As an image consultant, perhaps I am more sensitive than others but I am often astounded at the appalling service levels and unprofessional conduct of employees which we often experience.
It is important to know that professionalism doesn’t have job descriptions – it applies to everyone who is working.
Whether you are a cashier, a receptionist, a PA or corporate executive; you need to see yourself as a professional in your specific field. Even if you don’t particularly enjoy your job, there must still be a sense of personal pride. Indeed, employers have a responsibility to ensure that employees understand what constitutes professional behaviour and, in doing so, create natural benchmarks.
Let’s explore a few encounters which we experience.
1. LanguageIt is considered good manners to speak to clients and colleagues in the universal business language, unless otherwise stated, English. For example, when you are standing in front of a cashier and she engages with her colleague in their mother tongue it can be awkward for the person who does not understand the language. Are they discussing me? Or just chatting in general while I wait? Clearly, one is always inclined to speak in your mother tongue but in a work or professional environment, you need to be respectful of others.
2. Call etiquetteOne of my pet peeves - bad phone call etiquette!
How much business is lost through bad attitudes and unprofessional behaviour over the phone?
Keep an ear open for the following:
• the level of energy conveyed. After all the money invested in building a brand, the prospect ends up talking to an employee who sounds bored or disinterested. It’s so disappointing and annoying for the caller.
• speak up and speak clearly but don’t shout either. Proper phone call etiquette can be learned and practised.
3. FamiliarityDon’t get too familiar with clients or your superiors. Behaving too informally can convey a sense of not respecting them. Clients, colleagues and your superiors are not your family or best friends. Some information should not be shared. Also be aware of how you act around them, do you touch them or hug them if that is not accepted office culture. Always act and behave like a professional.
4. FlirtingFlirting is often seen as innocent and even fun but let’s be very clear on this, it is a big no-no! It might well start as innocent fun but too many people get burnt by this behaviour. Do not cross the line – you could end up getting a nasty surprise. Like a harassment charge.
5. GossipingThere is nothing like a bit of gossip to add a bit of intrigue to a mundane day in the office. But you stand a good chance of earning a reputation as the office snoop. And chances are that people will listen to you but lose trust in you – after all, you could also be gossiping about them next. Remove yourself from gossip situations and rather focus on building relationships as somebody that can be trusted.
6. Stealing timeHow productive is your day at work? These days we are so easily distracted by social media. We spend a lot of company time on different social platforms and mostly it is not work related. Never mistake your employer’s trust in you as a sign of weakness which allows you to abuse time that you’re being paid for. As a professional, you’re not being monitored every second of the day so you need to earn that professional respect but delivering the time that you’ve committed to.
In closing, having good manners and conducting yourself as a professional goes a long way to building a strong and positive personal brand and reputation. In turn, your behaviour directly affects your career. It’s in your hands. As a company, irrespective of the investment made in positioning your brand professionally, your image is ultimately entirely reliant on the aggregated professionalism of your employees.
Don’t take lapses in professionalism lightly and make sure that good and professional manners in your company are the norm.
Carissa Bosman is the Co-founder of The Image Avenue.