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Leveraging Your Organization's Culture for Professional Development

  
  
  
  
  
  

corporate culture, professional presenceThere is much written about the value of corporate culture. Studies indicate that its importance is widely recognized. A recent study published in American Sociological Review concluded that students who displayed characteristics that "fit" into a workplace culture were significantly more likely to be hired than students with similar credentials who were not perceived as a good fit.

Assistant Professor of Sociology at Rice University, Erin Cech, who conducted another study that looked at wage inequality said, "Cultural ideologies within professions may seem benign and have little salience outside of a profession’s boundaries, but may play an important role in wage inequality." In essence cultural similarities in the workplace are seen as capital with economic value.

Being hired and being happy and successful in your career is strongly affected by how well you adapt to the prevailing culture. But how, exactly, do you define workplace culture? What are its elements?

In 2005 David Foster Wallace opened a commencement speech at Kenyon College with this often repeated story: There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?"

Being completely immersed in any culture renders it practically invisible, which makes defining your corporate culture the first step toward merging your personal style with it.

Organizational culture includes tangibles like a company's dress code and its policy about flex time, as well as intangibles such as team dynamics, valued personality styles and ethics. Culture is expressed through the attitudes of the individuals who work there, along with the behaviors that are recognized and rewarded, and the political climate.

You can begin to see and understand your company's culture by examining three of its specific elements: 

  • Communication
  • Work patterns and physical environment
  • Individual power

Communication

A formal structure values tradition very highly, favors written communication, and considers humor as disruptive. Meetings are structured and present information that is fully developed.

More moderate organizational structures conduct meeting with agendas but welcome free-flowing discussions. Memos and drop-by conversations are the norm, and intelligent, well-timed humor is appreciated.

Communication in a casual office is informal, relying on voicemail, email, and oral agreements. Meetings and group interactions are often informal and spontaneous.

Work Patterns & Physical Environment

Formal organizations place a high priority on the rank of an individual, which is reflected by the size and decor of office and the desirability of such things as parking spaces and seating arrangements at meetings. Family obligations are kept separate from work, and arriving early and staying late is appreciated.

Work patterns in more moderate workplaces are a bit more relaxed. Though long hours are noticed, rewards come from results. Some family activities, such as company picnics, are endorsed.

Casual organizations support flex time, focusing on results rather than where the work is done. Meeting areas take precedence over large executive offices, and individuals are valued for their expertise regardless of rank.

Individual Power

The power to see your ideas put into action and to get things done is also dictated by the organizational culture of a company. In formal companies power resides in the hands of a few. Position and title allows control over key resources.

Power of authority is respected in more moderate organizations, but team leaders and department heads are willing to seek expertise and experience from others of lesser status. Professional expertise is valued over status.

In casual organizations personal power stems from a person's knowledge, actions, character, and relationships. Getting a job done takes precedence over status.

 

The ability to merge personal style with the culture of an organization is interpreted as professionalism in the workplace and as such impacts management's judgment of your competence and overall contribution to the organization. 

 

The workplace course titled, Professional Presence in a Casual World, which has already been presented to over 1 million people, is specifically designed to help attendees to identify the elements of the cultural structure within their organization and merge their style with it, without sacrificing individuality.

How Generation Impacts Professional Presence

  
  
  
  
  
  

Generational Issues, Multigeneration, Employee Development SystemsEach generation feels differently about the importance of an online presence. Those opinions range from “LinkedIn doesn’t pertain to my career” to “Facebook is my personal space, so I’ll should be able to post what I want to.” The truth is that LinkedIn does relate more to some industries than others.

However, you still need a basic presence and a well-thought out career summary. This is where the world goes to find out about your experience. It has been said before, but is worth repeating, that although Facebook likely reflects your personal identity, your profile should never contain anything incriminating or embarrassing. If someone else posts an image of you that doesn't show you in the light you would like the entire world to see you in, follow up on it right away, so it can be deleted. 

Remember, the online frontier is still wild, and there are no professional standards written in stone. It’s up to you to show the world who you are, but carefully monitoring and building your online presence. One thing is for sure -personal content online can affect your professional life. Don’t be fooled, human resources professionals take a look at Facebook profiles all the time. 

The Millennial generation is often blamed for being self-centered, narcissistic and unable to sacrifice or perform at a higher level in order to accomplish long-term goals. They are also accused of not being able to collaborate with others or work well in groups. But are these claims accurate? A second look at the Millennials’ background gives ample justification for their outlook and behaviors. Millennials have grown up with choices rather than limits, and they are not only technologically savvy, but have fully integrated the tools of technology into every part of their lives. They can enter a new work environment, take a look at some of the entrenched processes and instantly see a faster, more efficient way to accomplish the same tasks, through the use of any number of tools.

Growing up in this environment also has left Gen Y inwardly focused, relative to other generations in the workforce. Consider that each time Millenials interact with technology, the internet, television or social media, the message they receive is targeted directly to their own personal interests and lifestyle. This represents a drastically different world from coming home each day to watch one of three standard evening newscasts on network television, along with millions of other Americans.

To their credit, young Millennials have a valid argument for the importance of change and the growing irrelevance of the traditional workday. For Gen Y, work can be done at any time of day or night, as long as it has meaning and can be integrated into their lifestyle.

The workplace course titled, Professional Presence in a Casual World, which has already been presented to over 1 million people, cuts through the accusations on both sides of the generational divide, and gives everyone in the mix a unified culture in which all employees can work together, and more importantly –succeed together.

All generations are able to learn how they can differentiate themselves as leaders and potential leaders.

  •     Develop the confidence necessary to achieve results.
  •     Build an image that is respected and models corporate values.
  •     Learn how to be viewed as a positive influence with co-workers.
  •     Cement strong business partnerships.
  •     Cement strong business partnerships.
  •     Add value to their personal lives through accomplishments.
  •     Be identified as a person who listens, communicates and clarifies.
  •     Focus on excellence in the work that they do.

Professional Presence in a Casual World shows attendees how to develop a professional presence, match the professional culture in their workplace and build professional competence.

Organizations that support members of Gen Y in polishing these professional skills will benefit over their competitors by gaining well-rounded employees who not only bring energy, new ideas and technological expertise to the workplace, but also have the ability to listen empathically, collaborate with others and communicate professionally. An added benefit to providing this kind of course in the workplace is that employees from all generations can be included, resulting in a common language of professionalism across the entire organization.

Listen to this Q & A podcast with EDSI’s CEO, Suzanne Updegraff, for insight into a new model for embracing professionalism in a contemporary workplace setting. 

 

6 Professionalism Style Tips for Winter Weather

  
  
  
  
  
  

winter work wearWhen the temperature drops, it’s difficult to get out of your warm bed in the morning, let alone consider wearing anything except sweatpants (and maybe a Snuggie) into the office. Unfortunately, loungewear isn’t generally acceptable as winter work wear, so you need to find a way to dress professionally while still staying warm and comfortable.

Here are a few tried and true cold weather fashion tips to last you through the winter.

Professionalism Style Tips for Chilly Weather

1. Scarves

A good scarf will last for years, and it will add color, style and personal flair to your wardrobe while keeping you toasty in the office and outside.

2. Sweaters

A soft, well-made lamb’s wool or cashmere sweater never goes out of style, for men or women. Buy one in a basic color that matches well with clothes you have -- white, beige, gray or black -- or select a bold solid color like blue, green or cranberry to make an impression. Layer it under a blazer or coat for a sharp, professional look.

3. Peacoat

You won’t regret purchasing a classic peacoat in a color you love (navy, black, gray and camel are all great choices, but bright colors can also be a good mood-booster). Find one that is tailored and made of a warm material, and you will use it for years to come.

4. Cardigans

Cardigans have long been a staple in women’s winter work wear, but fashion-forward men are also now adopting this fashion. For women, layer a button-down or zip-up cardigan over a blouse, skirt and tights; for men, over a button-down shirt, tie and pants.

5. Tall Boots

A pair of comfortable, calf-high black boots is the best winter fashion investment a professional woman can make. They look fashionable with leggings and dresses or skirts, and you can wear them with thick socks and keep your feet and legs warm all day.

6. Trench Coat

A mid-thigh or knee-length trench in tan, navy blue or black has a classic silhouette and looks good with everything in your work wardrobe. Wear it on rainy days to keep yourself dry and warm.

What professionalism style tips do you swear by in the winter? What is your favorite item of clothing for the office on a cold day?

 

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Professionalism in the Workplace Through Continuing Education

  
  
  
  
  
  

professionalism in the workplace continuing educationIn the not-so-distant past, it was much more common for companies to fund employee training as well as continuing education for their employees. Many companies made it more of a priority to invest in the professionalism in the workplace for their employees.

Once the economic downturn occurred, many businesses were anxious to tighten their belts, and educational funding was often one of the company benefits on the chopping block. According to a recent Fortune article, “Just 26% of chief financial officers say their companies reimburse employees for the training required to maintain their professional certifications, according to a new survey by staffing firm Robert Half Finance & Accounting. That's a big drop from the 46% who paid for continuing education in 2006…College tuition reimbursement has declined too, and not just in finance -- yet another casualty of tough economic conditions.”

Although these cutbacks have been the trend over the past several years, the economic recovery suggests that it might be time to reverse that trend and push again for employee development benefits. If you are a manager, you are in a unique position to assert your own desire to improve your professionalism in the workplace through continued education and training, and you can also try to increase the benefits of the employees you manage in your unit.

Employee  Development Talking Points:

1. Increased professionalism in the workplace equals better employee performance and productivity.

Employees are more likely to take advantage of professional development opportunities if they are offered to them free of charge or at a reduced rate. Companies benefit from this investment in employee development, because it improves performance and professionalism. To maintain competitive advantage, businesses can strongly benefit from an investment in their employees.

2. Better educated employees mean a more competitive company

The best employees are the employees who are dedicated to their jobs and committed to learning more and progressing further. Continuing education is an excellent investment, because a well-educated workforce is more prepared to meet the challenges of today’s rapidly changing world. Employees are also likely to have strong loyalty to a company that supports their continued growth and education.

3. Agree to stay with company for a certain amount of time or reimburse tuition

Some companies shy away from offering tuition assistance or paid employee training because they worry that they will lose their employees if they become more marketable. If your supervisor is concerned about this possibility, some companies ask their employees to sign a form on which the employee makes a commitment to stay a certain number of years once a degree or training program is completed, or else that employee is liable for a percentage of the tuition costs. Perhaps such a form might set your company at more ease.

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Boost Your Professional Presence - From Anywhere!

  
  
  
  
  
  

promote professional presence with appsMaybe you have had the same job for a decade, or maybe you are hitting the pavement to find a new job. Perhaps you’re steadily moving up the career ladder at a company you love. Regardless of your employment situation, you can always use a boost in your professional presence, especially during the season of spring fever. What you may not realize is that you don’t even have to be at work to improve your professionalism in the workplace. Check out these iPhone apps to get yourself on the right track from anywhere.


Apps To Increase Professional Presence

1. HBR Tips

If you want to improve your professionalism in the workplace when you’re on the go, then you may wish to consider downloading the free HBR Tips iPhone app. Each day, you will receive an innovative business management tip from the well-respected Harvard Business Review. These easy tips may help improve your professional presence.

2. How to Tie a Tie

Did you leave the house for the big meeting without remembering to ask your spouse to help you with your tie? This free app provides step-by-step graphic instructions for how to tie your own tie in a variety of ways, from a Half Windsor to a Hanover Knot. If your tie has you tied up in knots, this app can help you on your way to a more professional presence in moments!

3. Documents Free

If you need to add to the memo you were composing from the neighborhood coffee shop, or if your co-worker needs you to approve a document while you are in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, then you might benefit from this free iPhone and iPad app which allows you to create and access documents and spreadsheets. This capability makes working from anywhere easy – just be sure to keep your work-life balance in mind!

4. WorldCard Mobile Lite

Impress your business contacts with your professional presence by pulling up any business card on your phone at any time! This free app will ensure that you are never again caught without the ability to get in touch with any of your business contacts, no matter where you are. Even the Wall Street Journal recommends this app for all business professionals.

From resume building to job searching, from web conferencing to dictating notes, chances are you can find apps to boost your professionalism in the workplace – and they might even be free! What are your favorite business apps?

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Keeping Your Cool & Maintaining Your Professionalism in the Workplace

  
  
  
  
  
  
conflict triggers at work

If you have worked with other people for any amount of time, you have probably experienced moments of annoyance or frustration due to personality clashes, differences in expectations and misunderstandings. Even calm, mild-mannered people have their pet peeves and hot-button issues, so it is important to recognize yours so you can maintain your professionalism in the workplace during stressful times.

Use the following steps to explore what your conflict triggers are at work, how you react to them now and how you could manage them better.

Improving Your Professionalism in the Workplace

1. Recognize your personal conflict triggers.

No one is perfect, so don’t beat yourself up if you lose patience over seemingly small or insignificant details at work. Maybe you hate when colleagues talk more loudly than necessary on the phone or employees leave their desks a disaster when they go home for the day. Accept that you are going to have a different style than the people you work with and that some situations will be resolvable and that you will have to learn to live with others.

2. Examine how you react to annoyances. 

Think back to the last time a coworker or employee said or did something that made you react negatively. What did you say or do in response? Do you feel your reaction was fitting for the situation, or do you wish you had handled it differently? How did it reflect on your professionalism in the workplace? Think through what you could have done better to remain calm and professional while addressing the problem. For example, instead of snapping, “Can you please keep it down? I’m trying to work here!” at your loud colleague, you could have explained to him later that you have a hard time concentrating when there is a lot of extra noise in the office.

3. Find ways to calm yourself down.

You need to develop a positive long-term working relationship with the other people in your office, so letting your temper take over is not professional or productive. Once you know what your conflict triggers are, you can learn to cool down before you address any problems. Before you let the sharp words out of your mouth or send the angry email, pause to consider the possible effects of your actions. How would the other person feel or react? How does he or she communicate best? Would your words damage your relationship? Take a few minutes to think about it, and once you have calmed down, you can talk to the other person in a way that will lead to a productive result.

How do you deal with your conflict triggers at work?

 

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Does Professionalism in the Workplace Mean Being On Call 24/7?

  
  
  
  
  
  

smartphones and work life balanceFor many professionals, working hours are not strictly from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday anymore. You may find yourself bringing projects home to finish after hours or answering emails on your smartphone while spending time with your family on the weekend.

With technology increasing our accessibility, it’s normal for work-life balance to become a gray area. But the question is: when does professionalism in the workplace go too far? Should you be expected to answer work emails at midnight or be available for phone calls at all times? Does personal effectiveness improve or suffer from constant connectivity?

Professionalism in the Workplace & Work-Life Balance Can Co-Exist

Sometimes it’s inevitable that you will have to work late or handle business calls or emails in your off-duty hours. It can be a slippery slope, however, if you let this become the rule instead of the exception.

Ndubuisi Ekekwe, founder of the nonprofit African Institute of Technology, wrote in a recent piece for the Harvard Business Review

In a forthcoming book, "Sleeping with Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24-7 Habit and Change the Way You Work," Harvard Business School professor Leslie Perlow provides insights on this fraught relationship with smart devices. In an experiment that focused on mandating time off for consultants for at least one night per week, she noticed that — over time — their work lives improved, and they were largely more productive. For the research subjects who followed her policy of disconnecting from work at night, 78% said that they "feel satisfied" with their jobs, compared to the group of people who ignored the policy, where only 49% noted the same sense of satisfaction. Her results show that we're creating a self-perpetuating perception that working faster is better — even when speed may not be necessary.

Work-life balance is not just a luxury; it is a necessity to maintain a healthy personal life as well as an effective professional life. In your own company, examine your own habits and those of your employees and fellow managers. Ask yourself the following questions to determine best practices:

1. How often do I send emails or make work phone calls after normal business hours? Do I expect responses right away? What about my colleagues? What do these habits say about our company culture?

2. What will happen if we don’t handle after-hours emails and calls immediately? Are there any serious consequences that necessitate an urgent response? Would it be OK to wait until 9 a.m. the next morning?

3. What are some of the negative consequences of working around the clock? What have you noticed in your own office?

4. What are some of the positive consequences of allowing people to unplug after the workday is over? How do you think this could improve professionalism in the workplace in the long term?

What do you think? Share your own take on this issue in the comments section!

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Strict Hiring Practices or Going Too Far?

  
  
  
  
  
  

social media hiring practicesAs technology continues to grow and influence your personal and work life, social media profiles play an increasingly important role in your professional presence.

Even if they are off the clock, employees can face serious consequences -- from termination to legal repercussions -- for posting inappropriate material to social media that reflects poorly on their company, their colleagues or their professional presence in general. Many employers have started to screen potential employees’ social media profiles as part of their company’s hiring practices. Since what you post on the Internet is never private and can come back to haunt you in your work life, it is wise to think twice before posting any comments or photos that you wouldn’t be comfortable with your employer seeing.

When companies review social media profiles as part of their hiring practices, they often don’t give candidates a chance to explain the unflattering content they find. From a San Jose Mercury News article

In a survey last year of companies that screen applicants' social media sites, 73 percent said they don't give the applicants a chance "to explain questionable information," according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Other surveys have found that anywhere from 18 to 63 percent of employers review social media sites to assess job candidates. But many don't know that. A 2010 Microsoft study found that just 7 percent of those it surveyed in this country realized employers might peruse that data.

Some companies are taking these hiring practices even further and asking candidates to disclose their social network usernames and passwords so they can have full access to anything published.

Allison Green, of the Ask a Manager blog, calls this practice “outrageous” and “unacceptable,” though not widespread. Her advice to job applicants who are asked for this information by prospective employers:

I’d strongly encourage anyone who finds themselves on the receiving end of this request to refuse it. Say, “I don’t give out passwords for security reasons, although I’d be happy to send you the link for viewing my profile.” And stick to it.

What do you think of the use of social media screening in hiring practices? Is it acceptable to browse publicly shared information but crossing the line to demand personal usernames and passwords? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Can Professionalism in the Workplace and Politics Mix?

  
  
  
  
  
  
political professionalism in the workplace

A recent CareerBuilder survey reveals that “Thirty-six percent of workers reported they discuss politics at work. Forty-three percent expect they will be talking about this year’s presidential election with co-workers.”

Much of the time, such discussions about politics in the workplace can be friendly, but the survey reveals that:

“23 percent of workers who have discussed politics at work reported they had a heated discussion or fight with a co-worker, boss or someone else higher up in the organization. One-in-ten workers said their opinion about a co-worker changed after they discovered that person’s political affiliation, with most stating it changed for the negative.”

Such confrontations about politics are problematic when it comes to professionalism in the workplace, since 10 percent of workers report that these conversations reflect their opinion about someone else.

If you want to maintain your professional presence, then it is best to avoid having political discussions in the workplace. It may be difficult to avoid in a contentious election year, but it is best that your workplace performance is not overshadowed by your political leanings or opinions. People are more likely to respect your professionalism in the workplace if you are able to rise above office gossip and political banter.

How to Maintain Your Professionalism in the Workplace

1. Do not send email forwards from your work email address.

2. Politely excuse yourself from heated political discussions.

3. Avoid casual partisan jokes at work.

4. Don’t display political paraphernalia at the office or in the company parking garage.

5. Respond neutrally to anyone who tries to get you involved in a political discussion: “I prefer not to discuss my beliefs at work.”

6. Be prepared to change the subject.

How do you maintain your professional presence?

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Boosting Your Professional Presence - For Free

  
  
  
  
  
  

boosting professional presenceOne of the not-so-secret tips for workplace success and job security is simply maintaining a professional presence each day. Fortunately, this is relatively easy to do on any budget. You don’t need to buy a lot of books or invest in expensive seminars. Here are a few tips to get you started on increasing your professionalism in the workplace – for free.

5 Free Professional Presence Tips

1. Dress for the job you want.

You have probably heard this tip before, but it continues to ring true. If you want to rise the ranks in your current company – or in another company – you need to dress for jobs that are more senior than yours. If you dress like someone who is lower on the corporate ladder, then you are likely to be treated that way, too.

2. Don’t show too much skin.

If you want to keep things professional, one of the best ways to do that is to dress in such a way that minimizes the possibility of a wardrobe malfunction. Avoid wearing anything revealing or ill-fitting in the first place. And then don’t forget to keep a stash of safety pins or a needle and thread in your desk drawer just in case!

3. Keep your work area clean

Your attire isn’t the only thing that could get you in trouble with the professional presence police. If your work area is a disaster area, you are probably attracting the kind of attention that you don’t want to have. It might be that important papers get lost in your mess. Or it may be that your extensive collection of porcelain dolls or football trophies gather dust that aggravate the boss’s allergies. In general, keep your work area well organized and not overly personalized to the point of needing a small U-Haul if you ever change offices.

4. Get along with your coworkers

Even if you have coworkers who are difficult to get along with, it is important for you to be the bigger person and maintain professionalism in the workplace in your conversations and interactions with other people.

5. Take initiative

If you want to increase your professional presence, one way to do that is to go above and beyond your current job description. Consider ways that you can take the initiative to propose changes, initiate new ideas, and expand upon your current duties. Think about ways to incorporate more of your own interests and talents into the workplace in a way that could enrich your job and benefit the company as well.

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