How To Master The Unwritten Rules At Your New Company And Boost Your Career

July 28, 2017  |  

Starting a new job is always nerve wrecking, but one of the hardest aspects isn’t really learning your new duties but understating the unwritten rules of your new workplace. These are not rules you will find in an employee handbook, but these rules could make or break your career at the company. And often times, it is much more difficult for women of color to get clued into these rules. If your fellow co-workers aren’t very inclusive and the company lacks diversity, it could be quite difficult for you grasp the company culture and, ultimately, advance.

These unwritten rules, Maria Anubi said, “are forms of social control and act as a powerful symbol of the way things are done and serve to maintain professional boundaries and hierarchical positions.” Anubi is founder of UK-based coaching firm Coaching2transform.

And though the idea of trying to understand what companies assume doesn’t need to be said sounds daunting, simple observation can go a long way. “Through your power of observation, you should be able to tell what is the accepted policy or practice,” said Marla Harr, business professional development consultant for Act Well Done. “Many miss the importance of observation. Think sports; rules add structure, equalize the playing field and help to build cohesive teams. The unspoken, unwritten rules are as important as the written policy rules. Following the rules is crucial to your co-workers’ acceptance and perception of you as a team player.”

So what might some of these unspoken rules be? According to Harr and Anubi, they can range from such seemingly mundane things as cubical décor and lunch or afternoon breaks to employee retention. “The turnover rate of particular departments is important,” Anubi stressed. “When talking to toxic leaders about how things are going in their department they often respond using the word ‘I’ and not ‘we,’ indicating less support and potential for often feeling isolated.

An individual may also be judged on the basis of a social group membership and being out of the loop can have many negative side effects — not just on your job performance, Anubi added. “Such a toxic environment can encourage deviant behaviors like absenteeism, theft, and unproductiveness. “Mental and physical well-being may be negatively impacted, personality changes, attitude, and perceptions.

“People of color are prone to high blood pressure and hypertension when continually exposed to such environments. High job demands, in the form of workloads and time pressures, coupled with a lack of control, are likely to lead to mental strain and cardiovascular disease, particularly when social support is low.”

But not all work environments operate with the mindset of every man for himself. Sometimes co-workers will clue you in on unwritten rules via casual comments and professional feedback, so be open to accepting their thoughts. “Accept feedback and stay teachable,” advised Anubi. “The minute you think you know it all and get offended by feedback, you are cutting your career short. You don’t want to let your ego drive or look insecure. Being open to feedback without letting it affect your self-esteem is a sign of strength and it is that exact strength and confidence that makes someone leadership material.”

Understanding your company’s unwritten rules, puts you in the driver’s seat of your career. As Anubi noted, “Unwritten rules require mastery of the game. It’s the only way to win.”

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