Within every company and place of work there will be social protocols. Know them and use them. They might be quite simple:
• You never take partners to the staff dinner.
• You always turn up for the staff meetings on your days off.
• You never park in a certain couple of spaces even though they aren’t marked because they are unofficially reserved for the CEO’s partner and kids.
• You always give a $5 to the leaving envelopes that go round but only a couple of dollars for the birthdays. 大方一点。
• You never take the jelly doughnut with the coffee because that’s Sylvia’s—always has been, always will be.
• You always refer to the CEO as Charles to his face but as Charlie to the rest of the staff.
• It is OK to order wine with lunch, but beer really is frowned on.
You may never know where some of these unwritten Rules come from—Charles once got hit by a beer drinking employee, hence no beer at lunch; Charles was once embarrassed by the wife of a junior manager who made a not completely unsuccessful pass at him at a staff dinner, hence no partners.
Of course, these social protocols may be obvious—Sylvia likes the jelly doughnuts and she has the clout to get her own way—the important thing is to identify them, file them away if you like, but by golly you’d better know them if you don’t want to make any terrible social gaffes.
I once worked for a company where it was considered taboo to drink during a working day in any way. You couldn’t even have a beer at lunch. Alcohol was a big no-no and I couldn’t find out why. I was happy to go along with this, as I am not a drinker, but it puzzled me. I eventually found out that the company had had a finance manager who had spent every afternoon having 40 winks in his office—sleeping it off. In fact, he wasn’t. He did drink a lot every lunchtime, but the afternoons were spent carefully siphoning off funds to his own accounts. He was eventually caught and dismissed, but after that no drinking was the Rule—and no closed office doors.
OF COURSE, THESE SOCIAL PROTOCOLS MAY BE OBVIOUS—THE IMPORTANT THING IS TO IDENTIFY THEM, FILE THEM A WAY.