People Are Sharing Unspoken Rules They've Learned In The Corporate World, And They Don't Prepare You For This In School
"No one can be bothered to read an entire email. You're lucky if they read a sentence."
Beyond professionalism, networking, and individual company culture, the corporate world — as a whole — has a culture of its own.
Of course, these aren't hard and fast rules that you need to hold yourself to — and it's worth reiterating that situations, experiences, and advice can vary significantly depending on the company, industry, and person. Still, these are worth sharing. See for yourself:
1. "People are a lot less professional and more narcissistic than I expected — poorly worded emails with typos; accidental reply-alls talking trash; people being loud right by your desk when you’re on a call with a client; gossip; coworkers lying to customers; lack of common courtesy of cleaning up after themselves; and the surprising amount of people who will walk through an office singing or whistling obnoxiously."
"My elementary school classes were more professional than many offices I’ve worked in!" —crackerjacksajack
2. "Even if the position 'requires' a degree, you may not need one. Most people don’t even end up working in the field they get degrees in. With good experience, you can get around needing a degree."
"I’ve seen people without degrees excel more than those with degrees, especially because they tend to work harder at it knowing they don’t have that degree as a cushion." —bridgetvivian
3. "Learn how to sound professional with the minimum amount of words. No one can be bothered to read an entire email. You're lucky if they read a sentence."
"Keep your explanations short and sweet and your questions just as brief." —bluritodust
4. "Never put anything in writing that you want to keep private. On the other side of it, document EVERYTHING in writing in case you need to prove anything."
"Your word only goes so far with HR without hard evidence." —ambermonteleone
5. "If you end up in a PIP meeting or on a performance improvement plan, don't be afraid to stand up for yourself."
"Don't go down without a fight." —safire2
6. "People in higher-up positions can be absolutely incompetent. The concept of reading has simply gone out the window. I’m a huge advocate of, 'Per the email below…'"
"And people are just blatantly and utterly rude." —Anonymous, New Jersey
7. "I thought if I worked hard and quickly, I would earn more responsibility and be promoted. Come to learn, this was not at all the case. In fact, it was assumed that I must not have enough work to do if I was able to do everything relatively quickly. It also certainly did not lead to a promotion — the perception being that 'she's good at that position, let's keep her there.' Luckily, I had a good boss who was willing to mentor me through the situation. He explained that even if you complete the work early, don't submit it until the agreed-upon due date or set a due date a day or two beyond how long you think it will take."
"This tactic also helped manage my workload on my own terms while keeping deadlines when things did get very busy. I've used this tactic over the last decade, and it has worked like a charm." —Anonymous, Ohio
8. "Suck up and dress up. While you are working your life away, saving the company millions in rework costs, you will watch the folks who do nothing but suck up and dress up get the promotions and pay increases and bonuses."
"Get a sense of humor. Learn how to make your boss laugh. If you care about what really matters, the glad-handing and polished suck-up skills, you will get much more out of why you go to work every day. Money. Doing your job well doesn’t pay near as much as looking good doing your job. This is from 28 years of corporate experience living within the old white man's domain." —Anonymous, Kansas
9. "It's like being in high school. There are cliques. People that are lazy during team projects are serious ass-kissers. But instead of punching them out, you have to be polite."
"So annoying." —trishateferw
10. "Many companies still have that 'old man' mentality. They are afraid of change, and, god forbid, the suggestion comes from a woman. I have experienced firsthand where a change was desperately needed but, because I was a younger woman, the boss ignored me. My male colleague, who was the same age as my boss, suggested the same thing, and the boss took it on."
"Seriously, if you are not an older white man, your work and value are not always appreciated." —christi8905
11. "You have to work much harder as a woman to get the same respect as men. If you are successful, you’re either a bitch or sleeping with someone."
"I finally got respect as an outside salesperson by becoming #1 in West Coast sales but worked twice as hard to get there." —suzieq67
12. "Don't be afraid to say NO! I've always ended up the 'go-to girl' at my jobs, which means that I get an unfair workload thrown onto me because 'I can handle it.'"
"It took a long, long time for me to realize that I can say no. There's always someone else that the task can be delegated to." —kierramercedes
13. "You are your number one advocate. You spend x years in school, where your work is tracked and documented, but that's not guaranteed at work. When you pick up projects, work extra hours, train people, etc., keep track yourself."
"Hopefully your boss will be an advocate for your growth, but making it easier for them can really pay off." —mischiefbrain
14. "Most people who are nice to you are just networking. About 90% of them will stab you in the back, take your job, or get you fired in a heartbeat if they have to choose between defending their position at the company or standing up for you or what's right."
15. "So many people talk absolute bullshit. There are so many people — often in fairly senior positions — who talk but never actually say anything."
16. "Being the 'diversity hire' could have you questioning yourself. I currently work for an engineering consulting firm. While there are a lot of women who work here, there are only two of us in the engineering department, and I am the only Black person in my office."
"We have offices in other states that are much more diversified though. Everyone I work with directly is around my age (mid- to late-twenties), and my manager and team are great." —cici0110
17. "You are not special because you graduated with a degree, Master's, whatever. Chances are, everyone above you also has degrees — and experience — that you don't. Your boss' executive assistant probably also has a degree, has more experience than most of the staff on the team, and juggles more tasks than you could ever probably imagine."
"She is not your servant, and if you think their job is demeaning or beneath you, try it." —bfdayistooshortforthis
18. "Take your PTO and paid vacation days. You are literally throwing money away by not."
"Also, if your company contributes to your 401k, invest." —cmc1114
19. "Some corporations make compensation plans as part of annual budgets that result in 'raise pools,' which forces your boss to rank your coworkers against each other to allocate the pool. If everyone does a stellar job that year, you’re all getting a mediocre raise."
"These annual plans make it almost impossible for you to ask for a specific or off-cycle raise without threatening to quit your job." —Anonymous, Oklahoma
20. "Don't worry about your elevator pitch. If you find you're on the elevator with the CEO, he's probably thinking about anything but you. So a polite 'good morning' is enough."
21. "I expected more people to know what they were doing. It turns out the corporate world is full of people who have no clue what they are supposed to do and are just pretending. It baffles me how often I used to get questions or requests from colleagues that left me thinking, 'You're supposed to know that,' or 'I should be asking you.' On top of that, you're not really encouraged to call folks out on their bullshit."
"You're actually expected to look past it or pick up the slack. After 10 years, I finally work for a firm that truly embraces candor, and it's the best. Everyone carries their weight because they know, otherwise, it'll come up in the next team meeting." —Anonymous, North Carolina
22. "Always have at least one potential solution to any problem that you draw attention to."
"It's the difference between being seen as a complainer or as a problem solver." —wolfinwolfscothing
23. "Who you know at work is important. Knowing the right people can lead to incredible career opportunities."
24. "It can get pretty negative sometimes — unhappy people tend to want to validate their unhappiness by discussing it and sharing their feelings. Try not to absorb their personal experiences as your own."
"Treat people with kindness, help them when you can, and stand out with that. Don’t try to fit in with the toxic narrative." —lemonplum
25. "If you are an hourly employee, don't let people screw you out of your mandatory lunch hour by scheduling a lunch meeting. You are not off the clock. You are working through your lunch."
"My boss loves to do this because he's on salary. I'm not. I honestly think he's not aware that some people in the office are not salary. HR is quick to notice if I charge OT though. I am not floating the company free time." —andread14
26. "Working in HR, I have access to view everyone’s salary. I’m telling you — if people knew exactly how much more their executives are making than they are (between salary, bonuses, stock options, perks, etc.), there would be a revolt. It’s crazy how many loopholes executives create so they can get more money."
"I'm sure people are aware that execs at the top make more, but when you see the actual numbers, it’s sickening." —rachrupp
27. "Ultimately, the patriarchy will win. I trained for around four months for a position at a financial institution. I had four years of banking and financial experience aside from that. When it came time that the position was posted, they'd chosen someone who hadn't done any of the training. But he was in the ~boys club~ of the office (which included the supervisor of the position I trained for)."
"I quickly learned that, unless I had a penis or played football, I wasn't going to be moving up in the company." —kierramercedes
28. "Women, if someone says something belittling or sexist — even if it is super subtle — firmly and politely stand up for yourself on day one. Otherwise, people will use you as a doormat."
"The sexism and implicit bias is real — even from people who firmly believe they are allies." —corip001
29. "You won’t have a creative outlet, and there will be unbendable rules to follow. It’s probably not your dream job. However, you’ll get paid better than average, you’ll reap the benefits of regular hours and expected bonuses, and you can expect holidays off."
"It won’t be glamorous, but you’ll have a guaranteed paycheck to look forward to." —kacie90277
30. "HR is not your friend — no matter how compassionate they are. The company is their main priority, not you. And if it’s your first time getting negative feedback in a job, know that it is standard, and NO ONE gets perfect reviews."
"Not even the CEO. Brainstorm your own action points to tackle your opportunities and showcase that to your boss. If you need to talk to HR, find someone with experience that you trust at the company to ask for guidance on how to speak with HR."
And treat yourself when you can! Do not feel guilty for using that PTO. Prioritize your mental health." —btaylor13
31. "This should go without saying, but be nice to receptionists, janitors, and people who work in maintenance."
"I don't know why, but some people don't even acknowledge them, so even a small greeting makes their day." —irisbby
32. "Everybody talks. If you don’t want something getting out, especially to your boss(es), then keep your mouth shut."
33. "Companies will brag about their work-life balance, and then publicly praise people for working late or on weekends. If you find yourself having to work extra hours just to get through your daily workload, your company is understaffed and taking advantage of you."
"Ask for additional support. Don’t be a hero." —annpricot
34. "Always read between the lines! You must understand that there is always a pretext to what your management may say."
—Anonymous, New Dehli
35. "Make friends with IT. Say good things about people behind their backs. Learn to react to feedback. Be hot — can't stress that enough. Thank people for helping you, profusely, genuinely, and often. Go out of your way to recommend people for awards. Learn about other departments. Help people out if you can. Set boundaries. Be REALLY clear, direct, and honest where appropriate. Don't be afraid to say things like, 'I'm disappointed in that decision. I was hoping for x, can you help me understand the strategy for going with y?'"
"Expect change. Embrace it. Figure out what job you want next, be vocal about wanting it, and ask what you need to do to get it. Be organized. Have a brand — be known for something useful." —Anonymous, England
36. "Unless you're in an industry with a designated advancement track (e.g., banking, big law), most companies will not promote you and will hire externally when higher-level positions open up — no matter how impressive you think you are. Often, your best bet for moving up in title and compensation will be to apply to the next level up at a rival company."
"When interviewing, saying, 'The opportunities for advancement at my current firm are limited,' is a perfectly good justification." —Anonymous, New York
37. "I’m very young to hold the position that I hold. I moved my way quite quickly through the ranks. On top of that, I am a woman. Unfortunately, ageism in that regard exists."
"While I understand and respect that overall work experience is earned, I have more experience in the industry than many people I work with.
I’m fully capable of doing my job and do it quite well, but I have to prove myself much more than my colleagues because many people discredit me due to my age or feel intimidated or resentful that I’m making way more than them but am half their age." —Anonymous, New Jersey
38. "You have to advocate for yourself in order to get good projects and new opportunities. If you wait for decision-makers to notice your work themselves, you'll miss out on the opportunities you want."
"Don't be a smarm bucket. Advocate for yourself and network with integrity. It'll get you much further in the long run." —Anonymous, Texas
39. "If you are a woman, older men will not listen to you or trust what you are saying — especially if you are younger. Leaders can preach that they are working to make the company culture better, but they can't when there are people in the company who are stuck in their ways. As a woman, I have worked alongside many men who force their thoughts and wants into a project where it doesn't belong because it benefits them."
"At the end of the day, you need to look out for yourself and surround yourself with people who believe in you and have your back. Also, work-life balance is on you, not the company." —Anonymous, Washington
40. "If you're African American, it will be harder. It will leave PTSD-level mental strain and leave you drained. No amount of learning the corporate culture will prepare you for the daily micro-aggressions — that are 'just misunderstandings' and make you the aggressor if called out. Whether you go in being truly yourself or code-switch, you will never be accepted by the status quo culture that is corporate America."
"I'm sure that there are success stories without these experiences maybe, but this is definitely the experience most African American people have. So long story short, come in, do the job, and leave. That is it, that is all." —Anonymous, Wisconsin
41. "Take the risks. I learned this after leaving a toxic healthcare company for a competitor. My previous employer allowed us to be harassed and berated to a point where eight people left in a span of nine months, including one of my favorite managers.
"It’s the best thing I ever did. From the first day the director belittled my manager, I said I was leaving, and I did." —Anonymous, Tennessee
42. "As a woman, I have found that I'm expected to be quieter than men. But I've learned to use that to my advantage by being someone others can confide in. Sometimes, it's perceived as wise or intuitive that I speak less than my male peers."
"Listening goes a long way around people who like to talk about themselves, and it's served me well on the corporate ladder." —Anonymous, Virginia
43. "You can't trust anyone, and you have to look out for yourself because no one else will. I have had so many empty promises and toxic environments perpetuated by management that I've learned this lesson the hard way. Hard work alone doesn't cut it."
"You have to work hard, take matters into your own hands, wait until there's an opportunity for what you want, and pray someone takes a chance on you." —Anonymous, Montana
44. "Your position is completely expendable. That giant mega-corporation that prides itself on conservative family values will not hesitate to fire you in an instant — no matter how many mouths you have been feeding with that income. They have twenty other people lined up for your position, and they aren’t afraid to let you know that."
"Corporations are completely heartless." —Anonymous, Kentucky