The Rules of Work – The Unspoken Truth About Getting Ahead in Business

by Richard Templar
Pearson Prentice Hall © 2005
240 pages

Main Take Aways

  • Observe the unwritten rules of your workplace, and notice the leaders’ behavioral  patterns. Constantly practice “secret learning.”
    • Use the 100 rules of work to prepare yourself for a more challenging position.
    • Those who use these workplace rules to their advantage are called “Rules
    • Unless you do your job well, mastering the rules won’t do you much good.
    • One of the best ways to get noticed is to give your boss an unsolicited report that
    recommends solid improvements.
    • “Never stand still.” Always be occupied.
    • Look like your job is effortless; never show how hard you work. Stay cool.
    • You are always being judged. Buy the most expensive clothes you can afford. Walk
    like you have the job you want to get. Be above the fray.
    • Always think about what is really going on; discern the hidden agendas,
    undercurrents, rivalries and invisible protocols.
    • Assume that others in your workplace do not share your positive motivation. Never
    share The Rules of Work with anyone.

Rules of the Game

(1) “Walk Your Talk”
Walking your talk means doing your job well. If you don’t master your job, following all of the other rules will be for naught. The rules on walking your talk include:

“Get your work noticed” – Many workers disappear into their offices, not because they aren’t working hard, but because their work goes unnoticed. That won’t do if you want to get ahead. The best way to attract notice is to transcend the routine. Do something extra. Give your boss an unsolicited report on how things could be done more efficiently. This shows tremendous initiative. Just don’t overdo it, and be sure your idea works. To get noticed, write an article for the company newsletter.

• “Never stand still” – A lot of the activity at work isn’t work. It’s gossiping, talking,  socializing and so forth. Most people just work for paychecks, but Rules Players want promotions. Spend any extra time preparing for your next job – essentially, practicing the manager’s walk. Keep moving. Engage in constant “secret learning.”

• “Carve out a niche for yourself” – Find an unmet need in your office and fill it. You might create personal profiles of top customers, master a new computer program or
learn arcane accounting procedures. Whatever it is, creating your own niche will take you out of the everyday hum-drum and will elevate you above other workers.

• “Enjoy what you are doing” – Rather than complain about your job, why not enjoy it?  Tell yourself work is fun; that is the attitude of successful people.

• “Never let anyone know how hard you work” – Make the diffi cult look easy. Always look like you’re in control, meet every deadline and never appear to sweat.

(2) “Know that You’re Being Judged at All Times”

Others will constantly make judgments about you, based on how you dress, how you
speak, the clothes you wear, the car you drive and the like. It’s inescapable. The critical
thing is to make sure you’re in control, so their judgments will be positive. Here’s how:

• “Dress well” – This rule must be obeyed. No matter how casual your offi ce is, don’t  wear tennis shoes, blue jeans or loud Hawaiian shirts. Workplace attire is not a stage
for demonstrating your artistic sensibilities or edgy fashion aesthetics.

• “No limp fish: develop the perfect handshake” – Exude confidence by being the first
to extend your hand with a smile and a relaxed, self-assured air. Repeat the names of people you meet; their names are always music to their ears. When you introduce yourself, use your name with the formality of a business card. “Hello, I’m John
Walker, Sales Manager,” will get you a lot further than, “Hi, I’m John from sales.”

• “Exude confi dence and energy” – How you walk into the offi ce in the morning really
matters. Let others struggle in with wan, post-traffi c jam expressions. A rules player
enters the office with a spring in his or her step, confi dent that the work ahead will
be a mere trifle. Be lively, smooth and in control, but not in a rush.

• “Develop a style that gets noticed” – Attractive people enjoy greater success. Style
implies sophistication or class; it will make people pay attention. To develop a personal
style, pick one thing, whether it’s Armani suits or a stylish collection of briefcases, and
emphasize that element. Always buy the very best clothes you can afford. When in
doubt, dress up instead of down. Wear less jewelry, but only the best.

(3) “Have a Plan”

Common wisdom says that if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you
there. Rules Players plot their paths to success:
• “Study the promotion system” – Create a promotion chart. Begin with the entry-level
jobs in your company, and aim as high as you like. List all the steps involved in rising
from point A to point B, including the skills and experience you will need.

• “Know yourself: strengths and weaknesses” – Successful Rules Players want to know
the truth about themselves, and they seek it proactively. They honestly evaluate their
own abilities. Make a list of your personal pros and cons, and show it to a trusted
colleague. Ask for an honest critique. This is not a therapeutic exercise. Your goal
is to become more aware of your shortcomings, and to use that knowledge to your
advantage, not necessarily to eliminate your weakness – that may be unrealistic.
• “Identify key times and events” – Save your energy and your top performances for
key times when doing your best really matters, such as a presentation to the CEO or
a tremendous sales opportunity. Refi ne your timing; strike at the right moment.

• “Look for opportunities” – Opportunities rarely come along. Recognize each one as a
scarce opening that won’t remain available for long. If you found yourself seated next
to your CEO on a plane, would you be prepared to sound smart and informed, without
overplaying your hand? Or would you panic and get so nervous that you blow it?
“If You Can’t Say Anything Nice – Shut Up”
Your words can cause your undoing in the workplace. It happens all the time. Practice
saying only positive things. Follow these rules:

• “Don’t gossip” – Do not pass anything negative you hear along to someone else. If
someone tries to involve you in offi ce gossip, look at them blankly and ask, “What’s
this got to do with me?” Don’t appear critical of their behavior.

• “Don’t bitch” – Life and work present many unfair situations. However, complaining
about them never makes them better. Unless you follow this rule, you’ll lose the
respect of others and you could become a magnet for other malcontents.

• “Compliment people sincerely” – Few people can give a compliment well. Practice
spontaneous and seemingly unsophisticated compliments. To seem more genuine,
be informal. Avoid hyperbole, and follow a compliment with a question that
demonstrates sincere interest: “I really like your suits. Do you mind if I ask who’s
your tailor?” Make certain your praise is not too personal or potentially fl irtatious.

• “Don’t curse” – No circumstances justify cursing in the workplace. None.

• “Only speak sensitively” – A single insensitive remark can harm your career. Speak
in a way that makes you more trusted. Usually that means talking less rather than
more. Avoid any type of sexist or racial remark, even if you mean to be humorous.

(4) “Look After Yourself”
As you succeed, you may incur envy and spite. Protect yourself. Study other people’s
motives and learn your industry’s accepted ethical standards. Commit to the principle
that you will never lie, and don’t cover up other people’s ethical transgressions. Keep blend in doesn’t mean going along with the herd. Rather, it means cultivating the ability to fi t in well. First, learn the culture that refl ects your organization’s values. Listen to corporate and industry jargon; use it when needed. Learn where upper managers “hang out.”

Fitting in means learning office protocols. All offices have unwritten rules of procedure,
so develop a relationship with someone who can “clue you in.” Your company’s protocols
may be as simple as knowing to drink wine or beer, but never cocktails, at lunch, or to
show up for staff meetings even if it’s your day off. Observe the office hierarchy: who
does the boss listen to? Who runs the office? Never disapprove of a colleague. That would only make your co-workers see you as an outsider or enemy. If the group perceives you as a threat, its members will turn against you.

(5) “Act One Step Ahead”
Leaders have mannerisms and traits that distinguish them from the ordinary. For

• “Dress one step ahead” – Don’t dress for the job you currently have. Observe and
emulate the sartorial splendor of those sitting in the corner offices.

• “Talk one step ahead” – Notice how bosses pause to think before they speak, frequently
use “we” rather than “I” and don’t engage in idle chatter. Use their behavior
as a model. Try to envision the “big picture.”

• “Walk the walk” – Develop the correct mannerisms to qualify you for the job you
want. Observe and practice other people’s savvy moves. Learn from other people’s
mistakes. Watch those who are worth emulating and copy them.

• “Get people to assume you already made the step” – If you act like a heavyweight in
your organization, people gradually will accept you as such. Your dress, the way you
speak and your friendly but serious demeanor all signal that you are a serious player.

• “Cultivate diplomacy” – When things get contentious, asking questions is often
better than making statements. Develop a sense of when to withhold your opinions.
Know The System – Study your company’s systems and take advantage of the opportunities they present. There’s no point working late to impress someone if that’s not part of your company culture. Identify the people who really count. Templar learned this the hard way one day when he found the maintenance man lingering in the regional director’s office sipping coffee. In front of the regional director, Templar upbraided the maintenance man for not being more attentive to his duties. Later, he learned that the man was the regional director’s father-in-law. Scolding your boss’s relatives definitely will not help you get ahead. Know who’s who.



Categories: Books Review, Personal Development


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