Professionalism For Dummies

Originally published October 10, 2017 by The Montrose Daily Press

They just don’t make ’em like they used to — dishwashers, cars, employees.

Many managers face trials with professionalism and personal conduct within their workforce. When CEOs in Silicon Valley are wearing hoodies and jeans for interviews on national television and using the “F” word as regular vocabulary, articulating an alternative standard in a “normal” workplace is a challenge.

If we all owned companies worth billions of dollars like Facebook and Uber, we would probably wear hoodies to work every day too. In reality, many of us own businesses slightly smaller than Facebook, work for them, or work for government or health care organizations. We live in a different society with a different set of “rules.”

Although it is often expected these rules go without saying, sometimes defining them removes later frustration and misunderstanding.

As a quick check, here are five things professionals do to set themselves apart:

1. They dress the part.

Professionals understand the importance of a first impression and they also understand people have a certain expectation of a business or profession.

A lot of ground can be covered between two people when a first impression is nailed.

When you call 911 because someone is breaking into your home, you do not expect a police officer to arrive in a beat up car and sweat pants. In fact, you wouldn’t even believe he was a police officer.

What about your banker, your dentist, your attorney? Regardless of a person’s role in the workplace, it is important their appearance reflect the organization, its values, and the type of service it provides.

2. They hold themselves to a higher standard at work and outside of work.

Professionals are concerned with “reputational capital.” They conduct themselves inside and outside of work in a manner that leaves little question about integrity.

Professionals do not engage in office gossip or backstabbing. They aren’t out closing down the bars or getting DUIs on the weekend.

People notice inconsistencies in behavior and if things don’t match up in one area or another, trust may dissipate. Over time this behavior can cost someone a promotion, a new client, or their job.

3. They are measured in their communication.

Professionals take care in the way they communicate at work. Emails are thoroughly proofread before being sent. Workplace documents, contracts, invoices, etc. look and sound professional.

When professionals speak in front of a group of people, they are prepared and present information in a way that is becoming to the organization and their own position.

4. They speak highly of their organization and the people in it.

Simply put, professionals have pride in what they do. Even when they may be situationally unhappy with something at work, professionals do not trash the organization. Doing so provides an instant loss of credibility, not for the organization, but you guessed it — the employee.

5. They are reliable.

Professionals do what they say they are going to do. Professionals meet the basic needs of employment: They come to work on time, they perform good work when they get there, and they understand their employment is a privilege, not a right.

Few things are more awkward as a manager or an employee than having a discussion about appearance, personal conduct, or lack of professionalism.

Each organization dictates where its culture lies on the spectrum and should clearly communicate that to its staff long before the awkward conversation is necessary.

On the other side of the coin, we all have a personal reputation to uphold.

If career advancement or business growth are important to you, conduct yourself in such a way. You never know when you’ll meet your next client, boss, or coworker.

“Three things you cannot recover in life: The word after it’s said, the moment after it’s missed, and the time after it’s gone.” — Unknown

Chelsea Rosty is the executive director of the Montrose Chamber of Commerce and director of Business Innovation, City of Montrose. Reach her at