Are You Following Your Company’s Hidden Rules?

Every company has an unwritten set of rules. These are the rules that no one reveals; you just have to figure them out on your own. But it’s important that you do or you may be judged by your colleagues.

At my company, I learned quickly that the junior employee picks up the tab for client dinners, taxis, and tips. I wasn’t unusually perceptive; my boss hoisted several restaurant bills on me so I clued-in. As I became more senior, most junior employees similarly reached for the bill at the appropriate time. However, one of my younger associates, Lauren, hadn’t figured out the company practice. I heard some colleagues complaining that Lauren must always feel like she’s on a date because she never picks up the tab. After hearing this, I gave her a heads-up about the unwritten policy. She looked surprised and said that no one had ever told her. Yeah, well…I guess they didn’t.

So how did the others figure out the rules? They watched and asked questions, both key skills for the post-grad professional.

Should you dress more formally for client meetings? Do you give your admin assistant a holiday gift? Questions like these are company-dependent. The rules you followed at your last job don’t always apply. But becoming savvy about the process at your office will impress others. And if all goes well, you’ll be influencing your own company’s culture soon enough.