The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines professionalism as, "the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person.” What does it mean to demonstrate workplace professionalism? What does unprofessional workplace behavior look like?

While it may be hard to define in a simple sentence, we know it when we see it. And we certainly know it when it is missing from our interaction with someone.

The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.” - Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles (A)

Professionalism is more than competence. Sure, true professionals are good at whatever they do and they take their jobs seriously. When we visit a doctor, hail a cab, go out to dinner, or hire an electrician we always appreciate engaging a a “pro”, who is well trained, has experience, and will deliver a great outcome.

Professionalism goes beyond being good what you do. Competence is a minimum standard and the rest of what gives meaning to the idea of workplace professionalism is all about behavior. It’s not just what you know – it’s how you do your job, how you behave, and how you come across as you interact with others.

11 Characteristics that Showcase Workplace Professionalism:

In addition to competence, here are 11 characteristics that define and display workplace professionalism:

1. Always keeping commitments: Professionals do what they say they are going to do and they don’t over promise. They are dependable, they keep their appointments, and they don’t have to be reminded over and over when something is due.

2. Using language properly: Those who display workplace professionalism do so in every aspect of their work, including how they talk. They choose their language carefully, minimize the use of slang and they definitely pass on the use of inappropriate language.

3. Avoiding drama: It’s impossible to completely separate our work lives from our personal lives. Bringing too much drama into the workplace can cross the line and come across as unprofessional. True professionalism includes maintaining an appropriate wall between our personal problems and our workplace lives.

4. Ensuring a great appearance: True professionals strive to ensure their physical presentation works for them instead of against them. From wearing clean, environment appropriate clothing to ensuring impeccable personal grooming, there are no gaps in this individual's aesthetic appearance.

5. Always practicing ethical behavior: Displaying professionalism demands an unyielding commitment to doing the right thing. The best professionals are attuned to the ethical implications of their decisions and when faced with one of those gray-area issues (no clear right or wrong), the seek help.

6. Never bullying: No one likes a bully and there's no room for this behavior whatsoever in the workplace. Sometimes bullying is veiled in odd attempts at humor, and you know it is wrong when the humor comes at someone else’s expense.

7. Avoiding gossip and gossiping: When we hear workplace gossip, it’s hard not to listen. Similar to bullying, when you hear a gossip talking about your co-worker, you can assume the gossip will be talking about you next as soon as you’re not around.

8. Displaying a positive attitude: People enjoy working with coworkers who are always upbeat, positive, and energetic. People who are excessively and constantly negative drain the positive energy from a workplace. Focus on ensuring your mood is in the right place every day when you walk through the door at work.

9. Being accountable: Professionals admit it when they are wrong, own up to their mistakes, don’t point fingers at others, and don’t make lame excuses. They display accountability and expect accountability from others.

10. Controlling emotions: Is it okay to show emotions at work? Of course, but professionals don’t lose their tempers, don’t lose their composure, and stay cool under pressure.

11. Avoiding dirty jokes and sexual innuendo: If it’s something that would earn an R-rating for a movie, then it doesn’t belong in the workplace. Professionals don’t embarrass or harass their coworkers in any way, shape or form. Ever.

The Bottom Line:

The most valuable asset in your career is your reputation. Those who understand this fact of life do everything in their power to always display professionalism in every encounter. There are no compromises and most of the time we never get a second chance to correct a bad impression.



Understanding the Behaviors that Showcase Workplace Professionalism,;