7 reasons why every woman should understand the unwritten rules at her (future) workplace
Yes, besides those written rules about when people get promoted, how big salary raise one gets or how companies collaborate with entrepreneurs – there are also the other ones. The Unwritten Rules. And here are the seven reasons why you should understand them.
- You will finally understand what’s going on
During our studies, we are used to get rewarded for our study efforts – you perform good and you get correspondingly good marks. But once you have started to work, it might happen that despite all of your efforts – they just skip you. They skip you for being in lead, they skip you for interesting tasks in a project or for getting a salary raise. Once you understand what kind of behavior or beliefs are rewarded, you can consciously adopt these styles (and still be yourself) when you need them.
- You will realize that it’s not your fault
Every time you were skipped for that promotion or you were not invited to that second-round interview, believe me – it was not your fault. And understanding the unwritten rules (the basis of which these decisions are made) you will finally get it. It’s not your fault.
- You can go out of the “gender bias bubble”
Did you know that in many organizations, men and women actually do not get equally payed for exactly the same work that they do? And that is a typical example of an unwritten rule that is embedded in these organizations – people are biased about how the two genders should be payed for exactly the same performance. Once you are aware of this, you can better negotiate your remuneration.
- You can reach your career goals much faster
Let’s say that you want to go from point A to point B, and you can walk that distance. But when you are about 4 years old, you can learn how to cycle. And then you will reach your destination even faster. It is the same in your career – if you understand the unwritten rules, you can also choose to use them to reach your career goals faster.
- You can have a fair start for the leadership sprint
Historically, many organizations were founded by men and therefore, many of these unwritten rules were established by men. Since men and women have different working styles, both due to nature and nurture, many of these rules are unknown for women. And this is unfair, especially if you want to climb higher on the influence line, which is a sprint-like activity nowadays. In case of sprint race, a whistle is blown and everyone knows that they should start the run. But if the whistle is silent, only people that have previously run the race will know about it.
- You will have more fun at work
Does building your career sometimes feels like being in a survival game? The way of working and work itself should actually also be fun and pleasant! If you discover the strategy of your “counterpart” in this survival game – your colleagues and your superiors, you can play the game in a more relaxed and fun way.
- Once you reach influential positions, you can actually change these rules
By saying that you should learn the unwritten rules, I am not saying that they are the perfect way how things should work. Completely opposite – since they were mainly established only by men, women should give their contribution and change the rules where that could be beneficial.
Who are the ‘Onlys’ and are you one of them?
If you are a woman working in a technical role or a senior-level woman, most probably you are often the only or one of the only women in the room. It is not just the gender issue. Being the only women with unique expertise in a meeting or a team can emphasise the experience of being the ‘Only’. For example, a female architect among male civil engineers, or a female designer among male mechanical engineers.
And I know, there are so many resources where ‘Onlys’ are advices on how to deal with the fact that they are the ‘Only’. Still in 2020, the ‘Onlys’ feel watched, excluded from social settings and experience a pressure to lean in.
The ‘Only’ experience
About 1 in 5 women say they are often an ‘Only’, and this experience is about twice as likely for senior-level women and women in technical roles, according to the “Women in the Workplace”, report by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.Org. This report shows that women who are ‘Onlys’ are far more likely to experience microaggressions than women who work with other women. They are also more than twice as likely to be asked to prove their competence, over three times more likely to be mistaken for someone more junior, and about twice as likely to be subjected to demanding or disrespectful remarks. Moreover, they are twice as likely to have been sexually harassed at some point in their career.
“Women in the Workplace” (2019) – McKinsley & Company and LeanIn.Org
How to break the trend and do we actually want to?
Breaking the trend is possible by promoting more women to influential positions, and more important – as early as possible in their career. This proportionally increases the chance that there will be more than only one woman in the executive board of directors. Because if you promote 5 women to first level influence positions and only one arrives to the top management, promoting 10 would significantly increase the chance that at least 2 would reach the top.
People should be aware that not all ‘Onlys’ have bad experience. They could argue that being the ‘Only’ is advantageous and that otherwise they would not be so successful. And in fact, in many cases it is. Research grant or a job announcements, where women are strongly encouraged to apply -are one of the examples. If you are indeed the only woman that actually applied, your chances for getting the position are higher.
“How to understand the business culture of a company when applying for a job”
We’ve all been there – applying for your first job. Many people find it overwhelming and difficult, because it requires a lot of research and preparation about the targeted company. One of the preparation steps that is always mentioned in on-line resources or trainings is understanding the business culture. And I fully agree – understanding organisational beliefs and the way how people internally communicate is important for each segment of your application: pre-networking, preparing the documentation, joining the interview and negotiating working conditions.
Since most of the resources talk about reading about the company online and contacting employees, here are the practical tips on how to do it.
Build your network
Before even applying for the job, you might want to meet people from that company. Many companies nowadays organize networking in-company (online) events, and that can be a good first-hand experience.
You can also follow LinkedIn profiles of people working in that company and read their posts and articles. In this way, you can discover ‘hot topics’ in the company and what is the common way of internal communication.
Step into what the future employer desires in a candidate
When people talk about what a future employer desires in a candidate, they usually think of which behavioural competences or soft skills they are looking for in a candidate. But actually, employers look for one singular thing: a person with high potential to solve their problem. It can be that the person already solved that problem in the past, or simply has enough skills or tools to solve it within a reasonable amount of time.
It might happen that the culture of the company you are interested in, is very much different from your own working style, or from what you are used to in the past. However, in some cases, that can be appealing and challenging, to both you and your potential employer. If you decide to apply for a position in such a company, you do not have to change your behaviour or appearance dramatically. Instead – explain to the potential employer how your style is complementary with the existing business culture.
Get rid of imaginary obstacles
Even if you did a lot of research and preparation, it might be that a company is open for propositions or ideas that are completely out of their existing way of doing business. They might see such ideas as opportunities to expand the market or push the innovation further. Therefore, don’t be afraid of proposing ‘your way’ of solving their business problem. They might even like it!
Now that the summer months are coming, you can use your time to prepare your next job application.
Firstly, choose two to three companies that you would like to work for, even if they do not have open vacancies at the moment. Secondly, dig into their business culture and try some of the inspirational tips in this article. At the end, prepare your application and send it directly to your future boss.