Professional behavior in the workplace -- or lack thereof -- can have serious ramifications for your career. Those who behave professionally on the job are often viewed as an asset to the team rather than a liability, and may advance more quickly or have more opportunities for important projects or tasks. Professionalism includes everything from how you look and carry yourself to how you communicate and complete your work.
Professionalism at work begins with your personal appearance. Even if your office does not have an official dress code, how you dress and groom yourself for work can set the tone for how others see you, and their impression may not be favorable. Showing up to work in torn, dirty, rumpled clothing presents an image that your work will not be up to par either. While you may not need to wear a three-piece suit and tie every day, be sure that your clothing is clean and well-maintained, and that you are well groomed.
How you speak to your colleagues, vendors and customers can also influence your professional image. Women especially tend to use “upspeak,” or ending every statement so that it sounds like a question. Speak clearly and confidently, without prefacing your statements with apologies or explanations. Avoid peppering your speech with slang such as “like” or “you know,” and never use profanity in the workplace. Observe the rules of proper etiquette: Avoid interrupting, and always say “please” and “thank you.”
While technology has made certain work tasks easier, it has also created plenty of professionalism pitfalls. Never use your work email for personal reasons; sending jokes or chain emails to your co-workers is unprofessional and unproductive. Always spell check your emails, and avoid using text speak or emoticons. When it comes to using the phone, avoid making personal calls -- either on a cell phone or landline -- in an open area where others can hear. No one wants to hear the shopping list you’re giving to your husband or that you have an appointment with the psychiatrist next Thursday. Respect your co-workers by making personal calls in a private area during lunch or breaks.
When you spend 40 or more hours per week with a group of people, it’s inevitable that you will develop strong relationships, even friendships, with your co-workers. However, just because you get along with your co-workers doesn’t mean that you should share all your personal life with them. Save discussions of your dating life or the drama with your in-laws for after work. Keep work discussions on topic to maintain your professional image. Also, avoid spreading gossip and rumors about co-workers or the company. Not only is it unproductive, it can also lead to serious consequences if the information you share turns out to be false or detrimental to someone else.
Professionalism in the workplace also involves how you conduct yourself and manage your time. Respect your boss and co-workers by arriving to work and meetings on time, working through your whole shift and avoiding extended breaks. Respond to emails and phone calls in a timely manner, and follow through on your commitments and duties. Take the time to review your work and correct any errors before presenting to co-workers or clients.