When starting a new job, learning the unwritten rules is usually one of the biggest challenges. You have to learn the nuances of the corporate culture, and this is something that is carefully learned over time, through observation, experience and perhaps even the assistance of helpful coworkers who can help to guide you along the way. However, there can be unfortunate consequences of not learning the unwritten rules, including the worst-case scenario of losing your job. These rules apply to everyone within a company, from the custodial staff right up to the CEO.

Gossip Galore
Gossip is one thing that certainly finds many people in trouble - both in and out of the workplace. Many people have a hard time not sharing juicy bits of information that they heard from a friend or co-worker. However, as most of us have learned from playing the "telephone" game as children, stories have a way of morphing over time until they become more fiction than fact. Some types of gossip can be vindictive and intentionally spread to tarnish someone's reputation. The gossiper can be terminated because the act is a form of bullying.

Bad Mouthing the Boss
Even if you don't like your boss, you probably shouldn't go around advertising that fact. Spreading juicy gossip about your peers is bad enough, but when it is about the boss, it can have an even more detrimental effect on your relationship with your employer. Consider the fact that your boss has the ability to make your work life a lot more difficult, perhaps even suspending or terminating your position. Alienating someone who is in a position of power is always a bad idea.

Representing the Company Badly
One of the best rules of thumb when talking about your employer - in any public forum - is to act like a representative of your company. Even if you're not in sales or marketing, you represent the ideals and products of the organization. It is in your best interest to consider yourself as an ambassador of your employer in every situation. Some who have failed to live up to this unwritten rule have found themselves in hot water. Negatively representing your organization or the products or services it sells can buy you a one-way ticket out the door.

Confidentiality Clash
Sharing confidential information about your coworkers or the company you work for is definitely something to avoid. There are some positions within a company where this might be written right into the employment contract, such as for medical staff, human resources personnel or legal professionals.

Those who work in a company's research and development department may find a similar clause in their contracts where information relates to trade secrets. However, even for those who don't normally work in areas of the company that deal with sensitive information, it can still create problems when private information about the company is shared publicly. This could include such things as the company's financial performance, private information about the wellness of another employee, or perhaps even details of the company's strategic plans.

Not Keeping Company Secrets Secret
As noted above, some highly-specific job contracts may outline the need to keep company secrets confidential, though this is generally something that's left out of many employment contracts. A survey completed by Forrester Research found that 82% of the 150 companies that were surveyed monitor social media for intelligence coming from their competitors. This only makes sense. Every company wants to gain a competitive advantage. Allowing your company to lose its advantage can result in a significant economic impact to the organization.

Care to Put That in Writing?
Creating a document that contains private information could be dangerous if there aren't measures in place to keep that document secret. For example, sending emails that contain private or personal information or opinions, rather than facts, doesn't really constitute good business sense. This extends to email, which is generally considered the property of your employer, thus giving them the right to monitor what you're sending and receiving at your work account. You should also be careful with memos, printed or hand-written documents and instant messages sent while at work.

Social Media Messes
Our current world depends largely upon social media to dispel news and communicate with those in our networks of friends, family, colleagues and other associates. However, posting anything to a social media site that you wouldn't feel comfortable saying in front of your boss definitely has the potential to come back and haunt you.

Numerous cases exist of people who lost their jobs because they said something in an online forum that insulted their boss, the company that they work for or a co-worker. Realistically, you could be fired for breaking any number of the above unwritten rules when posting to a social media site. People should always consider these sites completely public because you have no idea who will see what you've said or if one of your contacts will spread the information you thought you were posting in confidence.

The Bottom Line
If you've made any these blunders in the workplace, don't despair. Everyone makes mistakes, and don't forget that rules can change over time. The most important thing you can do is learn from both the mistakes and successes of others, and observe the actions of your boss. Try to avoid doing anything at work that you'd feel uncomfortable doing in front of your boss. Even if the boss isn't present, there's always a chance that word will work its way through the office, and your boss will find out. Do your best to maintain decorum and follow the company's guidelines - written or otherwise - on all things relating to attendance and deadlines.

Related Articles
  1. Personal Finance

    How To Get That Entry-Level Financial Analyst Job

    Landing a job as a financial analyst takes study, strategy and a lot of hard work. Here's how to hone your competitive edge.
  2. Personal Finance

    Does It Make Sense to Go to College in Europe?

    If you're deciding whether to get a degree abroad, first do your research and talk to alumni who have completed the same program.
  3. Professionals

    Small RIAs: How to Level the Playing Field

    In order to compete with larger firms, small RIAs have to get a little creative. Here are a few ways to kickstart growth.
  4. Professionals

    The Rich Get Richer: Global Wealth is Rising

    Global wealth is rising and expected to continue. Advisors should know that the wealthy value fee transparency, performance.
  5. Entrepreneurship

    Bill Gates Success Story: Net Worth, Education & Top Quotes

    Learn about billionaire Bill Gates, and how the computer genius forged his own path from an early life and eventually changed the world with his innovation.
  6. Entrepreneurship

    Donald Trump Success Story: Net Worth, Education & Top Quotes

    Discover more about Donald Trump the man. Learn about his history and back story, path to success and current political aspirations.
  7. Entrepreneurship

    Hillary Clinton Success Story: Net Worth, Education & Top Quotes

    Learn about Hillary Clinton's early life in Chicago, her years in Arkansas with her husband, and her time as first lady, senator and secretary of state.
  8. Entrepreneurship

    Mark Zuckerberg Success Story: Net Worth, Education & Top Quotes

    Learn about Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook. Understand where he came from and what in his life helped him achieve success.
  9. Entrepreneurship

    Charlie Munger Success Story: Net Worth, Education & Top Quotes

    Learn about Charlie Munger. Understand what drives him, how his early life shaped his later success, how he found that success and what he's doing with it.
  10. Taxes

    Top Tips for Minimizing Taxes on Severance Pay

    A look at the top ways to lessen the tax burden on severance pay.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

    A federal law designed to ensure equal pay for all workers, regardless ...
  2. Age Discrimination In Employment ...

    A federal statute protecting "certain applicants and employees" ...
  3. Society of Actuaries (SOA)

    The SOA is a professional organization for actuaries in the U.S., ...
  4. Networking

    A process that fosters the exchange of information and ideas ...
  5. Credit Business Associate - CBA

    A designation awarded to those who show mastery in financial ...
  6. Always Be Closing - ABC

    Retail jargon used to describe a sales strategy in which a salesperson ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. How can an investment banker switch to a career in corporate finance?

    It's pretty easy for an investment banker to switch to a career in corporate finance. The career skills are easily transferable, ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How do I get started with a career in asset management?

    The asset management industry has a variety of different career paths. Depending on what asset management area you would ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. For which kind of jobs is having Magnum Cum Laude most important?

    Having a magna cum laude degree is most important for jobs in the fields of finance, management consulting and engineering. ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Other than accounting, what does a corporate finance job involve?

    While a corporate finance job almost always involves accounting in some capacity, there are many additional job duties and ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What qualities are necessary to be an effective member of the c-suite in a publicly-traded ...

    Several qualities are needed to be a member of the c-suite of a publicly traded company. The c-suite is business jargon term ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Which professional athletes are on pace to join Michael Jordan as billionaires?

    Michael Jordan is perhaps one of the most well-known and richest athletes in the world. However, two notable athletic giants ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
×

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!