Chapter 5

Unwritten Rules

Think about the first time you took your partner or significant other to your parents’ home. What did you warn her about? What did you tell him to say—or not say? You probably wanted the first meeting to go smoothly—you were the one who knew the family dynamic, customs, habits, and the traps for the unwary. You know what your mother thinks about people who dress a certain way, or how your father will evaluate your partner’s worth based on his opinions concerning sports.

Before you arrive, you might make statements like, “Make sure you compliment my father’s spaghetti sauce and meatballs,” or “Please don’t wear that worn out sweater, because it will make my mother feel disrespected.” Maybe you suggested that your partner avoid talking about religion or politics or a particular Hollywood star. “Hug my mother,” you suggest. “Shake hands with my father.” These are the types of unwritten rules that you want to impart to your partner before he or she unknowingly makes a fatal mistake—one that could have easily been avoided.

Organizations have just as many unwritten rules as families do. An individual’s success in a given company will largely be determined by how quickly they learn these rules, and whether they learn them at all. A new employee or manager can make mistakes they didn’t even know were considered mistakes, and not all of these blunders are the same from organization to organization. An employee is at a great advantage if a seasoned manager or ...

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