If you find yourself asking questions like why YOU as an employee need to adhere to a certain dress code in the workplace when the entrepreneurs behind the businesses which employ you are living it up in their shorts, then you’re looking at the professionalism discussion all wrong. It’s not so much about the technical details of these so-called professionalism cues, but rather about professionalism itself. All these rules and regulations that are put in place are there to create some kind of framework over which the kind of professionalism every company in operation wants to be associated with in order to be taken seriously.
Are rules made to be broken?
Well look – the mere fact that any rule is made automatically means that it’s there for a reason and it’s not made to be broken. That cliché definitely has its place, but fundamentally someone has to make some rules, especially in the corporate setup.
That said though, if your immediate superior walked into your office and found that you’re not wearing your tie as per the stipulated workplace dress code, if upon asking you why you’re not wearing it you reply that it’s hindering your ability to do your work with a reasonable degree of comfort, will they insist you wear your tie? If they understand the bigger picture then they won’t, but if they just want to flex the power they’ve been handed over you, they might give you some problems which ultimately prove to be unnecessary.
So we’re not encouraging a culture of deliberately seeking out rules to break. Rather, the encouragement is for you to only stretch the boundaries a bit or see how far you can get with bending the rules if the end justifies the means.
Many of the rules written around workplace conduct are deeply rooted in both safety and professionalism. Wearing a work id at all times during working hours, for example, displays professionalism and their specific identity within the organization. But if we’re honest about it, the safety consideration came after the professionalism cues. After all, there first has to be a business that generates revenue in order for there to be a subsequent workplace, in which considerations of safety can be introduced. That is not to say profits are prioritised at the expense of everything else, including employee safety. One cannot jeopardise the safety of employees at any cost. Employers need to be more considerate about the wellbeing of employees, and therefore, should perhaps consider an onsite clinic that can provide medical and health services related to primary care, general first aid, speciality care, and occupational health.
So the rules which are made to be followed in the workplace are basically just guidelines which give all the personnel forming part of an enterprising organisation a framework from which to act professionally in providing the goods or services the business is involved in.
If a prospective client comes to visit your premises, for instance, and you’re involved with the manufacture of important components which are to be integrated into their business, do you think they’d trust you to be their supplier if you’re operating out them without proper protection (like not wearing a hazmat suit, for instance) and lack of cleanliness? If you were an the individual, independent contractor then all that would matter is that the output is professionally produced, but these types of things as appearance go a long way in easing the minds of the clients you work with.
So if you’re required to dress formally as part of your workplace conduct guidelines in the financial services firm you’re working for, that makes sense over the impression you’d give to people who trust the company with their money had you been strutting around in your beach attire, doesn’t it?
Zoning-in on the importance of being professional
The importance of being professional ultimately comes down to the application of the expert knowledge you’ve likely spent time and money to acquire. Ask so-called digital nomads how difficult it actually is to get some meaningful work done in their swimwear, at the beach and they’ll tell you that that’s probably the reason why they dress up and go and work at co-working spaces.
Professionalism is a frame of mind and it shows in the final output which is to be sold to the end-client.
What does it actually mean to be professional?
Being professional comes down to one thing, which is getting the perceived value in the output you’re paying for. Whatever it is I buy from you, whether it’s a product or service, it mustn’t feel like I could have learned how to produce it myself in a couple of hours!