The ABCs of Professionalism


If there’s one thing that I’ve noticed in my over fifteen years in the workplace it’s that there are wide and varying definitions and understandings of professionalism. What one woman sees as acceptable to wear to work, the other would only wear to a nightclub; text message slang has seeped into work emails; and getting tipsy at the work happy hour isn’t such a bad idea for some. But here’s the thing, while what is seen as professionally acceptable has somewhat changed with time and technology, there are still some standards. And if you find yourself in the workplace, which I hope that you already do or soon will, you need to make sure that you are, at a minimum, following these basic standards. Today I give you the ABCs of Professionalism.

A is for Appearance

There was a time when professional dress meant suits and pencil skirts, but that is no longer the case. It is not uncommon for many workplaces today to have a more relaxed, less business attire dress code. But relaxed rules doesn’t equal no rules. No matter the nature of your workplace, your clothing should always be neat and clean. Always. This rule holds true for the fast food clerk, the Chief Executive Officer and everyone in between. Dirty, untidy clothes are a distraction. It signals to people that you don’t care about your appearance so you probably don’t care about your job. Don’t give that impression. Wear what’s clean and use an iron.

Another important factor to consider in your appearance is fit. In the workplace your clothes should be neither too baggy nor too tight. There have been social media debates about whether a woman’s form-fitted dress is too tight for work. While it can be interesting to read strangers’ opinions, whether the dress is too tight is not really the issue. The issue is that the dress is a distraction from what the woman wants her coworkers and clients to be focused on; her mind and talents. Avoid distraction by selecting outfits that aren’t questionable. If you think it might be too tight or baggy, it probably is.


The final rule of appearance is to make sure that whatever you wear is appropriate for the place or occasion. If you’re an attorney, you shouldn’t show up for court like a personal trainer would. In the same vain, the gown you wear to your company’s gala isn’t appropriate for the company picnic. If you think you’ll look under or overdressed for the work event, you should probably pick a different outfit.

B is for Behavior

The way you behave is a major part of establishing yourself as a professional. Professionalism first requires that you are prompt. You should be timely in attendance, deadlines and responses. Promptness means that you are not only on time but that you are ready. Arriving at 8:00 a.m. but not able to truly function until 10:00 a.m. is unacceptable and unprofessional.

Professionalism also requires that you maintain polite behavior. Maintain your civility at work even when other people are not necessarily doing the same. Each of us has or will face situations in the workplace that test your patience and ability to be polite. Before you act in those trying times; assess whether your behavior is acceptable for work. My method for deciding if an action that I am contemplating is acceptable for the workplace, is asking myself, “Would my mama approve?” If she wouldn’t, then I can’t do it. If your behavior would embarrass your mother or your grandmother then I shouldn’t do it at work. Figure out a different way to handle the situation, Sis.

C is for Communication

The final basic building block of professionalism is communication. Your writing and verbal methods of communication must be professional. That means that there shouldn’t be misspellings or grammatical errors in any writing that you submit; emails and direct/instant messages inclusive. In 2018, it’s too easy to spell check everything…even names. Misspelling someone’s name is not only unprofessional but it is disrespectful. Take the time to show that you value your colleagues and associates by spelling their names correctly.


Likewise, your oral communications should be grammatically correct and delivered with civility and politeness. Say hello to the people you work with and avoid throwing temper tantrums when you disagree or don’t get your way at work. Again, if my mom would be embarrassed if she heard me say, then I shouldn’t say at work.

If you can remember to uphold the ABCs of Professionalism while you’re at work, you will always be considered the consummate professional. A great place to show off just how much of a professional you are is at the GladiatHers® Women in Sports Empowerment Summit happening in Atlanta on January 30th, 2019. You will meet amazing professionals and experts in the sports industry like Jocelyn Moore the NFL and Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce. You don’t want to miss it. Visit for your tickets and more information.