I have had several recent experiences that, when combined, have caused me to believe that we are witnessing a decline in professionalism. These experiences center around people getting back with you or I should say…not getting back with you. The most vivid instance was a series of non-interactions that began with a phone call where I reached a colleague only to have him inform me that he didn’t have time to talk. He was swamped, overwhelmed, in over his head. And I want to know, then why did he pick up the phone? Even more curious was the fact that he indicated I should be happy he picked up since he knew it was me…thanks to caller ID. That was a bit condescending I thought. He asked me to e-mail him to schedule a time that we could talk, which of course I did…three weeks in a row. Yes, this behavior was repeated several times, and every time I complied only to experience frustrating silence from the other party. Very unprofessional in my opinion.
The ramification of this person’s silence/lack of follow-up were repeated phone calls to others and having to explain that I STILL had not heard anything from my contact. Now this person’s lack of professionalism had carried over and by association had attached itself to me. I will accept my shortfalls and be accountable to them, but please don’t ask me to cover for them and have to keep making excuses for someone else.
What is at the root of this lack of professionalism? Many times communications today are abrupt, curt, abbreviated, hurried. Additionally, they are not even timely because people can justify that they are too busy, swamped, and overwhelmed (as in my colleague’s case) with more important priorities to return a phone call or respond to an e-mail. Is professionalism just another casualty of our fast-paced, goal-oriented society? Maybe it is the fact that people are just too focused on themselves vs. others. If you are serving the needs of others, you will take that extra minute to help a colleague, to keep the communication flowing; if you are focused on yourself, you won’t. Where do you stand? Are you promoting professionalism by being courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike or are you contributing to its dilution by doing things that are mostly in your own best interest?
I believe being professional means acting professionally. When someone leaves you a message, return the call. When someone sends you an e-mail, respond with an answer. If you say you are going to do something, then do it. Think of others first before you think of yourself.