What Is Professionalism? Traits and Tips

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 30 September 2022 | Published 22 July 2021

Updated 30 September 2022

Published 22 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Developing and sustaining professional behaviours is critical to any job success. Employers expect their employees to be professional while engaging with others and representing the organisation. Personal professionalism is generally rewarded with enhanced opportunities and better advancement paths, such as job promotion and increased pay. In this article, we outline what is professionalism and how you can behave in the most professional manner throughout your career journey.

What is professionalism?

Professionalism is a collection of traits that demonstrate your capacity to be a diligent, reliable and courteous individual in a professional context. The way you present yourself, interact with people and approach jobs plays a major role in determining your level of professionalism. This involves getting properly dressed, treating others with respect and having a good attitude. In the workplace, professionalism is apparent through how well employees adhere to company policies.

While the definition of professionalism varies depending on the job and industry, nearly all workplaces share a few key qualities. Professionalism encompasses qualities such as dedication, honesty and accountability, all of which contribute to a person's success in their industry. You can leverage professionalism to create a good reputation for yourself and get offered advancement opportunities by taking control of your responsibilities.

Why is professionalism important?

Although it's often overlooked, professionalism is significant for the long-term success and continuity of a business. Listed below are some of the reasons detailing the importance of professionalism:

  • Establish appropriate boundaries

  • Encourage personal development

  • Promote accountability and ownership

  • Minimise conflict

  • Foster a respectful culture

What are the characteristics of professionalism?

These are some characteristics associated with professionalism. The following list also provides recommendations for how you can demonstrate and enhance these traits:

Reliability

Being dependable in the workplace is crucial. When employees can rely on one another to perform their parts effectively, departments can become more efficient and successful. It's easier to accomplish corporate goals and overcome difficulties when you and your coworkers can trust each other to meet deadlines, create quality work and respond immediately to requests.

To be dependable, work on adaptability and retain your concentration on your work tasks in the face of possible challenges. Consider the stark difference between a software engineer who becomes agitated and concerned about a bug and another who recognises the problem and pushes forward calmly to repair it. Employers want to recruit employees who can maintain a calm attitude because they can appear more trustworthy and professional. You can demonstrate reliability through:

  • Always following up on queries in a prompt manner

  • Arriving on time or early for events, meetings and work

  • Producing consistent quality work

  • Responding to bugs and problems in a consistent manner

  • Following defined protocols and procedures

  • Giving your full attention to the task at hand

  • Being detail-oriented

Etiquette

Etiquette is an unwritten rule of behaviour that outlines the appropriate way to behave in the workplace. Proper etiquette frequently entails displaying excellent manners, being courteous and treating people with kindness and respect. While business etiquette varies depending on the employer and industry, it's always better to be excessively formal than risk upsetting or offending someone. There are numerous ways to demonstrate proper business etiquette, including:

  • Greeting new people in a kind and polite manner

  • Dressing appropriately for the occasion

  • Using professional language and full sentences in written communications

  • Putting your phone away during meetings and when you're engaged in face-to-face conversations

  • Remembering and greeting individuals by name

  • Making eye contact when speaking to other people

Neatness

Maintaining a professional look with good hygiene and cleanliness is an important element of professionalism. It's critical that you wear clean attire that adheres to your organisation's dress code and that your workspace is clutter-free. Neatness communicates to people that you're organised, mindful of how you present yourself and ready to fulfil your professional responsibilities. You can display neatness by:

  • Making sure that your clothing is clean and free of wrinkles and holes

  • Choosing appropriate attire for your profession

  • Maintaining adequate and proper personal hygiene

  • Keeping your workspace tidy and organised

Consideration

Employees that exhibit concern for people around them are aware of their coworkers' ideas, feelings and needs. Even under difficult conditions, they're courteous and pleasant to coworkers and customers. While it may be necessary to give bad news or voice criticism for a project or its outcomes, doing so with care is more helpful and effective. Those who are considerate exhibit thoughtful and empathetic behaviour such as the following:

  • Being nice, polite and kind to your colleagues, managers and customers

  • Making an effort to help those in need

  • Remaining tolerant and considerate of others and their feelings

  • Thoroughly listening to others' views and opinions before responding

Work ethic

Employers like to recruit employees who are dedicated to their roles and responsibilities and may offer more advancement opportunities to those who remain actively engaged in the workplace. A strong work ethic demonstrates that you're committed and devoted to achieving great results through your work. Demonstrating your dependability and willingness to go above and beyond to satisfy your employer's expectations may assist you in your career progression. You can showcase your dedication through the following initiatives:

  • Being proactive and volunteering for new projects

  • Displaying a positive work ethic and strong work attitude

  • Producing high-quality work

  • Being prompt and punctual

  • Meeting all deadlines

  • Maintaining a good attitude toward your job responsibilities

Accountability

Although companies frequently hold their employees accountable, the most effective professionals hold themselves accountable. Accountability demonstrates to others that you accept ownership and responsibility for your actions and the consequences. Accountability necessitates accepting responsibility for mistakes or failures, which can be difficult at times. However, your ability to do so may demonstrate your self-awareness and dedication to honesty and integrity. You can enhance and better demonstrate your accountability by:

  • Completing all assigned duties in a timely and prompt manner

  • Accepting responsibility for the consequences and outcome of your decisions

  • Striving to accomplish your objectives and undertake your part to help your team fulfil targets

Read more: 10 Core Competency Examples To Put on Your Resume

Integrity

Integrity is an integral component of professionalism since it shows others that you devote yourself to a high moral standard. Those with integrity are truthful and ethical. While most organisations have a behavioural policy in place to guide employees' conduct, it's critical that you remind yourself to maintain a high standard of morality in all situations. Your integrity can shine through when you keep your pledges and accept ownership and accountability for your actions. Acting with integrity also entails being respectful and courteous to your coworkers, superiors, subordinates and customers. You can demonstrate integrity in the workplace by:

  • Keeping your word and commitment at all times

  • Avoiding involvement in workplace gossip

  • Being honest in all your business interactions and transactions

  • Maintaining confidentiality when mandated

  • Avoiding discussing sensitive topics irrelevant to your employment

  • Adhering to all corporate regulations and procedures

  • Giving credit to others for their accomplishments

Read more: 13 Characteristics of a Professional (Plus Definition)

How do you show professionalism?

Committing to professionalism can communicate that you're dependable, capable, dedicated and accountable. Different circumstances, however, necessitate distinct behaviours. Here are some pointers on how to demonstrate professionalism in a variety of settings:

1. Professionalism in an interview

An interview is your first opportunity to create and leave a good impression on an employer. Thus, it's crucial that you dress and carry yourself professionally. Maintain a formal tone and showcase your best manners if you don't know the specifics of the company's culture, regulations and processes. In an interview, you may demonstrate professionalism by:

  • Dressing more formally than you would as an employee

  • Making eye contact as you speak

  • Speaking clearly and respectfully without using slang or unnecessary jargon

  • Sharing your accomplishments confidently

  • Avoiding saying anything negative about previous employers or coworkers

Read more: How to Introduce Yourself in an Interview

2. Professionalism with customers

If you have direct contact with customers, patients or anyone that your business serves, it's critical that you maintain a professional demeanour at all times. It's also important that you adjust your behaviour, attitude and language to your audience. For instance, the professional manner when interacting with the elderly may be noticeably different than when interacting with children. Despite that, some aspects of professionalism remain universal. Examples include:

  • Arriving early for meetings

  • Responding promptly and accurately to questions and requests

  • Treating others with respect and kindness

  • Demonstrating tolerance and empathy for other beliefs and opinions

  • Acting with honesty and integrity

Read more: What Is Good Customer Service? Definition and Guideline

3. Professionalism with colleagues

When engaging with colleagues, maintaining professionalism can become increasingly difficult. Despite the knowledge that you treat your coworkers with respect and sympathy, you may establish friendships with them and some formality may feel out of place. You can, however, be careful about acting in an unprofessional or inappropriate manner. Avoid any jokes or references that might be interpreted as rude, upsetting or insensitive. When you're at work, retain a distinct sense of professionalism that differs from how you typically act in a more informal setting. This includes the following:

  • Adopting professional language

  • Showing respect and compassion

  • Exercising punctuality

  • Avoiding insensitivity by sharing only appropriate jokes and stories

Read more: How To Be Professional at Work in 20 Steps (Plus 5 Qualities)

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