You may feel it when you’re in meetings and find that your colleagues freely talk over and interrupt each other. Perhaps a recent project was slowed down or stalled entirely as a result of poor communication among team members. If you have found that the overall level of professionalism in the workplace is decreasing, then you aren’t alone. A 2012 poll on Professionalism in the Workplace by The Center for Excellence at York College in Pennsylvania agrees with you. This study, which was conducted by surveying 720 general managers and human resources managers, showed that 33% of human resources representatives and 21% of managers feel that the overall level of professionalism has dropped.
Recognizing Important Behaviors
The importance of particular behaviors, personal presentation, and business presence seems to have gotten dropped by the wayside in recent years. When responding to why there is a decrease in professionalism, human resources respondents most often point to a change in cultural values (22.6%). Mentioned next frequently was new hires lacking experience or training (15.1%). The most commonly given reasons cited by managers for a decrease in professionalism are less formality in the workplace (15.6%) and a change in the work ethic (12.5%).
There are many reasons for the decrease in professionalism, including generational issues, low morale caused by layoffs, organizational changes and heavier workloads, and an increasingly lax work atmosphere. Still, employees who are focused, determined, and motivated to succeed are those who behave in a manner that commands respect in the workforce. And, these individuals often get the plum promotions, lead dynamic projects and help define strategy and corporate vision. They also help push organizations forward in a competitive business climate.
It seems that no industry is immune from decreased levels of professionalism. According to Pat Travis, Director, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, “In so many ways, the needs of employees and managers in health care are the same as other industries. Like many organizations, one of our top priorities right now is addressing change. Our employees must have a handle on key leadership skills in order to address the adjustments and improvements that they are being asked to make. We are doing more for our customers, improving our communication and conflict management skills, and stepping up the overall level of professionalism and accountability at the UT Southwestern Medical Center.”
The status of the healthcare industry has made headlines recently with low morale and worker exodus issues, but Ms. Travis could be speaking about the energy or legal fields, or any number of industries. Her sentiments also apply to a variety of positions on the ladder, within each industry. There is simply a slump in conflict management, communication skills, and overall professionalism. At the same time, many workers seem to be at a loss as to what more they can do to boost their performance, when they may already be working longer hours than ever before.
Fostering an environment of continual improvement versus utilizing a one-time employee development program lets employers and employees build on core learned behaviors, ensuring solid ROI for the employer and a steady trajectory in skills and competence for the employee.
According to Lauren Smith, Organizational Development Consultant at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, “Employees can still make effective choices, even in poor environments. If they no longer can do that, then it’s time to move them into a new environment. We have found that integrating programs focusing on an expectation of continual improvement in effectiveness and professionalism brings accountability into the story, because employees begin to feel empowered, and that’s better for everyone.”
Employee development programs that focus on positive accountability can result in the kind of cultural shift that relieves stress and presses the reset button on departments and entire organizations. Employees become aware of their own behavioral style, gain an understanding of their own motivations as well as the motivations of their colleagues, and how to utilize that knowledge, learn the skills needed to handle workplace changes in a constructive way, and enjoy the rewards of effecting positive change in their surroundings.
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