Merriam-Webster defines professionalism as ‘the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well’. It goes on with a further definition of ‘the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person’.
I guess that my own confusion in terms of being seen as a professional is that unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?), such expectations as defined in this context are not actually down to the person who wishes to be seen as professional.
I have been called unprofessional a few times in the past. Usually when I have disagreed with someone about something. Strange, that.
A comment once made to me did actually cause me to reflect slightly on *how* I disagree with people:
‘You always argue your point strongly, even when you’re wrong.’
Did the person who said this to me have a point? Possibly. I was raised to speak my mind, and engage in debate. While I acknowledge that I can be *very* stubborn, I can be argued around to a different way of thinking – because when all is said and done, I wouldn’t be arguing any point if I thought it was actually wrong. I have no patience to play devils advocate. That said, some people see any kind of headlong disagreement as an intimidating confrontation. I honestly still have no idea how to deal with that. Should I sugar coat my thoughts? Tip toe around an issue? I don’t know.
This does bring me to the point of this post, though. Which is more professional – giving (and occasionally arguing) an opinion in a professional capacity, or keeping your mouth shut for the sake of not disagreeing with someone higher up the food chain?
I guess the answer to that depends on who’s answering the question. I know where I stand on it.
So, for me, I guess showing professionalism comes down to the following:
- Don’t be afraid to speak up. *
- Share your knowledge.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
- Always do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it.
- Don’t play the blame game.
- Get on with the job.
I freely acknowledge here that my list may seem incomplete to some. I’ll quite happily argue/debate the points and amend said list if I can be talked around. I’m not right about everything. On the flip side – I don’t think I’m often wrong, either.
* Though try and be tactful about it. My brain to mouth filter is malfunctional. Announcing to an entire room that something is stupid does not win you friends. Trust me on this.