You’ve probably seen the clichés: the bored receptionist chewing gum and filing her nails at the desk; the frustrated supervisor yelling at an employee who has made a major mistake; the analyst playing computer games rather than running reports. Chances are, when you’ve seen these types of behaviors, you’ve thought, “That’s unprofessional.” How you behave at work has important consequences for your own professional image and that of your employer, and it could mean the difference between a satisfying career or a series of dead-end jobs.
Professional Image Goes with Advancement
While your skills, talents and quality of work all influence your career success, as well as whether you earn promotions or important assignments, your professionalism also plays a role. If you have a negative attitude or cannot control your emotions, or you spend more time chatting or doing anything but work, chances are you’ll be passed over when a better position opens up. Your manager wants to know that he can rely on you, and that you will not embarrass him or the company, and that you will not fail to complete your duties or cause problems among the staff. So it is best to maintain a professional image and behave as a mature, responsible and even-tempered adult while at work.
You Represent the Company
If you interact with customers or clients, you are the face of your company. Whether you meet face-to-face, over the phone or via the computer, you represent your employer. Your behavior influences the customer’s impressions of your business, so it’s important that you behave like a polite professional. Being rude, inflexible or inappropriate can lead to the customer taking his business elsewhere -- and possibly telling others about his bad experience with you. When you are at a dinner or special event, for example, avoid drinking too much alcohol. An open bar may be tempting, but getting drunk at a corporate event can damage your reputation, and that of your employer, especially if you engage in irresponsible behavior.
Watch out for Legal Issues
Because the laws regarding workplace harassment are strict, stepping outside the boundaries of proper behavior at work could have serious legal consequences. For example, businesses are bound by federal sexual harassment laws. What you believe to be good-natured teasing of a co-worker could fall within the scope of sexual harassment. Even if it does not constitute harassment, the human resources department or management still has to investigate complaints, spending valuable time and money. To prevent misunderstandings -- or worse, lose your job and face legal problems -- keep your behavior professional and respectful at all times.
Don't Hamper Office Productivity
Chances are that you work in a team environment. While you may work on specific tasks by yourself, more often than not you have to collaborate with others, attend meetings and interact with co-workers. If you behave unprofessionally, you can damage the team environment and make it more difficult for everyone to get their work done. For example, if you have a tendency to argue or get upset when someone disagrees with you, you’re creating a hostile environment in which your co-workers will be reluctant to work with you. On the other hand, if you’re always joking and getting the group off-topic, you may be viewed as unreliable. It is fine to express an opinion, or break tension with humor, but your overall behavior should remain professional to keep the team environment productive and the office a pleasant place to work.