Unspoken rules reflect your organizations culture…

People observe behaviors; not the written words”

An employee’s first day at job is exciting and at the same time period full of nerves. Several questions arise in their mind – Did I make the right decision?; Will I be able to fit in ?; Will I be welcomed in the team?  ; and so on …

It’s also the day when ‘expectations meets reality’ and a reality check of the promises made during the hiring process. In fact, I always maintain that as much as the leadership is anxious about the new hire meeting their expectations , the employee is also unsure.

The first day and the next few weeks are going to be the period in which the attempt will be to find answers to the above questions. The only way is by observation of behaviors of the leadership and the rest of the team. Most answers come out of the unspoken rules which are prevalent in the organization.

Unspoken rules define your culture

I recall my experience some 28 years ago, when I was hired by this company as a sales rep. based on my track record. The day of my joining, I was told how ‘delivering results’ is all that mattered in the organization and how the organization allows space for employees to experiment and find innovative ways to grow business.

In about 3 months all I observed was to the contrary. I was delivering the results as expected but was confused when my sales manager pulled me up for not making the mandatory 13 cold calls per day as per the requirements of the job. He went on to say that no matter the results, you got to make those cold calls. I was closing more deals than the rest of the team because of my vast network but was being lectured about how making ‘n’ number of calls will lead to ‘x’ number of conversions.

As illogical as it sounded, this company was rewarding people for ‘fitting-in’ than for being extraordinary.

In this case, the unspoken rule seemed to be: “playing by-the-rules matters more than results” or “my boss rewards mediocre employees and fears top performers.”

The behaviours organizations promote and tolerate, determine their real They are more powerful than any written rules. Or that a mission statement, for that matter. Many times it is the unspoken rule that promotes mediocrity in the organization and is reflective of the culture that prevails.

It’s important therefore for organizational leadership to understand the true reflection of the culture. What unspoken rules do is to; erode trust,

I find that even today after almost 30 years of working and consulting with organizations. There is often a gap between what the organizations communicate and their reality.

When the leadership behaviour is different from their spoken word, employees turn cynical and lose faith and trust in the organization’s vision, mission and values. I find that many managers talk about promoting innovation, creativity, collaboration, teamwork, initiatives, openness but their behaviour seems to promote mediocrity, competition, conformance, politics, fear and individualism.

It’s time to conduct an audit of all the unspoken rules in your organization. That’s the only way you can bridge the gap and build a culture of trust and growth.

Here is a list of unspoken rules I have come across in my interviews with several thousand employees across multiple organizations;

  1. Anyone can speak up as long as you are in agreement with your boss
  2. Collaborate but we will reward you for your individualism
  3. Take initiatives but with your bosses approval
  4. We promote creativity and innovation as long as you don’t upset the status-quo
  5. There are two rules in this company; 1 – the boss is always right 2. When he is wrong, refer to rule 1

Which are the funny and whacky ones you have come across? Share in the comments. Will be interesting to know….

Leave a Reply