The Risk of Not Following NASA's Formal - Yet Unwritten - Rules

Editor's note: The following excerpts are taken from GSFC's mandatory career management online training required for all GSFC civil servants. Note that NASA's own formal training materials speak of NASA rules that govern employee behavior - rules which are defined/described as being "unwritten". In light of the fuss regarding unwritten (but enforced) NASA policy governing interactions between employees, the Public Affairs Office, and the media, it is little wonder that people are confused about what they should or should not do in this and other situations.

Given that NASA formally accepts the fact that its own rules may actually be unwritten - but must still be adhered to - certainly serves as a recipe for mass confusion to me. The most cynical aspect of this is the following: "When an employee understands and adheres to GSFC's Unwritten Rules we call them politically savvy. Nothing can derail a career more quickly than a lack of political savvy.". Then there is the sub-bullet point: "unwritten rules are not universal". If ever there was a concrete example of what people mean when they suggest that "NASA" really stands for "Never A Straight Answer", then this is it.


Slide 27: Knowledge of the Work Environment

  • Stay abreast of current events that impact the agency and center including the political climate, presidential directives, budget issues and private sector competitors.
  • Know the organizational structure of NASA and Goddard.
  • Be clear on how you contribute to the Center and Agency strategic goals and objectives.
  • Be knowledgeable regarding unwritten rules in your organization.


Slide 28: Knowledge of the Work Environment - NASA's Unwritten Rules

  • Unwritten rules are norms for behaving and performing successfully at GSFC that are not printed in any Standard Operating Procedures Manual or Employee Handbook. When an employee understands and adheres to GSFC's Unwritten Rules we call them politically savvy. Nothing can derail a career more quickly than a lack of political savvy.

    • Each segment of the GSFC community may have its own unwritten rules, e.g., unwritten rules are not universal.

  • Goddard's Mentoring Program can provide more information about the unwritten rules.


Reader note: (big sigh) Admiral Gehman was right - we're not a learning organization.I guess we're suppose to learn the "unwritten rules" by osmosis.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on February 11, 2006 11:43 AM.

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