December 28, 2022

What is professionalism in the workplace? While it looks different from one business to the next, there are several areas where you’ll want to ensure employees are conducting themselves appropriately to convey your desired brand image and ensure success.

Read on for the crucial areas of professionalism to keep your eye on. And stick around until the end for four bonus tips for helping everyone from leadership to staff members hone their professional skills and behavior.

Key Areas of Professionalism to Consider

Whether evaluating a potential candidate or a current employee, professionalism in the workplace is essential to ensuring the right fit for both the role and your organization.

What skills, traits, and appearance should a professional have to enhance your company’s productivity and culture? The right blend of the following attributes makes up a positive professional and team member.

Expertise & Competency

When we consider a professional, we often think of someone with experience in a specialized field or discipline. They may have specific academic qualifications or other certifications, but not always—they could simply have years of demonstrated expertise. 

Either way, a truly dedicated professional constantly improves their skills and knowledge through continued education like seminars, conferences, professional designations, and independent research.

Additionally, a professional is confident and reliable. Their teammates, managers, clients/customers, and other stakeholders know they can count on them to do the job well, thanks to their:

  • Solution-focused nature
  • Timely delivery and responses
  • Ability to consistently meet goals

Integrity & Open-mindedness

Professionalism in the workplace heavily relies on integrity. Think of the executive, manager, or staff member who:

  • Always delivers on their promises
  • Adheres to their own principles as well as the company’s values to present an aligned image
  • Does what is best for their team or customer
  • Admits when they need help with a task or project that is outside their wheelhouse

A professional is also open to learning from others and hearing other perspectives, valuing collaboration and diverse backgrounds and experiences. These qualities make them enjoyable to be around and work with, drawing in colleagues and creating a healthy work environment.


Similarly, a professional is not afraid to own up to their mistakes—whether a work error or something they said or did in poor judgment. They will work to fix their missteps as soon as possible, treat them as learning opportunities, and move on.

Most of all, a professional shows others grace when they make a mistake. 

Communication Skills

A great team player or leader exhibits professionalism in the workplace with strong communication skills by:

  • Consistently maintaining clear, polite communication across all channels
  • Maintaining professionalism in emails by making them clear and brief
  • Understand what method to use for different situations (e.g., in-person vs. email vs. IM)
  • Practice active listening
  • Keep open lines of communication with their peers and reports

Solid communication is vital to maintaining productivity and a positive work environment while avoiding miscommunications and oversights.

Poise & Interpersonal Skills

Closely related to communication skills are a professional’s self-control and interpersonal skills. They keep their cool in stressful, frustrating situations.

For example, an accountant receives an urgent request for a report and acknowledges and delivers it as quickly as possible while maintaining an upbeat attitude. Or a customer service specialist must assist an angry client while maintaining a calm, helpful demeanor.

These individuals are typically flexible and agile. They don’t panic when a project takes a sudden left turn, or a deadline is moved up. 

Plus, they have high emotional intelligence, meaning they’re good at reading and responding to others’ feelings and needs. This allows them to be supportive to both their peers and reporting staff.

Image & Conduct

Finally, professionalism in the workplace calls for an appropriate appearance. Professionals dress appropriately for the job. They maintain a polished, clean appearance with their clothing and grooming habits, along with a neat and organized workspace.

When it comes to image and behavior, a professional follows company rules and policies. They show up on time and keep conversations with colleagues professional and upbeat. Even when conflicts and concerns arise, a professional addresses those involved diplomatically and respectfully.

Finally, professionalism applies to an employee’s technology and social media activity. They don’t abuse social media while on company time, nor do they post inappropriate or offensive content. 

4 Ways to Improve Professionalism in the Workplace

1. Create Clear & Reasonable Policies

Provide consistent guidance on professionalism in the workplace with comprehensive policies on: 

You should organize these policies in an employee handbook and provide it to all new hires during onboarding. You should also update and redistribute the handbook annually. 

Of course, while policies are essential, they should also be reasonable. Don’t make them too strict or overly detailed. Encourage employees to ask questions if they’re unsure of something, whether they turn to their direct manager or HR.

2. Offer Learning Opportunities

As mentioned earlier, constantly learning and improving one’s skills and knowledge is a key attribute of professionalism in the workplace. So help your team members do just that by encouraging and supporting them on their journey to professional improvement!

Consider helping them through student loan and tuition assistance. Or cover the cost of a course or certification relevant to their field. You could even bring in experts to deliver specialized training or provide employees with tools and resources to further their education. 

Offering learning opportunities and support is also a powerful employee perk and method for boosting employee retention.

3. Provide Coaching & Mentoring Programs

Are you noticing professionalism gaps? You may have employees who are resistant to working with others or a manager struggling to motivate and gain the respect of direct reports. Consider:

  • Training & Coaching: Depending on the need and topic, this could be done one-on-one or in a group. 
  • Leadership Coaching: Regularly bring in an outside leadership coach for both experienced and budding leaders.
  • Mentorship Program: Pair longtime managers with new managers—this is an excellent way for them to learn from each other on the job!

4. Develop a Performance Management System

With an effective performance management process in place, you’ll have a clear view of everyone’s professionalism in the workplace. This should include consistent feedback from both managers and peers with a balance of positive reinforcement and constructive criticism.

If you have an employee who needs to improve their professionalism, you should document what measures you’ve tried and monitor their progress. Approach them with empathy and in a one-on-one setting to ensure discretion and get to the root of the problem. 

Some employees may face personal issues, resulting in negative attitudes and performance. An employee assistance program (EAP) could be a valuable resource for them. Or consider accommodating them as they work through their challenges. 

Finally, know when you must draw the line. Have you provided as much support as possible? Given them ample opportunity to improve their conduct, attitude, and performance?

If the answer is yes, but the employee doesn’t seem to be improving, you may need to put them on a performance improvement plan and discuss possible consequences—including termination.

Final Thoughts on Professionalism in the Workplace

Professionalism in the workplace will look different in every business. For example, a financial services company will have a different atmosphere, messaging, and brand image than an auto repair shop. But certain qualities are essential no matter your company or industry, including:

  • Expertise & Competency
  • Integrity & Open-mindedness
  • Accountability
  • Communication Skills
  • Poise & Interpersonal Skills
  • Image & Conduct

And you can promote all of the above by providing:

  • Clear policies
  • Learning opportunities
  • Coaching and mentoring programs
  • A solid performance management process

Most importantly, you can foster professionalism in the workplace by setting an example for the rest of your team! From how you treat clients and coworkers to how you dress and carry yourself, you can portray the professionalism you want your employees to maintain. 

Whether you need training, policy and handbook creation, or performance management support, BlueLion can help you with our fully outsourced HR services! Contact us today at or 603-818-4131 to discuss your challenges and learn more about our offerings.

The information on this website, including its newsletters, is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should contact an attorney or HR specialist for advice on your individual situation.