Breaking the Rules: When it’s Okay to Be a Maverick
Posted by Anni M.
Following the rules is one of the infamous “soft skills,” those qualities that are difficult to quantify but that help a businessperson succeed. These skills include many of the things I’ve written about here: courtesy, honesty, dependability, a willingness to cooperate, adaptability, and integrity. These are skills that are difficult to teach. How can you make a person more honest or dependable? If you are someone who struggles with these skills, learning them can be very difficult too. Often these skills are learned at an early age, taught by parents and teachers and reinforced by friends and cultural context. Someone who follows the rules has likely always been contentious about his behavior. He is probably someone who did very well in school, never got into any kind of trouble with the law, and was a well-behaved child. Fortunately though, following the rules is one of the easiest soft skills to learn. It is quantifiable.
Most of us have complained about rules at work. Maybe we’re unhappy that we only get a 30-minute lunch break or we wish we could wear shorts in the summer. Rules may seem arbitrary or pointless to us. They may seem like unnecessary hurdles that make a frustrating day or week or year that much more frustrating. But rules are often in place for a reason, even if that reason is the boss’ preference. If the rules are inoffensive (just annoying, not insulting) there is no reason to break them. Your boss is in his position because he has earned the privilege to be there. Part of that privilege: running the office the way he wants it run. If the rules aren’t discriminatory, follow them. That’s your job. Not wearing shorts isn’t the end of the world. Your office is probably air conditioned anyway.
Sometimes, though, you have to pick your battles. For example, when I used to work in a corporate office, my boss was very traditional. He was an older man, in his 60s, and he didn’t suffer modern etiquette. He believed women should wear skirts and dresses and men should wear pants. I was horrified by this rule. To me, it seemed sexist, gender biased, antiquated, and downright prejudiced. I am a person who tends to follow the rules but in this case, I was livid. I knew that I would be unhappy working in an environment where I felt overt sexism so I spoke up. I explained my position to my boss: I was a skilled professional woman. I would never wear anything unseemly or inappropriate but I would not tolerate being forced to dress to my gender. My boss was taken aback—he’d never had an employee argue over the dress code before—but he was also impressed. He took me more seriously after that and he removed the dress code the very next day.
As a Creative Communications Strategist, Victoria is known for her electrifying Keynote Performances™ and the transformational workshops and coaching sessions she creates for elite executives, high performing teams, thought leaders and entrepreneurs..