In a nutshell, workplace survival, for me at least, means having some amount of skills and/or just good intuition, to know when one should take an appropriate type of action, in response to another individual's bad behavior, or a decision by the business entity in control of the workplace and it's culture of work. Both the duties and the culture, may impact your decision to accept any job in the first place .. regardless of the criteria for suitable work.
Whether the business entity, or anyone acting as an agent of that business entity, implies they have the right to expect compliance from you, for a legitimate business decision, or a personally adapted reason relating to specific employer rules and policies, or some mention of the standard of expectations an at will employer has the right to expect of employees.
Sometimes what you hear may make you feel like someone just said .. Gimme your blind loyalty .. or I'll have your paycheck!
Or, it could be the confusion of what to do when the business informs you of a substantial change to the terms and conditions of your employment. Ask yourself, would the change of caused me to refuse the job before first being hired?
Either way, when you need to collect unemployment insurance benefits .. it't time to consider what actions are needed, so you can actually improve upon your own ability to prove a fact .. as a credible truth.
Often, it's necessary to know your employee rights as an "at will" employee, to know the best direction for your efforts, to preserve the at-will relationship, to show your claim is not frivolous and that you are attached to the labor market .. as in desirous of maintaining the employment relationship.
One way to learn about the rights of at-will employees in the U.S. could be from reading relevant outcomes of employment law case decisions.
Generally, it's former employees, with the courage to file an employee right complaint, that give both sides of the relationship, a road map of what not to do, or what not to be afraid to try to do to preserves, or end an individual relationship.
Case decisions include reasoning and that means we find relevant details that can explain to us which actions taken, or not taken, caused the direction the decision went in.
This is not just helpful for the other individual (often a manager, supervisor, boss, or HR, that literally acted as an agent for the business entity), but the individual employee who often feels uncomfortable with even the idea of mentioning they know they have rights in the workplace .. out loud.
The common thread to look ofr is how to prove a fact vs. making an accusation that an act was committed by the opposing party. This especially hold true, even if all you find to read, is the hindsight I found in unemployment case decisions.
So yes.. I believe in reading and yes, even case law that affects me and my future rights in this country.
Unfortunately, the UI case law often indicates what employees don't know about workplace survival, or how to use their rights in the workplace. Or maybe you can explain to me why anyone would willingly choose to prematurely quit their job, before proof of good cause, or be caught off guard by a wily boss when fired quickly for any reason at all.
There is no ending to being ready to exhaust efforts to resolve a problem with a job, or an individual inside the workplace culture. As an employee, you're always going to be the other half of a relationship and it will be up to you to make it one built of mutual respect .. or one where blind loyalty is an unwritten demand .. because it would hurt the employer to put that into writing.
It's up to each of us, to not allow our collective rights in this country to atrophy .. even those employee rights we take for granted at work.