In many industries, corporate culture has changed a lot. A generation ago, most companies emphasized a strict formal dress code; calling people sir, ma’am, and boss; or an in-at-9-a.m., out-at-5-p.m. mentality, workplaces these days are more relaxed. Startup culture has pervaded and few industries maintain their buttoned-up attitudes and environments, but that doesn’t mean employees shouldn’t still be professional in the workplace.
How to Be Professional On and Off the Clock
Here are some tips for how to behave professionally at work, and even at home after you’ve finished for the day.
Be Productive to Be Professional
An office full of perks, snacks and games can seem a like a lot of fun, but at the end of the day, it’s still a workplace, not a playground. There may be a ping pong table in the main conference room, but focus should always stay, foremost, on the projects and tasks at hand. Getting those workplace benefits are great, but only if they’re earned through legitimate work.
Professionalism In The Workplace 101: Resist the Office Gossip
Catching up with coworkers is one thing, but badmouthing someone else in the office is quite another. Continually gossiping about a colleague, team member or boss can quickly come back to bite you. Kick the habit by shifting the subject to something unrelated to work, or turn negative talk about someone into a positive statement.
Separate Work and Life
Everyone has things going on outside of the office. Do your best to keep them outside the office. Try not to take personal calls, check personal emails, social media or messages, but if you do have to address something, make it quick.
No matter what you have going on in your personal life, it shouldn’t affect the work you’re doing at the office. The same applies to your home life; don’t bring the office home with you. Whether you had a bad day or a great day, your family deserves your full attention. Maintain your work/life balance as best you can.
Avoid Peer Pressure
We often associate peer pressure with being a kid, but peer pressure surrounds you throughout life. It isn’t something you just outgrow after high school, and peer pressure can even follow you into the workplace.
It’s okay to have a drink or two at a happy hour with colleagues, or to spend a little extra on a business dinner, but don’t overdo it. Some employees will try to take advantage of expense policies or have a few too many at cocktail hour, but keep it professional by making good choices and respecting the company you work for.
Look Your Best
You don’t have to wear a suit and tie every day, or a skirt and high heels, but put your best foot forward. Wear what you feel comfortable in, which presents who you are professionally. At a creative ad agency, that might mean wearing sneakers and jeans, but for a client-facing sales organization, that might mean an updated suit with no tie. Consider what your job’s main focus is, and dress for that.
Think Before You Speak
Voicing your opinions in the workplace, especially in the current working atmosphere, is usually encouraged, and many businesses take what their employees say to heart. However, you should still maintain a mental filter before you start spewing all your thoughts. If you get into debates and stand-offs over every issue you have an opinion on, people around you may start to think you’re challenging them or you’re not a team player.
This can ultimately lead to your being ignored in the office, even if you have a legitimate concern or point to make. Resist the urge to complain and overstate your thoughts. You’ll keep the respect of others, and it will help you out in the long run.