These Mistakes Will Brand You “Unprofessional” In a Heartbeat!
We got a call from Natalie, a VP of Product Development. We worked with Natalie and her team last year when they were gearing up for a big product launch.
Natalie said “I’m in shock. My biggest supplier just told me it’s going to cost us $140K more than we budgeted for parts in 2016. He said it’s because he had a problem with one of his raw materials vendors.
“I told him that I’d like to work with him on resolving the problem, but that we had a clear agreement, articulated in many email messages and confirmed by him and his sales VP many times. I told him I expected him to take steps to make it right.”
“I’ve worked with this supplier for five years. He said ‘Those were only email messages, not a contract.’
“I didn’t know what to say. I’m confident we would win a dispute in court if we pushed the issue, because we have an umbrella contract that covers all of our purchases during the contract period, and the pricing is laid out in the contract. But I’m not going to sue the guy.
“This vendor has competitors. Why would I keep working with someone who doesn’t take responsibility for a massive oversight on the part of his team? It’s an integrity issue!”
We agreed with Natalie. She gave her vendor the weekend to cool off and think about his part in the debacle, but sadly nothing shifted.
He called her on Monday and said “I’ll send you a new contract with the revised pricing.”
Natalie said “That’s okay, don’t bother – we’re going with another vendor.”
The guy lost eight or ten million dollars of annual business because he couldn’t say “I messed up. I’m sorry.” How many other businesspeople have done the same thing?
Your professionalism is conveyed in your words and actions as well as your demeanor, your tone, your speech, your dress, your respect for other people and the value you place on your commitments.
We tend to think of a professional person as someone who is very knowledgeable and business-y, but in reality professionalism has more to do with personal ethics than with your education, your title or your industry knowledge.
Some of the most professional people we’ve met drive cabs and tend bar for a living, and some of the most unprofessional people we’ve come across sit atop huge corporations!
I’ve been an HR person since God was a child.
When I had a half-hour between meetings, was it more professional of me to review a vendor contract, or spend twenty minutes reassuring a co-worker who was dealing with a personal crisis?
They are both professional obligations. Saying “Hello!” and “Please” and “Thank you!” is professional. Failing to say these things when it’s appropriate is unprofessional. Failing to be human in human situations is unprofessional, but a lot of folks are confused about that.
They say “Well, it’s business!” and they turn the Empathy Dial to zero.
Snapping at a subordinate is unprofessional whether there’s anyone else around to hear your harsh words, or not.
It’s the little things that we choose to do and say that brand us as professional. What are professionals, after all? They are people who take their jobs seriously – no matter what the job is.
Natalie’s ex-supplier found a great way to brand himself as unprofessional. He passed his big error onto his customer without acknowledging his lapse or taking any responsibility for it. That’s one way to trash your reputation!
Another way to earn the label “unprofessional” is to badmouth other people, no matter how desperately you may feel they deserve it.
When you tell a hilarious story around the water cooler about dealing with Betty, the screaming witch in the Accounting department who holds up everyone’s travel reimbursements, what do you think people remember?
They don’t remember the way you imitated Betty’s speech or what a pain in the neck Betty can be when she gets stressed. They remember that you trashed a fellow employee and mocked her in front of other people. Is that professional?
You’ll destroy your professional reputation in a heartbeat by putting down the company or its leaders, even when you’re angry. After all, if you despise the people you work for but you still come to work and take a paycheck, what does that say about you?
Taking a paycheck from people you don’t respect doesn’t sound very professional to me! Upstanding people tell the truth, no matter how much their knees wobble.
The first time you speak up is always the hardest. It gets easier and easier to tell the truth as your muscles grow! Professional people act on their convictions.
If you hate your job, the professional thing to do is to fix it or leave it, not complain about it.
You’ll brand yourself unprofessional by blowing off obligations.
If you forget an important email message that you promised would go out today, but you’re already halfway home on the freeway, that’s no big thing!
When you get home, compose a quick message to say “Dear Allan, so sorry the day got away from me and I haven’t gotten you that report yet. You’ll have it first thing tomorrow morning!”
Most people in business are not ogres and they’re not unreasonable.
They just expect other people to make good on their commitments, do what they say they’re going to do and tell the truth when it matters — and can we blame them for that?