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Why Professionalism Matters So Much

The golden rule never goes out of style

Liz Lemon professional gif

Professionalism means this: treating your coworkers, boss, and workplace with respect. Remember the golden rule—treat others how you’d like to be treated—and all of the other manners your mom taught you when you were younger? Well, professional courtesy is what happens when you combine all of those niceties into workplace etiquette. You have the opportunity to positively influence your company’s culture every day you come into work—take that responsibility seriously.

Why is professionalism so important?

When you’re working 40 (or more) hours a week, it’s important to foster and maintain respectful relationships with those around you. A respectful workplace can promote productivity, efficiency, and higher employee retention rates. After all, respectful coworkers is one of the top four factors women want in the workplace. If you’re part of an unprofessional, hostile, or toxic work environment, you might feel devalued, unmotivated, and less likely to perform at your best. 

We must also note that the rules of professionalism can vary slightly depending on your field. The standard practices in a law firm and those in a digital media firm will be very different (how you dress, for example). While there are different rules and norms in each company and office, there is still overarching etiquette that should be practiced no matter what field you work in. 

Read more: How to Get a Better Job Sooner Than Later

How can you practice professionalism in the workplace?

  • Show up to work and meetings on time. We’ve all had days where we’ve had to deal with unexpected car trouble in the morning or a call that runs longer than expected right before a team meeting—and that’s okay. Just don’t make a habit of always running late and having a backpocket excuse. Showing up on time shows your coworkers that you value their time as much as your own. And if you know you’re going to be late, send a quick text or email to give your coworkers a heads up.

  • Encourage each and every employee to voice their opinion and listen when they do. Not every coworker may be super extroverted or comfortable speaking up, so it’s important to foster an inclusive and open-minded work environment. Don’t talk over others, and encourage praise and recognition for every opinion. 

  • Give credit where credit is due. If your coworker is consistently cranking out awesome work and propelling the team forward—applaud them for it. Building a culture of appreciation is extremely important for worker retention and satisfaction.

  • Meet deadlines. Turning in assignments on time shows that you value others’ time and take your job seriously. 

  • Be aware of your verbal and non-verbal communication. Don’t gossip in the workplace or draw your colleagues into drama. Choose your words wisely and think before you speak—what you might view as a harmless joke might be felt as a microaggression by others. Don’t belittle anyone’s ideas and be aware of your tone when speaking. When interacting with coworkers, show them you’re engaged with non-verbal cues like maintaining eye contact and nodding.

  • Keep noise to a minimum. You don’t have to tiptoe around your coworkers in order to be respectful, this just means always be aware of your surroundings. For example, if you’re about to make a call that you know will take awhile, move to a call room or reserved area instead of shouting into the phone at your team’s table. 

  • Clean up after yourself. After you eat lunch in the breakroom, put your dishes away and throw away any trash. When you leave your desk each day, make sure it isn’t cluttered with old take out boxes. Visibly reducing your own clutter is a small but mighty way of showing professionalism and respect in the workplace. 

Read more: Top Organizational Skills You Need to Succeed in the Workplace

How remote employees can practice professionalism 

Remote employees should still meet deadlines, applaud good work, choose their words wisely, etc., but here are some extra ways you can practice professionalism when you don’t work in an office every day.

  • “Show up” to work on time. If you use Slack, GChat, or a similar application to communicate with your coworkers, stay active and engaged when you’re online. Just because you’re not physically in the office doesn’t mean you can slack off.

  • Build relationships with your coworkers. It’s arguably more important for you to build bonds with your coworkers if you’re not in the office. Bring up little details you remember from previous conversations and ask them about their lives to show that you’re attentive. A simple, How was your weekend? will show that you care. 

  • Have regular check-in calls or Skype meetings with your team. It shows great professional courtesy to fill your coworkers in on what you’ve been working on and hear what projects they’re working on as well. Offer your assistance when you can. 

Read more: How to Work From Home (from Someone Who Does) 

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By Cara Hutto

Contributor

Born and raised a Tar Heel, Cara Hutto is a content writer and freelancer who specializes in women's issues, food, and travel.

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