Test Your Professionalism

"During lunch, a valuable customer makes an offensive racist remark." As a professional, how would you handle this situation? What does professionalism mean to you?

The American Heritage Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionary define a professional as a person having a high degree of knowledge, skill, judgment and continuing practice in a particular activity. Merriam-Webster College Dictionary indicates professionals exhibit courtesy, conscientiousness and businesslike work manners.

Typically, professionals provide a service in exchange for payment or salary in accordance with established protocols for licensing, ethics, procedures, standards of service and training. Professionals generally belong to a professional society that exists to further their profession or trade as well as to protect the interests of the public and their members.

Test your professionalism
Respond Professional or Unprofessional

1. I usually ignore irritating behavior when interacting with someone.
2. I'm content with my performance.
3. I always tell the truth.
4. When a deadline looms, I try to improve the product.
5. I often download files from the Internet or newspapers for use in my work.
6. I usually compare myself to others.
7. Appropriate job skills are more important than good work habits.
8. I often engage superiors in conversations regarding how some matters should be handled.
9. If I know a lot about a topic, I listen to others then explain my viewpoint.
10. I would report unethical or unsafe practices to the CEO.
11. It's OK to be late for meetings occasionally.
12. I won't work with a co-worker until we settle disagreements.
13. I tell others what I like and don't like about their performance at staff meetings.
14. I judge clients quickly.
15. I attend meetings sponsored by my professional association.

1. Professional. Don't take the behavior personally. Ignore irritating but unharmful behavior to avoid unpleasant consequences. Walk away or quietly smile.

2. Unprofessional. Professionals strive for excellence. They don't fear trying new and better ways of performing tasks or maximizing services. They take pride in all their work, not just jobs for which they'll receive high remuneration.

3. Professional and Unprofessional. This may depend upon the circumstances. It may be appropriate to stretch the truth if it will hurt someone. However, it's not professional to conceal the truth to destroy a relationship or someone's reputation.

4. Unprofessional. Be optimal but practical. Know that projects must be completed on time. Perfectionism becomes impractical when it takes excessive time and additional resources. A perfect product is of no value if it's not shipped to the consumer on time.

5. Unprofessional. It's unethical and illegal to use creative materials without first obtaining permission from the creator. The content of most newspaper articles is protected by copyright. Contact the authors for permission to reprint or post their work. Federal laws protect the intellectual property of creators. Those not in compliance may be penalized.

6. Unprofessional. Don't compare yourself to others. Avoid statements such as, "I can do ______ better than anybody else." Instead, say something positive about a competitor's work.

7. Unprofessional. Studies suggest that about 85 percent of dismissed employees lose jobs because they lack appropriate work habits. Behaviors which most often lead to job loss are tardiness, absenteeism, inability to follow instructions, quality of work, consistency of performance, lack of cooperation and personal appearance.

8. Unprofessional. Be respectful of power, roles, privileges and responsibilities of different hierarchical levels. It's acceptable for a senior manager to be informal with employees, occasionally asking about their interests and listening to concerns. But it's not appropriate for subordinates to give unsolicited advice to superiors.

9. Professional. A highly-trained team member acts professionally when he listens to colleague's ideas and explains his view. However, a person who is knowledgeable about the topic and frequently monopolizes the discussion, is acting unprofessionally.

10. Unprofessional. Be sensitive to the needs and feelings of others. If you observe someone engaging in unethical behavior, speak privately with the individual and give him time to correct his behaviors before taking details to the supervisor.

11. Professional. North Americans are conscious of time. Meetings are expected to begin and end on time. Set realistic deadlines, and be conscious of others' time constraints. If you arrange to meet a colleague at 9 AM, plan for traffic delays and call when you know you'll be more than five minutes late.

12. Unprofessional. Separate the controversy from the person. Openly discuss differences. If these can't be resolved, agree to disagree. Keep your opinion, and let the other person keep his. Focus on the common goal.

13. Unprofessional. When someone is not up to quality standards, discuss these with the individual privately. Offer constructive feedback.

14. Unprofessional. Don't judge too quickly. Consider all relevant information to avoid misunderstandings. This is particularly important when communicating with international clients on the Internet.

15. Professional. Professionals belong to their professional associations, keep informed of industry and professional developments, get involved in committees, and follow professional ethical guidelines as well as those of their company and industry.

Professionalism is for everyone. Professionalism is the underlying foundation supporting all productive organizations. Professionalism increases productivity and quality, reinforces trust, improves teamwork and inspires excellence.

If you're a leader, model professionalism, and nurture an environment where individuals take pride in themselves and their work. If you’re an employee, adopt a professional approach. You'll strengthen confidence and competence. Everybody will want you on their teams

Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life, by Dr. Carole Kanchier, offers additional tips for strengthening professionalism: