"Fitting in" in the workplace requires some awareness of the unwritten rules. Often a new employee is left on his/her own to figure this out, sometimes resulting in a less-than-positive experience in the first few months.

When we hire a new employee how can we help ensure they know what our unwritten culture rules are so they don't have conflicts throughout their onboarding process?

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    Could you make it more clear what sorts of rules you have in mind? Are these truly distinct parts of your specific workplace culture, or more general cultural differences that are common between workplaces? – Bryan Krause Jul 25 '18 at 16:13
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    why not make them written? – bharal Jul 27 '18 at 6:33

The best way to address this is to pair the person with a mentor who has been with the company a while and has good relationships with many of the fellow employees.

This doesn't have to be someone in a similar role. This person can give introductions to people in the department, company, and people they might be working with in different departments.

The person should know the personalities involved and the goings on. The person should be able to give pointers like.

Don't approach Bob on Thursdays, it's his busiest day.


Sue is a great go-to person. She may not have the answer, but can send you to the person who does.

In other words, a person who has been around a while, has good relationships with people, and is involved in creating back-channels and knows who to go to for what.

You want to make this as unofficial as possible and it may need to rotate among several people depending on workload as you don't want this to become a full-time job for anyone as that will put them in an official role and thus become part of the "official culture" as opposed to one who is effective of navigating the unofficial one.

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    You want to make this [mentoring] as unofficial as possible (...) as you don't want this to become a full-time job for anyone Why wouldn't you want that? Is there any objective disadvantage to having such a dedicated role? – xDaizu Jul 26 '18 at 7:25
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    @xDaizu It costs a full salary and is only used when someone's just joined. That could be once every five years. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 26 '18 at 9:42

This is why companies compose an employees handbook. It serves as a reference for most work related things as well as giving civil defence information and things like that.

If you have unwritten rules that need to be adhered to, write them down and give them out.

If it's just minor common sense stuff like 'don't pee on the floor' which you don't trust staff to know on their own, then put up a sign.

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    The unwritten rules are the informal rules, part of the culture not in the handbook. I marvell at how I have to only see common sense used to loosely. – Rui F Ribeiro Jul 27 '18 at 3:25

The unwritten rules are mostly acquired through common sense. Often they are what it defines the culture of a company.

It migt help pairing rookies with someone slightly more senior, however observation and asking around informally when in doubt are still the most common used strategies.

Depending on the culture, hanging around with workmates in breaks or mealtime also help, as they tend to confide on you to some extent how things really work from an insider perspective. Coffee breaks serve as a good excuse to hand around with people.

Often a strategy to fit in, if you are the type of bringing meals to work, is on the first 1 or 2 months going to meals with the guys of the office outside to restaurants.

PS. I come from a very informal culture. We also have a strong habit of eating in the restaurant, it is cheap compared to other European countries. There is always a core group that eats everyday at the restaurant in any job.

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