The Chinese have a phrase gaoyaxian (高压线)
In an earlier posting, we discussed Office Politics, and the need to develop an understanding of politics to enable you, as an employee or manager, to get things. Another part of the oft-called “secret handshake” of office politics is learning the rules, and most importantly the gaoyaxian.
All cultures have defined rules of behavior. We normally learn them through normal socialization – family life, religious education, school and media. Orientation programs and employee handbooks give us our first clues to the rules of behavior at most companies. Some companies continue the socialization with training programs, ethics posters, communication meetings and newsletters. Have you ever noticed, however, that when you change divisions or bosses, new rules seem to appear? Rules on when to show up, how to dress, acceptable forms of conflict, how decisions are made, who is allowed to make a decision, and so forth.
When you are in a new position due to a company change, a merger, or a promotion, invest in building organizational awareness. Be curious, listen to others talk about how to get things done, explore comments like “I would never try that”, watch actions, discern patterns of behavior. Especially try to determine the gaoyaxian – top prohibitions. You may want to try what others are afraid to try, but know whether you are breaking a lethal rule or bringing fresh air to a stale organization.
The term literally means a high-voltage line. It is often used to refer to rules that one should never break because it will prove to be as lethal as touching the high-tension wire.
What are the gaoyaxian in your company?