Top 10 Unwritten Workplace Rules Every Employee Should Know


No matter what organization you work for and no matter what post you are at, there are always some rules you SHOULD follow. Every organization has its own work culture and rules. Most of these are in black-and-white in the organization’s handbooks. But there are some ethics, some unwritten rules that apply to all organizations. Failing to follow these ethics won’t get you fired, but it’ll definitely make you a bad employee/colleague. And these rules are especially important to note if you are a beginner and don’t know what to expect. So here are some unwritten work ethics that you should ALWAYS keep in mind, no matter how easygoing your workplace is:

Never be too loud

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This is the worst thing you can do as a professional. Whether it is talking too loudly on the phone, or listening to music on speakers, you should just not do it. It is rude and unprofessional. You may not have a lot of work, but others do. So respect them and try to be as quiet as possible during work hours. Do not attend a call at your desk. Tell the person on the other side to call later, or get out of the office to talk if it’s important. And if you really need to listen to music, use earphones or headphones. Also, do not sing along to your music, that’s annoying too.

Never indulge in gossip inside the workplace

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Every organization has some gossip and rumors making the rounds 24×7. But that doesn’t mean you HAVE to be a part of it or indulge in it. By all means, discuss and talk about this with your colleagues. But do not do it within your workplace, where unwanted ears may hear you gossip and get you into trouble. Be very careful about what you say and to whom inside a workplace. Organizations aren’t always as open and friendly as they seem to be. There are always mischief-makers lurking around the corner, waiting for the perfect moment to cause trouble. So to be safe from all of this, try to stay away from office gossip as much as possible.

Do not “reply to all”

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This is a common email ethic many seasoned employees also fail to comply with. The “reply to all” and “send to all” features are for emails that NEED to be sent to all the people in the thread. If your email has information that every employee should have, then, by all means, go for it. But just to acknowledge the email or sending a “thanks”, do not “reply to all”. Why should the entire office have to read your emoji replies to the sender? Also, sometimes you may want to send a personal message or some secret information to someone on the thread. By even accidentally pressing “reply all”, you may end up trying to undo unrepairable damage. So to avoid such a faux pas, get rid of your habit ASAP.

Dress to impress

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You may be part of a very relaxed organization with extremely casual workplace culture. However, even if your CEO does it, you shouldn’t show up at work in flipflops and Bermudas. You should always dress decently, even if you are wearing something casual. It just gives a good impression, and you never know which new outsider you may come across at work. Always dress as if you are dressed for an important meeting or presentation. Dress to impress. Let your clothes provide a visual of how professional you are. There is no reason for you to dress like you’re going on vacation unless your CEO comes to you and tells you to do so.  

Observe and practice

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This is extremely important if you are a beginner. Many times there are some unspoken rules all employees follow in the organization. Say an organization states in its handbook that your work hours are 9 am to 5 pm. This implies that one can leave office after 5 pm. But a beginner may not realize that he’d be frowned upon if he left before 6 pm. So to pick up on unspoken rules like these, observe the other employees closely. Try to analyze their actions and copy them. Make sure that you aren’t standing out in terms of employee conduct, even if you think you are following the handbook to the T.

Don’t eat smelly lunch items

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Many people go to the office canteen or a cafe nearby for lunch. But many people also get lunch boxes from home. If you are one of the latter, please refrain from bringing foods having strong odors. Foods like eggs, fish, curry, or foods containing garlic and onion tend to smell very strong. So try to avoid packing such lunches for the workplace. If you can’t live without these foods, go to a cafe, or take your lunch somewhere where no one can smell it. Be considerate to your colleagues. You may love the scent of curry, but they may not. Another lunchtime tip- try to avoid eating with your hands. Use spoons and forks to eat your lunch. It is visually more tolerable for the other people around.

Always maintain professionalism

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At least when you are still a newbie, always try to be a professional. Even if you happen to grow close to someone at your workplace, keep your personal relations aside. When in office, be professional. It gives a good impression and makes your life easier too. Haven’t you heard of the saying, “Never mix pleasure with business”? That’s what I am talking about here. Whatever you do, and whoever you speak to, always maintain your professionalism. This is what will get you the promotions and the success that you are seeking.

Titles don’t always indicate position

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Yes, they don’t. There are always people even at the lower hierarchy levels who have a tremendous influence over the authorities at the workplace. And you don’t want to get into the bad books of these people. So use the “observe and practice” tip to observe which people are important, irrespective of their title. A pro tip is to always treat everyone with respect, irrespective of whether they are your subordinates, your bosses or equal. Titles don’t matter, talent does. And talent is what gets you the authority your title doesn’t. So strive to achieve that kind of excellence. And of course, watch out for the untitled bosses in the house.

Do not slack off at work

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This is an obvious rule, but many people tend to ignore it because “their workplace is so chill”. No boss is ever chill about having a lazy or sluggish employee in their organization. You have been hired to work, and you are expected to do it well. Just because the work culture is casual and deadlines are vague, doesn’t mean that you should slack off. There is no excuse for you to treat work lightly.

You should always work hard and never slack off, even if you aren’t expected to. Because there are always hidden eyes and ears watching over you. These eyes know who works hard and who doesn’t, and this affects the fate of people in the long run. So if you want to get ahead in life, do not cut yourself slack, even if you have the freedom to do so. Slackers never win, you see.

Network, but don’t rush

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This tip is for the beginners. Overenthusiasm is never appreciated, even though motivational speakers motivate you enough to make you overenthusiastic. You may want to rush into networking with people and building new relationships. But your overenthusiasm may not be appreciated by people. So take things slow, and closely observe people before you make a move.

Everyone is different, and before you approach them, you should know whether they ARE approachable or not. And if they’re not, what will help you build relationships with them, or if they’re better left alone. Whatever you do, do not be rash and overenthusiastic. If you are too enthusiastic in the beginning you will burn yourself out faster. Save your energy, observe and analyze before you do anything, and be the best!


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