Unwritten Rules

David Wagner, Managing Editor | 4/28/2014 | 31 comments

David Wagner
A recent kerfuffle in baseball raises an interesting question about how we all interact in the workplace. The tiff stems from players breaking baseball's code of unwritten rules.

You might laugh, but every community has unwritten rules. For instance, is it normal to let people off the elevator before you enter it? What do you do with your toilet seat or toothpaste cap? That depends on who lives with you, right? Unless you live in a very strange place, the rules aren't written down, but they're known.

In a recent game against the rival Boston Red Sox, Michael Pineda, a pitcher for the New York Yankees placed pine tar on his neck, so that he could coat the ball with the tar in order to grip it better. Putting pine tar on the ball is explicitly illegal. However, after the game, A.J. Pierzynski of the Red Sox told ESPN:

Guys do it. I don't have a problem with guys doing it as a hitter, especially on a night where it's cold and windy. Put it on your hat, put it on your pants. Put it on your belt. Put it on your glove. Whatever you've got to do. But at some point you can't do it that blatantly. I think that's what the biggest issue was. No one has an issue with him doing it, but that it was so blatant.

Really? It isn't the cheating but that he flaunted it? The Red Sox were entirely willing to overlook the written rule about the pine tar, but they had Pineda inspected (the rule says you have to ask the umpire to inspect the offending player) because he broke the unwritten rule.

It got me to thinking. I've covered IT for a long time, but I don't hang out daily in IT departments. Are there unwritten IT rules? There must be. As I said, every community has them.

There are unwritten E2 rules -- don't be unprofessional in your comments, don't spam the chat rooms, and countless others. Societies and pocket communities work the rules out almost without ever discussing them. And it isn't just etiquette. Often the unwritten rules are about making things work their best.

So what are the unwritten rules in IT that I don't know about? What are the penalties for breaking them? Comment below.

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Taimoor Zubair   Unwritten Rules   5/14/2014 11:50:27 AM
food dude!
An unwritten rule at my workplace, which is rather interesting is that the person who is late, even if just by two minutes has to get everyone else shawarmas (the arabian sandwiches) ! Sometimes we find ourselves hoping for someone to be late at least.
batye   Unwritten Rules   5/6/2014 1:05:47 AM
Re: Boss' rule
most Co. this days where I worked or have interaction with as contract employee... have this rule Boss is always right... if not look up the rule - Boss is always right..sad Corporate reality... unless you working in/with startup...
Susan Fourtané   Unwritten Rules   5/3/2014 1:14:56 AM
Writing the unwritten rules

"Unless you live in a very strange place, the rules aren't written down, but they're known."

What if I write the unwritten rules to my place? That would be super fun. Then I can hand in the written unwritten rules card to visitors when they come for tea. :D

User Ranking: Blogger
Susan Fourtané   Unwritten Rules   5/3/2014 12:42:00 AM
Re: Boss' rule

" . . . she edited a line and made a statement that was correct, um, incorrect.  When I went to my director saying I was going to change it back, he said...(those famous words)."

Some bosses seem to find some kind of delight correcting something that has no error for some other incorrect thing. In some cases it might be to justify that they are the boss, therefore, they have the last word. However, this is not always the case. 

If we stop and wonder for a minute why this is so common everywhere we could start trying to analyze what your director do: Nothing. Your director let the wrong thing continue its course. This is probably going to affect someone, right? A supplier? A customer? A consumer? You at some point? Me? Who?

Now, who is to blame? You CIO who might live truly thinking she is right? Your director who shouldn't be in that position because he is not a good link between you and your CIO? You because you chose to do nothing as your director told you do because you fear to go and face your CIO? 

There is a possibility that she didn't know it was incorrect. Many people live believing things that are not correct are correct. Most of the times this is because no one tells them that thing is incorrect. No one corrects them. Just like your director did, they let pass errors others in a higher position make and the errors happily continue being repeated over and over again. 

There is no way they can correct themselves. Next time she finds a similar case she will make the same mistake. This will happen until someone on some sunny day dares to tell her she is wrong in what she is doing. 

You might be surprised as she thanks you for letting her know and in that way avoid others to see she made a mistake. You see? :) Most importantly, as the error is corrected no one is going to be affected. :D

User Ranking: Blogger
mitch-mitch   Unwritten Rules   5/2/2014 2:57:28 PM
Boss' rule
The one I seem to dislike the most is "The boss is always right".  A project document I prepared was distributed to the CIO, she edited a line and made a statement that was correct, um, incorrect.  When I went to my director saying I was going to change it back, he said...(those famous words).  UGH!
David Wagner   Unwritten Rules   4/30/2014 12:03:57 PM
Re: Changing of the rules
@kstaron- That's annoying. Any business where colleagues don't know each other as people is bound to fail. The worst part about it is that a manager having an unwritten rule about that just makes an atmosphere of fear. At the very least that should be made clear.
David Wagner   Unwritten Rules   4/30/2014 12:03:57 PM
Re: Changing of the rules
@kstaron- That's annoying. Any business where colleagues don't know each other as people is bound to fail. The worst part about it is that a manager having an unwritten rule about that just makes an atmosphere of fear. At the very least that should be made clear.
impactnow   Unwritten Rules   4/30/2014 11:26:21 AM
Re: Changing of the rules
It's very true, every manager has their own unwritten rules that suit their work culture. Sometimes it works many times it doesn't because employees are already part of another set of unwritten rules. Changing the rules is difficult especially when they have been in place a long time.

kstaron   Unwritten Rules   4/30/2014 11:18:39 AM
Changing of the rules
I remember once when a managerial change came around the unwritten rules changed. The previous manager encouraged us to tlak among ourselves not only about project we were working on but about our lives in general our hobbies our kids and such. Her idea was that if we are friendly with each oter when we worked together we'd do a better job, we'd be more likely to go to each other about work issues, and in general be more productive. It worked well and we were really more like a family than just coworkers. It made us a good team. 

Post managerial change I was talking with the coworker next to me about kids for a few minutes since he'd just had his first. We got dinged by the new manager because we weren't talking about work. That manager had unwritten rules about efficiency, so taking a few minutes to catch up wasn't in her rule set. We all had to adjust to the new set.
impactnow   Unwritten Rules   4/30/2014 10:33:35 AM
Re: Who ? and
Nemos the thing about these unwritten rules are they are rarely logical. Its very frustrating when you are a newbee and you break one of these unwritten rules, there is both frustration and embarrassment. I wish that you were handed and unwritten rule handbook when you started a new job.
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