McDonough School of Business
News Story

New Book Cracks the Corporate Code and Empowers Professionals to Lead with Authenticity

Starting a new job can be an exciting time in a person’s career, but it also comes with its own challenges. From discovering the complexities of a new role to building relationships with coworkers to understanding the company culture, it often feels like there’s a hidden playbook for entering the corporate world. How do professionals crack the “unspoken rules” of the workplace to not only survive but thrive in their careers, while learning to bring their authentic selves to work at the same time? 

In her second book, Unspoken: A Guide to Cracking the Hidden Corporate Code, Ella F. Washington, professor of the practice at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, provides a practical guide for workers to successfully navigate the business world without sacrificing their authenticity. 

Building on her first book, The Necessary Journey – which provided a framework for C-suite executives to initiate positive steps toward diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in their organizations – Unspoken focuses on the individual professional and their questions, struggles, and experiences in the workplace. 

“I wrote this book to help people feel seen and know that they are not crazy; there are unspoken rules to the corporate world,” said Washington in the first chapter of Unspoken. “And, most importantly, I wrote it to help demystify some of these rules through the tactics I provide.”

Through rigorous research and real interviews with professionals from all backgrounds and experience levels, Unspoken offers several core strategies to help professionals gain the knowledge and confidence they need to navigate ambiguity and craft a fulfilling career. 

Here, Washington shares several of those tips with Georgetown students as they graduate from the Hilltop and begin the next chapter of their professional lives: 

1. Own your story and understand the power of your strengths. 

“Your story is unique and the sum of your experiences, both highs and lows, have shaped your perspectives and will fuel your strengths if you allow them to,” said Washington. “Being able to maximize your strengths starts with being aware of them. Knowing and owning your story lays the foundation for growing self-knowledge and excellence.”

2. Expand your networks of influence. 

Washington shared that it can be easy to remain in our comfort zones but the saying “your network is your net worth” rings true.

 “Building an impactful network starts with leaning into the discomfort of connecting with new people. Push beyond your familiar social circles to make connections across industries, perspectives, and differences.” 

3. Master the “ABCs” of negotiation.

The “ABCs” of negotiation – or awareness, building relationships, and creating clear outcomes – help us to increase our awareness and agency in situations, said Washington. 

“Negotiations start with awareness of your environment and agency over your impact, which requires awareness of your power in negotiation scenarios. Additionally, relationships are vital to successful negotiations – people have to be willing to both come to the table with you and potentially give up a few things in order to find a solution. Finally, it’s important to have a clear sense of what you want. Clear outcomes drive good decision-making by giving you a sense of what your wants and non-negotiables are,” she said. 

4. Create your own niche. 

“Your organization hired you because you bring something unique to the table,” said Washington. “In every role you hold, search for opportunities to align your interests, strengths, and areas for growth with the goals and needs of your organization. By being strategic in your approach, you can use your diverse experiences to both contribute to your organization and progress your personal impact over time.”

Unspoken: A Guide to Cracking the Hidden Corporate Code is available now on Amazon