Unspoken rules are behavioral constraints imposed in organizations or societies that are not voiced or written down. They usually exist in unspoken and unwritten format because they form a part of the logical argument or course of action implied by tacit assumptions. Examples involving unspoken rules include unwritten and unofficial organizational hierarchies, organizational culture, and acceptable behavioral norms governing interactions between organizational members.
Some unwritten rules can be strong. For example, the captain of a ship is always expected to be the last to evacuate it in a disaster. Also in schools offences like snitching can be treated harshly because it is part of the unwritten law that no one shall snitch on another.
In the workplace, unspoken rules can have a significant impact on one’s job satisfaction, advancement opportunities, and career trajectory. For example, research conducted in the United States by the Level Playing Field Institute and the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut revealed that 36% of white women, 37% of women of color, and 33% of men of color identified the fact that only certain people are part of important social groups at work as the greatest obstacle to fairness in their workplaces (LPFI/CSRA 2003).