The world of work has changed considerably for many people in the past few years. It’s now far more common to see workers dialling in for meetings from their homes, workplaces are becoming more casual and the boundaries between people’s personal and professional lives become more and more blurred. Professionalism in the workplace is still incredibly important. Particularly with the rapidly changing nature of work, presenting yourself appropriately is essential to communicating that you are a capable, dependable professional regardless of the context. However, in many organisations the professional conduct of employees is often not considered a priority. Professionalism includes the behaviour and physical presentation of staff, and is evident in the way they conduct themselves. It is apparent in areas such as verbal and even non-verbal communication and how well employees adhere to company policies. Professionalism exists within the workplace, as well as with external stakeholders such as customers and clients. Continue reading to learn why professionalism is still important and how you can be more professional in the workplace.
Professionalism is a set of behaviours and characteristics of people in the workplace that demonstrate their ability to be respectful, hardworking, rational, reliable and have integrity. Ultimately, being professional demonstrates that you can be relied on to do your job well. Behaving professionally doesn’t necessarily mean having to dress formally or use formal language in written and face-to-face communication, but these are often examples of professionalism in many types of workplaces.
Why is professionalism important?
Professionalism is all about signalling what you value as a part of a business – and by extension signalling what the business values. Professional behaviour indicates a certain amount of respect, seriousness and integrity. While sometimes overlooked, the professional behaviour of all staff is necessary for the long-term success of a business – regardless of its size. If you’re wondering why, read the below three reasons to understand its overall impact.
1. It shows and invites respect
When professionalism is valued within an organisational culture, the majority of employees will behave in a similar manner. A professional environment establishes respect for not only authoritative figures, but also clients and fellow colleagues. Professionalism also helps to limit inappropriate conversations, or those which could be considered disrespectful. The level of respect for a customer or business partnership is also evident when an employee continually behaves professionally, despite inappropriate comments from the other party.
2. Business reputation will flourish
A company with a strong positive reputation and that is known for professionalism is one that will stand the test of time. When it comes to choosing one provider over another for a particular service, it’s more often than not the one with the most positive feedback that is likely to be selected. How employees present themselves, interact and build relationships with key stakeholders are one of the most important contributors to this positive brand association.
3. It helps minimise conflict
In a professional business environment, employees will be less likely to resort to unhealthy forms of conflict to solve issues. Professionalism fosters a respectful culture, which should see conflicts be handled in the correct way. Employees you are professional in their behaviour understand boundaries more clearly, and solve any minor issues in an efficient and respectful approach. Professional behaviour also helps staff avoid offending clients when they have a different perspective, or offending those from different cultures or backgrounds.
How to be more professional at work: 3 tips
Being a professional and well-respected member of the workplace is something we all strive to achieve. Particularly with the rise of working from home, more casual offices and encouragement to “bring your whole self to work”, we can all use a reminder of how to be more professional at work. More often than not though, one can easily name someone in their team who they would consider to be unprofessional at times. Professionalism is something which applies in every single workplace; whether you’re a business executive or in hospitality – key factors such as being punctual and well presented will never be overlooked. If you are wondering how you can become more professional in your workplace, try implementing the following three tips.
1. Punctuality is key
Whether it’s a team meeting, your arrival time at work or a project deadline – ensuring you are on time and punctual is key to becoming more professional. Working towards a deadline and managing your time effectively are common and therefore considered basic components of professionalism. Being punctual demonstrates respect for other people’s time and it shows that you are organised and reliable – essential elements of professionalism in the workplace. If punctuality isn’t your best skill, you must make it a priority and work towards bettering your time management. No matter what career path you are in, no one likes having their time wasted, therefore you must always arrive slightly before, or directly on time in order to uphold your professional reputation.
2. Behave with integrity
It’s easy to recognise when people don’t behave with integrity at work. In every workplace, there are a small number of employees who will say exactly what the boss wants to hear, but will not fulfil the commitments they make. Alternatively, they will misrepresent information or bend the truth in order to look good, when really they haven’t completed their work or achieved their goals. Integrity is one of the most crucial parts of professionalism – it includes telling the truth and being accountable for your actions. It is also important to uphold integrity when communicating with others outside of your own workplace. If you are known to badmouth competitors or criticise their work, your reputation will definitely suffer over time.
3. Present yourself professionally at all times
The easiest way to make someone doubt your professionalism is if you don’t look like a professional – particularly if they are meeting you for the first time. As superficial as it may sound, we really do judge each other by appearances. And if you want to communicate things like your ability to be respectful, diligent, organised or pay attention to detail; the way you dress and groom yourself is an opportunity you shouldn’t ignore. Whilst many workplaces have ‘casual Friday’, this does not mean you can wear shorts and thongs in place of your suit or tailored skirt. When given the opportunity, some people drop their standards when it comes to professionally dressing and presenting themselves. Even if you have a slightly less formal meeting or day at work, make sure you still consider the importance of upholding your appearance. A professional appearance encompasses the way you dress, do your hair, and groom yourself. If your appearance has been a topic of conversation with your manager in the past, ensure you pay particular attention to it and demonstrate that you truly are more professional than they thought.
What do you think?
Is professionalism considered important in your organisation? Let us know in the comments what you consider to be professional or unprofessional in modern workplaces. Comment your views below and join the conversation. This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business and updated [22/12/22]. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB.
*The Australian Institute of Business (AIB) is Australia’s largest provider of MBAs. Source Ready, B. (2023) Domestic Enrolments Surged During COVID After International Students Locked Out, MBA News. Available at: MBA News.