3 Unwritten Rules of the Corporate World That Women Need to Know

These are the things companies don’t cover during orientation or in the employee handbook.


6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Do you know what you need to do to succeed at your company? One major challenge is that beyond your defined job responsibilities there are unwritten rules of U.S. corporate culture that aren’t covered in any orientation or employee handbook. These unwritten rules were formed decades ago when the workplace was predominantly male.

Related: 3 Myths About Confidence That Stop Women From Being Heard

Unwritten behavioral norms that arose in workplace cultures dominated by men may seem foreign to women due to differences in upbringing. Many women are raised not to call attention to their own accomplishments or intelligence. Furthermore, many women, especially women of color, are socialized to believe that taking center stage is unladylike and improper. Many men do not receive the same messaging. This difference in messaging ends up putting women at a disadvantage as they navigate their careers.

Far too often, hardworking, intelligent women get passed over for promotions and overlooked for high-profile work assignments and just don’t know why. One reason this happens is because women often don’t know about the unwritten rules of corporate culture or how to effectively act in accordance with them.

To help level the playing field for women, here are three foundational, unwritten rules of the U.S. corporate world. If you want to advance into leadership at your company, ask yourself if you have been investing time and resources into each of these areas.

1. Recruit a sponsor.

Both mentors and sponsors give advice, provide feedback and make introductions to people in their networks. The key difference is that sponsors are people who are in “the room where it happens,” to reference the Hamilton song. Sponsors are people who have power and influence and are willing to use their position to advocate on your behalf.

Related: Missing: Women CEOs’ Career Development. Here’s How to Fix it.

When the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) asked professionals if they had a sponsor, only 13 percent of female professionals and just 8 percent of professionals of color reported having a sponsor, compared to 40 percent of their non-diverse peers. Lack of sponsorship is likely one of the reasons why there are so few diverse leaders in the corporate world. Read Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s book Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor to get a clearer sense of what good sponsors do. Remember that if an individual either a) lacks the necessary power and influence or b) is not willing to advocate on your behalf, then he or she is not your sponsor.

Relationships with sponsors do not just go one way — ensure you are an excellent protegé and give back to your sponsors when the opportunities arise. Also, don’t conflate sponsors and mentors. They are each important to career success but different in role and function. Mentors can be at your level or higher than you. Sponsors by definition are higher because they are in a position of power and influence. Mentors can help guide you and provide informal feedback and information. Sponsors need to be willing to put their “chips” on you, but they don’t have time for every question you may have. That is what your mentor is for.

2. Strategically self-promote.

In the U.S. corporate world, it is expected that you will highlight your accomplishments. If you don’t, your unspoken accomplishments will be overshadowed by the accomplishments of your office mates who ensure their good news is circulated through the office chatter.

The default perception is that a worker is average or below average, unless demonstrated otherwise. If people start off with a neutral or negative perception of your ability, it is your responsibility to present them with positive facts about yourself, so they can form a more accurate, positive perception of you. This is particularly important if you are a diverse professional, because you will likely have to push back against negative stereotypes often associated with your identity.

Effective self-promotion is about being proud of what you worked hard to accomplish and willingly sharing those stories with others. For self-promotion strategies on how to develop your story and deliver it with conviction, read BRAG! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It by Peggy Klaus.

Related: Why Working Women Need to Mentor Other Women

3. Invest in your professional appearance.

Before we even open our mouths, we make an impression just by how we present ourselves. Your colleagues may judge your level of professionalism and bucket you into a particular social class by the way you dress. If you are a diverse professional, the way you dress may support or contradict the unconscious stereotypes that people may carry in their heads. Therefore, be mindful about managing your image and consider how it will be viewed by others.

One of the best examples of image management is Beyonce. You rarely find an ugly image of Beyonce on social media or even in print. Reportedly, Beyonce spends $1 million per year on hair, makeup and other self-care. You don’t need to spend $1 million, but when presenting yourself, make sure others see you the way you want to be seen.

As a guide on how to dress, look to the people in leadership positions at your organization. There may be some quirky leaders at your office with a unique sense of style but defer to the majority of your senior colleagues. For example, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, may wear jeans and a T-shirt to work, but you don’t see Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, dressing that way. Emulate the level of professional appearance of your organization’s leaders to the extent that your budget will allow. Looking the part is an important component of rising through the ranks.

Pay attention to what matters.

Continue to work hard each and every day, but also focus on some of the other areas that matter: recruiting sponsors, strategically self-promoting and investing in your professional appearance. With insider knowledge of some areas that often get overlooked, you can be more strategic and less reactive in your career.

Source link

more recommended stories

  • The 7-Step Guide To Finding the Right Clients and Avoiding the Ones Who Waste Your Time

    The right client base is the.

  • Now Is the Time to Press Even Harder for Immigration Reform

    The case for incentivizing U.S.-educated, foreign-born.

  • Chip Makers Bounce Back After U.S. Eases Restrictions on Chinese Telecom Giant Huawei Technologies

    Plus, investors had no appetite for.

  • Will Your Product Launch Be a Success? 4 Signs It Won’t Be.

    The truth is, most product launches.

  • A Beginner’s Guide to Starting and Marketing an App

    First-timers in app development tend to.

  • 12 Passive-Aggressive Phrases That Can Destroy Your Business

    Maybe you think you’re being polite,.

  • Cannabis Shops Linked to Lower Crime, Increased Property Values

    A store selling legal marijuana is.

  • What Exactly Is the Biohacking Movement?

    These shifts in mindset, diet and.

  • Snag These Premium Bang & Olufsen Headphones for Nearly Half Off

    Bang & Olufsen’s H4 Bluetooth Over-Ear.

  • These Presentation Templates Can Help You Make a Better Impression

    ShapeSlide’s 40-in-1 Presentation Bundle makes every.

  • Why Entrepreneurs Should Believe They Are Unstoppable

    Josh York, CEO of Gymguyz, talks.

  • 4 Instagram Best Practices for Increasing Sales

    Users are shifting from editorial to.

  • How to Calculate Gross Profit

    Know whether your business is making.

  • Tesla Stock Falls Hard Despite Elon Musk’s Claim That It Will Eventually Have $500 Billion Market Cap

    Plus, Under Armour stock jumps based.

  • Buying Into These Myths Can Make for Bad Hiring Decisions

    Every company can point to a.

  • Technology Stocks Lead Market Higher Despite Another Tesla Crash

    Tesla shares were down after a.

  • 7 Tips for Network Marketing Success

    There are six key elements you.

  • 10 Things You Didn't Realize Were Invented in the 1970s

    From the first mobile phone to.

  • 18 Ways for Digital Nomads to Make Money

    All you need is a laptop,.

  • SpaceX Is Building Another Starship in Florida

    The competition is on. May 15,.

  • Entrepreneur Index™ Rises as Fears of Trade War Dissipate

    The technology sector leads the rebound,.

  • 25 Interesting Facts You Should Know About Chick-fil-A

    One interesting fact about Chick-fil-A? By.

  • These Strategies Help Entrepreneur Combat Anxiety and Depression

    The same character traits make people.

  • Market Tanks — and Uber and FAANG Stocks Fall — After China’s Trade Retaliation

    President Trump may be comfortable with.

  • Supreme Court Rules Against Apple in App Store Price Fixing Case

    The decision paves the way for.

  • Why Athletes Are Using Cannabis for Training and Recovery

    They want more gain, less pain..

  • Grow Your Business With POWr’s Website Plugins

    This extensive plugin collection allows you.

  • Meet the Working Mothers of Cannabis

    In honor of Mother’s Day, Green.

  • 10 Business Ideas for Making Extra Money After Work

    A steady paycheck is financial stability..

  • How to Build and Leverage Relationships With Successful People

    Dana Pump, CEO and co-founder of.

  • 5 Creative Interview Questions to Ask Job Applicants

    You can probably guess that this.

  • Uber Stock Tumbles After IPO, Leading to Disappointing First Day as Public Company

    The ride-sharing company was valued at.