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When Your Employee Is Unaware of Unspoken Rules

This is an interesting topic and one in which I address in my “Employee Communication In Complex Environments” lecture and executive education class. Communicating in everyday environments is complicated as it is, but when we communicate in complex, global, distributed, multi-disciplined, and silo’ed business environments, its even tougher. Especially when it comes to unspoken or unwritten rules.

These little “unwritten rules” can cause major breakdowns in productivity, effectiveness, inter-personal skills and overall employee moral. Check out what Tammy Erickson of HBR’s Ask The Expert had to say about the subject.



It’s easy to think that workplace norms are explicit and easy to obey — be at your desk by nine, don’t ask superiors personal questions, and don’t dress too casually, for example. Managing someone who doesn’t follow these norms can be tough, especially if their lack of understanding reflects poorly on your management. Before you tear out your hair wondering why they just don’t get it, try using these three tips:

1. Remain open. Some of the rules that we think are steadfast may actually just be our own preferences.
2. Delineate what’s essential to business. It’s unlikely that a too-casual outfit will stop the company from operating. If the employee needs to be presentable on client calls, that’s one thing, but be clear about what truly matters to performance.
3. Communicate expectations clearly. Don’t expect everyone to pick up on informal cues. Be explicit with someone who isn’t getting it about what rules need to be followed and why.


Written by David Frederick

June 23, 2010 at 11:38 AM

One Response

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  1. It’s Nice Post, keep posting and have a nice day… 00:05

    The Best Blogger

    June 27, 2010 at 12:05 AM

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