7 Unspoken Rules of Corporate Culture

How to adapt to the silent rules of the workplace

I’ve been working in my corporate job for 25 months, and let me tell you — I’ve experienced more heartbreaks than in my personal relationships.

It took me several nasty emails, back-stabbing, and heart-to-heart conversations to realize that the corporate sector has some unspoken rules.

These are rules nobody tells you about but that you are expected to follow from day one. While the older generations didn’t find it as hard to adjust to this corporate culture, we millennials are finding it far more of a challenge.

This is not a piece that is going to tell you how much the corporate sector sucks. While I may have believed that at one time, the pandemic has made me more grateful for my job than I have ever been. Instead, I’m going to share some things I learned the hard way to help you understand the workplace’s silent rules and successfully adapt to them.

1. Be careful what you say yes to

I have colleagues who work late nights and weekends. One day, my boss said that if I needed her help, I could reach out to her during the weekend. What would your first impression be?

Oh wow, she wants to help me even during the weekend! How sweet of her!

While that’s true, if you take up this offer, the outlook it sets is that you are available to work on weekends.

What you can do: Set a precedent by saying no to these things right in the beginning, so people don’t ask you.

In the past week, I was asked by my colleagues if I want to finish something over the weekend or if I can respond to an email late at night. Here are two things which help me in this kind of situation without overthinking it:

  • Turn off your email notifications after working hours and on weekends. That colleague who emailed you on Saturday to catch up? Well, you never saw it.
  • Do not respond to WhatsApp outside of working hours. Don’t even open it, let it sit there. Your organisation won’t collapse without you.
  • Don’t pick up your phone outside of working hours. I was once doing yoga with my smartwatch ringing. I just continued with my deep breaths and asanas.

Now you may feel guilty for this, but know that you’re paid for your 9 hours a day 5 days a week. Everything else is extra.

2. Even your friends aren’t your friends

We live in a selfish world.

This doesn’t just happen in the office; it occurs in every aspect of life. The sooner you accept this, the easier it’ll be.

You may find somebody you completely vibe with and have close conversations with. Share your feelings — good and bad. If you give somebody information which they can use against you and for their benefit, you will encounter people who will use it.

What you can do: Of course you should make friends and have fun, but being a little cautious will be helpful. The best way to do this is to be careful about what you share.

Here are certain things you can refrain from sharing:

  • Your relationship issues (let’s not display our dirty laundry outside)
  • Your conversation with your boss
  • Your salary

And anything that could make another person feel jealous, angry, or vicious to use it to their advantage.

3. Do not over-deliver

Yes, going above and beyond may give you a raise or a promotion. But it will suck the life out of you. Do this once, and it will be expected of you every time.

Say if your boss asks you for a presentation due next week and you submit it in 2 days, you will create a great (and lasting) impression. However, it also means that next time your boss will give you a shorter time-frame to submit this.

What you can do: Do not overindulge. I know we all want to create a good impression, here are some ways to do that without selling your soul to Satan. You under-promise and over-deliver.

  • Say you have to take a survey of 100 people. You know you can stretch to 150, so tell your boss or management that you’re willing to stretch this to 120. Ultimately, the results will show that your over-delivered massively, but only you know that you under-promised.
  • If your deadline is a week from today, deliver 2 days earlier instead of delivering tomorrow.
  • Don’t be over-enthusiastic about doing lots of things. It’s all exciting at first, but know that it’s a long time to spend in here. A good 35 years if you retire at 65.

Avoid involving yourself in a lot of tasks for the heck to create a good impression. Pick up a few things you enjoy and are good at, and take it from there.

4. Don’t show off your new skill

One of my friends is in operations but showed off his tech skills. A few days later, his client drafted an email about an exciting project which will involve strong ops and tech skills.

You could be a brilliant writer, coder, presenter — if you don’t want to do this as a career and this is solely your passion, don’t talk about it.

While some thrive on using their passion in their profession, it could be cumbersome for others because pursuing their passion at work may no longer give them the freedom they’re used to.

What you can do: If you have a skill that you don’t want to use in a professional space, stay mum. Because economically, organizations want talent, and if that comes at a lower cost (one person specializing in two things), they will take advantage of it (and you).

5. Most reasons for cribbing are self-inflicted

When people crib about long hours or working weekends, ask them why don’t they deny it.

They agreed to it, again and again. They showed their peers they’re available at these times, so now they’re asked to work at these times.

This is a consequence of point 1. Your misery is likely to be a consequence of a poor decision, which still has the scope to change by speaking up.

What you can do:

  1. Talk to your leader.
  2. Be honest about workload and not wanting to work on weekends because you need time off to kick-start the week fresh.
  3. Talk about the workload leading to increased stress and decreased productivity.

6. Not all bosses are bad

Social media makes us believe several horrible things, such as

  • you’re only fit if you have abs
  • you’re cool if you have thousands of followers, and
  • bosses are mean horrible

I love my boss. Today, I am more confident than I have ever been because of her, and she doesn’t even know it. It’s not that she did something specific; it’s her leadership style.

She has given me the creative ground to make mistakes and learn from them instead of giving me a hard time for a mistake.

That being said, I have also had an asshole boss earlier who favored his inner circle and was manipulative. Unfortunately, we speak about our horrible bosses out loud more than the good ones, which carries an image that all bosses suck.

Trust me, some of them will shape you into a better person.

What you can do: Talk and develop a relationship. After all, you will spend a lot of time together at work. Approach your leader with a blank slate instead of fear and a mindset that they’ll be horrible. Give them a chance!

7. Being honest is always better than being nice

I had a prick of a boss early on who favored his inner circle. I had colleagues who laughed at his jokes even when they weren’t funny and put him on a pedestal, which only boosted his ego.

While being nice and ass-licky will give you short-term benefits, think about the person you want to be long term. What personality do you want to be known as? Sucking up will only help you for a bit, but the personality trait you create with this behavior will last long.

What you can do: Deliver constructive criticism where it’s needed.

Why? Because humans thrive on learning and growing and constructive criticism will only help them get better at what they’re doing. If you suck up, you’re also making your leader complacent.

And if you have a boss who doesn’t take this well… that’s a red flag for you.

To summarise

  1. Be careful of what you say yes to
  2. Even your friends aren’t your friends
  3. Do not over-deliver
  4. Don’t show off your new skill
  5. Most reasons for cribbing are self-inflicted
  6. Not all bosses are bad
  7. Being honest is always better than being nice

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Full-time Writer | Globe trotter (24 countries old) | Health Enthusiast (50lbs down) || Get in touch — https://bit.ly/31LO5Mp

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