Professionalism at Work

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Striving for professionalism in the workplace is key to building trust and respect as well as advancing within your career. However, many people have different perceptions of what professionalism in the workplace means and how to effectively display it. In this article, you can explore what professionalism in the workplace is, why it’s important and how you can boost your own professionalism at your job.

What is professionalism?

Professionalism is how you display your behavior, attitude and level of skills in the workplace. Being professional at work can be described in many ways, with one of the most agreed-upon definitions being a person’s ability to demonstrate a conscientious, courteous and business-oriented manner while on the job. Professionalism is typically always expected within the workplace and is a quality that all employees should strive to embrace and exhibit.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Professionalism

Why is professionalism at work important?

Professionalism in the workplace is important for a number of reasons and can be beneficial to employees and employers in all industries. This behavior is a necessary component to the long-term success of both a company as a whole and its workers. By establishing the expectation of professionalism at work, a company can reap the many benefits that come with professional behavior.

The following are a few of the many benefits that professionalism at work can provide:

  • Encouragement for employee improvement. A business environment where professionalism is encouraged and practiced can boost overall employee success and motivation. When employees see coworkers striving to their best and acting in a professional manner, they are more likely to do the same. Workers who perform professionally are more likely to have better success with clients and complete their work in an efficient and competent way.
  • Established and understood boundaries. When a company clearly outlines their expectations for professionalism in the workplace, employees are more likely to respect and fulfill these expectations. For example, if your company has straightforward professional dress code expectations that are defined in the employee manual, workers are less likely to show up to the office in jeans and flip flops and more likely to dress professionally. Establishing clear boundaries for the level of professionalism that is desired makes it easy for employees to act in an appropriate and professional manner.
  • Boosted workplace respect. Employees who act in a professional way and work in an environment that encourages professionalism are much more likely to respect both each other and the leaders of the company. This can help to minimize overall workplace conflict and help to quickly deescalate conflict when it does arise.

Characteristics of professionalism

The ways in which you conduct yourself as an employee, manager or business owner are key to your overall professionalism and how others perceive you in the workplace. 

Here are a few of the most important characteristics that individuals who exhibit professionalism share:

A professional demeanor

Your demeanor can play a large part in your overall professionalism and how professionally you are perceived by others in and out of the workplace. Maintaining a confident and respectful demeanor without being arrogant or brash can convey your professionalism. Also, remaining calm and level-headed even during tense situations can go a long way to demonstrate your dedication to remaining professional at work.


Being able to be counted on in the workplace is another characteristic of professional individuals. When you say you will perform a task by a certain date, it’s important to follow through. If you discover that you aren’t able to complete a job by the deadline, be sure to let your manager or superior know ahead of time so they can make the necessary arrangements. Being reliable at work can let others know they can count on you and boost the respect that coworkers and superiors have for you as a professional.


Taking responsibility for mistakes you have made shows your credibility and honesty. Not only are you demonstrating that you know why you are responsible, but also what you will do to fix things. By choosing not to be reactive and choosing to hold yourself accountable, you show others your commitment to professionalism as well as reinforcing that you can be trusted and counted on.

Related: Integrity: Definition and Examples

Proper communication etiquette

How you talk on the phone, send emails or otherwise communicate in the workplace is a key factor in your professional behavior. Speaking in a polite and formal tone and keeping email correspondence professional and well-written are all characteristics of professionalism at work.

A well-kept appearance

Choosing to keep a neat appearance and dress professionally is another important component of displaying professionalism at work. For example, many company leaders will wear suits every day to demonstrate their level of professionalism and commitment to portraying this to workers and customers alike.

How to show professionalism in the workplace

Professionalism in the workplace is something that must be practiced daily if you want to increase your level of respectability and trust. 

Here are some ways you can show professionalism at work on a daily basis:

1. First, arrive on time

Arriving on time shows how serious and committed you are. Whether you have a scheduled appointment or are simply arriving for work in the morning, getting there at the agreed-upon or expected time portrays your dedication to being professional. It also shows that you are able to manage time well and managers can trust in your punctuality. 

2. Second, dress appropriately

If your company has a dress code, be sure to follow this at all times. For example, if your organization asks that employees dress in a business casual way, strive to wear nice pants or a skirt and an appropriate top that has been ironed every day. Even if other employees do not maintain the dress code, you should be considerate of your company’s wishes and abide by the rules to demonstrate professionalism.

3. Third, become an expert at your job

In order to serve clients and your company as a whole, you should be as knowledgeable as possible in your field. Make a decision to study hard and learn anything that you have not had the chance to learn. Knowing how to perform your job efficiently, effectively and in an expert manner portrays your dedication to not only your position but also your overall professionalism.

4. Fourth, practice basic manners

As simple as it may seem, using basic manners such as saying ‘please,’ ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’ can show professionalism at work. If you are not used to using these terms, begin practicing them in your day-to-day life so that they become a normal part of your working vocabulary.

5. Last, commit yourself to workplace ethics

Ethics are unwritten rules that help you decide between right and wrong in the workplace. Abiding by workplace ethics can show that you are dedicated to remaining professional in all situations and that you are able to make important and sometimes challenging ethical decisions. An example of practicing workplace ethics includes asking for help when you don’t know how to complete a task rather than risking completing it in a subpar way. Another example is reporting instances of ethical violations when you witness these situations in the workplace.

Examples of professional behavior at work

The following are a few specific examples of professionalism in the workplace:

Example: You have a disagreement with a coworker on how to best complete a project. The coworker has upset you and refuses to hear your ideas as to how the project should be done. Rather than gossiping about your coworker to others or sending your coworker an unprofessional email, you ask to speak with your manager in private about the best way to address the situation.

Example: You have a meeting with your manager that is set to begin at 9 a.m. Rather than arriving exactly at 9 a.m., you arrive no later than 8:45 a.m. to prepare for the meeting and go over your notes. 

Example: You have made a mistake on a project that will impact when the project is able to be turned in. Instead of trying to place the blame on other members of your team who are also working on the project, you approach your manager and let them know that you have made a mistake. You then ask your manager what you can do to fix the mistake and let them know that you will strive to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Example: In a meeting, you raise your hand to share an educated opinion on what is being discussed. You keep your share to a few minutes so that others in the meeting will also have the opportunity to provide input.