Professionalism in the workplace

Group of office workers
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“A colleague is not attending to safety details…” As a professional, how would you handle this issue? What does professionalism mean to you?

The American Heritage Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionary define a professional as a person having a high degree of knowledge, skill, judgment, and continuing practice in a particular activity.

Typically, professionals provide a service in exchange for payment or salary in accordance with established protocols for licensing, ethics, procedures, standards of service and training.

Professionals generally belong to a professional society that exists to further their profession or trade as well as to protect the interests of the public and their members.

Test your professionalism

Indicate which with the following statements are professional or unprofessional, then read on.

  1. I usually ignore irritating behavior when interacting with someone.
  2. I’m content with my performance.
  3. When a deadline looms, I try to improve the product.
  4. I often download files from the Internet or newspapers for use in my work.
  5. Appropriate job skills are more important than good work habits.
  6. I would report unethical or unsafe practices to the CEO.
  7. I would work with a co-worker even though we have had disagreements.
  8. I judge clients quickly.

Professional behaviors

  1. Professional. Don’t take the behavior personally. Ignore irritating but unharmful behavior to avoid unpleasant consequences. Walk away or quietly smile.
  2. Unprofessional. Professionals try new and better ways to perform tasks or maximize services. They take pride in all their work, not just jobs for which they’ll receive high remuneration.
  3. Unprofessional. Be optimal but practical. Know that projects must be completed on time. Perfectionism becomes impractical when it takes excessive time and additional resources. A perfect product is of no value if it’s not shipped to the consumer on time.
  4. Unprofessional. It’s unethical and illegal to use creative materials without first obtaining permission from the creator. Contact the authors for permission to reprint or post their work.
  5. Unprofessional. Studies suggest that about 85 percent of dismissed employees lose jobs because they lack appropriate work habits. Behaviors which most often lead to job loss are tardiness, absenteeism, inability to follow instructions, performance inconsistency, lack of cooperation, and poor grooming.
  6. Unprofessional. Be sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. If you observe someone engaging in unethical or unsafe behavior, speak privately with the individual and give him time to correct his behaviors before taking details to the supervisor.
  7. Professional. Separate the controversy from the person. Openly discuss differences. If these can’t be resolved, agree to disagree. Keep your opinion, and let the other person keep his. Focus on the common goal.
  8. Unprofessional. Don’t judge too quickly. Consider all relevant information to avoid misunderstandings. This is particularly important when communicating with international clients on the Internet.

Professionalism is for everyone. Professionalism is the underlying foundation supporting all productive organizations and individuals. Professionalism increases productivity and quality, reinforces trust, improves teamwork, and inspires excellence.

If you’re a leader, model professionalism, and nurture an environment where individuals take pride in themselves and their work. If you’re an employee, adopt a professional approach. You’ll strengthen confidence and competence. Everybody will want you on their team.

Dr. Carole Kanchier, career and personal growth expert, is author of the award-winning, best seller, Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life (2014). A registered psychologist, coach, speaker, and columnist, Carole Kanchier practices in Calgary: