How To Be Professional At Work: A Complete Guide

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 20 November 2022

Published 27 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Being professional means acting in a way that promotes positive workplace interactions, conforms to the organisation's standards and demonstrates expertise in your role. By acting professionally at work, you can develop better relationships, perform more effectively and possibly move up in your career. Hence, it may be beneficial for you to understand what professionalism entails and how you can practice it. In this article, we examine what is professional behaviour, why it is important to be more professional and how to be professional at work.

How To Be Professional At Work?

Follow these tips to figure out how to be professional at work:

1. Arrive on time

Arriving on time displays time management, which can show you are a reliable employee. Whenever you are required to be at a meeting, for instance, give yourself plenty of time to get there. Doing so shows that you value everyone's time, are well-organised and care about the meeting.

2. Manage your time effectively

Managing your time goes beyond being punctual. If you have a deadline for a project, or if you agree to send a letter by a certain time, it is important that you complete the task by then. Learning time management skills is an effective way to not only be more professional, but to help you reduce stress from work.

Related: Time Management Skills: Definition and Examples

3. Be dependable

A professional is someone who coworkers can rely on to get their work done accurately and on time. When assigned a task at work, or when you agree to do something, be sure you follow through with it. By being dependable, you can showcase a sense of commitment to a larger cause guided by the company's goals.

4. Keep a positive attitude

Most offices appreciate a positive attitude. Professionals who can maintain a good attitude would have a positive impact on those around them. If you keep this positive attitude even when times are challenging, your coworkers may start to view you as a leader.

Related: 12 Ways To Improve Concentration At Work (With Benefits)

5. Be honest

It is beneficial to be honest in the workplace at all times. This can empower people to trust you without concern. It is only natural for people to make mistakes while working. Being upfront and honest in such situations shows that you are mature and professional.

For example, if you feel you may not be able to make a deadline, inform your coworkers and supervisor at the earliest so that they have ample time to prepare. Similarly, if you feel overworked or burned out, and feel like taking a day off from work without a particular reason, it is best to convey your sentiment in a straightforward manner. Refrain from using false narratives to protect your interests.

6. Seek feedback

Constructive criticism and honest feedback are crucial for your personal development. As a professional, stay open to feedback from your coworkers and managers. When an individual gives you feedback, let them know you take their feedback seriously and give it the due consideration it deserves. Most workplaces have systems in place for feedback, like performance evaluations and appraisals so you can hear regular feedback on your work.

Related: 20 Examples of Feedback in the Workplace (With Examples)

7. Practice empathy

Try to understand that every other person in your office has their own complex, subjective viewpoint and outlook towards work. They may also have struggles that you know very little about. Being empathetic means you take these aspects into consideration and refrain from being judgemental. Try to understand a person's situation clearly before giving out advice or reprimanding them.

8. Avoid office gossip

Gossip in casual conversation in almost unavoidable in workplaces. However, you can always try to refrain from actively participating in such activities. Without being harsh, you can indicate to your coworkers that you are not interested in such pastimes. In a workplace, you are not only responsible for what you say, but also for how it is perceived by others. It is best not to contribute to conversations that can negatively affect a person's morale or workplace productivity.

Related: 13 Effective Communication Strategies To Implement At Work

9. Share your knowledge

If you have knowledge that may be beneficial to a coworker, share it with them. Empower others to improve their productivity in the workplace. For example, if you have advanced experience working with a particular software, try to identify the job roles in your office that may benefit from using the software. Sit with your coworkers in those job roles to teach them important workflows, keyboard shortcuts and automated processes that can make their work easier.

10. Work on your body language

How you carry yourself indicates your attitude towards a situation. If you fidget while someone is talking, they may feel that you are not interested in what they are saying. Similarly, if you slouch in your work chair, it gives the impression that you are tired of your work. Sitting upright and leaning in during meetings gives the impression that you are engaged and interested in the discourse.

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Nonverbal Communication Skills

11. Promote your accomplishments with humility

It is important to be proud of your achievements. But it is also crucial that you exhibit humility while talking about your achievements and accomplishments. Otherwise, you may unknowingly give away the impression of being boastful or egoistic. No matter what you have achieved in life, know that there are people who have achieved similar or greater things. You may benefit greatly from comparing yourself with such individuals and aspiring to reach greater heights. Keeping this in mind may help you stay grounded while talking about your accomplishments.

Related: How To Demonstrate Leadership Skills At Work: A Guide

What Is Professional Behaviour In The Workplace?

Companies may have different approaches to cultivating workplace culture. What is considered professional in one company may not necessarily be accepted practice in another. However, there are some general aspects of behaviour and workplace interaction that you can consider professional. Professional behaviour in the workplace includes:

  • Adhering to rules, regulations and policies put forward by the organisation

  • Being appropriate while presenting yourself, talking to others and performing duties

  • Treating everyone with courtesy and respect

  • Refraining from participating in gossip and office politics

  • Understanding and aligning yourself with the organisation's mission, values and vision

  • Being consistently responsible for your actions and their consequences

  • Approaching different professional situations with the appropriate attitude

Related: An In-Depth Guide to Professionalism

What Are The 5 Qualities Of A Professional?

Professional individuals may have several qualities that employers look for. These are five crucial qualities that all professionals have:

  • Accountability: for words and actions

  • Appropriacy: in behaviour, language and appearance

  • Punctuality: with regard to workplace engagements and communications

  • Reliability: in relation to professional commitments

  • Competency: for handling duties and responsibilities efficiently

What Are Some Examples Of Professional Behaviour?

Here are some examples of professional behaviour:

  • Shyam gets offered a contract for an animation video production, with huge financial incentives. The client is on a tight deadline and wants the entire production to be wrapped up in two weeks. Knowing the work-intensive nature of animation workflows and the nature of contingencies involved, Shyam figures out that the work cannot be completed in two weeks, even if he gets people to assist him. Instead of signing the contract and delivering substandard or incomplete work, he politely declines the offer and conveys his concerns to the client.

  • Shruti makes it a point to come 15 minutes early to work every day. She sets up her workspace and reviews her tasks for the day before the official workday starts. She tries to be as productive as possible during work hours and takes minimal breaks from her work. She also does not stay at the office beyond work hours, unless requested by her manager.

  • One of Ali's interns has made an accounting error that has the potential to cost the company a significant amount of money. Ali realises the mistake has occurred partly because of him, as he could not train the intern adequately. Instead of putting the blame on the intern, Ali talks to his supervisor and explains how the mistake happened and what can be done to resolve it. He takes responsibility for his shortcomings and promises the supervisor that such an error would not occur in future. This becomes a learning experience for the intern and for Ali, and they become more capable to work together effectively after the incident.

Related: How To Be Flexible At Work: A Complete Guide

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