Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Professionalism: Is it dead?

I joined a sorority in college because of the caliber of professionalism displayed by the women that made up its membership. Professionalism resonated thought out my intake process and even more so after I became a member. It was something that the women in my organization strived for. Post-college, after being active in the workforce for the past six years, I have noticed two things in regards to professionalism:
  1. Many experiences at work can be perceived as un- professional, to say the least
  2. I have engaged in activities that others may perceive as un-professional myself
Why is this?
Well it is because (and no matter what your industry, I think you will agree) the workforce overall has become more casual. We have all noticed the changes: slipshod dress codes, typos on emails, even office romances. Which begs the question: Is professionalism dead, or is it merely changing?

Professionalism can be defined as:
"the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person"
Professional is then defined as:
"of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession"
Profession, subsequently, is:
"a principal calling, vocation, or employment"
So according to Merriam-Webster , professionalism is basically just having a job. From experience, I can testify that this is not the case. More than merely showing up to work, professionalism compromises a set of socially acceptable behavior in the workforce: hard work, honesty, social responsibility and integrity just to name a few.

Yet in a workforce that is changing as we speak, the spectrum of what is acceptable behavior is bound to change as well. Most organizations are making a shift to business casual, with an emphasis on the “casual”. I for one think this is great. But should the underlying constituents of professionalism have to suffer in exchange?

Diane Harris, Work Manager of Qualitative Research at Procter & Gamble, puts it best in a PowerPoint for slideshare.net.  She encourages people to be PROS:

Put others first
Relationships are key to success
On your honor, on time, on budget
Show respect for yourself, it instantly shows respect for others

This definition, in my opinion, is ideal. We may not always be “professionals” but we should always be “PROS”.

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