Workplace Professionalism


4 minutes

Don’t worry if it’s taking you some time to adapt to an American workplace – your colleagues, the office culture, and the way business is done may be quite different from your past experience! Even though you will be adjusting to new ways of doing things, it’s important that you maintain a high level of professionalism.

Professionalism is judged by the way you communicate with others in the workplace. It is reflected in your attitude, image, and willingness to learn. Below are some tips to help you navigate the American workplace and stay professional no matter what type of situation you may encounter!

Respect your colleagues.

Your colleagues has different ways of communicating and approaching issues – be tolerant of those differences and try to understand other perspectives. It’s part of the learning process!

Show flexibility and adaptability.

Many offices have past-paced environments and unexpected projects come up. Keep an open mind, be prepared to adapt to changes, and offer to help your fellow colleagues. If you are flexible and willing to step in when you’re needed, your coworkers will appreciate your effort.

Keep personal information personal.

When you’re at work, you should limit personal phone calls, emails, texting, and other communications. It is not appropriate to handle personal issues while at work. If you must take care of something that is not work related, do it on your lunch break or step outside of the office. When speaking to someone in person, you should not be texting, emailing, playing games, or talking on the phone – give co-workers your undivided attention.

Think before you speak.

It’s okay to be frustrated about something that happens at work, but it’s never okay to talk about co-workers behind their backs. Don’t get caught up in office gossip – talking negatively about colleagues reflects poorly on you and comes across as unprofessional. If you’re upset, take a moment to compose yourself and if necessary, address your issues directly with the person involved.

Take care of personal ppearance.

Every workplace has different dress code guidelines, so make sure you know the expectations at your company. If you’re not sure, human resources should have a copy of the dress code policy. Although dress codes vary, you should always maintain good personal hygiene. Good hygiene means showering daily, combing, or brushing your hair, having your nails clean and trimmed, and ensuring your teeth are brushed. You should use deodorant, not just an antiperspirant. Refrain from using heavily scented perfume, cologne, or lotions that could bother coworkers.

Communication is key.

It’s okay to speak up and ask for clarification when you don’t understand something. If you have an issue with a co-worker, discuss it with him or her privately and directly. If that doesn’t solve the problem, speak to your supervisor or manager. If you’re having an issue with your supervisor, speak directly to him or her first about your concerns. Oftentimes, issues are simply the result of miscommunication and having one simple conversation can resolve the situation.

Be accountable and responsible.

This means showing up to the office on time, ready to work. If you’re going to be late to the office, call or email your supervisor to let them know. Do not make being late a habit. Make sure you’re on time to meetings and follow through on projects and responsibilities. If you make a mistake, don’t blame others. Take responsibility for your mistakes, apologize, and work on making corrections.

Understand email etiquette.

So much business is conducted over email, so it’s important to use this form of communication wisely. It may seem like an informal way to communicate, but you should not be lazy about grammar. Poor grammar and spelling can come across as unprofessional and give the impression that you’re not taking your role seriously. You should also avoid adding emojis (smiley faces and winks) and acronyms (lol, brb) – using them seems immature and unprofessional. Another email blunder is using all uppercase letters. When you write in CAPITAL LETTERS, it means you are yelling at someone. If you are trying to emphasize a point, try italicizing your word. Similarly, always use proper punctuation and capitalization. Finally, if you are addressing your supervisor and especially your clients, address them formally in your emails. Do not start messages with “hey” or other casual phrases - always begin with “Dear (supervisor’s or client’s name)” Workplace email is not Facebook, Instagram, or texting. It is a professional form of communication and should be taken seriously.

Respect others’ personal space.

If someone’s office door is closed, it generally means they’re busy. Avoid disrupting the person unless it’s necessary. Always knock and wait for a response before entering. If a co-worker is on a phone call, don’t wait around their desk waiting for them to finish. Leave a note or return later.

Kitchen rules.

No one wants to smell someone else’s lunch, especially if it has a strong odor. If your meal will stink when it’s reheated, don’t bring it to the office. Also, don’t take food out of the refrigerator that’s not yours!

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