Knowledge Center

Advancing in today’s business world is often as much about learning and playing by the rules as it is about talent and results. Some rules are explicitly stated in organizational handbooks, performance review procedures, or by senior leadership. But other rules are left implicit—unwritten—for employees to decipher on their own. Those who do not have the tools to access this maze of “unwritten rules” and the important knowledge these rules provide remain left out, no matter how competent they are.

In this report, sixty-five women and men from a variety of industries and roles described many behaviors and individual skills that are helpful to advance or valued when it comes to promotional opportunities. 

  • Building professional relationships, whether through networks and affinity groups or with mentors, supervisors, and other individuals who can share knowledge emerged as particularly important. 
  • Effective communication and defining career goals were also deemed important to success. 
  • Respondents sometimes learned about important career rules by trial and error or simple observations, but many were proactive in asking colleagues and supervisors for information to understand how things work in their organization. 
  • Respondents also said that they wished they had known that “just” working hard is not enough to succeed or that they had been more aware of organizational politics and about the advantages of self-promotion.

Partnering Sponsors: DuPontIBM CorporationTime Warner Inc.
Contributing Sponsors: Campbell Soup CompanyKey FoundationXerox Corporation