How to Be Savvy about Unwritten Corporate Rules

How to Be Savvy about Unwritten Corporate Rules
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Are You Paying Attention to Unwritten Corporate Rules?
The careers of many dedicated, loyal, and hard-working people have been derailed by overlooking unwritten corporate rules — especially informal team norms that occur during organizational change. For example, a recent client lamented that when she politely declined receiving a company mobile device, she later learned the new boss saw that as a lack of commitment to his unwritten rule to be available 24/7. It cost her dearly.

Look for Tip-Offs You Underestimate Unwritten Corporate Rules
Political blind spots at work can decrease your influence, impact, and career progression. Ignoring signals that unwritten corporate rules and organizational politics exists is a form of denial. You may be too naïve about reality of politics at work if you hear yourself say things like…

  • “I don’t play that game…”
  • “I’m not going to sell out…”
  • “Politics is just kissing up and being manipulative…”

What to do About It
To improve your organizational savvy:

  1. Take Stock
    Reflect upon your underlying beliefs and attitudes. Scan your language for absolutist phrases about company politics like the three listed above. Ask yourself if you are being Under-Political? Warning signs that you do not know the “real rules” for success include:

    — Being passed over for promotions
    — Feeling under-estimated
    — Being excluded from key networks
    — Seeing others get more credit than you
    — Having trouble selling your ideas
    — Detecting sabotage or deception against you
  2. Reframe
    Come to grips with the reality that every organization has unwritten rules for success and office politics. Reframe you negative self-talk to power dynamics as “influence,” “impact,” “career growth,” and “protecting yourself” from being marginalized. Decide whether and how you need to adjust your self-talk about company politics.
  3. Identify the Unwritten Rules
    If you do not have a formal organizational culture assessment, consciously plot the “real company score card” of unofficial rules for success and failure. If you are not sure what they are, identify who you can ask that you trust. Pay attention to what leaders say and do. Track who gets promoted and why.
  4. Keep Tabs on Shifting Norms
    Norms often change. Pay attention to strategic initiatives, organizational changes, and crises. Damage control and scandals can shift norms quickly. Make a list of key subordinates, peers, and managers you can safely approach to use as your antennae to sense and discuss the Corporate Buzz.

    Make it a regular practice to ask one or two trusted allies to keep tabs on your reputation within the company to see where you stand.

The Bottom Line
Every workplace has unwritten rules. Knowing exactly what the unstated cultural and emotional norms are can make or break a career or an important project. Can you succeed within and reinforce your desired workplace culture even when the nature of work changes?

To learn more about how to live your desired workplace culture, download 3 Research-Backed Levels of Culture to Get Right

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