that no one else knows, which contributes to his job security. This was the engine for an episode of the Dilbert TV show.
An appearance by the Grim Downsizer at a training course:
Carol, the department secretary, is bitter and unproductive. The PHB tried to fire her once, but he couldn't fill out the termination paperwork without her. She also has a dark version of this trope and can't get out of her job even though she wants to. It was revealed once that she has an MBA, but her secretary job creates a stigma.
For that matter, the PHB himself. He once hired Dogbert to read his boss's mind to learn what his boss thought of him. Dogbert later told him that his boss knows the PHB is an inefficient oaf, but doesn't want to go to the trouble of firing him, and then having to hire someone else.
Also the case for many, many minor characters, be they sociopaths, convicted criminals, or simply morons who dedicated their lives to roaming from cubicle to cubicle talking about how hard they work and carrying a coffee cup. One, whose name may have been "Irv", never did anything but couldn't be fired because he'd written the company's accounting software in the mid-80's as a deliberate Black Box - a million lines of undocumented spaghetti logic.
Tintin: Thomson and Thompson are probably the worst detectives in the world (they were reasonably competent in Cigars of the Pharaohbut then...), yet they keep being sent on important missions. The pinnacle of this trope at work is undoubtedly Destination: Moon/Explorers on the Moon, where they are assigned to protect the Syldavian space program (!!) and end up reporting for duty wearing traditional Greek outfits, "arresting" a doctor's skeleton model, and accidentally stowing away on the Moon rocket (thus jeopardizing their oxygen supply) due to deciding to "guard" said rocket and believing the launch was at 1:34 P.M as opposed to 1:34 A.M.
The title character of the comic Gaston Lagaffe, he's asleep more than awake on his job, his backlog of work is enough to fill the whole office, he accidentally set fire to things several times, keeps playing with toys during work hours, builds crazy inventions and lets them loose in the building, at least once blew up part of the building and on all occasions there where managed to mess up the signing of important contracts. Yet, no matter what chaos he causes and despite him only having a minor job as a office courier and errand boy, he never seems to get fired.
Well, he was once put in charge of the company archives, and turned it into a veritable sea of books and files, where only he could find anything without full spelunking gear...
On a side note, he was fired once but was re hired shortly after, said incident was when the artist took a holiday which meant the next comic had some delay. That aside not even throwing a plunger in his bosses face got him fired.
In Dark Reign: The Hood, the Controller's power play and constant attempts to undermine the Hood's authority are outweighed by his intelligence strategic acumen. Realizing he can't kill him, the Hood places one of the Controller's own slave discs on him to keep him in line.
Ola Bog Rise, the goalie from the Norwegian football comic Sleivdal. Every player on that team are terrible - that's the premise of the comic - but Ola is the only one that the coach is, for inexplicable reasons, actually pleased with.
Frumpy The Clown was this with his teaching job, the running gag being that the Principal wanted to fire him but can't due to the powerful Teachers Union. However, he was finally fired in the end of the strip's run, when the budget cuts gave the Principal an excuse to get rid of him.
Superlópez: López has been threatened with being fired several times, not to mention that he keeps disappearing from work without warning whenever some villain attacks his city and taking holidays left and right so he can fight evil abroad. And in the early comics, he spent the little time when he actually was staying at work just practicing origami.
Indiana Jones' many unprofessional tendencies are lampooned here. Fortunately for the world, it is mentioned in the first film that he had been at "Marshall College" for ten years, and he is referred to as "Professor" which is the highest faculty rank, and not as some think a courtesy title (especially in The Thirties). Therefore he had published his articles, gotten his tenure, and then gone on to do what he really loved — which is what they all do.
However, even tenure isn't enough for him to get fired during the Red Scare.
James in The Hurt Locker. He disobeyed orders, messed around with the disarming procedures, left the base without any orders, went hunting insurgents through the alleys on the night without orders, backup or any clue about what he's doing, getting Eldridge shot and severely wounded in process, and generally act like an all-around douchebag. One wonders how did he pass the EOD training, let alone keeping his job. Twice.
The nanny in Just Go With It. She is clearly uninterested in her job and often uses her hours to do things other than take care of Katherine's children (such as hit on men and watch Showtime). But somehow, she stills holds down the job and even joins them in Hawaii.
Ted takes this one step further with it's main character and his job at the groceries. His generally raunchy attitude and highly inappropriate behavior not only got him hired, but repeatedly gets him promoted. In the epilogue, after being caught eating potato salad off of his girlfriend's ass he gets promoted to manager.
In The Heat no one, including the captain, particularly cares for Mullins, but they're all so afraid of her that they just let her demean and talk to everyone however she pleases without any repercussions. As noted by Ashburn later, she's probably one of the most dedicated cops in existence.
Bastard Operator from Hell: Simon Travaglia. True, his job as a sysadmin is only partly protected by being very good at what he does, and largely by means of threatening, blackmailing and (in extreme cases) killing anyone who might try to replace him.
It probably helps his job security that his assistant is the nephew of the CEO of the first company he works at in the Register-era stories, and indeed got them both jobs at the company.
The fact that Hogwarts even remains in operation despite having a running body count has got to be an example in and of itself, but a surprising number of the teachers, particularly Severus Snape, also count.
Professor Binns, who is noted as being able to make 'bloody giant wars seem dull and boring'. Seems Hogwarts teachers never get fired, they just retire or die. Binns didn't let dying stop him, so Hogwarts students will forever be stunted in terms of their historical education.
Note that Trelawney is probably the most incompetent teacher, yet she is the justified case. And in her case, it is perfectly justified, because she sometimes (OK, just twice in the entire series, backstory included) makes vital prophecy about the great war. So Dumbledore will keep her at hand, even if children must have terrible courses as a consequence. It also helps that Trelawney is the one who made the prophecy about Voldemort's downfall that led to his very first defeat when attempting to kill Harry Potter. Dumbledore knows that this fact will make Trelawney a target of Death-Eaters (especially after Voldemort is resurrected), so he refuses to fire her just so she'll be safe at Hogwarts. For the record, she has no idea of any of this—she thinks she's keeping her job because of genuine skill.
Peeves also counts. Why don't they expel him? Really looks like Dumbledore wants a bit of weirdness in Hogwarts. Rowling stated that Peeves is like bad plumbing; it always comes back. Dumbledore is just better with a spanner then most others. To clarify, Peeves is an incarnation of chaos. Get rid of Peeves, you'd have a new one appear soon after. It's a case of Better The Devil You Know, because a new poltergeist might not be cowed by the Bloody Baron, or be occasionally loyal to the school.
Argus Filch, a borderline sociopath who's one step away from being a serial killer. He explicitly enjoys causing students pain because he's jealous that they're learning magic while he's incapable of using it. At no point is the idea of firing him ever entertained.
In the novel Red Square, Arkady Renko asks a Russian defector working for Voice of America in West Germany why the American bosses don't fire him for his insubordination. The defector replies that they try to once a year but that German labor laws are designed so that Germany isn't stuck with a lot of unemployed foreigners, so they always fail to meet the legal requirements to do so.
The War Against the Chtorr. The Uncle Ira Group protects the protagonist Jim McCarthy despite him committing several acts liable for court martial (including desertion, assaulting a superior, leading renegades to a secret US military stockpile, appropriating military property and personnel, and summarily executing civilians) partly because he's good at his job, but also because McCarthy's habit of causing disruption can be turned to their political advantage.
The hiring process for faculty members at Unseen University in Discworld is less "become an expert in your field", and more "find an empty room, turn up at meals times, and try to keep out of the way of students". This is because the job description of a Discworld wizard consists of "not using magic". On the Disc it is really not difficult at all to turn someone into a frog; it is much more difficult not to turn everyone around you into frogs once you realize how easy it would be. Every time in history the wizards got off their collective asses and actually did stuff, horrible things happened. The certifiably insane Bursar is probably the most extreme example, as he's still a member of the faculty even though he no longer has any significant control over his magic and is useless even for his nominal responsibility of keeping the University accounts (which is mostly done by Ponder Stibbons).
Speaking of Stibbons, he can't be fired either because of his practicality: he's the one level-headed wizard out of the bunch. This tendency causes him to take up the responsibilities other wizards aren't using, to the point where in Unseen Academicals we discover he constitutes a faculty majority vote all by himself.
In Transformers: TransTech, Commander Cheetor is the head of the Offworlder Zone Security Administration. Even though he frequently annoys his superiors via Bothering by the Book to help give some justice to the downtrodden offworlders often at the expense of uppity TransTechs, he'll never be fired. Why? Because he's the only one willing do it, especially since it was a case of Reassignment Backfire to begin with.
The eponymous organization in The Laundry Series hires most of its employees not due to their competence, a great need for employees, or them even applying for a job, but because it's been calculated that lifetime wages and pension for a low-level civil service job add up to less than the projected cost for the government to assassinate one of its citizens. Once hired, they've ensured you're neutralized. If you want or are capable of being useful (to a widely varying degree of "useful"), that's good. But most employees aren't doing anything really worth doing, or get any opportunity to make mistakes with consequences beyond getting themselves killed. Which is also usually good. And the exceptions are, if not irreplacable, too valuable to let go of over anything not worth killing them for. Either way, the Laundry doesn't fire anybody for anything - or kill that many of its people either.
In Heart of a Dog, Dr. Philip Philipovich Preobrazhensky gets away with regularly flipping off the House Committee, lives technically alone in seven rooms while most of his contemporaries barely get one, spits out blatantly anti-Soviet views and nostalgically longs for the cultured old times. He can afford it because not only is he really good at his job, the authorities use his surgery services as well.
"You know, professor," said the girl with a deep sigh, "if you weren't world-famous and if you weren't being protected by certain people in the most disgusting way," (the fair youth tugged at the hem of her jerkin, but she brushed him away), "which we propose to investigate, you should be arrested."
Cordelia Chase. You can't fire her. She's Vision Girl. *sticks out tongue*
Angel: Well, I know she can't type or file. Until today, I had some hope regarding the phone.
Justified in that Cordelia is a direct line to the Powers That Be, making her utterly indispensable to Angel's mission. Angel is rudely awakened to this fact after he does fire her.
Ted Baxter from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, was a bumbling fool, yet in the series finale he was the only member of the news room not fired, while all of the more competent characters were. Presumably he was good enough at what he did (i.e. reading the news and acting as the face of the network), and in the latter seasons as Baxter's character was softened – at Ted Knight's request – the emphasis was less so on his mistakes.
Though it does help somewhat that everyone at Dunder Mifflin seems to be pretty incompetent at times and the fact that, out of all the branches in a struggling economy, the Scranton branch makes the most profit (probably because of the much more competent employees).
The show seems to suggest that Michael is either kind of a paper-selling savant or has a lot of business savvy at the expense of all other intellectual abilities.
And he does get fired. And he starts his own paper company! With french toast, and Cheez Puffs! Since it turns out the branch, and therefore the company can't survive without him, he's rehired after being bought out to cancel the effects of his sabotage, making the original example penultimate job security.
Dwight's employment is easily the most baffling. Start with his possession of weapons in the office and go from there. Go on, I've got time.
He was salesman of the year. As with Michael, Dwight is shown to have amazing abilities when it comes to selling paper, despite his other failings.
It may also be that it's very apparent that any and all accomplishments at Dunder Mifflin are the only thing Dwight has in his pathetic life (in one episode he nearly has a breakdown when Steve Carrell's character admits that Dwight's position was actually a fabrication to keep him happy, and he has no authority over any of the other employees). They may just not want to have a suicide on their consciences.
The Grand Finale reveals that once Dwight manages to get his life in order, his loony tendencies tone down significantly and he is able to turn the company into the #1 paper supplier in the region.
One could argue that as long as Michael is in charge of the branch all of the employees there have ultimate job security (except Toby, but he doesn't seem to do anything to deserve to be fired). He is softhearted enough to find it difficult to fire anyone who has worked for him for a long amount of time and once he even said that "I don't want my employees to think their jobs depend on their performance."
Subverted in the UK version, where the second series has David Brent being made more accountable for his actions and decisions, and where ultimately he is let go.
Andy, when it was revealed to the district manager that he had been gone for three months shortly after he was promoted and lied about it was never fired because the manager owed his job to Andy. Even so, Andy lost a ton of respect from the other employees and would use his absence as an excuse whenever they wanted to leave.
Kevin only keeps his job because Michael likes him. He is the third accountant in an office that only needs two and it becomes apparent that the other accountants do all the real work. When his work is finally audited, it is revealed that he invented a new number just so he could balance his books.
The Grand Finale reveals that when Dwight becomes regional manager he actually fires the incompetent and useless people like Kevin and Toby and the branch becomes much more efficient as a result.
The title character in House is one of the best doctors in the world, but constantly bullies his fellow staff and patients. Not to mention that he violates both laws and ethics left and right- not only can't he be fired, but apparently can't be arrested either. Luckily, House only takes on a few patients, and even some of them die.
Also slightly averted in that House's job has been repeatedly threatened over the course of the show. Each time he gets out of it only because of his skill and with help from Wilson and Cuddy. Cuddy has also pointed out that the hospital got him cheap because of his demeanour - nowhere else would even hire him.
And then further averted with Foreman, affectionately called "House Lite" by Cuddy, not being able to find a job after he uses a House-esque protocol-breaking procedure to save a patient.
Cuddy allocates funds (in advance) to pay for House-related troubles. Smart woman.
It's mentioned that part of the reason House became such a good doctor is after seeing the doctors of a Japanese hospital all having to ask for help from a brilliant 'untouchable' working there as a janitor. He figured that if he was a good enough doctor, he'd be able to get respectable work no matter how much of a jerk he was.
If it wasn't for the direct intervention of Hogan's Heroes on many occasions, Colonel Klink would probably be at the Russian Front. He's not a bad administrator, but he has no real control over his camp.
Yes, but as far as Klink's superiors can tell, he's an ass kisser who is absolutely ruthless as a camp commandant.
Schultz, on the other hand, is known to be incompetent to everyone who knows who he is and is usually very lax around his superiors. The prisoners count him as an ally (he's in on it, though he wishes he wasn't) and have to pull strings to keep him around.
Either Klink or Schultz has to be the deep penetration agent who routinely gives them information. Klink is shown struggling to keep his job and is helped out from time to time. But Schultz is able to use his vast wealth as a Toy manufacturer to make his superiors suck up to him for a job after the war.
In Doc Martin, Dr. Ellingham's first receptionist, Elaine, was lazy, disobedient, surly, and incompetent to the point of being a liability to Port Wenn's public health, but the Eccentric Townsfolk were so attached to her that the one time Ellingham tried to fire her, he ended up having to rehire her to make the townsfolk stop shunning him.
Todd is said to be a very good surgeon; however, he spends most of his time sexually harassing the female staff. More recently, he has also sexually harassed the male staff.
Dr. Cox in the same series is also a bully, to the extent that House may have been Inspired By him. Except that Dr. Cox has been disciplined. He even got suspended from the hospital in the second episode. The only reason he hasn't been fired is his ex-wife is on the hospital's board of directors. Plus he's a damned good doctor. And Kelso admitted that he needs him in order to balance out his own focus on the bottom line on occasions when an uninsured patient really does need care.
And then there's poor Doug Murphy, who was constantly killing his patients with such incredible ineptness, everyone called a major goof-up anyone did "A Doug". He got put in charge of the morgue. To his credit, he is in fact a brilliant pathologist — largely because he's done most of the crazy crap that killed the patients.
Ted, most definitely not an example of Bunny-Ears Lawyer is repeatedly called incompetent and is essentially to Law what Doug is to Medicine and yet somehow still maintains his job.
The one who really has this is the Janitor. He never does his work, and is constantly pulling pranks or messing with people in other ways. His job security probably comes from the fact that he has intimidated Kelso.
Dr. Zeltzer actually drugged not just a senior doctor but a board member and is still somehow employed and not incarcerated.
Tracy Jordan on 30 Rock; justified by the fact that he is a major celebrity. This is referenced in several episodes:
Jack: You're a star; you can do whatever you want to. That's your job. It's our job to make it go away. Tracy: I love this country!
Linda in Becker is ditzy to the point of incompetence, yet she's still hanging around after multiple seasons. This is due to her being popular with the patients.
Becker owes her dad a lot of money her job is the repayment. This is in the subtext of one episode in Season One, where it's hinted he owes her wealthy father money.
Pretty much all the surgeons in M*A*S*H. To be fair, given the shortage of medical staff in the Korean War, this would appear to be an exaggerated Truth in Television.
A documentary done for one of the show's anniversaries included interviews with real MASH doctors, who said the show was frighteningly less exaggerated than most people thought for this very reason.
Frank Burns is perhaps the biggest question mark - he's a greedy, lying, manipulative hyper-conservative who sticks to the letter of the law and refuses to bend for anything, but he's also so incompetent in his actual job the he shouldn't even be permitted to play the "Operation" board game. Most of the other staff have excuses for their Ultimate Job Security:
Hawkeye and Trapper are a pair of alcoholic slackers who constantly play practical jokes on everyone else, but they and Charles brought the 4077th to a 90%-plus survival rate. Lampshaded in one episode when Henry said he would have fired them long ago if they weren't the two best surgeons in South Korea. This opinion comes to be shared by more than one guest star general.
Henry is an indecisive, easily dominated scaredy cat who has no business running a military unit - but he runs a damn good hospital.
Hotlips is a rigid, uncompromising harpy who severely punishes the slightest infraction, yet has no qualms about breaking those same rules herself - but she's also a damn good administrative nurse who the other nurses seem to really like.
None of the other nurses like Margaret. In fact, when a visiting ball-busting nurse visits the unit to do an inspection, Margaret complains about how terrible this woman is, then she hears the other nurses mention that this woman is almost as bad as Margaret.
Additionally, she often breaks military protocol, going over the commander's head several times, breaking regulations for her own gain, using lower-ranking soldiers as her personal servants, and even admits to the other nurses that she'll look the other way when they break regulations if they will include her in their illegal activities.
Charles is a pompous, arrogant jerkass who complains loudly about anything and everything and was seen making racial slurs toward the priest in one episode. But unlike his predecessor Frank Burns, he's actually a very competent (if slow) surgeon, with cardiac expertise the others lack.
Radar, the company clerk, is childish to the point of Flanderization, sleeps with a teddy bear, and keeps unauthorized pets, but he's a Hypercompetent Sidekick with an uncanny ability to anticipate the Colonel's needs, to the point that he's often running things himself (see Henry above).
Not that anyone in the 4077th wants to be there, but Klinger is actively trying to get out on a Section 8, and they never even get rid of him. Although when he tried to pull it on Colonel Potter in his first appearance, Potter saw right through him, told him to get into uniform and stop acting like an idiot. Klinger complied - for that episode. He still wore dresses during the Potter years until Radar left and he took over his position as Company Clerk.* And who knows how far he would have gone if his actor, Jamie Farr, hadn't suddenly realized that his kids were of age to watch the show, and decided he didn't want them to be ashamed of their dad getting laughed at for wearing a dress.
Jack O'Neill in Stargate SG-1 gets away with talkback, insubordination, and disobeying orders which would have gotten him court-martialled at least six times over if he was in the real US Air Force.
Somewhat justified, as he was already retired before the series and they dragged him back forcefully to head the titular team.
And Samantha Carter got away with openly saying no to him in the first season at least twice, sometimes in situations in which a leader really, really needs to be able to expect that his decisions will be followed. This is long before Flanderization brought about his childlike third season personality.
Also lampshaded in a Clip Show with the new president marveling at how the entire team is still employed.
Jack and Hammond seem to be good friends, and due to the secretive nature of the SGC, the rules seem to be a little looser... but Hammond nonetheless dutifully hangs a lampshade on it in one episode where he produces a file he's apparently kept on O'Neill's behavior since he joined the SGC.
Truth in Television, really. When the Chief of Staff of the Air Force made a guest appearance on the show, Richard Dean Anderson asked if there were Air Force colonels as bad as him. The answer? "Worse."
Most militaries have an unspoken rule that says that if your skills are truly irreplaceable, then they have to put up with you to get those skills, and that sometimes means frequently looking the other way when one of your officers is an insubordinate jackass.
Of course it helps when your very VERY popular with Earth's strongest allies, who happen to be the most powerful and advanced race in existence at that point and the only thing that has kept the Big Bads in check for the past few hundred years.
Being able to keep a score about saving the Planet probably helps as well
In Stargate Atlantis an IOA agent noted that Sheppard and others were often insubordinate. It was then brought up that they were the best at what they do.
The Stargate Verse is Mildly Military in general. In the case of SG-1, O'Neill's insubordination isn't too much weirder than putting an archaeologist and an alien on a combat team. (Officially, that team is the "first contact" team, so in-universe it just makes sense to have a broad range of expertise on it, but the free rein given Jackson and Teal'c is as implausible as that given O'Neill.)
In 24 it's common for characters to assault superiors who they disagree with or suspect of wrongdoing, and you'd expect to wind up in prison, let alone still working there. However, they still have their jobs when the dust clears. CTU's turnover remains high, though, for other reasons.
Harmon Rabb from JAG is quite prone to this trope. Half the stunts he's pulled off should have had him drummed out of the Navy, or at least left him with very poor chances of promotion. No matter how egregious stunts he pulls off: Status Quo Is God. Even when did quit for good he got reinstated by the Secretary of the Navy due to a lack of personnel.
James T. Kirk: He consistently put himself and most of his senior officers in danger in mission after mission by taking them on Landing Parties, put his ship in danger with his "cowboy diplomacy", disobeyed direct orders from his superiors and lest we forget, treated the Prime Directive—the Federation's most serious rule, which Starfleet personnel are supposed to uphold with even their lives if necessary—as little more than a suggestion. Any real ship's captain who behaved even remotely like Kirk would be instantly court-martialed and—at the very least—permanently stripped of any command authority at all. Of course, this being an action-adventure TV series with sci-fi window dressing, and later a series of movies, the Rule of Cool reduced all this to "business as usual".
Made all the more outrageous by the fact that in the episode in which Kirk is court-martialed, there is much talk about how upstanding a starship captain has to be. Kirk's supposed crime in that episode, which he is of course innocent of, is really a minor infraction compared to the stuff he really got up to.
Lampshaded again in Star Trek: Voyager. Janeway and Tuvok were talking about when Tuvok served on the Excelsior (during the events of Star Trek VI). Janeway said that if Sulu, Kirk, or any of them had been Starfleet Officers today, they'd all have been kicked out.
Justified in that if you have a deep-space exploration ship continually getting mixed up in situations where one wrong decision can lead to the end of human civilization at the hands of cosmic powers, and you know of only one officer who has the talent for continually making the right call in such situations, you keep that man employed no matter what he does. Organizational discipline is one thing, but species survival trumps it.
It makes sense if you think of it in terms of the Age of Sail rather than modern militaries. The captain had a lot of power compared to what we think of today.
Sisko from Deep Space Nine. His aggressive behavior, antics and use of biological weaponry on a planet population should have had him court-martialed. But like Kirk, he is the commander of the figurative Fort Apache in space and the literal Messiah of the Bajorans. It's not as if they can replace him either.
There are also a few suggestions that Starfleet specifically assigns him to jobs when they need this approach. For instance, his ruthless tactics contained the Maqui rebellion despite it being led by Starfleet defectors and he planned several major offensives in the Dominion war despite his relatively low rank.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs. What makes him stand out from his entire team of Bunny Ears Lawyers is that their job survival is at least plausible, given that Gibbs is using his senior position to cover for them. He, on the other hand, not only bears the bad karma for all of their eccentricities on his own shoulders, but also has the habit of treating all orders from above as polite suggestions — at best. This is to the point where he has twice expressly defied the direct orders of the Secretary of the Navy for the purpose of doing it his way. Yes, he continually delivers brilliant success after success, but you still wonder just how patient his bosses can be.
Well, in the cases where it doesn't go higher than the director of NCIS, it's mostly that Gibbs could pretty much with one phone call become the director himself. The others occupy the position because Gibbs really doesn't want to be the director of NCIS. Besides being damn good at his job, Gibbs has also built up a lot of friends in high places, or people who control them (Holly Snow, anyone?), and he is always very close to the director (with Jenny and her predeccessor), or has a big load of dirty laundry (with Vance). Simply said, he can coerce or blackmail anyone who has any chance of getting him fired.
One episode features a large group of Navy codebreakers who all fit this trope. Their commander flat out states most of them would fail the military psychological exam due to various mental disorders (neuroses, paranoia, etc.)
There are those who would say Genki Girl and resident hot Lab Rat Abby would also qualify. She never wears a uniform, has strange tastes in everything, and doesn't take much better to orders from on high than Gibbs himself does, unless it's Gibbs who gives the order. However, she's also supposedly one of the single most gifted forensic scientists in the country, if not the world, and NCIS would not dare give her reason to leave, as most other agencies would be chomping at the bit to get her to work for them if she ever quit. It's explicitly stated in one episode that she receives a handful of lucrative job offers every year, and she turns them all down - because she loves NCIS, and Gibbs, too much to leave. Plus she's friends with Gibbs. Shepherd tried to make her follow the rules. That lasted until Gibbs found out about it.
All NCIS personnel seems to benefit from getting quite some leeway from their director, especially in the early seasons. This may be because NCIS was originally introduced as a small, underfunded organisation, that relied on creative methods to stay ahead of big players like the FBI in the Interservice Rivalry.
They all probably get that leeway because they're friends with Gibbs, and he makes the director give it to them. Gibbs gets it either because, in the case of the first two directors, he's friends with the director, or in Vance's case, he has enough dirt on the director to ruin his career. Possible both with Shepherd.
Semi-subversion: The uber-incompetent Matthew actually was fired from his job on NewsRadio at one point; however, he got it back later in the season.
Schemer in Shining Time Station somehow manages to keep his job as the titular station's arcade manager, despite being an obnoxious jerk who's not above lying, cheating, and occasionally even stealing to earn a few extra nickels. In one episode, he even takes other people's belongings without asking them, and tries to sell them. And yet, the worst Stacy Jones (who runs the station) or J.B. King (the head of the railroad) do to him is tell him he's been bad, and not to do it again.
Maybe they should have tried hair care — in one episode, after Schemer's semi-identical ambiguous relation Schemie fails to squirm his way out of getting caught, Schemer punishes him by combing the family trademark cowlick flat. This distresses Schemie far more than pretty much anything anyone has ever tried on these two before or since.
In My Hero, Mrs. Raven's open hostility to patients (and everyone else) might have been a problem for her were her boss not perpetually distracted by his own self-admiration. Also, as Dr. Crispin finds out after temporarily firing her for wanting a raise, she's made herself indispensable by organizing his patients' files in such a way that she's the only one who knows how to find anything.
For quite a while, Mr. Lucas, the cheeky junior salesman in Are You Being Served? was able to get away with insulting his higher-ranked fellow employees and superiors every episode. Then, later on, he disappeared from the show. The only hint of an explanation for his disappearance was a passing line from Captain Peacock mentioning a time where the store didn't make any money and they fired the junior. This line was meant to intimidate Mr. Lucas' successor, Mr. Spooner — who managed to get away with insulting Mrs. Slocombe and Captain Peacock (though without Lucas' panache) until the final episode of the series.
Ianto kept a Cyberman in the Hub's basement (directly endangering the world) and disobeyed orders to shoot her. But he still manages to stay on the team.
In a season 1 episode, Gwen takes the newly-resurrected Suzie out of the Torchwood Three base to see her father. Upon seeing this on a camera, Jack mentions that she is "getting herself fired", but she ultimately remains part of the team. Likely because Suzie was manipulating her.
The season 1 finale involved the entire team—having been driven over the Despair Event Horizon—having a mutiny against Captain Jack. Owen even goes as far as to shoot Jack in the head, killing him. Of course Jackcan't die, but Owen does not know that at the time of said shooting. Their actions afterwards unleashes a giant monster upon the city, though Jack ends up stopping it. Despite the fact that he told them many times not to open the Rift (which led to the aforementioned incidents), he forgives his entire team.
Justified in the opening credits - Torchwood is "Outside the government, beyond the police." Jack is pretty much autonomous once Torchwood London at Canary Wharf goes down.
Don Draper can apparently disappear from work for days (possibly weeks!) without any long-term consequences. But this cuts both ways, as Don discovers he can't have Pete Campbell fired for endangering an account, because Campbell's family is wealthy and connected.
As Duck Phillips discovers to his dismay, even if Don were fired, he could always go straight to another ad agency because he has no contract, and therefore no "non-compete" clause.
This is deconstructed in the sixth season, as Don's dysfunctions for the first time weren't worth his contributions to the company, as he immediately lost the first major account he brought in in months. Despite being a full partner in the company at this point, the other partners force him to take leave for several months—but he's still being paid, to some of their annoyance.
First footman later under-butler Thomas Barrow from Downton Abbey is a thieving, manipulative and overall unpleasant character, but he's actually good at the job so nobody has the heart to fire him.
Each season ends with him weaseling his way out of a situation he really shouldn't have been able to weasel out of, and then getting promoted. The third season ends with him being outed as gay in 1920 and managing to not only stay out of jail, but be promoted from valet to under-butler.
Justified in Battlestar Galactica. As illustrated when the Pegasus arrives, the ship is essentially a frat house, and crew members commit what should be career-ending offenses on an alarmingly routine basis. Hell, even Adama is getting stoned and having an affair with the president. Of course, given that they're all that's left of the military, they're really lenient by necessity.
Some of what happens on the show should get some of them fired. For example, Starbuck may be a great pilot, but her unpredictability would cause any leader to lose faith in her during one of her less lucid moments.
Similarly, Apollo disobeys direct orders on a routine basis and ends up getting promoted up the chain of command.
Tyrol essentially commits mutiny and is told he'd have been executed if he wasn't needed.
It is somewhat implied that the Galactica was a dumping ground for the Colonial military to put their incompetent, or at least, least-effective personnel. It was old and about to be decommissioned even before the Cylon invasion began. Adama and Tigh had been given command of the Galactica as a punishment for screwing up an intelligence operation (they'd even been drummed out of the Fleet and had only managed to get back in due to Adama's wife's political ties). It's the great irony of the series that this is the only warship of consequence to survive the apocalypse.
A major theme in Yes, Minister is that it is practically impossible for a civil servant to lose their job, regardless of how incompetent, malicious or damaging their conduct. As such, whilst the politicians come and go, the civil servants are there practically for life, which is one factor which has allowed them to cement their control over the running of the country.
Truth in Television: this actually happened a lot in the ancient world when one kingdom or empire would overrun another. While the top leadership and the elites were executed/dethroned/etc., the civil servants would be retained by the conquerors because they actually knew how to run the country. The Mongol conquest of China is a very good example.
Detective Stabler from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit routinely ignores Capt. Cragen's instructions, has beaten suspects in the interrogation room on multiple occasions, beaten suspects while apprehending them, and punched another cop in the face all while somehow keeping his job.
Patrick Jane of The Mentalist breaks laws left and right in his methods of solving murder cases. He's a pretty shady Bunny-Ears Lawyer and breeds trouble, yet the agency wouldn't dare fire him because he's just that good. However, every antic of his brings his supervisor, Agent Lisbon, closer to being fired in favor of someone actually able to control him.
Of course, she's got this too, because if anyone ever fired her Jane would be... annoyed.
Does Jane even work for the CBI? He is a consultant and not an employee. They just need him to catch bad guys, which is even lampshaded in the show.
Miles Hutchison, the Secretary of Defense on The West Wing, holds the President in open contempt, attempts to screen promotion candidates based on their political views, and uses the media to undermine foreign policy initiatives so frequently that Bartlet and Leo attempt to plan around it. He lasts the entire length of the series.
The title character of Get Smart. At one point, the Chief actually does threaten to fire him, and Max replies that the Chief wouldn't dare: According to CONTROL's seniority regulations, if Max is fired, then the Chief would have to promote Larabee into Max's job.
Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard. Despite being corrupt and a bumbler, he remains sheriff because Boss Hogg wants someone he knows he can control, and the people of Hazzard County keep electing him because they'd rather deal with the devil they know than the devil they don't know.
Buffy is given a job as a guidance counselor at the new Sunnydale High School in the seventh season. The reason for her hiring was so she could protect the students from the Hellmouth under the school. Good thing too because we are shown and told that she isn't a great counselor. Whenever she asks about her great counseling skills the person she is talking to gets an amused look on their face. And whenever she is seen talking to a student she seems too prone to thinking about the monster-fighting part of her job to properly listen to what the students say. Previously, she had blackmail material on a fast-food chain and used it to get her shitty job back. Excusable only because she was pretty much dead inside at the time. Having said that, she was offered money in response to the blackmail, and took the shitty job instead, and was unfailingly polite despite the fact that she basically had the blackmailed person by the balls.
Even earlier, Giles had this with the original Sunnydale High. Snyder quickly figured out why you should never mess with someone whose nickname is Ripper.
For that matter, Snyder. His extreme disdain for children makes it clear he should be nowhere near the educational field. He got the job specifically to keep the Hellmouth and all the deaths it causes out of the public eye.
Michael Kelso from That '70s Show somehow manages to become a police officer, and despite all of his antics, he's never fired. These include breaking into the police academy, losing his supervisor's squad car, and setting the academy on fire with a flaregun. In one particularly funny instance he was "guarding" Eric when he was arrested after being caught in one of the group's antics (Hyde, Donna, and Kelso ditched Eric after the car wouldn't start). After it was revealed that he was also part of the prank, a senior officer shoved him into the cell with Eric.
Corner Gas: Fitzy and his position of mayor. He doesn't seem particularly good, and at one point is afraid of losing it, only to be told that "nobody wants your job". Subverted and averted in one episode though. Emma runs for mayor and wins. The exception is A) She flat out admits during an interview that she doesn't even want the job, she's simply running out of spite over Fitzy telling her husband to shut up, and B) the entire episode was just a dream anyway.
In Game of Thrones, there was a rebellion seventeen years previously, resulting in the overturn of a three hundred year old dynasty. Varys,Pycelle and Barristan are all survivors from that regime. They were kept on as each of them is too good at what they do to have been removed from their respective posts.
Varys is actually the one best fitted for this trope. Pycelle keeps his position mainly because it's really difficult to remove a Grand Maester, and Barristan gets to keep his because he's A) a true knight and exceedingly honorable, and B) without Barristan, the remaining Kingsguard on duty with the most seniority would have been Jaime Lannister.
Rick Castle can always get his consultancy position back even if the police commissioner wants him gone by calling his buddy, the Mayor of New York City.
This was seriously threatened in one episode where said Mayor was a suspect in a murder investigation. Had the Mayor been guilty, the first thing the captain (who is much less appreciative of Castle than her predecessor was) would've done was get rid of Castle and it was made clear that there was nothing anyone could've done about it.
Almost the entire cast of F Troop. Captain Parmenter is an 1860s Col. Potter who also would trip and fall over thin air. Sergeant O'Rourke uses his position to run a side business trading with the Indians - a 19th Century equivalent of a staff sergeant doing business with Cuba. Corporal Agarn is a hyperactive Frank Burns who also is O'Rourke's business partner. The bugler can't play a tune, the lookout has 20/400 vision and no one can fire the cannon without hitting the lookout tower. However, it's more than hinted that Fort Courage is another example of those aforementioned military "dumping grounds" for incompetents; it's actually stated in one episode that everyone was put there in hopes that they would all kill each other.
Almost every character on WKRP in Cincinnati is a complete screw-up who never even comes close to getting fired. It's lampshaded many times, and finally explained in the last episode when it's revealed that the owner actually wants the station to lose money.
Averted by "The Second Act" episode of The Middle. After three seasons of her not, as far as we've ever seen, actually selling a car, Frankie gets laid off (although her boss suggests she wouldn't be likely to be rehired).
In general: anyone who's been called a 'loose cannon cop on the edge' or some variation thereof.
Ed from the Good Burger sketches in All That. Ed is incredibly incompetent, and he screws up nearly everything he's put in charge of. A frequently asked question by fans was why Ed was never fired. The creator couldn't answer that.
Lampshaded in "Elephant's Memory"; out of concern for the UnSub, Reid not only goes out to confront him at the end of the episode, he elongates his arms as he talks to him to "shield" him from his own team's guns. Since the UnSub is holding a gun himself- visibly- and is known to be extremely violent, Reid was playing with fire by getting so close to him. Not only that, Reid neglected to tell the rest of the team that he figured out- before they did- that the UnSub was even going to the police station, having only Prentiss (who was already with him) to provide realistic cover, and Reid even thwarted Prentiss at times. Fortunately for Reid the UnSub is apprehended without incident, but on the plane flight home, Hotch tells Reid that he "should fire (Reid) for what he did" and that next time he will fire him, before commending him on his work.
Erin Strauss counts too. Her witch hunt of Hotch and Gideon in Season Two likely wouldn't sit too well with her superiors, as well as her rather comical mishandling of the crime scenes in "In Name And Blood" at the beginning of Season Three. How she keeps her job is beyond me.
One episode had Penelope allow a major computer hack because she was playing an MMO at work with an unsecured private laptop. She never faces any repercussions for this, even though it would get you fired from an office job.
Grover from Sesame Street keeps his job as waiter at Charlie's even though he constantly gets his customers order wrong. Though Grover means well.
As a shoe salesman, Al Bundy is a disgrace to his profession. He constantly insults the fat women who make up most of his clients, has forgotten how to work the cash register due to the fact that he hardly ever sells any shoes, plays with the shoes like toys, insults his boss Gary to her face, and on the very rare occasions when he actually does manage to sell some shoes, he just pockets the money. Despite all this, he's never fired. It may be because, aside from Al's Black Best Friend Griff, Gary can't find anyone else besides Al who's desperate enough to work in the shoe store. In one episode she does fire Al and Griff because she manages to find replacements for them. The replacements immediately quit when they realize what they'll have to put up with and Gary's forced to hire Al and Griff back.
Carrie from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody is a hotel lounge singer, hardly a secure job to begin with, and she manages to keep the job in spite of Zack and Cody's disruptive and destructive antics.
Vince and Howard of The Mighty Boosh have this in series one. They work at a zoo helmed by two insane madmen who openly dislike them and routinely try to kill them, but for some reason Bainbridge and Fossil never think to simply fire them every time they survive. In the entire series, it took the zoo closing to upseat them from their jobs.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin spent most of his time beating up his boss (Vince McMahon), humiliating him, ruining his prize possessions, etc., just to get a rise out of him. How he kept his job varied by storyline; either Vince kept him on just to make his life a living hell right back, or he kept him on because, regardless of the fact that he was absolutely miserable, he was still making tons of money because the fans adored Austin, or an independent authority figure (the commissioner, the board of directors, etc.) would thwart Vince's latest attempt to get rid of him.
There was actually a storyline where Vince did get so sick of Austin and all the problems he caused that he fired Austin, proclaiming that even the buyrates and money weren't worth it anymore. Austin actually showed up the next night in an infamous segment where Austin threatened McMahon with a gun, only to reveal it was a toy. In retaliation, Vince hatched a plot where he pretended to feud with his son Shane McMahon. In retaliation for demoting Shane to lowly referee status, Shane revealed he had signed Austin to a five year contract. Eventually, they revealed their plan while screwing Austin out of a title match using Shane's new found referee power. The point of this plan was to make the next five years of Austin's life a living hell.
This could apply to Austin in real life as well. Since 2002, he's walked out on WWE on multiple occasions, usually over gripes about where he was being put in a storyline, forcing WWE to officially "part ways" with him (One such incident caused him to lose a multi-picture deal with WWE's Films division). He also has been charged with assaulting women on at least a couple of occasions, not making for good PR. Still, despite all that and him not being in a match since 2003 due to his broken-down body, WWE will keep bringing him back for any small appearance because they know the crowd will always erupt upon hearing that sound of broken glass.
Shawn Michaels was such an indispensable part of WWE in the mid-'90s that he got away, without punishment, for the ultimate sin — breaking Kayfabe by sharing a group hug with his departing friends Razor Ramon and Diesel, as well as Hunter Hearst Helmsley, in the middle of the ring at the end of a live show in Madison Square Garden, despite the facts that, not only were Michaels and Ramon faces and Diesel and HHH heels, but Michaels and Diesel had just finished a brutal steel cage match against each other. HHH, on the other hand, wasn't so lucky; while he avoided being fired for the incident, he did lose out on an opportunity to win the 1996 King of the Ring tournament (this instead went to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin) and spent some time doing penance as a jobber-to-the-stars.
People tend to have this if Vince McMahon doesn’t get to utter the words "You're Fired" and the Genre Savvy heel has picked up on this. In 2009 Randy Orton punted Vince before he could finish and went to WrestleMania that year. He threatened to sue if he didn't get his guaranteed title shot, but the idea of firing him before he won the Royal Rumble never seemed to occur to anyone. In 2013 Paul Heyman had Brock Lesnar interrupt and beat up Vince, in order to remain on the roster.
GURPS makes Tenure the blanket term for this sort of job security. Interestingly priests are given as an example of people with Ultimate Job Security.
Truth in Television. Teachers, priests and similar individuals are easier to pass to another district or parish than to fire, defrock or imprison.
Captain Bannon from World in Conflict manages to be everything an officer in the Armed Forces should not be (cowardly, insubordinate, whiny, arrogant, incompetent and many more), yet the worst thing that happens to him career wise over the course of the game is a transfer to another front. Somewhat justified by the fact that World War III is occurring and there is a shortage of officers... though Bannon's bungling occasionally reaches levels where he could be considered a bigger danger than the Soviets. If it wasn't for his Heroic Sacrifice near the end, he would have surely been court-martialed or possibly executed.
Commander Shepard from Mass Effect becomes a Spectre and does a few questionable things (one way or the other) and has this mainly because the main government of the galaxy is Too Dumb to Live and refuses to believe evidence of their impending doom. Repeatedly. But s/he's so needed that s/he gets Resurrected for a Job, and can get reinstated as a Spectre and still continue to screw up whatever he wants to his/her heart's content. The Council does ask that s/he keep his/her cowboy ways to the Traverse and the Terminus Systems, but that's an empty request and Shepard knows it.
Notable meta-aversion: Riot Games know exactly what kind of people the competitive Multiplayer Online Battle Arena scene tends to attract and recently made it abundantly clear getting your username on the webcasts doesn't mean you're above punishment: when a well-known American pro player ran afoul of the Tribunal enough times to get his main account slapped with a one-year ban, Riot informed him he could sockpuppet like everyone else all he liked, but he was also personally banned from sanctioned competition for the duration.
Least I Could Do: Rayne. He got a job as an executive at a multi-national corporation, with the goal of sleeping with the hot female CEO. He routinely sexually harasses all his female co-workers, including the aforementioned CEO and her assistant. He has climbed through the office's air vents ("You'll appreciate it if and when Hans Gruber shows up"), climbed the building with a homemade grappling hook when the lift was out, come to work dressed as a Stormtrooper (Star Wars, not Nazi) and once had a prospective employee used as a pinata. He keeps his job, because he's somehow increased company profits to record levels, and his perverseness/immaturity/loose grasp of reality seems to be seen by every other character as amusing or endearing. Yes, he's an outrageous Mary Sue, but that's sort of the joke.
It's interesting to note that this trope also applies to the aforementioned prospective employee. Despite being a complete Jerkass to everyone at the company ("So what's it like to be on the other side of the poverty line?"), including and especially his interviewer (Rayne himself), he still gets the job because he has all the practical skills required. One can only assume that the world of LICD has extremely strict equal opportunity employment laws.
The selling point with "Archie" was that for all his stuck-up rich snob attitude, he had the skills, education and prospect ideas to really benefit the company. Even Rayne had to admit his proposals were sound, much as he wanted to kick the kid out the door anyway. We haven't seen much of him since, but presumably he keeps his attitude tightly reined in for fear of what Rayne might do to him.
Ctrl+Alt+Del has Ethan, who doesn't even turn up to his job at a video game store half the time, is a Jerkass to staff and customers when there, and completely walks away from the job for weeks on end. Not only does he keep his job, he ends up OWNING the damn place. Though that last one is justified because Ethan was holding the deed, and the previous owner flat-out didn't care.
Davan of Something Positive can always keep his job as a medical bill clerk. This is because his job is so horrible that probably no one else would want to apply for it, and because he is the only one left in his group who actually does any work. He realizes this power when he oversleeps in one comic, and after a split-second of believing he'll be fired, promptly goes back to sleep.
In Misfile it's getting increasingly hard to understand why Ash's father is still a doctor, much less employed. The man continually breaches patient confidentiality by talking about female cast members' vaginas (he is an OBGYN) and breasts, and likes to publicly mention his "nimble fingers".
Of course it would appear that among other things, he's nothing but professional in front of his patients - well, except Emily. It would also appear that Tempest is a small town, which may mean he's the only gynecologist, and with the fact he occasionally lectures at Harvard, it can be presumed he is actually highly qualified.
The part about him being professional in front of his patients is jossed; the entire town describes him as "freaky creepy." The only explanation is that he really is that good.
Heck, one of his idiotic decisions should have gotten his school shut down. (He funneled the budget for maintaining the fire alarms into wall murals, and as a result the sprinklers don't work.)
Mr. Verres also qualifies. As his boss noted, he has far too many important contacts in both the extraterrestrial and paranormal communities to get rid of without causing an incident. That doesn't save him from getting Kicked Upstairs though.
Josh in Comic Critics once left his job for months, and found it still waiting when he came back. As he explains it, he understands the storeowner's psychology in such a way as to avoid being fired: "I look at a life filled with bad decisions that led him to this point, and figure there's no reason for him to stop making them now."
MegaTokyo zig-zags this with Largo, who was actually hired as a "catastrophe management officer" because of his insanity and willingness to break numerous laws in the line of duty, but he eventually gets fired for taking it too far. His teaching job, meanwhile, is a straight example: he gets hired due to mistaken identity and keeps his job even though he rarely actually teaches English and constantly endangers the lives of his students and himself. This is repeatedly lampshaded by Junko.
Agents Of Cracked is an extreme example — Swaim manages to keep his job despite going on at least one killing spree. And the kidnapping. And the bomb threat. And the sexual harassment. Him getting fired for selling jokes to the competition is thus quite surprising, but his comedy savant abilities seem to be the only reason the Chief lets Swaim stay.
Ogden Wernstrom was given tenure by the mayor in an emergency, only to abandon the city in its moment of need. The Mayor's thoughts on the subject? "Well, I'd fire him, but he's got tenure."
Which brings us to Zapp Brannigan, who somehow manages to keep his job despite being a vain womanizing idiot whose subordinates tend to die horribly. Subverted in "Brannigan Begin Again" where he and Kif were fired after Zapp stupidly destroyed the new headquarters of The Federation. They were then hired by Professor Farnsworth, prompting Zapp to later hijack the Planet Express ship and try to use it in a suicide mission against a neutral planet. Leela saves the day and is fully prepared to testify as to Brannigan's actions until she realizes that doing so would mean she'd be stuck with him - at which point she swears up and down that he was the hero of the piece, enabling him to get his job back and thus get him out of Planet Express.
One of the characters in Abbys Agency does absolutely no useful work on either the overt or covert sides of the business, but can't be fired because he has seniority.
Camp Lazlo: Bean Scoutmaster Algonquin C. Lumpus, who is generally extremely incompetent and apathetic, and doesn't even like being a Scoutmaster. At least until the Grand Finale, where he's finally removed... because it turns out he was never actually the Scoutmaster — he'd actually locked the previous Scoutmaster in a closet and stolen his job; The Reveal here gets him imprisoned as a dangerous lunatic.
Wouldn't Homer Simpson be the ultimate example? He's grossly incompetent, monstrously stupid, and frequently leaves his job to pursue insane "lifelong dreams" and spur-of-the-moment opportunities, yet keep coming back to the same job he's always had at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. To make matters more baffling, Monty Burns even seems to actively dislike him most of the time, yet even when Burns does fire him, Homer still winds up with the same old job again by the next episode (if not by the end of the current one).
It can be noted that Burns probably just doesn't care. He's cut so many corners in the plant that even if Homer was a model employee there'd still be glowing green ooze dripping from the ceiling. As for the dislike thing... keep in mind if you ask him at almost any point in time, he'll respond by wondering who this 'Simpson' chap you keep talking about is. Besides, you might as well apply this trope to everyone who works at the power plant, as they've all been repeatedly shown to be every bit as incompetent, lazy and stupid as Homer. If Frank Grimes hadn't been driven insane by Homer, the rest of his coworkers would have made it happen anyway.
"And Maggie Makes Three" brings up another factor: schadenfreude. Homer had previously quit the job (because he hated it), but had to return because the bowling alley didn't pay enough for him to support three children. Burns enjoys watching this pathetic doofus who made a fool of him too many times suffer. He even made a demotivational plaque just to rub it in (which ultimately didn't work).
Also, remember that the plant employees have a powerful union (The International Brotherhood of Jazz Dancers, Pastry Chefs and Nuclear Technicians) and Homer is the second-most senior employee after Smithers, so he's probably protected by the contract.
In one episode, Burns tries to silence the inspectors who require Homer to be fired, or get a real training. At this point it looks like Burns keeps the least competent employee in a nuclear power plant just For the Evulz.
Homer is hardly the only example of this trope in the series, and might not even be the worst one, as his security gets at least some explanation. There's Chief Wiggum, a morbidly obese and grossly incompetent cop who releases dangerous criminals on the condition that they go to his son's party; Skinner, who is respected by nobody and barely manages to keep the school open; frankly virtually all the staff at Springfield Elementary, who show precious little care for their students and violate basic health principles like smoking and drinking in class; Mayor Quimby, an incredibly corrupt womanizer who still manages to stay in power for all eternity; and Lenny and Carl seem to be in much the same boat as Homer when it comes to nuclear incompetence. It's safest to say that Springfield is just made of Apathetic Citizens.
Beavis and Butt-Head have never once shown any ounce of competence at their fast food job and have gotten the place closed for health code violations at least once, not to mention blatant workplace violations such as fighting each other in an attempt to earn workman's comp or going "on strike" and just refusing to work for no reason. Yet they were never shown having been fired.
In a more realistic world, Elisa Maza's tendency to lose guns, and her unannounced one-year disappearance, would have landed her several visits by the Internal Affairs department, if not outright dismissal. She remains a valued member of the 23rd Precinct.
In his first appearance on The Fairly OddParents, Crocker mentions his tenure is so good he could get away with killing one of his students' parents with one of his fairy catching devices.
"If they survive, they're FAIRIES!! If not, I HAVE TENURE!!"
This was averted in the Dutch dub of said episode however, in which Crocker stated he would get life in prison if he killed Timmy's parents (yet he was so convinced they were faries he was willing to take that risk).
There is much more about Crocker that shows how good his tenure is; everybody, including the principal of his school, thinks he's crazy, his students constantly fail their tests since Crocker actually enjoys handing out F's, and don't forget how cruel he gets on march 15, yet he still has his job. In real life, a teacher like that would have been fired a dozen times by now.
On Jimmy Two-Shoes, despite facing George Jetson Job Security in one episode, Heloise seems to get away with betraying her boss fairly often. This might be because the above mentioned incident ended with Lucius begging her to come back to work.
Occasionally lampshaded by Chief Quimby, who wondered why he continued to put up with Inspector Gadget after our hero had repeatedly blown him up with exploding assignment messages. The facts that the rest of the Metro City Police force was almost as incompetent as Gadget and the Inspector's extremely high success rate (most of which was due to Penny and Brain, although Gadget himself often made important contributions) probably had something to do with it.
King of the Hill episode, "Junkie Business" provide an example. The newly-hired Strickland Propane employee, Leon, is a drug-addict who barely does his job. He cannot be fired because they sent him to rehab before doing so and is diagnosed under Americans With Disabilities Act protecting him on the job. He takes advantage of the workplace (with the help of Anthony Page) adjusting to his settings and his behavior causes Hank to quit. This created a loophole reducing the workforce below the minimum requirement for AWDA to take effect, so Strickland promptly fires Leon.
On 6teen, Nikki is usually seen slacking off or insulting the clothes she's supposed to sell at the Khaki Barn. In the rare instance where she gets fired or quits on her own, Chrissy always re-hires her (usually by one begging the other), despite Nikki's past treatment of her and Kirsten and Kristen.
Until the sex abuse scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was made public, Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno had the ultimate job security. Minor infractions with the NCAA, disagreements with the administration, several successive poor seasons and underachieving teams ... none of that seemed to matter until Sandusky's arrest in November 2011. When the facts became clear, Paterno – who had been the head coach since 1966, and part of the coaching staff from 1950-1965 – was quickly outed for failure to show leadership and refer an alleged incident involving the sexual assault of a child (which purportedly was reported to him) to him to law enforcement. Sadly, Paterno died shortly after his dismissal, as apparently his job security – 62 years(!) – was the ultimate driver of his life.
The U.S. Supreme Court. While it is technically possible to impeach and remove someone from the office a justice of the Supreme Court, the last time it was attempted was when Justice Samuel Chase was impeached in 1804. He was acquitted. Effectively, the icy scythe of death snips judges out of office. Impeachment (attempted or otherwise) against federal judges, at any level, is quite rare, to the point where it's basically unheard of.
The same is true of ALL federal judges in the United States, except that eight have actually been removed, and three resigned under pressure after proceedings began.
That being said, it's not unheard of for Supreme Court justices to resign of their own volition before their term is up, usually because they are so old they can't be sure they'll survive the next President's term and don't want to die when their political opponents are in charge of replacing them.
Most nations have some mechanism that makes it very difficult to dismiss judges, in order to prevent the executive or legislature dismissing judges who make decisions they don't like. Whilst it doesn't always translate into this trope, it can. The great British judge Lord Denning stayed on the bench until he was 83, by which point his mental faculties were...patchy.
This mentality and how it happens in real life was lampshaded by Jaison in Survivor: Samoa ,where he said that every job had two people like Natalie and Russell Hantz. Russell Hantz was that person who was very good at the job but is clearly not working there to make friends, and is naturally the person who only cares about work and nothing more. Natalie meanwhile is the person who's there to make friends and is invited to all the office parties - and keeps the morale going because people want to work with them.
Computer programmers sometimes jokingly call poor coding practices and examples thereof "Job Security". The reasoning is that they can't fire you if you're the only one who understands the code enough to maintain it.
This concept is known as "The Golden Handcuffs" by people who seriously take advantage of it, and will code either in round-about methods or maintain traps and back doors to ensure that nobody else can do their job.
The Golden Handcuffs actually refers to the practice of lining up incentives to an employee who may want to leave their job in a way that makes it impractical to leave. For example, an executive might be offered a deferred compensation plan or stock options that require he or she remain in their current position for ten years. Alternatively, the employee must repay a financial incentive that was given earlier, such as a hefty signing bonus. The employee -can- quit, but feels chained to their position by the loss of that income (and they're usually living a lifestyle that costs quite a bit at that). So it's Ultimate Employee Security. Obligatory Wiki Link.
As an aside, a moment's thought will reveal the flip side of such job security: If they can't fire you, it is just as true that they can't promote you, either. Of course, people earning good money with nowhere to go but management if they get promoted may not always see this as a bad thing.
While people sometimes try this, in reality, it usually doesn't work; they'll simply get rid of you because the sort of person who does this is a terrible employee to begin with, and what they made usually doesn't work very well. And who is going to hire you again after that?
It's worth noting that tech companies have gotten Genre Savvy about this and will fire someone on the spot for attempting this. There are strict guidelines about code syntax to make it easy to read, and breaking them is grounds for immediate termination, precisely because they don't want to lose six months of work upon replacing the only person who understands the program.
In 2008, Governator Schwarzenegger ordered the firing of every temporary and part-time employee of the State of California, and the reduction of the survivors' pay to minimum wage. Only then did he discover that the only people who knew the state's payroll software well enough to implement the latter directive had been victims of the former...
As a joke goes, programmers never retire, they just move to consulting about systems written in outdated programming languages.
The above explains why Gerald Weinberg, in The Psychology of Computer Programming (written in the 1970s, and still applicable), states that if a programmer becomes indispensable, you should fire him immediately. On the other hand, Michael A. Jackson tells of bosses who find indecipherable complexity a sign of genius and simple and elegant solutions just dumb luck.
Computer System Administrators. Bitter, angry, many bordering insanity. On the other hand you don't want to fire someone who has root-access to your computer system unless you really really have to.
Tenure for academics is not quite this, but it's very, very close. Although granting it is supposed to be based on credentials and accomplishments (and limit favoritism and arbitrary dismissals as well as foster loyalty), it's not uncommon for members of a board to try to block people they don't like from becoming tenured just because it means they'll be stuck with them as coworkers for the foreseeable future - sometimes decades.
Another example: Los Angeles Unified School District has a policy of 'housing' teachers accused of being unfit for their jobs - placing them on indefinite paid leave, as opposed to firing them or putting them in non-teaching duties (this is based upon management's interpretation of the teacher contract, and, well, not wanting people to do jobs they aren't qualified for). A 2009 case involved Matthew Kim, a former Special Education teacher with Cerebral Palsy, who had been on the payroll for seven years since being removed from teaching over a sexual harassment accusal, costing the school district $2 million in salary and legal fees over that time without either teaching or otherwise performing work for LA Unified (though, to be clear, much of that figure comes from the murky results of the lawsuit Kim filed alleging he had been specifically targeted because of his handicapped status). Of course, the counter-argument is that accused is the key word, and that any public employee has the right to appeal to an independent body. (story)
Job security in Sweden has been criticized for being ultimate. This is not quite true - the law recognizes dismissal on the grounds of harassing your co-workers or gross misconduct - but we're talking really bad stuff here, like endangering other people. It is doubtful whether you can be fired for slacking around. If the employee in question is friends with the worker's union, most employers find it easier to buy them off, as they (the employers) will face lawsuits or strikes otherwise. Oh, and even when doing layoffs, you don't get to decide who stays and who has to go. The law says that the employee hired last has to be fired first. All this goes only for salaried workers, while temps and hourlies can be more easily laid off. And then the unions wonder why employers tend to avoid employing on a monthly basis whenever possible.
The Banking System in General: Even after a string of notorious crashes and bailouts, nearly everyone in any position of responsibility still has their job, having created a financial system so complex that no individual could neither fully understand its machinations, nor be held particularly responsible for its dysfunction, and all those who come closest are probably already employed in the system. It's a really, really crappy situation for anyone not in such a position. Which is to say, pretty much every other taxpayer.
This is also Vetinari Job Security: any other system to manage financing in a modern economy would be just as complicated.
Public jobs in Brazil: you're unlikely to get fired unless you royally screw things up (e.g. are caught stealing from your workplace).
Likewise fonctionnaires (civil servants) in France. The general perception being that they do no work and have a truckload of perks, but are essentially impossible to fire.
A lot of the problems with Greece's finances stem from their civil servants enjoying this trope.
It is also present in Germany, but is compensated for with civil servants being forbidden from unionizing and having to accept whatever the government feels like paying them.
And in Britain, much to the chagrin of the British military, who usually bear the brunt of budget cuts and are known for having George Jetson Job Security. After a cock-up left the British Army with a completely useless assault rifle, they nicknamed it "the Civil Servant": it doesn't work and it can't be fired.
This is quoted as one of the main reasons of unemployment in private companies in France. Nobody wants to hire because unless your employee commits an epic fail that potentially endangers the company or actively tries to sink it, you have to go through a precise legal procedure where even a tiny mistake (such as sending a letter too soon) can result in a trial against you (the guy will still need a very good lawyer in case of a major blunder, though). If the employee can prove he/she's been fired due to a bias of the employer (discrimination, minor fault, etc.), in 99 cases out of 100, you'll have to re-hire the employee or pay very large fines and severance packages.
James St. James, a Millikin University Prof who turned out to have murdered his father, mother and sister back when he was 15, yet was allowed to keep his job and remained popular with his students even after this fact was revealed.
Averted in characteristic fashion in the Soviet Union under Stalin - the idea was that if anyone made themselves indispensable, it was time to dispense of them because they were working against Soviet ideals and trying to take advantage of others and their expertise. But it was more like Stalin wanted to get rid of anyone who could ever hope to be a threat. This caused predictable problems in fields like wartime intelligence.