Today’s workforce is thankfully more diverse than ever. Intersecting different viewpoints and personalities makes products accessible to a much broader range of people.
But this diversity also means that you might not have much in common with certain coworkers besides the common goal of building an excellent product for the customers you all serve. You might be from entirely different continents, speak other languages natively, and have completely different interests and values.
If only there were a way for all these wildly different people to agree on a set of shared behaviors and language that helps them work together more efficiently toward the shared goal.
I believe that these shared language and behaviors are at the core of being a “professional.” And over the last five or so years, I’ve seen people lose sight of these shared languages and behaviors.
The components of professionalism
Maintaining Professional Boundaries
You might think that conversations about the weather are trite and shallow. Or you might think that if all discussions with your coworkers focus on the work that needs to be done, how will you build authentic human connections?
But I think it’d be a lot stranger if you asked a coworker you just met on Zoom about their childhood traumas or their sex lives. It takes time to build trust and rapport. Start by just focusing on the work and keep conversations there for a few months, especially with people reporting directly to you.
Aside from that, avoid obvious blunders like making crude jokes at the wrong time or making sexual advances toward your close coworkers (as they say, “Don’t poo where you eat food”). Avoid profanity, negativity, and divisive topics. Don’t get drunk in a workplace setting, and always dress appropriately for your specific workplace culture.
The basics: If you commit to something, follow through and get it done. Be on time. Be honest—no lying, backstabbing, or gossip.
Politeness & respect
It should be basic, but you’d be surprised: No yelling, no passive-aggressive insults, no open insults, keep your emotions in check, and assume positive intent until proven otherwise. Try not to interrupt people before they’re done talking….unless you can tell that they won’t stop talking unless you interrupt them.
This one is the hardest one to pull off well, but it’s core to doing well as a professional. If you’re a good communicator, chances are you’ll be good at discussing the details of your work, building rapport with coworkers, and getting agreement across groups. The reason for this is that to be an excellent communicator, you need to not only be articulate but also be a good listener and genuinely interested in other people. Once you have that, many other things in life fall into place.
Being good at your job
Building slow rapport
According to a survey by Olivet Nazarene University, 82% of Americans in full-time jobs say they consider someone at work to be a friend. It’s very likely that in a setting where you spend many hours per week with the same people, you will form a few strong bonds where you both feel a desire to spend time outside of work. However, those bonds take time to build and tend to develop organically. Don’t feel like you need to rush it.