Suppose you’ve played it straight at work—you’ve put in long hours, stayed reachable 24/7, were a stickler for office rules, and volunteered for extra work. Others might’ve thought you ought to be up there with upper management by now.
As things would have it, though, you’re instead getting burnt out, you don’t feel you’re in the right job, and you’re developing the tendency to screw up even the most routine of tasks. A lot of people would remind you to play it nice and just keep following the “rules.”
However, studies show that some long-held beliefs about work are not all that true. Many rules that were formerly accepted as gospel truth are being proven wrong, especially now that the current working environment is faster-paced and more stressful than before. Experts believe that “breaking” particular rules could, in fact, benefit you and your career.
Here are some examples of long-standing rules and how best to break (or bend them) to your advantage:
Eat, sleep, and breathe work
While we’ve been taught that the best way to move up the career ladder is to burn the midnight oil at your job, we’re starting to find out otherwise. Karen Burns, author of “The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl,” says that it’s necessary for employees to pursue other things outside work.
It’s not just about being happy; regularly getting out of the work mindset also contributes to creativity and often leads to fresh, new ideas that don’t usually come up inside the confines of the office.
The solution to a complex problem might just be lurking around the corner, waiting for you to venture out and find it. Just make sure that 1) you avoid doing your hobbies on office time; and 2) set regularly spaced leaves throughout the year.
Always aim for a promotion
Promotions almost always mean a bigger office, more contacts, and better pay. However, if the job you’re currently doing as a rank-and-file employee is something you don’t see yourself doing in five years, why bother rising up the ranks and managing people who do the same thing?
Alternative ways of mobility include lateral movement—that is, moving to another position with the same rank and pay, but with a different job description.
It’s not exactly true that working different positions in the same company will make you less attractive to employers; many managers actually appreciate the range of experience a laterally moving employee has.
Don’t say “I don’t know”
Traditional offices often look down on people who always appear to be lacking in answers. However, working environments (and the questions that they bring) change so often that it’s hard to give a definite answer at any particular time. Asking questions is necessary to gain a better understanding of the business process.
You must be careful, though, to get at least basic knowledge of the job on your own; only then should you proceed to asking questions based on that knowledge.
Don’t be afraid to admit mistakes. Owning up to your errors does a couple of things: first, it establishes you as a person of integrity; second, it contributes to your on-the-job learning. It also makes your co-workers feel like they’re experts at what they do, which is often the case when you’re new to the job.
Avoid showing emotion
The typical “ideal” boss is usually one who is stoic and unflappable. This stolid nature can often be taken as a lack of concern. Showing a bit of emotion, whether it is frustration at a job not up to par or empathy towards a colleague, proves that you do mean business. Treat emotions as you would your children—neither too strict nor too lenient with them.
Properly harnessed, they can do good things for you; let them loose or hold on to them too tightly, and they will gradually take over your life until you’re reduced to a bunch of nerves. Having a hobby and following break schedules can serve as a form of emotional release. Speaking your mind will also paint a picture of you as someone who has ideas, and has the courage to back them up and set them into motion.
All in all, rules aren’t just there to be broken; they are there to be transcended. Do yourself a favor and break a few work rules today.
About the Author:
Pasha Lubeck is a single mom who lives in sunny California with her two beautiful boys and their fluffy Ragdoll cat named Midnight. Aside from working as a part-time designer for Kichler Lighting, she has armed herself with a BA in Art and Art History, and has worked with interior designers in theaters, retail stores, and private homes.