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Expectations & Standards for Professionalism at Work

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  • 0:05 Judgment Day
  • 1:14 Expectations and Standards
  • 3:17 Cultural and Situational
  • 4:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rachel Shipley

Rachel has worked with several businesses developing policies on customer experience and administration.

In this lesson, we will discuss how professionalism is judged in the business world and who or what determines the definition of professionalism in the workplace.

Judgment Day

While it is nice to think that you can let your freak flag fly in this day and age, in the workplace, it is a different story. You are judged from the moment you walk in the door. You are even observed during your personal time, through your social media and interactions with colleagues outside of work.

Being professional is an expectation that employers set for their employees and ultimately, they are the ones who identify the standards that employees are expected to follow.

Professionalism is subjective in nature. It means different things to different people, and therefore, it is judged in that same manner. In the business world, employers define professionalism. They look at several different characteristics that they think make up a professional person, such as:

  • Attitude: are you a positive person who is willing to take on responsibility?
  • Competence: can you do your job successfully?
  • Appearance: are you dressed for success within your company's standards?
  • Ability to communicate: when you speak or write, are you using correct grammar and punctuation and are your thoughts easy to follow?
  • Appropriateness: do you keep your language and behavior appropriate in the workplace?

Expectations and Standards

Employers set the expectations and standards of professionalism, and it is an employee's job to fit the mold. Defining what professionalism looks like is important for employers to do because it gives employees a guide to follow. It also ensures that a company is consistent in the message it is sending to its workers and that customers are experiencing the same level of professionalism across the board. Let's take a look at a quick example.

New business ABC Insurance has just hired its first set of employees. However, the company did not take the time to set the expectations and standards of professionalism desired from its employees. The first day of orientation is here, and the ten new hires start to filter in. They could not be more different from each other. Not only do their appearances vary, ranging from one man wearing a crisp suit and carrying a briefcase to another man wearing jeans and a polo shirt, but their new attitudes and ideas about appropriate behaviors are also vastly different. Some employees think it is appropriate to be on their phones throughout the orientation, while others find it appropriate to tell a dirty joke or use foul language. ABC Insurance's manager realizes that the workplace orientation does not have a section that discusses the professionalism policies of the company. How can this company expect its employees to know what is and isn't appropriate if it doesn't communicate these expectations to them?

Remember, professionalism is subjective. While one employee thinks wearing a suit is professional, another employee might think that dressing up his jeans with a dress shirt and loafers is professional. It may be that neither employee's ideas match what the employer is looking for. Perhaps the employer prefers that employees wear a dress shirt and slacks, but ties are optional. A dress code is one example of the many different aspects of professionalism.

Realizing that people are not mind readers and that they often need a definite policy to explain what's expected of them in the workplace will be extremely helpful in setting your business up for success.

Cultural and Situational

Professionalism can also be affected by different situations and influenced by culture. You can find different interpretations of professionalism in any workplace because of diversity among employees. Employers should consider generational and educational gaps, as well as differences in ethnicity and personal background.

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