Gorick Ng Transcript

Gorick Ng is the author of the book ‘The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right’. He drew the inspiration for his book when his mother was made redundant, and he applied for her thousand jobs to no avail.

He could not understand the complexity of securing a job for his mother, who was highly effective at her work. As a Harvard student, though, he had the revelation he had lacked in his early teens.

The Birth of the Unspoken Rules

He attended Harvard University through a scholarship program, and he realized that many unprivileged people do not have the chance to secure a high-paying job due to their ignorance of the so-called ‘informal education.

Informal education comprises the adoption of a specific attitude and behaviors that facilitate someone in the hiring process of a job. These behaviors involve all the possible ways someone can use the corporate world for his/her advantage.

In other words, a potential employee must be an apt seller of his capabilities and recognize the importance of the corporate world’s unspoken rules. Mr. Ng researched these rules extensively and conducted more than 500 interviews with professionals of any industry, job and ethnicity. The result was the completion of an educating and highly-acclaimed book, ‘The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right’.

What Are These Unspoken Rules?

An example of these Unspoken Rules is how an employee expresses his struggle completing a task. The ideal scenario involves adopting a meticulous approach, and the employee identifies all possible ways to conclude.

Upon asking for the facilitation of his supervisor, the employee exhibits all the possible solutions and lays the groundwork for the final decision. This is a primary Unspoken Rule, which can only come naturally to someone based on similar experiences.

According to Mr. Ng, the Unspoken Rules are approximately twenty. His exact statement that describes them eloquently is the following: ” It is all about understanding the unspoken ways that people express competence, commitment and compatibility within a profession, job type, and organization”.

A new perspective of the personal and work life

Mr. Ng states that the new work ethics imposed after the pandemic perplexed his book’s research and writing process. Several changes occurred within the working environments. He had finished the writing process and realized that these changes brought forth new unspoken rules.

Overall, the perception of the youth regarding work has shifted, and more people of these ages value the balance of work and personal life. Mr. Ng believes we are in the age of re-evaluating the roles of employer and employee. A primary example is the adoption of video calls. Before the pandemic, video calls were considered intrusive to an employee’s personal life.

The First Pillar of Unspoken Rules: Competence

When referring to a new employee, many company leaders use the following phrase: “He has to earn a longer leash”. In plain English, this means that the employee has to gain the trust of his supervisor and the development of trust requires a particular aptitude.

The competence of the employees is the sum of the following characteristics:

1) They have to be reliable

2) They have to be detail-oriented

3) They must be responsive and know how to communicate effectively.

Furthermore, a competent employee has to show the potential of being ready to carry out more responsibilities. This equals having a firm opinion and the ability to foresee complex situations before they arise. Overall, a competent employee displays leadership qualities before attaining the role of manager, supervisor and leader of a company.

Competence derives from the effectiveness of an individual in managing expectations. Mr. Ng refers to ‘sandbagging’, the equivalent of ‘under promising and over delivering’. If an individual often engages in sandbagging, it can be harmful to his reputation in the corporate world.

A tendency to overdeliver elicits ill responses if the opposite occurs. Therefore, the ability to manage the expectations of others is paramount to the longevity of an individual in the corporate world.

Mr. Ng established a framework in his new book, ‘ Why, What How, By Then’. This framework has the following characteristics:

1) Why: This part entails the comprehension of an individual for the reason his supervisor delegated the task specifically to him/her. Moreover, the employee realizes the goal of any given task.

2) What How: This question comprises all the necessary processes to complete the task.

3) By when: Naturally, every task has its deadline. Nevertheless, there is also the invisible deadline, which is the date when an employee has to conclude a sub-task to deliver the entire project on time.

People often misinterpret confidence for competence. Knowledge is the opposite of bragging about a hypothetical mastery of a subject. These qualities are paramount for a skillful employee and a potential leader, but they are not the same.

Mr. Ng believes that a confident and apt employee is familiar with the unspoken rule of when to observe and when to contribute with an opinion. And thus, the employee inspires commitment.


This episode is sponsored by Workplace from Meta.

Workplace is a business communication tool from Meta. Think Facebook, but for your company.

It’s part of Meta’s vision for the future of work. A future in which we’ll all feel more present, connected and productive.

Start your journey into the future of work at workplace.com/future.


The Second Pillar of Unspoken Rules: Commitment

Commitment ensues when the employee is responsive and has established a behavioral pattern that proves credibility. Credibility inspires trustworthiness, and trustworthiness breeds commitment to the vision of the working environment.

Of course, an employer or someone holding a managerial position should also demonstrate the same level of commitment. The employer achieves this goal by showing vulnerability and approaching the employees in a humane level.

The Third Pillar of Unspoken Rules: Compatibility

Compatibility for an individual means that he/she opts to get along with his/her co-workers and supervisors to encourage collective effort. It requires strength and a genuine team spirit.

In Wrapping- Up

Besides the pillars of unspoken rules (Competence, Commitment, Compatibility), Mr. Ng encourages people to empower themselves by asking the following questions:

1) Am I Aware? This question raises awareness regarding the processes within a specific working environment.

2) Am I Visible? The importance of being fully present in work by contributing opinions and ideas.

3) Am I Intentional? The scope of this question is to assess whether we spend quality time in our work and lives.

4) Am I Mentored? People assess if there are role leaders that provide constructive advice.

5) Am I Sponsored? The question reminds the importance of having reliable persons around you and displaying vulnerability.

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This episode is sponsored by Workplace from Meta.

Workplace is a business communication tool from Meta. Think Facebook, but for your company.

It’s part of Meta’s vision for the future of work. A future in which we’ll all feel more present, connected and productive.

Start your journey into the future of work at workplace.com/future.