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How to Teach Professionalism

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Employees who practice professionalism make for better co-workers, help create a more productive workplace culture, strengthen a company's reputation and keep customers coming back. But not every employee understands professionalism and its importance. Teaching your workers professionalism means putting on your coaching shoes, acting professional yourself and realizing that there is no one-size-fits-all method.


Professionalism has to start from the top. As a manager, if you don't show the professionalism you want your employees to demonstrate, you're sending a message that behaving in a professional manner at work isn't a priority. Suppose you berate your employees in front of their co-workers rather than confront them in a private setting and talk to them in a respectable manner. You're creating a culture in which disrespect is often seen and tolerated. You can't expect your employees to reflect behaviors that you disregard.

Explain What Professionalism Means

Explain to your employees what professionalism means and how to show it. Don't assume that every employee understands the components of professionalism. Your employees come from all walks of life, and a behavior one thinks is unprofessional may be perfectly acceptable for another. This is especially common between younger and older employees, whose lives have been impacted and shaped by contrasting societal norms and upbringings. For instance, consider the 2013 Professionalism in the Workplace survey conducted by York College of Pennsylvania. Nearly half of the 400 employers surveyed said that less than 50 percent of college graduates displayed professionalism in their first year. Employers indicated that generational differences were one of the causes for the lack of professionalism. Setting the same expectations of professionalism for all employees enables you to create a more unified and professional workplace.

Take Notes

Write down instances when an employee demonstrates unprofessional behavior and then talk to her privately. Explain why that behavior is unprofessional and then show how she can act more appropriately. Avoid telling her that she needs to improve; instead give examples of how she can improve. You need to work with your employees and coach them rather than issue directives. For instance, suppose an employee gets into an argument with a customer. Rather than telling the employee he should avoid that behavior in the future, show him how. Explain that if he cannot resolve the customer's problem in short order while remaining calm, he should ask a manager for assistance.

Visual Examples

For some employees, verbal explanations are less effective than visual examples. Organize meetings and show film, slideshows or pictures that exemplify professional and unprofessional behavior, or opt to enroll your employees in web-based training programs. Companies that focus on professional development, human relations and employee training can provide you with the necessary resources.

Group Exercises

Make training fun and you'll often find it's easier to hold your employees' attention. Group exercises can be the ideal method for delivering an entertaining training session. Consider role playing. You can create various scenarios that put employees in situations in which they'll have to choose between unprofessional and professional behavior. For instance, you could have employee A confront employee B about his noisy work habits. Following the confrontation, the employees explain why they chose their responses, and then you point out the professional and unprofessional aspects of their behaviors.


Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.

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