By Lisa Trudel

This article was originally written December 1, 2011 with the title "Rules of Work".  It was re-titled "How To Keep Your Job" April 1, 2012 and published in Learning Curves Spring 2012 Issue.

      Wouldn’t it be nice if careers came with road maps or GPS tracking systems? Decisions about work, skills and professional development would be clearly marked with signs including “detour ahead” or “dead-end” or “watch for the bump”. Instead, you navigate and manage on your own always hoping that each choice will be the right one. There might not be an actual career road map out there but there is support if you are a job seeker.

      In the heart of Cabbagetown, at 595 Parliament Street, Centre for Education & Training ( offers assistance to unemployed and underemployed job seekers. Career experts help with a wide range of career-related topics including how to prepare for your work search and how to keep your job once you find it.

      Keeping a job includes understanding the rules of work and the terms of employment, specifically the Canadian workplace cultural intelligence expected by many Toronto employers. Recent statistics compiled by organizations that focus on Canadian Employment Law and surveys completed by Certified Human Resource Professionals, often highlight the major reasons employees are hired or dismissed.

      The following four points are reasons why many employees may not be retained, along with some practical solutions in case you recognize yourself in any of these areas.


1)      “Inability to get along with others”. Customer service excellence is a common work rule, and it extends past your clients/customers and to your co-workers. In the workplace you are judged not only on what you say but how you say it. Learn to focus on the positive and to ask questions to become promotable, successful and efficient. Asking questions shows that you are paying attention and that you are smart and considerate. It also shows that you are interested in your colleagues.


Hard work and career advancements can be destroyed by a careless word or an unguarded moment. Look after yourself by being watchful of arrogance, loss of temper, patronizing others, sexisms in any form, offensive remarks that alienate any section of the community and gossiping. Think carefully before you speak and develop a reputation for being wise, mature and trustworthy.  


2)      “Unreliable work behaviors”. A workplace rule that most employers follow is that employees must be consistent in behaviors and productivity in order to benefit the company and produce profits and positive outcomes. Inaccuracy, absenteeism and inconsistency are usually not tolerated by employers and might eventually lead to termination. A solution can be to ask for an annual performance review in order to recognize workplace weaknesses and to create a mutually agreed upon method of professional development in order to improve. Look after yourself by becoming a consistent professional.


3)      “Refusing to follow directions and orders”. An important work rule is that your company owns your working time and you must do what your supervisors ask you to do. If you have a better idea you need to go through the proper organizational channels in order to do it your way. If you continually lose jobs because you cannot follow directions, a solution might be to become an entrepreneur and run your own business. Not everyone is suited to being an employee and since more work is short-term and project-based, being a free-agent could be the best solution to look after yourself.


On the other hand, if your boss asks you to do something illegal or unethical, you need to take a stand in a professional manner. Look after yourself by knowing the Employment Standards Act and the Ontario Human Rights Code. It is up to you to know the unspoken rules of the workplace.


4)      “Lack of integrity on the job”. One of the rules of work is be honest and to protect your company’s information and image. Employees cannot use company materials for personal use and absolutely no employee should use company time to operate a personal business. To improve these skills, define your work ethics, set personal standards and read the policies and procedures of your company. If you choose to break the rules and end up losing your job, stating “I didn’t know” will not be an effective defense. Look after yourself by using workplace integrity.


For more career management tips or individual career assistance, drop by Centre for Education & Training at 595 Parliament Street, Main Floor or call 416-964-9797 for more information.


Lisa Trudel is Career Specialist with Centre for Education & Training Employment Services, 595 Parliament Street. She can be contacted at:

Toronto, Canada