The Rules of Work – Book Summary and Review

The Unspoken Truth About Getting Ahead in Business



Rules of the Game

(Rules of Work 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 nought. 

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 standstill

A lot of the activity at work isn’t working. 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 – necessarily, practising 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 complaining 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 difficult look easy. Always look like you’re in control, meet every deadline and never appear to sweat.


(Rules of Work 2) Know that You’re Being Judged at All Times

Others will always 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 favourable.

Here’s how:

Dress well

This rule must be obeyed. No matter how casual your office 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 confidence and energy

How you walk into the office in the morning really matters. Let others struggle in with wan, post-traffic jam expressions. A rules player enters the office with a spring in his or her step, confident 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 jewellery, but only the best.


(Rules of Work 3) Have a Plan

Conventional 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 critical times when doing your best really matters, such as a presentation to the CEO or a tremendous sales opportunity. Refine your timing; strike at the right moment.


Look for opportunities

Opportunities rarely come along. Recognize each one as a limited 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 office gossip, look at them blankly and ask, “What’s this got to do with me?” Don’t appear critical of their behaviour.
  • 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 tribute with a question that demonstrates sincere interest: “I really like your suits. Do you mind if I ask who’s your tailor?” Make sure your praise is not too personal or potentially flirtatious.
  • 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 intend to be humorous.

(Rules of Work 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 moral transgressions. Keep blend in doesn’t mean going along with the herd. Instead, it means cultivating the ability to fit in well.

  1. First, learn the culture that reflects your organization’s values.
  2. Listen to corporate and industry jargon; use it when needed.
  3. 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 contracts 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.

(Rules of Work 5) Act One Step Ahead

Leaders have mannerisms and traits that distinguish them from the ordinary. For example:

  • Dress one step ahead
    Don’t dress for the job you currently have. Observe and emulate the sartorial splendour 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 behaviour 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 severe but friendly demeanour 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.

Another great reading to accompany this book work be Ray Dalio’s Principle and Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power.




Author: Muhamad Aarif

A notorious book addict by night and an oil and gas executive by day. As Mark Twain said, "The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." So, read, read, and read some more.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.