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Blog Insight & Commentary

The 6 Pillars of Professionalism in the Workplace

Stand out from the crowd

Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza
Content Strategist, InHerSight

professional young woman at work

Professionalism in the workplace can go a long way toward landing the job, keeping the job, and climbing the career ladder.

Especially for those early in their careers, workplace professionalism is key. It’s something that can help you stand out from your peers and get you noticed by your higher-ups. While stepping into the workforce for the first time can feel intimidating, professionalism is a relatively easy practice.

Here are the six pillars of workplace professionalism:

1. Follow-through

Follow-through is doing what you say you will do.

  • If you speak up in a meeting and say you’ll research a new CRM software, do the research and share your findings. If you say you’ll have the code written by Thursday, don’t turn it in on Friday.

  • Don’t commit to more than you can realistically accomplish, and accomplish well.

  • Complete assignments and projects thoroughly and on time.

  • Go above and beyond what is asked of you, but not at the expense of key priorities. Managers would rather your get your work done well than fall behind because you’re inventing new tasks.

  • If you sign up for a company initiative or committee, do the work, and stick with it.

2. Respect

Respect is treating everyone in your office with respect, all the way from the front desk receptionist to the CEO.

  • Avoid brown-nosing, don’t play favorites, or suck up to those in power. This is a workplace, not high school.

  • Avoid workplace gossip—someone else’s business is not yours.

  • Give your coworkers some privacy. If someone says they’re sick, wish them well and don’t ask questions. If they have an emergency, ask if there’s anything you can do, not what happened?

  • Don’t be afraid to share the spotlight. Give your coworkers the chance to shine and share their accomplishments; don’t hog the podium. Encourage and celebrate the success of others.

3. Accountability

You’re responsible for your own conduct in the workplace. Professionalism means being accountable for your actions, words, and the work you do.

  • If a project you’re leading doesn’t go to plan, take ownership of the problem—don’t pass the buck, don’t make excuses. Identify the problem and draft a solution.

  • Take notes in meetings, review action items before the meeting is over.

  • Clearly communicate when you will have tasks and assignments completed.

  • Ensure you understand all expectations for assignments.

4. Punctuality

Punctuality means showing up, on time, and prepared.

  • If your workday begins at 9 a.m., don’t saunter in the door at 9:15. If the assignment is due by 5 p.m., send it at 4:30.

  • If you have to make a presentation, check out the meeting room ahead of time to ensure you know how to work the projector so you can begin the meeting on time.

  • Send out the meeting agenda a day in advance so attendees understand what will be discussed.

5. Initiative

Initiative is the ability to act independently.

  • If you see something that needs to be done, do it or bring it to the attention of the person in charge.

  • If you have a question, see if you can find the answer before you ask someone else.

  • You shouldn’t have to be told the next thing to do. Identify an opportunity and let your boss know that you’d like to take it on.

  • Volunteer for new responsibilities and tasks in areas you’d like to develop. Interested in environmental initiatives? Ask to form a committee that brainstorms tactics.

6. Integrity

Integrity in the workplace is about doing the right thing no matter what.

  • Don’t cut corners just to get it done faster. Don’t sacrifice quality for speed if you don’t have to.

  • If you drop the ball, be honest about why. It’s okay—everyone makes mistakes.

  • If you’re going to fail to meet a goal or deadline, be upfront and honest.

  • If you see something unethical or illegal going on, say something.

  • Advocate on behalf of those who don’t have a voice or are overlooked. See age discrimination going on? A culture of exclusion? Do the right thing.

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