June 4, 2010 / 9:22 AM / 9 years ago

Management Tip of the Day: When employees miss unspoken rules

A man looks at stock market prices on computer monitors inside a securities company in Taipei January 15, 2009. REUTERS/Nicky Loh

BOSTON (Reuters) - The Management Tip of the Day offers quick, practical management tips and ideas from Harvard Business Review and HBR.org (www.hbr.org). Any opinions expressed are not endorsed by Reuters.

“It’s easy to think that workplace norms are explicit and easy to obey - be at your desk by nine, don’t ask superiors personal questions, and don’t dress too casually, for example. Managing someone who doesn’t follow these norms can be tough, especially if their lack of understanding reflects poorly on your management. Before you tear out your hair wondering why they just don’t get it, try using these three tips:

1. Remain open. Some of the rules that we think are steadfast may actually just be our own preferences.

2. Delineate what’s essential to business. It’s unlikely that a too-casual outfit will stop the company from operating. If the employee needs to be presentable on client calls, that’s one thing, but be clear about what truly matters to performance.

3. Communicate expectations clearly. Don’t expect everyone to pick up on informal cues. Be explicit with someone who isn’t getting it about what rules need to be followed and why. “

- Today’s Management Tip was adapted from “What to Do with a Gen X that Doesn’t Understand Politics” on the “Ask the Expert: Tammy Erickson” board of the HBR Answer Exchange.

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