In many ways, the business world has become more casual over the years. Professional behavior and practices, from business attire and language to interpersonal interactions and methods of communication, have evolved with each generation. Though many positive results have come from a constantly changing business climate, sometimes professionalism in the workplace can get lost in the shuffle.
Every company culture is a little bit different: at a start-up tech company, you may be able to wear jeans to work and bring your dog on occasion, but at an investment banking firm, you wouldn’t dream of not showing up in a business suit. No matter where you work, however, it is important to maintain your own professional presence and set the standards for your employees.
Fostering Professionalism in the Workplace
Style and Appearance
Different views on what is appropriate in terms of dress, hygiene and appearance can often cause strife in the workplace. To avoid any confusion or awkward conversations with your employees, be sure that the standards for your organization are clearly stated in the employee handbook.
What level of professional presence do you expect employees to uphold? Give examples and define any terms that might be too vague. For instance, if the dress code is “business casual,” give an example of what would be appropriate (nice slacks and a collared shirt for men, slacks or a skirt and a blouse for women). What is your policy on tattoos, body piercings and other personal style choices, such as hair color? If you are concerned about a potential problem in the future, put the guidelines in writing so there is no confusion.
Relationships and Social Media
It is easier than ever to access information about colleagues and clients — through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and other forms of social media. All these forms of communication can help build relationships and strengthen your organization’s online presence, but they can also be harmful or embarrassing when misused. If you do not already have a social media policy, it might be time to consider putting together basic guidelines and rules of conduct for your employees. You should emphasize the importance of professionalism when it comes to online postings and interactions, even on personal or “private” pages.
Business Etiquette and Communication
Good listening and communication skills are essential in every field. Pay attention to your own language, habits and behaviors when you interact with colleagues, employees and clients, and set the right example for how you should represent your organization. Avoid using slang or overly casual language. Be polite, respectful and attentive when communicating with others, and make it clear that you expect the same conduct from your employees. Don’t tolerate rudeness, hostility or other communication roadblocks. Mentor and coach employees on improving their professional presence in different business situations, such as meetings or client calls.
What are some obstacles you have encountered with professionalism in the work place?
Learn more about EDSI’s Professional Presence in a Casual World course.