4 Principles of Professionalism in the Workplace

By June 24, 2019 No Comments
4 Principles Professionalism TTA Blog

Today’s workplace is continually evolving. It is adapting to make room for new ideas, new objectives, and a new generation of employees. As the workplace continues to advance, it is critical that organizations highlight the importance of the principles of professionalism and their lasting effects. When organizations make workplace professionalism a priority and set standards of professionalism, employees will have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them. Steven Pressfield, a great American author, once said, “The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits. We can never free ourselves from habit. But we can replace bad habits with good ones.”[i] Here are 4 principles of professionalism in the workplace that can help your organization.

  1. Be Accountable

The first principle for professionalism in the workplace is that every employee be accountable. To be accountable is to have ownership of one’s actions and take full responsibility for one’s decisions and the consequences – good or bad.[ii] Steve Jobs once said, “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations.”[iii] Mistakes happen, it’s important that employees have the autonomy to try new things and make mistakes. It’s equally important that employees learn to admit their mistakes, learn from them, and ultimately learn from the overall experience. When mistakes happen and there is no accountability, it can lead to finger-pointing, conflict, and mistrust. By requiring accountability, organizations are setting the standard for excellence.

  1. Exceed Expectations

The second principle for professionalism in the workplace is to exceed expectations. Whether a tenured employee or a brand-new hire, it is important that all employees strive for excellence. This partly falls upon managers to make sure that employees know what is expected of them. In a study of 1.2 million employees across 22 organizations in seven industries and 45 countries, by Gallup, it was found that only about half of all workers strongly indicate that they know what is expected of them at work.[iv] Once expectations are set, employees should have the tools they need to meet and exceed them. Those tools are often intrinsic and can be developed. Soft skills training is a great way to encourage and develop employees to have the drive to excel and exceed expectations.

  1. Be Ethical

The third principle for professionalism in the workplace is a strong ethical foundation. It is so important that organizations provide a clearly defined code of ethics for both the organization and its employees. Workplace ethics are a popular topic right now. In fact, Gallup did a study looking at workplace ethics and the results were surprising – 45% of U.S. employees rate the moral values of their CEOs, presidents or other business leaders as “excellent,” 30% rate them as “good” and only 23% rate them as either “fair” or “poor.” Surprisingly, those same employees rated the moral values of their coworkers at 35% “excellent”, 43% “good”, and 20% either “fair” or “poor.” In short, CEOs outperformed coworkers when it came to rating moral values.[v] There is a clear nationwide need to develop employee workplace ethics. By setting and requiring a high standard of ethics, organizations are setting their employees up for success.

  1. Clear Communication

The fourth principle for professionalism in the workplace is communication. From verbal, body language, e-Etiquette, and more, it is so important that employees know what is expected of them in terms of how they communicate. It is equally important that employees be given the resources they need to develop their communication skills. According to a report from the Economist, 63% of respondents believe communication could be improved by using a wider range of tools.[vi] Organizations can help develop communication skills by providing training designed to help employees communicate with their colleagues, regardless of differing communication styles.[vii]

For more on developing principles of professionalism and soft skills in the workplace, visit our Soft Skills Training page.



[i] “Steven Pressfield Quotes.” BrainyQuote, Xplore, www.brainyquote.com/quotes/steven_pressfield_528008?src=t_professional

[ii] Brown, Darrell. “Ethics and Professionalism in the Workplace.” Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper, 15 Sept. 2016, www.indianapolisrecorder.com/business/article_36d05298-7b96-11e6-8226-033c365dab07.html
[iii] Morgan, Brittney. “8 Steve Jobs Quotes Every Entrepreneur Should Live By.” Business News Daily, 6 May 2015, www.businessnewsdaily.com/7962-steve-jobs-quotes.html
[iv] Gallup, Inc. “Do Employees Really Know What’s Expected of Them?” Gallup.com, 27 Sept. 2016, news.gallup.com/businessjournal/195803/employees-really-know-expected.aspx
[v] Gallup, Inc. “CEOs: Do Your Employees Trust You?” Gallup.com, 7 June 2017, news.gallup.com/opinion/gallup/211793/ceos-employees-trust.aspx
[vi] Sun, Karl. “4 Ways To Combat Workplace Communication Breakdowns.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 27 Apr. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/karlsun/2018/04/24/4-ways-to-combat-workplace-communication-breakdowns/#5ed838712d5b
[vii] Sun, Karl. “4 Ways To Combat Workplace Communication Breakdowns.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 27 Apr. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/karlsun/2018/04/24/4-ways-to-combat-workplace-communication-breakdowns/#5ed838712d5b