What are Your Organization’s Unwritten Rules?

Unwritten Rules

Every workplace has “unwritten rules.” These are the unstated cultural and emotional norms that exist within your team or company. While you may think everyone on your team knows the unwritten rules, new hires may not, or they may have changed since transitioning to remote work. During times of stress and uncertainty, it is a good idea to not only address these unwritten rules, but also write them out and have them displayed for everyone to see.

Why Address Unwritten Rules?

While your organization’s unwritten rules may seem simple and obvious to some, other employees may not know. Simple thoughts like “Can I take a walk to clear my mind?” or “Will I be judged for speaking up during a meeting and asking for clarification?” can become major stressors. Not fully understanding or knowing cultural and emotional norms can reduce engagement, productivity and job satisfaction.

Authors Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy explain in their book No Hard Feelings, that a great first step is creating an “It is okay to…” list for everyone to have. These lists serve as a reminder of permissions that exist within your workplace and can be a huge stress reliever for new and senior employees alike. One simple list could drastically change employee behavior and lead to an improved and overall more positive workplace culture.

Specific COVID-19 Rules

Since we are still in the midst of a pandemic, it may be a good idea to include specific unwritten rules regarding COVID-19. Below is an example of what your list during COVID-19 could look like:

It’s okay too…

  • Dress comfortably
  • Have kids or pets pop into the screen during a meeting
  • Adjust hours to attend to family needs or commitments
  • Block off “no meeting times” on your calendar so you can have time to focus on specific tasks
  • Take mental health days
  • Ask for help or patience
  • Not check your email after hours

For more information and examples, check out this Harvard Business Review article!

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