Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Test of Your Professionalism: Will You Pass?

A professional is someone who possesses distinctive qualities in a particular profession. Everyday in the workplace our professionalism is tested, there are situations that will be unpleasant to deal with, people who are rude, bosses who are demanding, and work that may seem demeaning, but in today’s economy, keeping a job is like finding a pot of gold, you are fortunate to have it. In the office, the expectation is to constantly exhibit decorum, tact, composure, and display knowledge of your skills. So what do you do when your professionalism is tested? Below are examples of five tests you will encounter in your professional career, how will you score?

1. Dealing with rude co-workers, clients, or customers. 10 pts.
We have all had those people who we have to deal with on a daily basis who seem as though they have a disregard for others feelings or don’t care about listening to what they have to say. Let them have their words. Do not interrupt. Listen with empathy not sympathy and be assertive in your response. When they are finished, ask questions to clarify their feelings. Seek answers. Get to the root of their ill-behavior and offer solutions. If you are not the person who can assist them, refer them to someone who can.

2. Dealing with a boss who is a micromanager. 20 pts
Being able to handle an overly exertive, anxious, non-trusting boss is a challenge to any professional. The most important thing to remember when dealing with someone like this is to give them what they want before they ask! In other words, provide them frequent updates before they have to ask where you are on the project. Ask questions for clarification and provide them with feedback by restating what they told you so that they know that you understand. The biggest fear in a micromanager is that you don’t understand the task; therefore, it will not be done right. Keep a notepad handy at all times to take notes and get updates. Finally, give assurance that the project will be completed by the deadline (while giving updates until completion). If an extension is needed, give good, solid reasons why- maybe due to the constant micromanager interruptions.

3. A colleague claims your idea as his own. 30 pts.
How many times has this happened…you are sitting in a meeting and your boss asks for ideas, you want to raise your hand but you are fearful that you will be laughed at or rejected? So after the meeting you tell a co-worker your idea, who then at the next meeting voices the idea as his own and gets all the praise. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do at this point; however, this incident has educated you for the future.

If you become timid when it comes to speaking in a group meeting, provided you know what the agenda items are prior to the meeting, put them in writing in proposal form and give them to the Chair before the meeting or slide them to him during the meeting. Afterall, the worst that will happen is that your idea won’t be used, but the positive is that you voiced your suggestion and no one took it!
So, how do you maintain a cordial working relationship with this ‘thought thief?’ Being the professional that you are, you will continue to be cordial, you have been taught a valuable lesson, learn from it and move on.

4. Criticism and/or negative feedback during a performance review. 50 pts
It’s that time of year again---the dreaded performance review. We need to look at performance reviews from a different perspective. Performance reviews or evaluations are conducted for the sole purpose of letting us know what areas we need to improve or develop our skills. Just as you are prepared for meetings, events, etc. as professionals, we need to be prepared for the performance review. This means bringing a pad and pen and being ready to jot down notes. Is there a certain quality about your supervisor that you admire? For example, my supervisor is great at prioritizing, so I asked her about prioritizing skills. This shows that I am interested in improving and that I am watching her work ethic. Also, this is the perfect time to ask for some professional development training in the areas your supervisor has highlighted you may need improvement. So don’t leave the review mad or angry; leave enlightened.

5. A reprimand/write-up (verbal or written). 100 pts
Dealing with a reprimand is a very unpleasant event. A reprimand is an eye opener that says we need to change or modify behavior. This is going to be a big challenge to your professionalism because emotions tend to overcome our logic. Leave emotions outside of the room.

There is a three step process in dealing with a reprimand effectively. The best way to deal with a reprimand is to accept the notification. It doesn’t matter if you don’t sign it, you must acknowledge the fact that you made a mistake, for whatever reason, and then devise a strategy to not allow it to happen again. Then ask for suggestions or recommendations about how to avoid this situation in the future. Be open to suggestions. Finally, the third step is to provide feedback. Apologize for your actions and assure everyone involved that you will work on your behavior. This test has the most points because it may be the most difficult test of our professionalism.

There may be instances when the same test may be administered in one day, such as the test of the rude co-workers or customers. Take off ½ points if you have a negative reaction than what was suggested. For example, if you were angry at your supervisor for the feedback you received from the performance review (and it showed) you would score 25 points. Then for the next review you need to work on your emotions, so that you can score 50 points.

It is important to remember that any irrational moves or reactions to any of the tests could have a detrimental affect on your career and reputation. Think first, and then react.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Thank you for this extremely educational and thought-provoking article. I would highly suggest that both new and more "seasoned" administrative professionals print this out and keep it close by.

As a "seasoned" administrative professional, it can be easy to forget some of these simple yet very important points, "because I've been doing this forever, so it's become second nature to me, and besides no one has complained (at least to my face)."

For those forward thinking administrative professionals just starting on their journey and wish to beome the premiere administrative professional, this would be a great reference tool/reminder to include in your arsenal of soft skills (also known as emotional intelligence, things you can't be taught in school - my mother and grandmother simply referred to it as people sense or "mother wit").

Who knows, later on in your administrative professional journey, when you've become more "seasoned," and/or in a position to train someone this would be a great resource to review with them and share.

My plan is to add the piece to my "Big Book of Knowledge," and be sure it is kept close at hand on my desk, along with any other words of wisdom I've picked up from speakers and bloggers(like you), seminars attended and articles I've read. I also have all my often used "tips and tricks" written out and updated with new software updates, my preferred vendors and those individuals I have forged strategic business partnershps with AND my list of go-to people including my IAAP and other administrative professionals gurus...

Thanks for compiling this, I promise to keep it handy - after I share it with some friends!

Anonymous said...