We hear so often that being professional in the workplace is essential to building strong working relationships and getting ahead in our careers. But what does this mean in practice?
Being professional doesn’t just mean being polite and respecting others; it involves being accountable for your actions and following through on small and big commitments.
- Be Respectful
Even as the world of work becomes more casual and the boundaries between personal and professional lives blur, being respectful remains a key component of professionalism. This can be seen in how you treat your colleagues, how you respond to feedback or complaints, and how you communicate.
Respectful behaviors include being polite, considering other viewpoints, and following proper professional etiquette in meetings. It also means replying to phone calls and emails promptly and not sharing confidential information outside of the company.
Creating a culture of respect requires leadership and management to model this behavior throughout the organization and provide appropriate training and communication channels for employees. Additionally, it’s important to recognize and reward employees who demonstrate respectable behavior. This could be through public recognition, bonuses, or other incentives. Finally, providing a safe environment where employees can express their concerns without fear of retribution is essential.
- Be Accountable
A professional workplace requires accountability and responsibility. Managers should promote a culture that encourages both by avoiding office politics, having one-on-one productive conversations with team members to set performance goals, and providing constructive feedback tied to those expectations.
Accountable employees can be relied upon to complete tasks and deliver on promises. They know how their individual responsibilities and accomplishments fit into the company’s overall goals and work to ensure those goals are met.
Professionals never hide from their mistakes or make excuses for their failures. They own up to their mistakes and do everything they can to rectify them, even if it means going above and beyond their regular duties. They also don’t gossip or tell stories about co-workers, as this can make them look unprofessional. Instead, they share stories in a more private setting.
- Be Honest
Honesty and integrity are important aspects of professionalism. A true professional will always tell the truth, even if it is not in their best interest. They will never lie to a client or coworker.
They will also be honest with themselves and others, even if the truth is hard to hear. For example, if they are struggling to meet deadlines or produce quality work, they will be honest about it rather than trying to cover up their problems.
Being honest at work also means being able to deliver constructive feedback. This can be difficult but is essential for a positive workplace culture. It is also important to be able to respond to honest feedback in an appropriate way, for example, by using a respectful and thoughtful tone. This can help avoid causing offense and create a defensive response.
- Be Trustworthy
Professionals have integrity, they do the right thing even when no one is watching. They don’t gossip about colleagues or clients, don’t use inappropriate language, are punctual, and always follow through with what they say they will do.
People will respect your opinion and trust your judgment when you are a professional. It is easier to work together when everyone is on the same page and understands the importance of professionalism. This means that they are more likely to collaborate, which can save the company money in many ways. It also creates a safe environment to discuss challenges in the workplace without fear of losing their jobs. This can lead to higher productivity and better quality of work overall.
- Be Responsible
One of the most important aspects of being professional is taking your responsibilities seriously. This includes being on time, completing work, and avoiding distractions like social media or phone use.
A professional will also take ownership of any issues that arise related to their work. For example, if they spill milk on the floor, it’s their responsibility to wipe it up.
The definition of professionalism can differ depending on your workplace and the industry you’re in. Baby boomers, for instance, may have a different idea of what being professional means than Gen Y, but everyone should strive to make it a priority at work. This is a key to building trust, productivity, and loyalty. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities allow staff to work efficiently and effectively, minimizing confusion and miscommunication. It’s also a way to promote accountability and cultivate a culture of success.
- Be Prepared
Even though it is common to see workers dialing into meetings from their homes and blending personal and work lives, being professional in the workplace requires a certain level of organization and productivity. This is because true professionals always plan ahead and can be trusted to deliver on their commitments.
Keeping professional also reduces distractions, making it easier to communicate with colleagues and clients. Professionals treat everyone with respect regardless of their status in the company and won’t bombard colleagues with unnecessary phone calls or emails.
Keeping professional will also help you be considered for promotions. It will show your superiors that you can take on more responsibility and handle bigger challenges. It will also demonstrate that you are a supportive team player. Confidence taken too far can also be seen as arrogance; however, true professionals are confident without being overly boastful.
- Be Accountable for Your Actions
A professional knows their work and how it contributes to the team. They are confident in their abilities and don’t shy away from voicing their opinions. In addition, they don’t hide behind excuses when something goes wrong or fail to speak up if they see something unethical happening in the workplace.
Accountability also means helping out colleagues when needed. This might mean staying late with a coworker to finish a project or taking over the work of someone who is out sick.
Punctuality is another sign of professionalism, as arriving at meetings and discussions on time shows respect for the time of others. This is especially important if you’re working on a deadline. This is because missing a deadline can have serious consequences for you and the company. It can even damage your reputation. Be on time for everything, including lunch breaks and meetings with clients.
- Be Accountable for Your Words
If employees aren’t held accountable for missing deadlines, poor work, or tardiness, it signals to the team that these behaviors are acceptable. Important details slip through the cracks without proper accountability, projects take longer to complete, and communication between teams erodes.
Similarly, gossiping about co-workers, using inappropriate language, or swearing sends the wrong message about professionalism in the workplace. Employees should also avoid talking badly about the company, clients, or other competitors unless they can prove that what they’re saying is factual and accurate.
To encourage professionalism in the workplace, managers should create a culture that makes it safe for employees to be transparent with their actions and words. They should also set clear expectations about professional behavior, for example, by stating exactly what completing a project to the highest standards means and how soon it is expected to be completed.