Dos and Don’ts: Professionalism

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Dos and Don’ts: Professionalism

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According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, professionalism constitutes as the conduct, basis, or traits that define or characterize a profession or a professional. Professionalism is an often underestimated, misunderstood trait.

Many employees (in some cases, employers) assume certain behaviors they exhibit in their work go unnoticed. However, professionalism, whether highly or poorly practiced, impacts co-workers, superiors, and subordinates more than may one care to admit.

In 2012, the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania conducted a study, in which they explored professionalism in the workplace. Results of the study showed that 92.9% of managers affirmed an employee’s professionalism in the workplace impacts his or her promotion opportunities. As well as 96% of HR respondents reported that an individual’s professionalism affects the prospect of being hired.

Whether you landed the job or not, a consistency of professional behavior is required in the workplace. Professionalism consists of many features, each requiring attention and practice. Below you will find a few, popular areas of professionalism that could always use a tune-up.  


Do: Wear clothing specific to your company’s dress code or the office norm.

Don’t: Wear revealing, foul smelling, too formal, or too casual clothing.

Here are a few standards and tips to consider when dressing for a job or a job interview:

  • Dress for the position you want
  • For Women:
    • Skirts and dresses should stop just above, if not below the knee.
    • Shirts and blouses should cover your chest
  • For Men:
  • Suits and button down shirts should be ironed
  • Pants should be worn with a belt
  • Shoes should be closed-toe
  • Jewelry should be moderate and non-distracting.

If you are absolutely unsure of what the company’s dress codes consists of, talk to your boss or coworkers.


Do: Own up to your mistakes and work diligently to resolve any conflicts.

Don’t: Blame others for mistakes or expect anyone to clean up your mess.

At the office, you are responsible (and will be held responsible) for your own work. If it is your job to assess certain aspects of your clientele, don’t rely on what your coworkers tell you. Double check all of your work yourself.

Time Matters

Do: Arrive 10-15 minutes before a meeting or when you must clock-in.

Don’t: Come to work late.

When you arrive to work or meetings late, coworkers and managers may believe you don’t care about your job. Prioritize your time in the mornings and on your breaks. If you know traffic is usually jammed when you are on your way to work, try leaving a few minutes earlier (just in case).


Do: Be a reliable source for your coworkers.

Don’t: Rely on anyone else to do your job.

In most office environments, teamwork makes the dreamwork. Consider being a reliable resource for your coworkers, but do not take advantage of your coworkers nor allow any coworkers to take advantage of you.

Preserve Your Composure

Do: Respect all clientele, coworkers, and managers.

Don’t: Disrespect anyone in your workplace, even if he or she is treating you impolitely.

Dealing with conflict in the workplace can be uncomfortable and difficult. Never stoop down to the same level of a disrespectful individual, and never allow yourself to be a disrespectful individual. In cases of conflict, contact a manager or human resources manager.

Keep it Clean

Do: Maintain your workspace.

Don’t: Leave food, trash, or unfiled papers on your desk for long periods of time.

Being professional means minding the presentation of yourself and your desk. Not only is keeping your desk clean important for maintaining a professional rapport, staying organized can also be less distracting.

While not every facet of professionalism is outlined above, the six areas listed are a great place to start increasing your professionalism. Remember, professionalism can be the defining factor of being promoted or getting a job.


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