If you think work is a meritocracy, ask yourself why some really smart people work really hard but never seem to get the recognition they deserve. If you think that everything you need to know about a place is written up in the policies and manuals, you’re burying your head in the sand in a particularly dangerous way. As one attorney says, “Your most important job from the time you accept the job is to learn the culture of the organization you are joining.”
The fact is that if you want to maximize your effort—if you want to work hours that are as reasonable as they can be, if you want to have other people applaud you and give you opportunities and help you get ahead, if you want to smoke out the best work and best people to work for—you’ve got to learn how the game is played. If you don’t want to be the one always saying, “How come she always gets the best projects?” and “What makes him so special?”—if you’d rather have people saying those things about you—then pay special attention to everything I’m about to tell you. Superstars at the office aren’t born. They follow a subtle set of rules that you can apply, too.