Illustration: Phil Couzens

A New Look At Old Rules

Particularly for Westerners, Japan can often seem a minefield of unspoken rules when it comes to workplace etiquette - never leave before superiors; never decline when invited for drinks with the boss; don’t take too much time off - and so on. Still, the reality wherever you are is that some of the unspoken “rules” of the workplace are in fact best ignored. Here are a few that we think particularly worth forgetting to get ahead, no matter where you find yourself.

Don’t work late all the time
It’s 9pm and the boss is still slaving away in the next cubicle. Likely best to wait it out to show your dedication, right? Not necessarily. Productivity and quality work are the big factors in career success – always logging as much time as possible is not. And a good manager understands this. Making working late a habit can also lead to stress, de-motivation and health problems. So, focus on doing a good job and getting results - with that, your boss won’t generally even notice your comings and goings.

Don’t volunteer for just anything
Traditional wisdom says you should volunteer for everything and use everything as a learning opportunity. While expanding your expertise is important, volunteering for projects that you are ill prepared to handle could do more bad than good. Do you have the knowledge, skills and experience to successfully complete the task? In short, never over-promise and under-deliver.

Don’t always accept a promotion
What could be better than the recognition of performance, respect of colleagues and compensation benefits that come with a promotion? Well, as appealing as it may sound, look at all aspects involved in moving up the ranks before accepting an offer. Do the responsibilities interest you? Are you willing to make any necessary adjustments to your personal life? The sacrifices involved may not be worth the potential benefits.

Don’t focus only on impressing management
Particularly in Japan, working as part of a team and getting along with colleagues is essential to success. In a multi-lingual foreign environment, you often have to rely on coworkers to get a job done. And it is these coworkers as much as anyone else that impact the direction your career may take. These can be the people who step in to help you meet a deadline, get you involved in a new project or, in the case of another department, provide you with access to resources you might not have otherwise. Remember, everyone is a potential decision maker when it comes to your advancement.

Don’t be too social in the office
Getting to know about both the professional and personal lives of coworkers is a great way to connect and build a sense of community. Although it is important to spend a little time each day connecting with colleagues, be sure your interactions are in moderation. If your chats are interfering with your productivity or interrupting those around you, cut back on them.

David Price is a Senior Manager for specialized recruitment firm Robert Half International

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