Professional Skills Essential For Workplace Success

Professionalism universalizes the language, ethics and behavior that working people share. While each workplace culture adapts the concept to meet the needs of its employees and the populations it serves, certain components are core. It’s important to develop a personal code of professionalism that espouses these key elements.

This helps you to check your own conduct and to evaluate what you see around you. Assessing others’ professionalism is important, especially if you are on the interview circuit. It provides vital clues about potential colleagues you meet and the workplace culture they represent.   

So what constitutes a good baseline of professionalism? How do you get it, and how do you exhibit it?

Word Choice Matters

Using flip or crude language with colleagues, customers or patients can make you look immature and unprofessional. Sometimes we make assumptions such as, “people will think I am leveling with them or being upfront or honest with them if I use the kind of language that I would use with my inner circle.”  

Over time you may develop a close relationship with your contemporaries. Perhaps as you spend more time with them you will learn that you can be more relaxed in your word choice. But that has to be developed, never assumed. If you should forge a relationship that fosters less-than-professional language, proceed with caution, especially with clients, customers or patients. Also, refrain from using inappropriate language in written correspondence. Keep in mind that in many fields this will never be appropriate.

Inclusivity is also important when it comes to word choice. Many businesses have taken  leadership roles in their inclusivity practices because they do not want to alienate their clients, customers or patients.

A good rule of thumb for inclusivity is to imagine people sitting in the audience for whom you are writing or speaking. Picture them. Some are men. Some are women. Some are young professionals. Some are seasoned. Some are able-bodied. Some are not. Some have wealth. Some do not. And so on and so forth. Imagine individual people and craft a message that makes those people feel like you are talking to them. Because you are. Good writing and speaking involves anticipating your audience’s needs, and professional-quality communication needs to be inclusive.   

Be Dependable

Even if a professional culture is laid back in other ways, submitting quality work on time is always key. In the same way, promptly responding to messages is always important. In order to be professional, you have to be reliable.

In my experience, the same goes for being on time for work and for meetings. Some workplaces have more lax mores. But many professionals agree that sitting in a meeting room and waiting for others to materialize is frustrating. While sometimes this is unavoidable if another meeting runs long, always be sensitive to those who may be waiting on you. Interfering with others’ productivity is unprofessional.    

Don’t Choose Drama   

Workplace drama is a waste of time. I’ve often thought this may be why some people pursue it. Life is easier without drama, so go down that road. When someone tries to ensnare you in his or her drama, ask yourself–do I really need to attach myself to this? Try to remove emotion from the situation and look at it as a logical puzzle and aim to find the simplest, most straightforward solution. Anger is problematic. Don’t trust it to inform your decisions about something as important as work.

Keep in mind that your boss doesn’t want to deal with drama. He or she doesn’t want to take sides or sit through some long story about what happened and who said what. He or she just wants to be done with this. Your boss will be impressed with the person who shows maturity and simplifies this situation. Show your skills as a professional and a problem solver.

The key to professionalism is to remember that you are at work where part of your job is to be your most polished and presentable self. Continue to demand that of yourself, and you will continue to grow as a professional.