I ran across this article from Dan McCarthy on “What is Workplace Professionalism?” It’s a good read. You can check it out here. It reminded me of a project that Jane Bozarth mentioned during ATD’s Social Media for Learning Certificate Program where she had crowdsourced a definition of professionalism using Twitter. Here’s the final definition the group developed:
Approaching work in the spirit of collegiality, commitment, altruism, and accountability. Putting in an honest day’s work effort while caring about our work and working toward successful accomplishment of it. Doing things well even under challenging circumstances, and carrying out our work because it is the work we have accepted to do.
While the Harvard Business Review published some statistics on how professionalism is viewed in the global workplace, I believe professionalism does have an air of subjectivity to it. In McCarthy’s piece, he mentions profanity as being unprofessional. There are people and workplaces that would not deem a person unprofessional if the F-word slipped out. And while I don’t believe it’s a majority of workplaces, there are a few organizations where if you didn’t drop an occasional F-bomb, you would seem a little too prim and proper.
One of the things I really liked in reading Bozarth’s definition was the focus on the work and the way work gets done. I also thought the definition allowed for individual styles to shine. If two people have a unique way of working together, it can be labeled professional. Even if it’s not something we would want to be involved with. I think of those co-workers that have to ‘argue out’ their point of view to make a decision. Me? I don’t want to do it…but it works for them. And the individuals involved still respect one another.
I believe professionalism is defined within each organization’s culture. Yes, there will be aspects that apply pretty much everywhere. For example, I’ve never worked for a company that said it was okay to steal office supplies. But language, emotions, and appearance could be defined as professional in one organization and not in another.
[Tweet “Professionalism is defined in each organization’s culture.”]
Companies need to be cognizant of this and define for employees what professional means. It should be explained to new hires and reinforced in employee programs. No one wants to be called unprofessional. It’s a label that can undermine an employee’s confidence and hurt their working relationships. Put employees in a position to demonstrate professionalism at all times.
How would you define professionalism?
Image courtesy of Sharlyn Lauby2