Requiring Professionalism from Your Employees

Tiffany rolls her eyes when you give her a task to perform. Chris and Spencer can’t get along and constantly bicker in the workplace. Maggie complains about the unfairness of how work is assigned.

Each of these employees lacks professionalism. While professionalism is hard to define, we all know it when we see it. I call some of these workers “finger-pointers”, some “whiners”, and the rest “brats”, but all of their behavior is immature and difficult to bear in the workplace. Unfortunately, most supervisors will just say that the employee has a “bad attitude” and will be reluctant to coach or encourage better behavior from these employees. Then, when the bad attitude dude is fired, it is difficult for the company to win an unemployment compensation appeal or a discrimination suit because there is rarely a policy in the employee handbook that says, “Thou shalt keep a good attitude at work”.

But every handbook can include a professionalism policy. Your policy could read something like this:

The Company expects its employees to demonstrate the highest values and professionalism. Employees are expected to take responsibility for assuring that their judgment, loyalty, conduct, language, discussion content, teamwork, flexibility, integrity, and job performance are of the highest quality while on the job. Employees must maintain a positive attitude with coworkers and supervisors while being fixers, not finger-pointers. If an employee can identify a solution to a workplace problem, the employee should bring the solution to the attention of the supervisor. It is the responsibility of each employee to show respect to all supervisors, coworkers, customers, and vendors. Discourtesy and disrespect towards any other employee, refusal to comply with rules, orders, instructions, or any such conduct which undermines managerial authority or disrupts other employees from carrying out Company directives, are prohibited acts and grounds for disciplinary action, including termination.

Your employees should be required to take this policy seriously, which they will do if you as an owner or supervisor will enforce this policy and discipline employees who violate it. Yes, your documentation may read something like “Tiffany will not roll her eyes when given instructions by her supervisor during her 90-day improvement period”! As silly as that sounds, it is the kind of documentation that is necessary to cure the problem and also to protect you as the employer if you have to eventually fire the employee.

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