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Five Keys to Professionalism in the Workplace

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There is no higher compliment in business than to be called a professional. Exhibiting professionalism means talking the talk and walking the walk, with the attitude and behavior of someone with skill, confidence and integrity in his occupation and dealings. In his 2001 book, "Professionalism Is for Everyone," author James R. Ball of The Goals Institute identifies five characteristics of professionalism.

Character Counts

Character is a hallmark of professionalism. A professional's word is her bond, and she doesn't mind being held to high standards for honesty and integrity. Her co-workers, customers and supervisors never question her conduct because she's proven that she's trustworthy through her words and actions. Not only does she do the right thing, her high moral standards require her to behave ethically even when no one's watching.

Energy and Attitude

A professional has a positive, enthusiastic attitude. He doesn't wait for a promotion to exhibit leadership skills, and his confident attitude is infectious among his colleagues. He chooses optimism in the face of adversity, but he is also realistic. He understands that life is full of ups and downs, and today's setback is tomorrow's opportunity. He knows that dwelling on negativity serves no purpose, and he takes responsibility for the way he reacts to the occasional bad days that are inevitable in every workplace.

Pursuit of Excellence

High personal standards mean that professionals are constantly striving for improvement. They demand the best of themselves, and they expect high quality work from their colleagues and employees who report to them. Professionals take constructive criticism to heart and use it to continually improve their value to their employers. They welcome opportunities for training and development that support their pursuit of excellence.

Competency in the Field

Professionals are the best at what they do. They stay on top of the latest news, developments and innovations in their line of work, and they embrace technological solutions that can help them work faster and more efficiently. If there's a better way to do something, a professional wants to learn the better way so she can optimize her performance. Professionals use tools such as goal-setting to measure their accomplishments against those of others.

Code of Conduct

A professional conducts every aspect of his life deliberately. He exercises common sense and good judgment day in and day out. He doesn't take part in gossip, harassment or inappropriate activities. His conduct is above reproach. A professional praises those around him when they achieve their goals and celebrates their accomplishments with them. His maturity sets the tone in the workplace, and others naturally look to him for leadership.


Marilyn Lindblad practices law on the west coast of the United States. She has been a freelance writer since 2007. Her work has appeared on various websites. Lindblad received her Juris Doctor from Lewis and Clark Law School.

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