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Have you ever worked in a situation where the rules and guidelines were not clear? How did you cope?

This question has been answered 7 times by professional recruiters and hiring managers. View their answers below.

The interviewer wants to know how you go about achieving goals when you lack explicit instruction from your manager or company. Part of the point of this interview question is to find out where your moral compass lands when company rules are not clear. Give the interviewer an example of a time when you had to cope with very few guidelines.

Admin answer example
"I worked for a small family-owned agency for a while. Most processes were not formally written down or included in my onboarding training. I made it my project to create "what-if" scenarios, get answers from the bosses, and compile a troubleshooting list to work from."
Basic answer example
"One of my earlier positions was for a family-run furniture company with very few guidelines or rules of engagement when it came to sales, service, and the common protocols. It was pure chaos, but I did my best by following what I intuitively felt was the best decision. I ended up being the top salesperson and promoted to manager."
Lineman answer example
"One of my earlier positions was for a family run furniture company with very few guidelines or rules of engagement when it came to sales, service, and everyday protocol. It was pure chaos but I did my best by following what I intuitively felt was the best decision. I ended up being the lead of the delivery team within 3 months because they trusted that I had the company's best interest in mind."
Marketing answer example
"Working in an online marketing start-up company, there were many situations where rules and guidelines were not clear. I took it upon myself to identify the need. My team and I needed direction. So, I drafted the rules and guidelines and came up with a system for others to contribute. Together, we created the internal structure that the company operates within today!"
Retail answer example
"I've had a position where the company did have clear guidelines and procedures. However, the manager didn't follow that set of rules and instead implemented her own. This situation was not only odd but also tricky. To please my boss, I had to follow her rules but to move up in the company and please corporate; I had to follow theirs. Ultimately, I found an excellent middle ground that kept me productive, my boss happy with my sales and productivity, and was presumably pleasing to the store managers and corporate. I later moved to a different department into a leadership position. All that to say, I'm comfortable in awkward, figure-it-out situations, and can figure out a way to succeed and keep all parties happy, no matter what the parameters."
Sales answer example
"In startups, hard set rules are difficult to find. You are to sell and hit your metrics, but it's 99% a figure-it-out-yourself situation. This situation can be an awesome opportunity to pilot out your ideas and tactics almost all of the time, as long as you're comfortable with trial and error and creative license. I have loved this opportunity to create my approach to my building my book of business. Yes, it can be frustrating when you feel lost, but I've always found that my ideas coupled with putting my head together with teammates and those that have been there longer than I will yield results and allows me to have fun while I'm at it!"
Teacher answer example
"During a transition period when we had no department chair, you could say guidelines were unclear. There was no one necessarily mandating that we hold our meetings, for instance. However, a few us knew that it was beneficial to us as teachers, and the department as a whole, to continue. We took turns leading the meetings and acting as though each of us was supervisor for the following two weeks, passing the torch to the next teacher as she stepped in. This method allowed for us to continue growing and learning, collaborating, and also be ready to transition to the new official team lead seamlessly."

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View user-submitted Answers

Have you ever worked in a situation where the rules and guidelines were not clear? How did you cope?
Very seldom does this arrise but when it does a new policy is sent out with paychecks for all to sign and then filed.
I already experienced that situation where the rules and the guidelines were not clear.I accidentally did was when I put all my homeworks in a sheet of paper and our teacher told us to pass it online.I was so disappointed on that time because I worked hard for it but I didn't pass it because we need to passed it via online. I just talked to our teacher if I can passed my homework because it's my fault and I mean it.I just want to try if my teacher would get my homework.
Did not love it. Tried to create my own projects, had to train myself on various topics.
Working as a quality control supervisor there was not a benchmark for quality and I was not given proper training so I had learn it on my own or asked the manager which I was unsure about.
I asked the manager what they would like me to do first and asked for a detailed list of instructions.
Every job I worked rules were clear and listed in employee hand book.
It happens at school al the time especially final projects or a lab work. What I do is that I go back and talk to the professor just clarify what he really want me to do. I try not to assume but rather asked mere questions to complete it.
At a country club where I managed the pool. Many groups would come to the pool and expected different treatment. The CEO manager would let me know it was up to my discretion as long as the problems never came across his desk. I just went with the flow on it and really only had two bad situation over a seven year time period.
We often have to place signs up near the products that are on sale for the week at work. Our As seen on tv sale stickers were not specific on which items were apart of the sale. I did not want to place them incorrectly and misinform customers so I inquired with my supervisor to what the specific guidelines were for placing the signs. She was unsure herself and decided that we would hold off on that section for this week.
Yes, I had this kind of situation. I felt bad, without rules and guidelines we are like animals. Everyone do what they want, so this is a disorganized company . I don't like to work in this environment, it is chaotic.
Everyday. Returns are not black and white. Lots of shades of gray. Customer Accomodations.
In our company we have to adhere to a strict set of rules named MAR. At times these rules have to be compromised in order to complete necessary tasks.
No I have not worked in that situation however if I was to find myself in a situation like that I would approach my manager or who ever it may be that gave me the instructions and would politely ask them if they would mind going through the rules and guidelines with me again to make sure I am reaching my full potential and being the best I can be.
At Zara I was unclear about how to sign in at work as not many people did it and the book was often not out however it was needed to be done in case of a fire.
I have recently had an offer running in store for 25 percent off. The guidelines said across all ladies department however the pos said footwear only. I gave head office I quick call just to confirm.
Subway was very brief about the rules and the contract. I had to ask co workers about pay and other areas of the job because my boss was never clear.
When I worked at Poundword, I was given a planogram and the stock affiliated with it and I was left unsupervised to merchandise, even though it was my first time doing the task.
Every Time. Either if an product already exists but no documentation then also you have to use the commonsense to get to the solution or if you are working on new project then you need to find out appropriate tools and methods own your own.
Vayana does not have specific rule and regulation. Sometime I have to work in weekend also and I could work from home when there is not requirement for any discussion.
Ya samsung most of time it happen after looking product initial version client decide and may be its change whole your product design so its always should be felixble to make changes.
Yes plenty of it. We were into research and then came out with a great output.
Service migration assistant project where NCEs used to keep using the more and more part of available time span for generating, submitting, verifying and the implementing the ICs, where IC implementation is supposed to be done by Developers and was the most time consuming job.
No I am a fresher.
No I havent workerd before I am an fresher.
Yes, I do work anything.
Yes I worked in shiny software solutions in late nights also.
I m fresher but there is a chance to proof myself and my technical skills and hardworking and I always wanna my company name and proud.
Yes, In cisco, my supervisor was extremely unhelpful and I had to struggle a lot to complete a task.
Yeah, I have faced this situation. So I have requested my onsite co-coordinator to schedule a meeting with business to understand the exact behavior and their needs.
Yes I was working in a project where the project doesnt contained any requirements also.
Yes, I have worked. IN such cases we will try to understand the rules and guidelines. FOr that we will prepare the documeny and share to them to get better understanding.
Yes. The scope of the project was note determined very well. I had to work with other team members to determine the different rules and guidelines needed.
Never had experience at a work place, but at school.
I have been self employed in the art world for nearly 30 years. It is an environment where nothing is clear and rules and guidelines change all the time.
I only really have experience from school but that is one of the main places where you learn a lot about rules a guidelines. At times when things werent clear I would calmly ask someone to expand on what they mean or try and figure it out independantly.
I worked at a book and stationery retailer for 6 months prior to The Edinburgh Woollen Mill. There was very little training and no customer service training at all. Within 2 weeks of starting, I was promoted to Supervisor as the previous manager had given the job to a minor. The new manager was unprofessional and lacked leadership skills. A visit from the area manager in the absence of the manager I was showed daily paperwork, ordering stock and company visual merchandising guidelines.
In my previous job I was asked to help a different team answering emails, they have a completely different system of responding and there were many emails that I had not seen before in my team, so that was difficult. I asked a manager what I should do for any emails I was stuck with so eventually learnt, however it wasnt made very clear at the start and I was worried about making a mistake.
I have been previously left responsible for my shift as my boss was away, so I managed my time by creating a list of tasks to complete and was able to get through my list successfully.
Not that I can think of but I can understand that this type of environment can be difficult to work in. In my experience a team works better together if everyone follows the same rules and guidelines. It results in a more harmonious team.
No I have always had very clear knowledge of rules and what I need to do in a situation, if I am ever unsure about something I will ask.
No I newer worked like that for me rules should be clear.
Yes me current job we have 6 team leaders and all have different rules, I asked for it to be clearly set out to us in our team what was expected so I could follow the rules.
I have not been in a situation like this, although if I did I would ask the manager if they have a copy of these so I could go over them to know in my mind that I would know them for future reference.
When I first started working on the counters there was no manager and no clear training schedule. Using a combination of watching what other people do, my own common sense and asking for advice form more experienced staff members, I managed to gain the staffs members trust and got accepted onto the team leader training scheme.
In a previous job at a hotel in mac Donald portal I was given room service duty with out being told the proper procedure.

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