Professionalism - Please Explain?

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Olaz
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Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by Olaz » Tue Feb 07, 2017 9:08 pm

Someone please explain what "professionalism" means? Can be in your own words, or in those of our office overlords, or a mix of both.

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BRUTE
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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by BRUTE » Tue Feb 07, 2017 9:17 pm

for brute, it means these things:
- mentally separating work from personality, i.e. not talking about politics or family topics at work and the other way around
- taking (reasonable) hurdles or difficulties at work in stride, instead of giving up
- a certain combination of professional confidence through competence, and openness to learning from mistakes without a bruised ego
- adhering to certain trivialities like work attire, hygiene, formalities, phrases, depending of course on environment

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bryan
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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by bryan » Tue Feb 07, 2017 9:27 pm

Behaviours/actions/things that conform to social norms within the context of or related to a profession. The proof and extent of one's being a professional.

Something like that. :lol:

Considering what makes someone a "professional" instead of an "amateur" (or actions/behaviours exhibited) brings up more colourful/useful imagery? Though it does go back to social judgements (one could be an expert professional in a profession but lack the common professionalism that constitutes that profession). :lol:

And now I wonder what everyone else thinks, so I checked wikipedia.. I guess there is a whole theory of being "professional" and "codes of conduct" and which came first. :lol: Seems like a signalling mechanism, primarily.

edit: reminded me of something I read.. the observation that breaking some codes actually influence others into thinking you may have a higher status/competence. "The Red Sneakers Effect" is what I re-called and just googled. I don't remember the gist of it; maybe you are such an expert/powerful you can poo-poo the rest? Still depends entirely on the dominant culture, I think. Silicon Valley has a history for preffering such folks. Weirdness seem to play well.

edit edit: and of course something else I just remembered "he who cares less, wins". I seem to have picked that quote up from Charlie Hoen back when I read Tim Ferris, Ramit Sethi.

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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by Scott 2 » Tue Feb 07, 2017 10:18 pm

The strategy is to be liked, easy to work with, and perceived as one of the team.

Most of the rules you'll see prescribed are tactics - dress, manner of speech, topic of conversation, working hours, etc. Life gets a lot easier if you recognize the driving strategy and pick tactics to suit your personality. It is totally ok to be "flawed" if you still meet the strategy.

For instance - I wear tennis shoes and athletic socks with my dress pants. I don't tuck in my polo shirt, cause I don't like to wear a belt. I constantly fail to make eye contact.

But, if there's a problem, I'm right there helping to solve it. If we hit crunch time, I will drop everything until it's done. I make a point to recognize the success of others in front of the team. I make a point to limit criticism to the smallest constructive audience, and only if I believe it will yield a result. I clearly and regularly communicate my appreciation for my job, the quality of my peers, and success of the company.

Yeah, my shoes are ugly. People get over it, because they want my help.

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Tyler9000
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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by Tyler9000 » Tue Feb 07, 2017 10:38 pm

Thinking of the negative, when I hear someone described as "unprofessional" it usually comes down to some combination of unreliability and inappropriate behavior.

Just do what you say you're going to do and own up to your own mistakes, and unreliability won't be a problem. Inappropriate behavior varies by workplace, but some of the most common missteps by young people I've seen are arrogant and selfish behavior, not understanding the difference between office and club dress code, and generally being confused about the transition from "free speech" college to communal corporate life.

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Olaz
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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by Olaz » Tue Feb 07, 2017 10:54 pm

Tyler9000 wrote: some of the most common missteps by young people I've seen are arrogant and selfish behavior...and generally being confused about the transition from "free speech" college to communal corporate life.
Tell me more about all that, especially "free speech college to ccl

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Tyler9000
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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by Tyler9000 » Tue Feb 07, 2017 11:40 pm

Arrogance and selfish behavior most commonly manifest in self promotion at the expense of others. It's not limited to young workers by any means, but I've seen it a few times with ambitious new graduates who struggle with adjusting to an entry level role.

Regarding my "free speech" comment, the most direct problem is simply thinking that the office is an appropriate place to exercise your first amendment rights and beat people down with politics or other non-work-related topics. Nobody really cares, and corporations are not democracies. It's also a cultural issue that many new graduates do not yet understand -- here's a classic example. You can get away with stuff like that in college when you're the one paying the administrators, but that dynamic changes completely when it's the other way around and you're hired to do a job.

Earlybath
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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by Earlybath » Wed Feb 08, 2017 5:26 am

A big club and you ain't in it[...], it's the same club they use to beat you.
I remember really struggling in my first and only professional job. I'd sit there looping two newly released Radiohead songs that reflected my view of what was being expected.

Fitter Happier
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HimvFbossU8

No surprises
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5CVsCnxyXg

I hadn't seen the video to No surprises, but its perfect.

Then earphones were banned for being 'unprofessional' and I got the hell out out of professionalism.

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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by Spartan_Warrior » Wed Feb 08, 2017 8:50 am

In the context you're hearing it, it almost certainly means sheepish compliance to any ridiculous demand, willingness to value corporate profits over your own time (paid or unpaid), stoic endurance to even the most physically and mentally deleterious work environments, proper adherence to patriarchal white bourgeois dress code, fascist loyalty to the overlords up to and including surveillance and snitching of your peers should they step out of line, willingness to abandon most fundamental human and constitutional rights including free speech, freedom from unreasonable searches, freedom to use the restroom at your leisure, etc, as well as a fundamental lack of morality, individuality, or creative thought, and most of all the ability to keep smiling and ask for more, please.
bryan wrote:Seems like a signalling mechanism, primarily.
Basically this. Just signal that you are a submissive smiling chimp.
Last edited by Spartan_Warrior on Wed Feb 08, 2017 8:55 am, edited 2 times in total.

halfmoon
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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by halfmoon » Wed Feb 08, 2017 8:54 am

I don't know a lot about office culture (just me in my sweats and slippers), but Brute's answer seems like great advice for fitting into all sorts of life situations.

How I practice professionalism as a self-employed accountant:

1. Always answer emails and phone messages the same day, even if only to indicate at what future point I'll have time to fulfill the related request.
2. Dress a little formally (in a boring accountant-ish way) when attending meetings or visiting a client's location.
3. Be friendly, but don't make inappropriate jokes or talk excessively about myself. My clients feel perfectly comfortable doing the latter, but it's their money.
4. Keep the client's best interest in mind at all times. Might be obvious, but when you need a fiduciary rule to force professionals to do this, maybe it's not so obvious. :?
5. Admit mistakes immediately and correct them immediately.
6. Can the ego. When you're retired, you can make everything about you. Until then...not.

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Olaz
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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by Olaz » Wed Feb 08, 2017 9:10 am

Spartan_Warrior wrote:In the context you're hearing it, it almost certainly means sheepish compliance to any ridiculous demand, willingness to value corporate profits over your own time (paid or unpaid), stoic endurance to even the most physically and mentally deleterious work environments, proper adherence to patriarchal white bourgeois dress code, fascist loyalty to the overlords up to and including surveillance and snitching of your peers should they step out of line, willingness to abandon most fundamental human and constitutional rights including free speech, freedom from unreasonable searches, freedom to use the restroom at your leisure, etc, as well as a fundamental lack of morality, individuality, or creative thought, and most of all the ability to keep smiling and ask for more, please.
OK, great, that's what I was thinking too.

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Dragline
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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by Dragline » Wed Feb 08, 2017 9:37 am

The flippant but true answer is "whatever your boss says it is or thinks it means". Different businesses have different expectations for things like dress, meeting etiquette, and how people address each other.

But the biggest struggle that many Millenials face when coming out of college without a lot of work experience and going to a corporate environment is that they treat their job like they are "going to class" and are still paying for the privilege, instead of being paid to be there and do something.

Basic faux pauxs that I see:

1. Not showing up on time.
2. Not showing up prepared to work (meaning not dressed properly, hung over, engaged in personal activities (eating, texting, etc.), not being ready to take notes and get instructions, left relevant materials somewhere else, didn't read the memo, etc.).
3. Not paying attention and being obvious about not paying attention. And turn off all reminders on your phone that can be heard.
4. Taking a "Four Hour Work Week" and/or "Office Space" attitude towards their work within a month of arriving and telling coworkers "this place sucks" all the time. [Which might be true, but its not a good idea to spread vitriol for a new employee especially.]
5. Unexcused/explained absences. No, you may not just wander off in the middle of the afternoon in search of treats or naps unless that kind of thing is allowed. And clear vacation/off time through whatever mechanism is provided for that, if any.
6. Failing to respond promptly to calls, emails and other communications from boss and other coworkers, making people waste their time by have to ping you more than once. The best email response you can give to someone who asks you for something is simply "Will do." [This is the most important tip you can learn.]
7. All of the stuff Brute mentioned about dealing with clients if you are client-facing, times 2.
8. Having and expressing lofty ideas of "changing the culture" of your workplace, which may have been there since you were 5 years old. That's not your job, unless you get on such a committee -- then it might be part of your job, but work within that system. You can make the culture around you pretty good by just being nice and respectful to people, though, even if other people are jerks.

As SW mentioned, having to deal with these things is part of why many people quit or leave corporate jobs. But it is "part of the job" and the larger the organization is, chances are the more "rules" they will have. Think of it as an incentive to keep your savings rate high.

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Tyler9000
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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by Tyler9000 » Wed Feb 08, 2017 10:31 am

Good list, Dragline.

Another way to think about it is that "professionalism" in a working relationship is the same as "respect" in a personal relationship. Re-read Dragline's entire list, but do it from the perspective of someone treating you that way on a date. How would you react?

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distracted_at_work
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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by distracted_at_work » Wed Feb 08, 2017 10:50 am

Great list Dragline, importance in order written I think. I'm surprised many of "my generation" cannot handle what seems so simple.

I'd add an addendum to #8. Changing the culture isn't a bad thing. Maybe when you arrive you find a stuffy office that could use a wine/beer night once in a while. Or maybe people will send an email instead of getting up to speak to a co-worker. As long as you lead by example and don't mouth off about changing the culture, there is nothing wrong with actually doing so.

To Brute's points. Nothing wrong with telling someone "great idea, I hadn't thought of that". You will make a lot of friends by losing any ego.

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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by James_0011 » Wed Feb 08, 2017 1:55 pm

distracted_at_work wrote:Great list Dragline, importance in order written I think. I'm surprised many of "my generation" cannot handle what seems so simple.

I'd add an addendum to #8. Changing the culture isn't a bad thing. Maybe when you arrive you find a stuffy office that could use a wine/beer night once in a while. Or maybe people will send an email instead of getting up to speak to a co-worker. As long as you lead by example and don't mouth off about changing the culture, there is nothing wrong with actually doing so.

To Brute's points. Nothing wrong with telling someone "great idea, I hadn't thought of that". You will make a lot of friends by losing any ego.
Why would you care about "changing the culture" though? If you want to drink, it would probably be a lot more fun to just go to an actual bar after work and interact with people you don't have to play politics around.

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bryan
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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by bryan » Wed Feb 08, 2017 2:57 pm

@James_0011, well, why wouldn't you care about changing the culture? Seeking change is an attempt to "make this world a better place," (the world that matters is the one in my head, after all?) I imagine. Granted, it might be easiest to migrate to a culture (company, (nation) state) that is more in-phase w/ your own thoughts on the matter ("if you don't like it, leave it").

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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by James_0011 » Wed Feb 08, 2017 3:07 pm

bryan wrote:@James_0011, well, why wouldn't you care about changing the culture? Seeking change is an attempt to "make this world a better place," (the world that matters is the one in my head, after all?) I imagine. Granted, it might be easiest to migrate to a culture (company, (nation) state) that is more in-phase w/ your own thoughts on the matter ("if you don't like it, leave it").
I think along the lines of your last statement ("if you don't like it, leave it"), also its much easier for most people to leave a job than a country so I don't really think its a fair comparison.

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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by Did » Wed Feb 08, 2017 5:43 pm

@Spartan Warrior Sir, you are on the money. That horror, for me, is ERE motivation. (or now, is motivation not to return to corporate life). Brain washing.

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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by distracted_at_work » Wed Feb 08, 2017 6:03 pm

@James_0011 I don't want to derail the professionalism topic but to your question. If I'm going to spend a number of years, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week in an office, I want to spend it somewhere I enjoy. For me, that meant organizing after work events to get to know people better in a different environment.

That's probably the least important aspect of "Professionalism" though. Don't be late, work hard, ask questions, be honest.

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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by classical_Liberal » Wed Feb 08, 2017 6:38 pm

Scott 2 wrote:Most of the rules you'll see prescribed are tactics - dress, manner of speech, topic of conversation, working hours, etc. Life gets a lot easier if you recognize the driving strategy and pick tactics to suit your personality. It is totally ok to be "flawed" if you still meet the strategy...
This comment appears to be in line with my ideas of professionalism. I view professionalism and job competence as two separate but intertwined issues. By definition, a "FNG" is not competent at his job, but can be professional. Each of these is a performance measure. If one wishes to excel, maximization of both would be prefered. However, if one does not necessarily seek advancement within corporate life, then one can compensate for lack of one with the other to reach equilibrium.

Proper dress, deference to authority, positive attitude, showing up on time, socializing, etc are all acts of professionalism. While competence is simply how well you do your job. I often joke that my continued drive to become extremely good at my job is mainly motivated by the fact that I can be less professional as I improve. Think of it as a likert scale:

[1(very unprofessional)-----2(unprofessional)----- 3(neutral)-----4(professional)-----5(very professional)]

Add a similar Likert for competence. To remain "neutral" in the eyes of your employer you must maintain a total of a 6-7, to exceed expectations and stand out you must reach a 8+. Anything less than six puts your job in jeopardy. When starting a new position you are likely only a 1 or 2 in competence, so It is necessary to maintain a 4 or 5 in professional conduct. As you become more competent you can maintain professionalism and trade the capital for advancement or you can choose to spend your competence capital on lowering your professionalism. I have begun to choose the later as it makes life more interesting.

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C40
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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by C40 » Wed Feb 08, 2017 8:13 pm

I'd say the main thing you need to remember is that when you're at work**, you are a worker bee. Your individuality is tied more to your style of work, how you're contributing, etc. At work, you're no longer "Olaz the cool, poly, ERE, hipster, whatever, etc. etc."... you are "Olaz, the junior account manager that has good ideas in meetings, inspires and motivates others, and doesn't ever lose his cool". Something like that. For everything happening at work, you have to view and respond to them through the lens of "Olaz, employee of XYZ". You will establish a sort of 'work Personality'. You have to develop your own working/leadership style. Having a specific style helps you to stand out, helps people remember you, etc.

*and even when you're outside of work in certain situations, including how you talk to (certain) people about work

The components of your work personality are truly you, but it pretty much only contains components of your personality that are related to work. This doesn't mean you become a generic person. Your work individuality/personality can also include "the guy who bicycles a lot" or those kind of things, but they need to be ad-ons at the end. In most work environments, it should not include any political, religious, or sexual components. DO NOT BE "Olaz the slut" or "Olaz the liberal" or "Olaz the partier".

This 'work personality' would also include your career aspirations. And your behaviors should fit them. If the career aspirations part of your work personality is "wants to get promoted a bunch of times", then you don't wear sneakers with your dress pants. Ever.

It's important that you observe the atmosphere at work. They are very different at different places. Err on the side of socially prudish/conservative early on, and you can open up more down the road if it is obviously appropriate.

For some good examples of thinking through the lens of "Olaz, employee of..." read the book "Question Before the Quesion". It's one of those short little 50-80 page books that you can read in a couple hours. Stoicism will help also.

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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by plantingourpennies » Thu Feb 09, 2017 7:22 am

C40 wrote:I'd say the main thing you need to remember is that when you're at work**, you are a worker bee...For everything happening at work, you have to view and respond to them through the lens of "Olaz, employee of XYZ". You will establish a sort of 'work Personality'. You have to develop your own working/leadership style. Having a specific style helps you to stand out, helps people remember you, etc.

*and even when you're outside of work in certain situations, including how you talk to (certain) people about work
Agree with the above-I wish somebody had given me these instructions 7 years ago!

You don't have to give up who you are outside of work, you just have to develop another persona/personality for the office.

This is worth doing-cushy office work is how my wife and I have built our wealth, and pretty soon I'll shed this office persona and never look back...

Image

Scott 2
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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by Scott 2 » Thu Feb 09, 2017 7:44 am

No wonder everyone wants to leave work!

These rules vary wildly by industry, business, and role. Often they only apply when customer facing.

It's possible to find an environment that suits your personality.

In my experience, on small teams, with an IT focus, the rules are much much less rigid than described here.

I've also observed that as you go higher in an organization, many of the conduct rules go out the window.

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cmonkey
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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by cmonkey » Thu Feb 09, 2017 10:13 am

In addition to the above, I'd also add that 'professionalism' can be different within just a single organization. Many large companies have multiple offices/buildings. One office might be suit & tie, the next level would be 'church clothes', and finally another might be jeans and polo shirts. That's how my org is. I purposely targeted the jeans and polo office because that's what kind of person I am and I'm much happier for the decision to find a position where I'm at. Work culture tends to correlate with dress code, at least as far as my work experience goes so things are pretty relaxed here.

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Fish
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Re: Professionalism - Please Explain?

Post by Fish » Thu Feb 09, 2017 11:30 am

Professionalism is form and competence is function.

The relative importance for a particular job depends on how much overall performance is influenced by each factor. For example, professionalism is essential for sales and customer-facing positions while competence is more highly valued in technical fields where it has a bigger impact on outcomes. This is why the cable guy and plumber get away with showing up 2 hours late and smelling like last week, as long as problems are resolved with a single service call.

Where outcomes are less differentiated based on competence, form dominates; this explains the obsession of managers and executives with professionalism. In most environments, if in doubt about how to dress or behave, just look up the chain of command. An implicit role of a superior is to model expected behavior.

Having at least one or the other is essential if stable employment is a goal. Both might be necessary depending on the field (amount of competition). If you're really lucky (high demand growth field, low labor supply) you might even get away with having neither... for a while anyway, until the market catches up to you.

Professionalism benefits from good discipline while competence is more like a developed skill. If you're going to emphasize function over form, make sure 1) your competence is enhanced by experience (i.e. you won't be supplanted in 5 years' time by a recent college grad at 50% of your salary), and 2) there is long-term demand for your competence. The time to choose a technical career is when entering college, not when leaving it.

Conversely, if you are going to pursue a career where form dominates, understand that good discipline is essential to maintain "professionalism", and be prepared that competence might not be rewarded or even acknowledged as it is in the other path.

This post is light on the specifics, which @brute summarized quite well for office environments. I mainly wanted to improve on the framework @classical_Liberal started. Before you rationals completely dismiss the importance of professionalism, realize that your employer thinks of you like a commodity. They just want someone to plug into the profit machine. If you want the easy path to career success, first solve that problem for them. You're not a snowflake. People are differentiated by their job titles, not personality, and most employers would prefer an average somebody who fits right in over a more talented weirdo who skews the carefully cultivated office culture in undesired directions. It's like buying apples at the supermarket. The blemished, misshapen, and discolored ones never get a chance.

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