If you’ve worked in more casual settings in the past or you’re fresh out of education, then professionalism in the workplace might be something that’s new to you. What might’ve been OK in previous roles may not be appropriate in other settings – especially if you’re making the move to somewhere more corporate.
Whatever your situation, it pays to be professional. Not only is it great for your reputation and productivity, it can have a powerful effect on your standing in the company too. But what exactly does workplace professionalism look like? And what can you do to maintain a high level of professionalism across your duties and relationships while at work? We’ll look at both, as well as some important related issues, below.
What is professionalism in the workplace?
Professionalism can vary from person to person, which makes it difficult to sum up sometimes. There are obvious things like showing up to work on time and dressing in the appropriate attire, but then there are more intangible elements such as your attitude towards others and how you conduct yourself.
It can even cover things like helping teammates who are struggling with certain tasks. There’s more to professionalism than simply looking the part; how you make others feel through your actions plays a huge role too.
What are professional boundaries?
Everyone should feel comfortable when they’re working. Professional boundaries ensure this level of comfort always remains in place across offices and other work environments. Essentially, they clarify the difference between the professional and personal, so that everyone can work to the best of their abilities and conduct themselves to the proper standards the business expects.
Why is professionalism important?
Professionalism in the workplace holds great importance for a number of different reasons. By demonstrating professionalism, you’ll show yourself to be a responsible, dependable, and loyal colleague, three things that go a long way with co-workers that won’t go unnoticed. Professionalism also lets you keep a cool head, something that’ll prove invaluable during challenging situations.
Here are a few other reasons why professionalism is so important…
- It could help you get the job
If you’re interviewing for a job, then a professional attitude could well be the difference maker. Even if your skills are a 1:1 match for the job, your interviewer will notice if you come across as disinterested. Be sure to show up on time, speak with confidence and be respectful of your interviewer’s time.
Should a promotion opportunity arise at work, then professionalism works in the same way too. If you’ve demonstrated professionalism in the past, then there’s every chance superiors will have taken note of your attitude and reward you with a new role as a result.
- It demonstrates – and earns – respect
Conducting yourself professionally means making yourself more open to the opinions of others, a show of respect that demonstrates your willingness to contribute to the success of the business as a whole. And this respect often goes both ways; when you’re respectful of others and what they bring to the table, they’ll likely respond in kind.
- It makes you more approachable
Rather than being shut off from others, when you’re professional in your demeanour and attitude, people won’t have an issue approaching you – whether it’s on a personal level or to ask for help. If you’re calm and collected in the face of challenges – and being the go-to person for problems is a sure way to gain greater recognition throughout the office.
How to be professional in the workplace
Up until this point, we’ve talked about professionalism as mostly something abstract, a state you can assume brings about opportunities and rewards. But how exactly do you go about being professional in the workplace? Like any other skill, it’s one which can be practiced and developed. Let’s look at how…
Treat everyone equally
With so many different personalities and working styles in even the smallest of businesses, you might not see eye-to-eye with everyone. That’s fine, but you should still be respectful of others – that means refraining from voicing your opinion about senior management, and badmouthing colleagues. Doing so will only make you seem immature and unprofessional – the exact opposite of what we want to achieve.
Dress in the appropriate attire
If it has one, following your company’s dress code is doubly important. Not only does it demonstrate professionalism by being respectful of official policy, dressing accordingly has a powerful mental effect, putting you in a positive headspace that gets you ready for the day ahead. It’s even worth doing if you work from home!
Be on time
Arriving to work and meetings on time shows that you care about your job – and that you’re mindful of your colleagues’ time. So, if your boss is the kind to watch the clock, then start showing up a few minutes early; turning up to work late is never a good look.
Be open and honest
Being open and honest doesn’t simply mean telling the truth (though you should always do that), it encompasses things like being accountable for your words and actions, being receptive to feedback and constructive criticism, and being a trustworthy colleague too. All three of these can have a powerful positive effect on senior managers and co-workers alike.
Strong organisational skills are another great way of demonstrating professionalism. For one, an organised employee is someone with the ability to prioritise certain tasks over others. But it also shows that they have no problems delegating work to their colleagues and that their time management skills are on the strong side too. These are the kind of things that make senior management take notice.
Go the extra mile
Want to really impress your superiors? Try stepping out of your comfort zone. If your colleagues are struggling with something, offer to help out – even if it’s something as small as trying to find a certain file for them.
A professional employee is one who can resist being sucked into the lure of office gossip. You might be tempted to join in on the drama, but all it can take is one misjudged comment for your professional standing to take a tumble.
Mind your body language
Someone who’s slouching, looking disinterested and avoiding eye contact is going to create a bad impression. Standing up straight, walking with confidence, and paying attention to what others have to say, on the hand, are all hallmarks of any good professional. Make sure you’re presenting the best version of yourself to anyone who might be watching.
How to praise someone professionally
Knowing how to praise those you work with is another big part of remaining professional. And like a lot of other workplace elements, there’s a knack to getting it right. If you’re looking to compliment someone on their work, then keep the following in mind:
- Take their role into account: Your approach is likely to change whether it’s a boss or a colleague you’re praising
- Be genuine: Don’t simply praise for the sake of it. If you don’t agree with what you’re saying, then there’s a chance you might come across as insincere
- Give specific and meaningful feedback: Again, a generalised comment might seem insincere to the recipient. To really inspire them – and show that you’re aware of what they’ve done – focus on specific reasons as to why you’re praising them
- Don’t be overly enthusiastic: Laying it on too thick can often seem disingenuous, as can praising people too frequently – try to praise others that you feel deserve.
How to write professional emails
In a professional environment, writing emails is another skill you’ll need to get to grips with. That said, with the amount of pitfalls and procedure that’s involved, it’s something of a fine art. Follow the tips below to make sure you’re writing clear, effective – and professional – work emails…
- Identify your purpose for sending the email: What is it you want the recipient to do once they’ve read your correspondence?
- Get the tone right: Email is a quick and efficient way of communicating, but remember: you aren’t texting your friends – so avoid using informal language or slang. If it’s someone in a senior position you haven’t met yet, you’ll want to be more formal than if you were emailing one of your peers.
- Keep it short: The recipient might not have much time to pore over emails. As such, you’ll want to keep things concise, straightforward, and easy to read. An email that’s free from filler and features only key information is going to be far more effective than one that’s stuffed with too much text.
- Start and end things properly: Always bookend your emails with a courteous introduction and a polite sign-off.
- Proofread your email: If you want to be taken seriously as a professional, then be sure to give your email a thorough going over so that it’s free from spelling, grammar, and syntax errors. And if you’re attaching anything then make sure you’re sending the right file.
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