I recently had a couple of experiences that prompted this blog, all dealing with professionalism in the workplace. Both were things you “don’t” do, however, I was only in the position to address it in one of the situations. Let me explain.
Situation #1: I had the “opportunity” to volunteer (we will call it), at a local animal shelter. The facility was basically clean and the animals well taken care of, however, I did experience some “flaws” in management. One flaw I noticed was how the owner spoke to some of her employees. I’m not sure of the background of this employee’s work ethic, but from what I’d observed, he did a good job for the most part. On this particular day, the owner reprimanded the employee in front of everyone present, to include cursing at him—very loudly at that.
Situation #2: I was in the drive-thru of a local national chain fast food restaurant—which I will not name. My passenger and I were having a hard time deciding what we wanted, because for me, it wasn’t a place (or area) I frequented often for food. When I questioned the attendant on the mic, if she had changed the size that displayed on the screen, she replied back in a “mocking” manner. I then drove around to the window, to address her face to face. I asked if she was the person I was speaking with, she said yes. I then shared with her how her behavior was very unprofessional, and explained why. She didn’t seem too excited about the fact I was correcting her, however, I didn’t address her management, in hopes she would choose to “do better”.
These type of situations happen all the time—in our workplaces and as customers. Professionalism is NOT a choice when it comes to representing our employers, yet we find ourselves in these situations quite often. For some, it comes natural, as if it was an outlined requirement in the job description. (Which it should be in all job descriptions.) For others, the need to understand it IS a requirement, whether it’s in the job description or not, is very evident. There are many characteristics that can describe professionalism in the workplace. I will discuss three (3) areas that were affected in the previous situations above.
MAINTAINING DEMEANOR/POISE: Being polite, courteous and well-spoken in all situations (even in disagreements) is a necessity in professionalism. You should NEVER “lose your cool”, whether you are in the right or not. Accepting responsibility is part of being a leader, and if you have any desire to progress in your career, exemplifying leadership traits is a must.
ATTITUDE: We’ve often heard, “Attitude will take you a long way”, which is very true. However, that “way” can be in a negative or positive manner. Because this attribute is infectious, it is important to make sure it is maintained in a positive light at all times. Showing respect to everyone (customers, co-workers, employees/ers), is vital. It is not necessary to be friends per se, still, having a friendly and respectful demeanor can make your job a lot easier. Creating a hostile environment by harassing or discriminating is not only a bad business practice, it is illegal. Know your rights, as an employee and as an employer, and make sure you are always on the right side of the law.
CONDUCT: It is interesting that the definition of conduct—to manage oneself, to lead/guide, to serve as a channel, to direct—all have to do with leadership qualities. When you conduct a meeting/band, you are providing leadership, where others are following your lead. Then it shouldn’t be a surprise that conducting ourselves in a professional manner, is a way to display your leadership traits. It reflects well of your personal standards, and how you view others. Your conduct should never be abusive to others, or put yourself in a situation where your reputation is questioned. Maintaining confidentiality and upholding the ethics of your profession are all a part of your workplace conduct.
These are only some examples of workplace professionalism. Nevertheless, if you embody these in your daily job routine, you are off to a good start. Professionalism has nothing to with what type of job you have—whether you work on the grill at a restaurant or as an attorney—it is all about setting and maintaining high standards as you would in your everyday life. So, take a stand and be a Pro!