The dictionary defines professionalism as the aim, qualities or conduct, which mark or characterize a profession. It was derived from the Old French term, profession, which was used circa 1200. It meant the vows that were taken by an individual entering a religious order, from the Latin word, professionem. In early 15th century, the meaning of profession became the “line of work someone is skilled in.” The word professionalism started being used around 1856.
A survey done by eWeek, a publication focused on decision makers in technology purchases, and which also provides corporate news, trends, reviews and analysis, revealed that 88% of the respondents relate professionalism not on the position a person holds but to the person itself. The survey also said that almost 30% of the modern workforce display poor attitude while 27% are inconsiderate and disrespectful. Poor grammar skills had been noted in about 40% of the workers of today, according to the same survey. These figures could pose a great dilemma to the management process in today’s business environment.
Professionalism is a word that is easy to say but difficult to accomplish. Professionalism translates into so many meanings. To be called a professional isn’t an easy task; it has rules to follow, be it in dressing up, in the manner of speaking or in conducting oneself. And while many of the modern workers may think that this is passé, it is in fact very much needed right now, more than ever.
The many faces of the word
Reporting early for work or for an appointment could be termed as professionalism. Being suitably dressed and groomed for the occasion or the workplace could also be interpreted as professionalism. The manner in which one answers a telephone call or how one handles a sticky situation could translate into professionalism.
Punctuality and decorum
Punctuality is a must. It shows your diligence and love for your work, a part of professionalism. Wearing the prescribed uniform or dressing in corporate attire shows professionalism. Office decorum, how you conduct yourself among your peers, establishing boundaries between superiors and staff as well as clients, and keeping to the guidelines of business etiquette is a mark of being a professional.
Unruly and unkempt hairstyle could ruin your professional look. Beard and mustache are sometimes acceptable provided they are properly trimmed and styled. Jewelries and accessories would also affect the overall look of a professional. Big, chunky and colorful accessories are a no-no when you work in offices that require conservative or business attire.
When coming for a job interview, make sure you arrive early or on time. Likewise, you should make sure you are ready with your answers during the interview and that you are suitably attired and groomed. That early, it shows prospective employers that you already know what professionalism means.
Accountability and diligence
Accountability is a major part of being in a services company. If you directly interact with clients, there should always be a smile on your face, particularly when answering phone calls. Make sure that you memorize the company’s standard form of greeting, if there is one. Make sure that you get all the pertinent details and questions, answer those that you are able to provide answers to and refer to your superiors those that you can’t. Your professionalism shows with how you provide written or oral reports to your clients and to your superiors.
Always be prepared for every interaction you will do each day, particularly during meetings and presentations, whether it is a face-to-face meeting, an online one or a casual over-lunch meeting. Know the purpose of each interaction and prepare for it. Be sure to take notes during the meeting and make a report for distribution to everyone concerned. They would definitely appreciate your professionalism when you do so.
Properly addressing each and every person you interact with, whether they are your co-workers, your superiors and clients shows just how professional you are. It also shows respect, which should be accorded to everyone you interact with. It would not hurt; in fact it would show your upbringing, your manners and knowledge of business etiquette when you address people with their title, whether it’s a Mister, Miss, Mrs. or Sir and Ma’am, or a professional title. It would not hurt to always say “please” and “thank you” with a smile, and in their proper context.
How you behave in the workplace also translates into professionalism. At all cost, avoid gossiping and rumor mongering for this is unbecoming of a professional. In the workplace, avoid making personal calls as much as possible because you are paid to work, not to chat with your friends or relatives.
Neatness in the work area translates to professionalism. You should never leave your desk at the end of the day without putting everything away. Your desk should only have your standard office supplies such as the in/out tray, stapler and paper puncher.
Excellent written and oral communication skills are equally important in today’s business environment; particularly since use of technology in business correspondence is higher. Within the workplace, email forms a major part of communication, and it should be put to good use. When writing correspondences, make sure these are short and to the point, communicating clearly what you wanted to impart but not sounding curt or rude to the other person. Answer what needs to be answered, stating the facts clearly, without being intimidated or being a know-it-all.
Be a slow speaker and a quick listener. That is a mark of today’s business professional. In a discussion, learn to quickly assess each opinion given, think about each one and be strategic and objective in all your comments.
Just like computers need to be upgraded after a time of use, the same applies to a professional. Keep your technology, professional and communication skills up to date by attending seminars on business skills.
Addressing professionalism issues
Professionalism translates to always being positive, being cordial, encouraging and hospitable. It translates to always being honest, proactive and knowledgeable. It is the mark of a very good professional to handle sticky situations in a cool manner, keeping temper in check and never losing patience. As a good, professional and well-respected leader, your professionalism shows when you not only think about one side of the story during a crisis, taking the time to assess the situation and provide the best solution possible, with an objective and responsible attitude.
In a workplace that lacks professionalism, it would be a good idea to have a Code of Conduct in place. That proved effective in well-established companies, so why not now? Full compliance should be required and corresponding sanctions should be implemented. But management should not use this as a tool to indiscriminately fire employees left and right. Effective leaders know the most efficient way to coach staff into being a professional is by being one themselves. They should allow their staff to know their expectations, providing them positive feedback when they display acts of professionalism and being positive at all times.
Dine Racoma, Editor
Day Translations, Inc. “The most accurate translations on the planet!”
Day Translations, Inc. “The most accurate translations on the planet!”