With the rapid change in the Indian business marketplace, we are constantly reinventing the paradigm of business and ergo, professionalism.
What is Professionalism and why is it important?
Say, there is a convenience store at the corner from your house, which you frequent, despite the large chain supermarket a little further away. One morning, you’ve run out of eggs and you dash across the street, only to find the store closed. You notice that this isn’t the first time that they have kept their business closed during business hours. You’re exasperated, and have to run to the supermarket to buy the pack of eggs. Boom, the convenience store just lost a viable customer. Now, let us try mapping this scenario to our workplaces. How would you feel if you and your team had to wait endlessly for the presence of one of your teammates? How would you feel if a deliverable that was to be signed off a week ago is still pending, and it all falls on you? Do these situations feel all so familiar?
What constitutes professionalism?
Just like anything behavioral, professionalism as a term is highly complicated and layered. However, we’ve attempted to break it down. It rests on the 4-legged chair of Commitment, Responsibility, Competence, and Integrity. Among these traits, one can find Trust and Transparency, along with Time Management. However, a term as dense as ‘Professionalism’ is often taken lightly in some countries and places of work.
Loyalty is an often overlooked but imperative trait in the context of professionalism. Several management theorists have gone on to elaborate the impact of loyalty on managerial decisions and thereby, the overall well-being of the organisation. Based on a survey conducted in India, it was noted that experience in a certain field, or rather, the lack thereof contributes to menial job satisfaction. As a result, people who are inexperienced or have moderate experience of 1-3 years in a field are most likely to cap their tenure at 20 (1 year and 8 months) months. However, it was noted that those with greater experience (3-5 years) in the said field measured their tenure at 32 (2 years and 8 months) months, and those with an experience of over 5 years tenured at an average of 44 months (3 years and 8 months).
This showed that those with lower tenures meant that they constantly switched jobs, looking for the next best thing on their radar. Some behaviorists may argue that this may constitute as unprofessionalism. On the other hand, people with greater experience in terms of years were more likely to stay loyal to their organisations, and this would be considered as a factor for being regarded as “professional”. Although this interpretation is a double-edged sword, one cannot ignore the impact of the data that has been presented.
The Great Indian Tales
The Economic Times in one of its articles called out to Indians as ‘argumentative and tough to work with’. Constant tardiness, severe backlashes, shoddy adherence to processes, and emotional bruising are preliminary concerns that the world at large raises while working with Indians. We have accepted some forms of inefficiency as part of our work culture, and is second nature to us. Over commitment and under-performance have almost always been perceived as being synonymous with the Indian work culture. We often leave our prospective employers hanging, without providing clear terms of engagement; we don’t hesitate to offer grand theories, but often find ourselves struggling to meet those tall expectations that often precede us.
How can we get better?
Get relevant and make lifestyle changes.
Aristotle said, “Time is the measurable unit of movement concerning a before and an after.”
So, the first thing we can do to exude professionalism is to start showing up on time. Something as simple as showing up to a meeting five minutes earlier demonstrates respect to the work, responsibility to the team, and an unshakeable commitment to bettering yourself. Making yourself reliable against odds of bureaucracy and hierarchy demonstrates utmost integrity and earns the admiration of peers and bosses alike.
Acceptable professional behavior is something that all of us need to grow into, no matter the difficulty or the sensitivity of the situation. Demonstrating honesty and organizational skills, focussing on sensitive communication, and aligning your goals with those of your organization makes for a great professional image. Unfortunately, there is no straitjacket solution to being a responsible professional overnight. India is a vast country, with enormous potential, and even bigger problems; so much that even the daily commute to and from work may seem tedious and draining. However, it is something that we must be cognisant of.
Planning ahead, and working meticulously to honour the other person’s time and our own commitment is something we still need to grow into. It is a continuous process that would enable in building a conscientious professional market, that makes for a happy and sustainable workforce that looks towards a promising future.