What is Workplace Professionalism, Really?

What is Workplace Professionalism, Really?

During August, my podcasts and blogs are addressing aspects of workplace professionalism.

I have covered professionalism in verbal and written communication, dress and grooming, and how you behave in the workplace. I’ve also covered what employers are looking for when they hire employees.

I want to break this concept of professionalism down to its most basic elements:

  • How you speak and write

  • How you dress

How you interact with others

  • How you perform your job

Each of these is equally important in that the absence of one of these qualities will hinder your professional reputation.

If you look great, your co-workers love you, and you are great at your job, BUT you cannot write an effective email or present to a group…_you aren’t a professional. _

If you have great oral and written communication skills, your co-workers love you, and are great at your job, BUT you show up in clothes that Goodwill wouldn’t accept…_you aren’t a professional. _

If you have great oral and written communication skills, dress perfectly, and are great at your job, but consistently rub your co-workers the wrong way…_you aren’t a professional. _

If you have great oral and written communication skills, dress perfectly, your co-workers love you, but consistently miss important deadlines or show up at work when you (finally) get there…_you aren’t a professional. _

I’ve kept this pretty simple, and there are admittedly lots of shades to this notion of professionalism.

The point I’m trying to make here is this: professionalism is multi-faceted, and the absence of one aspect of professionalism will hold you back.

You might get a few promotions, but to really excel you’ll need all four components.

Here are a few suggestions for areas you might be weak in:



If you’re concerned about your verbal and written communication skills:

-Ask your boss about taking some professional development classes

-Ask for help from a friend or colleague who is strong in these areas

-Write, write, write…then edit your writing or ask a friend to edit

-Practice speaking into a microphone and listen to how you sound/what you say

-Join Toastmasters for practice giving presentations



If your concern is your appearance:

-Consume everything you can online and in books about professional dress

-Get a makeover

-Hire a stylist, or take advantage of the in-house stylists many clothing stores offer

-Ask someone with impeccable taste to help you cull your wardrobe and start building a professional one



If your biggest concern is your interpersonal skills:

-Start with seeking honest feedback from co-workers so you know what you most need to work on

-Evaluate your interpersonal skills yourself – not from a place of beating yourself up, but from a place of compassionate curiosity

-Ask your boss about taking courses that will address the specific areas you are weakest in



Finally, if your job performance is the weak link in your professionalism, it is important you identify what specifically you are lacking in. Here are some possibilities:

-Time management

-Organizational skills

-Listening skills

-Job-specific skills (i.e. improving your sales skills if that is the field you are in)


-Assertiveness (to ask for what you need from your boss or co-workers in order to be effective at your job)

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