What's so important about being professional?

Especially if people get their jobs done regardless.

I don’t understand the concept that much.

How does the following interfere with performance?

*Gum chewing
*Wearing jeans and t-shirts
*Listening to heavy metal or rap, instead of elevator music
*Talking about sex
*Eating during meetings
*Having pages ripped from Maxim taped on your cubicle or office walls
*Having a GI Joe or Tweety Bird collection

I deal with some of the above in school, and I don’t think it interferes with my performance at all. Why is it so much different in many workplaces?

Well, many of those things will make people around you uncomfortable, and others suggest an inability to deny the physical which is just sort of uncouth–it’s sort of suggests that you are driven more by your urges than by your intellect, if you can’t put off eating for a few hours, or are always thinking about sex, or are listening to emotional music all the time.

There is a long standing idea that our passions should be kept private, if for no other reason than they make other people uncomfortable. Not staying dispassionate at work suggests that you can’t stay dispassionate, which calls your competence into question.

That said, I suck at being professional because I have a very strong personality and have a lot of trouble concealing that for long. So I went into a career where an over the top personality is as asset.

What about letting both the physical and intellectual rule you, sometimes? They don’t always conflict with each other.

I was just going to add being blunt and aggressive to my list. It seems that all of the passive-aggressiveness and sugar coating that goes around many workplaces is just as harmful as confrontation and just telling it like it is, in the long run. It’s good that you found a career where it’s an asset rather than a liability.

I couldn’t say it better than Manda Jo.

I’ve worked with people who did some of the things you listed – and others that were worse – ever sit next to someone who farts audibly and then laughs?

Those behaviors don’t inspire confidence, in your co-workers or your managers (or your customers, if you’re working with the public). So if you’re going to indulge, expect that you won’t be trusted until you’ve proven yourself. Maybe not even then.

I don’t mean to sound like an inspirational wall poster, but acting like a professional shows respect for yourself and others. There’s little enough of that these days.

Part of being a professional (or, ya know, a grownup) is differentiating between appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

*Gum chewing makes you look like a dumb cow.
*Cursing under what circumstances? Scolding your computer under your breath? Okay. Talking to a client, co-worker, or your boss? No. Try to expand your vocabulary.
*Wearing jeans and a tshirt can be perfectly acceptable, depending on where you work. If it’s important to you to wear jeans and a tshirt, get a job where that’s acceptable attire.
*It shouldn’t matter what you listen to at your desk as long as no one else can hear it. If anyone else can hear it, it’s too loud, no matter what it is.
*Nobody cares about your sex life.
*Eating during meetings is often perfectly acceptable. Again, know when it’s not. It’s not hard to tell. If you’re *the only one * eating? Cut it out.
*You’re fucking kidding me, right? (See, now here’s a situtation where cursing is appropriate!)
*On your desk? Whatever. Just don’t be surprised when no one takes you seriously.

Diamonds02, I seem to remember at least one other “Why oh why is the working world so unfair to me?!?!?” thread from you. When you take a job, you’re expected to adjust to the requirements and culture of that particular workplace. Live. With. It. or don’t take that job.

For starters, if you talk about sex at work or have Maxim pictures decorating your cubicle, I’m going to do my damnedest not to work with you, 'cause you’re sleazy, and I’m going to try and steer any female clients/customers away from you.

There’s personal and there’s professional. I find it very helpful not to have the two bleed into each other. What I wear on my own time (jeans and t-shirts) vs. what I wear at work (skirts and pantyhose) helps me differentiate between my private life and my work life. I swear at home; I don’t swear at work. When I’m at work, it is my job to be calm, cool, and collected and to project that image to others. My dress and manner of speech help me maintain that.

Most or all of the things you listed can be a significant distraction to people around you. Moreover, those people may suspect that those things are also a distraction to you and hinder your ability to get the job done.

Also, the things you listed make people think that you’re not really a grown-up, either because they’re childish/adolescent in themselves or because they’re things that members of the older generation would never have dreamed of doing in a professional setting.

Going along with the superficial rules of a workplace is a way of inspiring trust in your employers, supervisors, and coworkers that you can be counted on to also observe the less noticeable but more important rules.

Farts are funny, unless you smell them. You should tell them that you need to whisper a secret, when they lean over, belch loudly in their ear.

Okay maybe I have not phrased my questions the right way. When I say professionalism (and lack their of), I mean it on every level. The boss who adjusts or scratches his crotch to the subordinate sports cleavage. What I’m getting to is what would happen if the workplace was casual by default, instead of “professional”?

All those things would be acceptable if you had no interaction with other human beings. In most workplaces it is required that you deal with other people and your list of unproffesional things can also double as a list of things others may be offended by.

If the powers that be insist on professionalism, it doesn’t matter.

But why should I trust you to know when they conflict and when they don’t? Everyone else has the same urges but controls them at work. If you don’t, it suggests you can’t. Which means I won’t consider you reliable. Sure, you may be, but why risk it?

If that were the case, agressive, blunt work places would outcompete the civil ones. They don’t. Again, being restrained shows you have control of yourself. Being a person in control is an important asset. Being a lost cannon gets you marginalized because no one feels like they can trust you.

Also, there are concrete reasons for a lot of the behavior people call “passive aggessive”–sometimes it’s to allow people to save face, sometimes it’s to create an enviroment where people feel comfortable airing opinions, sometimes it’s to aviod a conflict with someone when you want to marginalize them without having to spend much energy on it. And many other reasons.

I think the working world is unfair to ALL of us. I just don’t understand why so many people take it. We live in a country where people sue others for being burnt by hot coffee. Yet, when something shitty happens to them in the working world, most people don’t stand up. They’re like “Oh, that’s just business!” I don’t quite understand where that mentality comes from. But, this is kind of a differnt topic.

Because most people could get fired on a whim. Which is yet another cherished tenet of Americanism.

I am with you all the way, fart away, gobble that stuff at the staff meeting, listen to your rap and then wonder why you got passed over for promotion. Do it your way, more power to you. See where you get. And super size those fries.

An interesting question and the answer depends on the culture of the company you work at and the industry they work in.

*Gum chewing
-Makes it difficult to understand what you are saying. Can be distracting. Conveys an “I don’t give a shit” attitude.

-Rude and can be offensive

*Wearing jeans and t-shirts
-Looks sloppy

*Listening to heavy metal or rap, instead of elevator music
-Loud and pounding music, often with violent imagery is distracting and potentially offensice. Elevator music or “Muzak” is, if not enjoyable, is at least soft and unobtrusive

*Talking about sex
-Also potentially offensive

*Eating during meetings
-See “chewing gum”. Also you are focused on your ham on rye, not on what is being said.

*Having pages ripped from Maxim taped on your cubicle or office walls
-Distracting to others and offensive

*Having a GI Joe or Tweety Bird collection
-Gives an appearance of immaturity

*being blunt and aggressive
-Because you may convey your message but people won’t want to work with you again. Passiveness is not encouraged either. What is expected is to maturely and assertively state your oppinion.
Keep in mind that in many of these cases, while it isn’t affecting your job performance, it might be affecting other peoples.
As you said, you deal with this in school. School is for children, the workplace is for adults. I deal with clients daily and they want to know that when they are paying a lot of money for our services, they are paying a a competent, mature professional. Unlike a classroom environment, they might not know me from Adam. I need to build trust right away and it’s hard to do that while eating a sandwhich in jeans and a T-shirt.

That said, there is a certain amount of theatrics to “being professional”. We swear and make sex jokes and eat around the office all the time. My manager and I will bust out Simpson or Family Guy jokes or whatever. But we all know each other and have built up that trust. We can even be a little more relaxed with clients who weve worked with for awaile and know and trust us. But when we are working with the clients or outside vendors, it’s time to put on your “game face”.

The other issue is that unprofessionalism can become contageous. If an environment is too relaxed, sometimes it does affect performance. People spend more time joking than working. The start to get a sense that “anything goes” and next thing you know, half the office shows up two hours late to work.

Maturity isn’t about having a stick up your ass. It’s knowing when it’s time to be serious and when it’s time to have fun.

There’s a line to be drawn somewhere, I think. Folks used to get canned for getting married, or drinking on weekends, or wearing not-white shirts. Farting and cussing aren’t that innocuous or irrelevant to the workplace.

Then I wouldn’t use you as a professional service, I’d go to someone who was professional instead.

In my-office people are often called on to work late hours and weekends, we deal with clients all the time, and there are complex tasks that require us to coordinate the work of many different disciplines from different people. It works best when we all work on a professional level that keeps people in a good mood and best efficiency. We also goof-off all the time, but once we’re done with that it’s back to professional behavior.

What tends to work best in all the offices I’ve worked in is a balance between professional behavior and time to have fun. They are not mutually exclusive, but it’s clear that without that baseline of professional behavior things get ugly fairly quickly. It’s easy to annoy and antagonize people when you try to use a base level of humor; not everyone likes that.

Similarly, if an environment is too tense, never does it affect performance. :rolleyes:

But you understand the difference between “something shitty” happening, and simply being expected to behave like an adult professional, right? Not being allowed to display your Tweety Bird collection isn’t exactly a gross injustice.

This is a really good point and I think it could be expanded. People are very, very different. Ever do that thing as a kid when you went to spend the night at someone’s house and it was just SHOCKING how they did every single little thing differently than your family? People vary enourmously, and have very differnent senses of humor, ideas of fun, hang-ups, and quirks. Because of this, it’s hard to find people that you can be the “real you” around and that can be they “real them” around you and everyone enjoy themselves. When we find these people, whose quirks and hang-ups and customs and traditions don’t conflict (even if they don’t match) with ours, we cling to them and call them friends.

But a workplace is filled with people who are not your friends. Who have beliefs and ways of doing things at home that would irritate you, who value things you don’t value and who disdain things that matter to you, who have differnet tastes and standards and mores. But we still have to work together, so we’ve invented this code called “professional behavior” that doesn’t match the “real” anybody and is a vanilla sort of version of life, because it also doesn’t really offend anyone, it’s fairly easy to learn the rules to, and it provides an enviroment where we don’t have to confront nor even reveal our differences every damn day.