Why JUST following the Rules Hurts So Much

Do you ever wonder why certain colleagues seem to:

  • Lose their passion;
  • Seem to be sick all the time;
  • Sacrifice their personal relationships;
  • Lose their self-confidence;
  • Get more and more cynical and bitter with each assignment;
  • Have a life that no longer resonates with them the way it once did.

I am proposing that part of the reason is that sometimes people find themselves in situations where outside rules overshadow their own rules (i.e. values)


Can you remember that feeling during your first international assignment when you realized the international workspace has its own rules and you knew that you had to learn them?

These rules come under different headings:

  • Organizational rules;
  • Best practices;
  • Unspoken rules and code.

The official organizational rules (circulars and directives) can be frustrating.  However, in some ways they are the easiest part (sorry to disappoint) because at least you know what you are dealing with and you can actually work on them to make improvements.

The rules that probably keep you up at night are the covert unspoken rules and codes that energetically rule the international workplace atmosphere (i.e. how the international workspace feels) and, in a way, define organizational culture.

The unspoken rules and codes require so much of your energy, give you very little personally, and over time begin to eclipse your internal sense of yourself.


Unspoken rules arise from a legitimate question –


This is an important question that we all ask ourselves.

The misunderstanding is this: to find the answers to this key question, most people FIRST look to others and the organizational culture for answers. This is an easy trap to fall into because there is so much pull in that direction – away from the self and into organizational space.

When you throw yourself in the collective organizational space, eagerly looking for answers, this question gets perverted into:


When a group of people ask the same question, from a place of fear, the question becomes-overwhelming. 

The tables turn and there is a tendency to ignore your own values and dreams. Commando style tactics are adopted with military precision. These include striving to know the ‘right’ people, talking behind colleagues backs, competing with everyone (feeling threatened/insecure), ‘playing it safe.’

Some people get so bogged down by this trivial and corrosive chatter – they lose track of themselves, the organizational mandate, and their unique contribution within that mandate. 


Why does JUST following these rules hurt so much?

Unfortunately, we all know the answer to this – because most of us have lost track of ourselves at one-time or another to different degrees and paid the price.  Whenever we act from a place that is not in-line with our inner self and our unique values, we pay.

Your Alternative

A more skilful way to answer the question,

How do I work here?” is to start with you. When you are courageous enough to ask yourself this question, the empowering question becomes:


From this perspective of opportunity, the question invites you towards your values and clarity, action and discovery about who you want to be, within the organization and in your whole life. 

The following list of powerful questions will help you clarify what you need to thrive; by clarifying what is important to you and revealing your values:

  • What is my desired outcome?
  • What is possible for me?
  • What options can I create?
  • How does this work relate to my life purpose?
  • What kind of plan do I need to create to pursue what I want – both personally and profesionally?
  • What resources (within the organisation and outside) do I need to achieve my desired outcome?

P.S. What holds you back from exploring what you need to thrive?