5 work rules you should break

Sometimes breaking the rules can lead to a happier work environment.

Story highlights

  • Breaking some work rules may actually help your career
  • Don't tiptoe around emotional issues or pressure yourself about climbing the career ladder
  • Avoid networking 24/7 and pursue interests outside of the office
Most people think they know the keys to career success: Keep your head down and nose to the grindstone. Avoid personal, emotional, or awkward subjects (in fact, any elephant in the room) at all costs. Well, guess again. Here, experts reveal five on-the-job maxims that are worth challenging.
Stay away from emotional topics
In my opinion, you should always bring a problem out into the open, even if it's personal, difficult, or awkward. Say you and a colleague have different work styles or have clashed over a project, and as a result there is serious tension between the two of you. Tiptoeing around the issue may cause your productivity to suffer, so it's crucial that you confront your coworker. You can say, "You seem to dispute every point I make, and I don't understand. Did I do something to upset you?" If you talk about it, the situation won't spiral out of control or become a pattern.
Sean O'Neil is a management consultant based in Pelham, New York, and a coauthor of "Bare Knuckle People Management."
Climb the career ladder
There's pressure in our culture to earn more money and to have important titles. But not everyone wants more responsibility and power. And what we don't hear often enough is that it's OK not to want a promotion. So move laterally, or choose self-employment if you think that will make you happy. It won't hold you back; on the contrary, having a nonlinear career path can make you more intriguing to bosses in the future, not less. They'll view you as having broader experience.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide" and a career columnist for ABCnews.com.
Do what you were hired to do
Your boss has to look at the bigger picture all the time -- she'll admire you for doing the same. If you pay attention to your organization as a whole, you'll better appreciate what other people do -- and you might come up with macro ways to help the company. It's a fine line between offering assistance and stepping on someone's toes. But if you have the best intentions at heart, you can say, "I see an opportunity here that we're not taking advantage of."
Adam Bryant is the deputy national editor of the New York Times and the author of "The Corner Office."
Live at the office
For many of us, our careers are not our life's passions. So it's essential to pursue outside interests -- both for our happiness and to facilitate our creativity at work. Amazing discoveries and insights are often made when people are tinkering in the garage, gardening, or riding a bike. Plus, hobbies help give us a sense of peace. And once we relax for a moment, the answer to a work problem will often reveal itself.
Karen Burns is the author of "The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl."
Network 24/7
It's inefficient to walk into a cocktail party or an industry event and start mingling with random people. My suggestion? Throw away every business card tucked away in your wallet and work social-media connections instead. You can get in touch with important people who interest you, whether they're in your industry or not. Retweet messages of theirs, ask them questions, and strike up online relationships. From there, it can be easy to get them to meet you for lunch or coffee -- where you'll connect in a real, personal way that will ultimately help your career.
Penelope Trunk is an entrepreneur, a blogger, and the author of "Brazen Careerist."