5 Workplace ‘Rules’ to Consider Breaking—Now

In the post-pandemic environment, many leaders are more open to changes in the status quo. How to test that out.

The post-pandemic workplace continues to evolve. Rules that leaders once held sacred—such as regular office attendance, a traditional 8-hour workday, and a dress code—often no longer apply.

Experts say the workplace may be ripe for more changes. These days, many companies are desperate for ideas that can raise revenues, increase productivity, or help develop a more cohesive corporate culture. “Effective leaders can hear new ideas for the value they will add to the organization or our clients, not as a threat to the status quo,” says Michaela Buttler, a consultant in Korn Ferry’s career transition services. If you have an idea that you think could improve how business gets done, now’s the time to bring it up with management.

With that in mind, here are five workplace traditions that leaders might be receptive to upending now.

Rule 1: “We do it this way.”

Finding a more efficient way to do something is great. But don’t just tell your boss—come up with a way to test your theory, says Alma Derricks, a senior client partner in Korn Ferry’s Consumer and Culture, Change and Communications practices. For instance, if you think of a better way for customer-service reps to speak with consumers, write a script and model it. Ask your manager for clearance to try it with ten customers and report back. “An idea is only a tenth of the problem, the rest is execution,” Derricks says.

Focus on how the new practice can help the organization to save money or increase revenues. “Be able to articulate why the innovation will make things better, faster, cheaper, or more fun,” Buttler says.

Rule 2: Stick to your strengths.

One of corporate leaders’ biggest worries these days is whether or not their workforce has the skills needed for the future. Right now, many are pouring both time and money into upskilling workers. If you have a talent outside the scope of your current role that would benefit your department, or a skill you would like to develop, Buttler suggests telling your manager.

Offer to help with tasks that fall outside your job description, even if there is a bit of a learning curve, says Tiffinee Swanson, a Korn Ferry career and leadership coach. “Raise your hand for opportunities you are interested in, and feel you can dedicate enough time to, so that you can be successful,” she says.

Don’t overlook your unique abilities, either, Derricks says. For instance, if your company is trying to reach 18- to 22-year-olds and you’re a recent college graduate, you might have special insight into how to reach that demographic. While this might not be considered a traditional skill, it is a unique aptitude that may lead you to another opportunity, she says

Rule 3: Adhere to a flexible return-to-office policy.

No, don’t stay out of the office if your boss demands you come in three days a week. In fact, just the opposite. Even if office policy requires you to come into the office only once a week, you might benefit if you show up in person more often. Workers who logged on from home five days a week were 35% more likely to be laid off last year than their peers who put in office time, according to a recent study.

“Your physical presence can be a way to get visibility, and it may help you to build connections with others at work, which can improve your collaboration and your overall engagement,” Swanson says.

Rule 4: Don’t do things you don’t have specific authorization for.

It’s not unusual for junior employees to be asked to lead a workgroup, yet many get tripped up by their lack of positional authority over their colleagues. Experts say you should lean into the authority the boss has granted you.

You don’t need a formal title to be a leader, Swanson says: “Anybody can be an informal leader by stepping forward with ideas and suggestions and finding ways to bring the group together towards a common goal.”

Rule 5: Networking is only for after work.

With fewer people coming into the office—and many of them eager to get back home as soon as possible—there are fewer opportunities to network in person with colleagues after hours. But experts say that shouldn’t hold you back from networking during the day. When you are in the office, walk around to see who else is there and stop to chat with them. Consider inviting them to get coffee or lunch.

Turn potentially routine office gatherings into opportunities to network with colleagues. Derricks suggests holding a monthly lunch and inviting people who are celebrating a birthday. “It breaks up cliques and allows people to sit down and get to know each other better,” she says.


For more expert career advice, connect with a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance.