Professionalism in the Workplace

What does professionalism mean to you? It might be that I was not paying attention, but I remember my professors in library school only touching on professionalism a couple of times. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines professionalism as “the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person”

This could be understood in a different manner of ways. However, I always thought that to have professionalism was to have common sense. Don’t be mean, don’t make crude jokes, and don’t do anything that you would not want someone to do to you. But we do live in a time where politicians use social media as their main way of communicating with their constituents, where we use social media as a way to network, and where we make our opinions known to hundreds and hundreds of people. While maintaining a professional social media appearance, we must also remember our everyday interactions with our colleagues. Over the past two years, I have gained more institutional knowledge and have learned when to stay out of office politics or how to navigate through them. While I am not an expert and recognize that everyone is at different institutions or work places, here are some tips on how to grow and learn from your own professionalism. 

  • Observe and learn from the successes and mistakes of other colleagues. I personally learn best from observing others. How did they handle tough situations? What did they say? What was their body language like?
  • Pick your battles. This is a tough one. Sometimes you feel so frustrated at certain things, but stop and think about it. Is this worth all the effort? Is it worth your time? Will this get resolved? And realistically, what will probably happen?
  • What is the root of the problem? This might be a tough one, because a lot times, the root of the problem is a much bigger problem of the institution as a whole. This is not something you can take on on your own, but might be worth bringing up.
  • Know your strengths. How can these strengths help you contribute to problem solving or group work?
  • Recognize your weaknesses. What do you need to work on and how can you improve?
  • Who is your support system at work? Sometimes, you might get frustrated with either people or situations at work. Who has your trust and who can you turn to in these times?
  • What are your personal rules? While every institution has their issues, ultimately, you’re the one that has to look out for you. What are your own rules in terms of getting involved in office politics? You don’t have to write them down, but it’s a good idea to have a mental list

I have only been an academic librarian for the past 2 years. While I have learned and observed a lot, I also feel like it’s only the tip of the iceberg. For those middle-career and more seasoned librarians, what lessons have you learned? What tips do you have?

2 thoughts on “Professionalism in the Workplace

  1. Vent up, not down. When you’re friends with your co-workers, it’s natural to talk about frustrations at the workplace. But once you’re a manager, you have to watch those conversations closely. It can be very tempting to complain about something or someone to people who report to you, just as part of an informal chat. Instead, you need to find outlets either outside the library or above you.

  2. Sometimes building a sink of emotions is quite helpful to mitigate your need for emotional warmth in times of need. Any specific activity of helping someone with something by going all out of your own way, helps you shift focus temporarily to a bigger picture of affairs. Another way which has helped me in my work environment was a transparent manager who was also a human. That helped me set a relationship where my team knew when I had to cross the lines for a specific project and that it was not my decision to do so. The manager too is an employee under the management. I always tried to inculcate a sense of pride in every team member in my workplace. These usually come from some compassion from the managers, who are ready to work with the employees through all their challenges. Nice read! Looking for more in future.

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