Every organization has unwritten rules. We often discover them by innocently breaking them. Written policies and procedures tell only half the story. The other half is unwritten and more powerful in determining success or failure in the workplace jungle. Following written policies will keep you out of trouble but will not get you promoted.
By the time I discovered the existence – and importance – of unwritten rules, I had already changed jobs 3 times, broken several unwritten rules, and seriously damaged my chances for promotion in one organization. Silly, silly me. I honestly thought all I had to do was be smart, honest, and work hard. After all, that is what my parents taught me. Surprise! There was much more to learn.
Through Divine intervention, I was taught the lesson that has served me well to this day. We’ll talk about Divine intervention and that specific experience at another time. For now, remember success in the workplace jungle requires mastering the unwritten rules, AND being smart, honest, and working hard.
Harvey Coleman and Alberta Lloyd of Coleman Management Consultants taught me ways to uncover unwritten rules.
- Observe everything. Who is getting promoted, demoted, fired, side-lined, leading special projects? What are their backgrounds and connections? How are meetings run? How do people talk to each other? What do people wear? How do they socialize?
- Question what you observe. Is there anything that does not make sense? Who seems to be succeeding but not following any of the rules? Do they bring something unique to the table – some rare skill or connection?
- Interpret what adapting to the rules means to you. Are you willing to follow the unwritten rules? Are you willing to pay the price for breaking them?
It is not difficult to uncover unwritten rules. Most of us do it with ease. Often, we just do not like the rules and hope exceptions will be made for us. As your personal Jungle Guide, I will help you understand the rules.
Please leave your questions and comments below.