Tips for Professionalism in the Workplace

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Create and maintain a high level of professionalism in your workplace by applying some simple, yet important guidelines. Educational consultant James Stenson describes professionalism as “a set of internalized character strengths and values directed toward high-quality service to others through one's work.” Take a quick, downloadable quiz from the Goals Institute to measure professionalism in your organization, then apply these tips as needed.

Business Etiquette Begins at the Top

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Model the desired behavior from the highest position in the company to the lowest ones. Foster excellence by displaying it. Establish a clear-cut set of expectations through employee handbooks, in-service training and timely feedback.

Jim Ball, president of The Goals Institute, observes, “More commonly, unprofessional behavior exists when leaders allow it to exist by failing to proactively establish and clarify codes of conduct and principles of professional excellence and then communicate and enforce those standards.”

More Than Doing a Job

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Demonstrate professionalism at any level of employment by the attitude you bring. Ask yourself if you can answer “True” to these statements:

I do the job to my best ability. I take pride in the job I do. People are better off because of the way I do my job; I make a difference. I start my workday neat and clean. I report for work on time and stay for my entire shift or workday. I honestly earn my pay. I treat my customers, clients and coworkers with respect and dignity. I employ good manners in my interactions with others. I keep my mind on the job at hand. I respect my work and myself. I take care of my tools and supplies, whatever their cost.

Add these statements for management-level positions:

I set an example of proper performance for my staff. I regularly acknowledge and reward excellence among my staff. I give meaningful feedback when I see a problem developing. I enforce company guidelines evenly across my staff. I provide a "measuring stick" of what I expect from my staff. I supply appropriate tools to enable my staff to perform their work.

Answer “no” to a question, and you’ve spotted a potential problem in your company’s culture.

Professionalism and Ethics

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Ethics and professionalism are closely related. Set high ethical standards for employee behavior. Support those standards with training, communication and an atmosphere of trust, advises consultant Shawn Smith. Ethical "problems can add up to significant legal exposure and loss of competitive advantage in the marketplace," she writes. "The employers that best avoid these difficulties are not necessarily the ones with the fanciest ethics policies, but those that most effectively provide their workforce with the framework to identify and address ethical issues as they arise.”