Professionalism in the Workplace: Tips for Managers
Maintaining the highest possible level of professionalism can help new and seasoned managers navigate challenges and position themselves to take advantage of additional opportunities.
By Kellie Wynne
Though being awarded the title of manager may feel like becoming a bigger fish, it actually means working in a more scrutinized fishbowl. Responsibilities expand, the impact of those responsibilities on the success of the practice becomes more significant, and a set of direct reports is expecting guidance on matters from practice activities to career development. It can feel like pressure is coming in from all levels of the practice organization.
Success Tips for Managers
In the face of these new challenges and new opportunities, managers often find themselves needing to learn and adjust to a different level of professionalism than the one that landed them their managerial position. Following the tips provided ahead can help new and seasoned managers develop their current level of professionalism.
Appear professional at all times. How a manager appears to employees plays a large part in the development and maintenance of a professional reputation in the workplace. This appearance includes dress, work areas, and demeanor.
• Dress. Managers are expected to dress appropriately and sometimes more formally than the staff. Additionally, managers should have well-kept hair and nails, understated make-up and accessories, and covered tattoos.
• Work areas. Work areas (e.g., desktops, filing cabinets, etc.) should all be kept tidy and organized. Personal belongings should be neatly stored in appropriate areas, and personal décor (e.g., family photos, etc.) should be tasteful. Additionally, managers should take care to leave any office equipment and break room areas, clean so employees and coworkers are not required to tidy up after them.
• Demeanor. A calm, even demeanor should be presented at all times. Appearing to be as in-control, organized, and put-together as possible helps project competency and efficiency—two foundational components of professionalism.
Communicate with respect. Managers should communicate respectfully with coworkers at all levels in the practice. Gossip should be avoided and actively discouraged among supporting members of the team. Should disagreements or issues arise, it is important to listen to all sides of the story, be objective, and then be up front and honest with employees while using a calm, even tone of voice. This will be better received than avoiding the conflict altogether or reacting emotionally. Finally, managers should never speak poorly about coworkers, even over email, and particularly within earshot of direct reports and/or patients.
Give credit where credit is due and take responsibility for your own mistakes. As a manager, you’ll be more respected by direct reports for leading this way. Also, setting the tone that it’s okay to make a mistake as long as those mistakes are acknowledged and corrected can contribute to team productivity and positive attitudes.
Be trustworthy. Managers have access to sensitive information and may be told things in confidence by direct reports, other managers, and practice owners. Keeping confidential information confidential, including information that others likely would not want shared, is vital to maintaining a reputation of professionalism. That said, it may be necessary to share some types of information with practice owners, and managers should carefully evaluate the need to make owners aware of certain situations. While it is important to earn and keep the trust of direct reports and coworkers, a manager’s ultimate loyalty is to the practice and its owners; maintaining the owners’ trust is paramount.
Exercise humility. Professionalism at the management level includes learning to be humble. Recognizing, truly appreciating, and openly acknowledging the hard work of others can be a large motivating factor for employee performance. Managers who give credit where credit is due will be more respected in the workplace than those who take credit for the good work of their direct reports. The same holds true for managers who take ownership of, and responsibility for, their own mistakes versus seeking to point blame at their team members or other practice employees. Setting the example that it is okay to make mistakes—so long as those mistakes are acknowledged and corrected—can also contribute to team productivity and positive attitudes.
Be reserved. The most professional managers are those who seek to be seen as a leader, a coach, and a resource for their team members, not necessarily as a friend. While a certain amount of friendly, social interaction contributes to a healthy and enjoyable work environment, being a professional manager means learning to balance the social aspects of the workplace with the need to stay focused on the job at hand.
Limit drama. Drama means different things to different individuals but can be loosely defined as having an overly emotional or dramatic reaction to a given issue or set of circumstances. It may be a personal situation that is disruptively brought into the office environment, or it may originate in the office between two employees or between an employee and a patient. Though it may be unrealistic to expect that all drama can be kept at bay in the workplace, managers should actively work to limit the amount and impact of both personal and work-related drama in their own matters, as well as the matters of their direct reports. This can be achieved by not overreacting to situations, not fueling emotional responses of others, not participating in gossip, and not tolerating gossip amongst team members. When conflicts do arise, managers should remain calm and help bring appropriate perspective to the situation in an effort to quickly and fairly resolve the problem.
Control complaints. Complaints are often disrespectful, usually focused on finger-pointing, and are almost always nonproductive. While managers may occasionally feel the need to complain or “blow off steam,” those complaints should not be shared with direct reports and never with patients. Instead, communications with coworkers, staff, and customers should be positive and solution-oriented at all times. If a manager has a complaint that s/he deems important to pass along, it should be shared with his/her boss only and be presented with a corresponding solution or recommendation.
Be budget conscious. At the management level, professionalism includes an awareness of the practice’s bottom line regardless of whether or not the manager’s compensation has an incentive-based component. While this most recognizably applies to supply costs and purchases, it also includes a concern for staff turnover, staff productivity, patient retention through superb customer service, and the efficiency of work-flow processes. Managers who can adapt an “all tides rise” philosophy and be conscious of the financial aspects of running a practice are more likely to be perceived as successful and professional managers by the practice owners.
Practice what is preached, and then some. Managers who do not follow their own messaging or that of the practice owners risk losing the respect of their direct reports. If employees are expected to be on time, managers must also be on time (or early!). If employees are occasionally asked to stay late, managers must also be willing to stay late. Managers should strive to set a good example for their direct reports (as well as the rest of the office staff) at all times in all areas of workplace professionalism. For example, they should stay focused on the tasks at hand, limit personal calls and texts during work hours, refrain from laughing or talking too loudly, and take the high road during conflicts.
End at home. Many believe that their actions outside the workplace—including behavior at work-related functions such as group happy hour or holiday parties—can be separated from their in-office professional reputation. Unfortunately, with today’s advanced technology such as cell phone videos, instant photo uploads, and real-time Facebook posts that are immediately visible to potentially hundreds of people, this is simply not the case. Behavior outside the workplace that creates memories suitable to share with coworkers—versus behavior that is inappropriate and embarrassing—better lends itself to a manager’s long-term professional development.
Managers hold a unique (and often stressful) position within a medical office. They are simultaneously responsible for guiding direct reports, carrying out the vision of the practice owners, and fulfilling their daily responsibilities, all while setting a good example for coworkers and staff members alike. As such, it is easy for many managers to feel their work and actions are constantly being analyzed, both inside and outside the practice environment. Maintaining the highest possible level of professionalism can help those holding a management job title to navigate the challenges they face and better position them to take advantage of additional opportunities that may come their way.
Kellie Wynne is senior director of corporate services for BSM Consulting, working in its Incline Village, NV office. Ms. Wynne oversees operational and administrative support services provided to various BSM Consulting customers and field consultants. Her primary responsibilities include project management and administration, work plan development, work team coordination, and task supervision.
Prior to joining BSM Consulting in 2007, Ms. Wynne obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in government from the University of Virginia and spent several years in the mortgage industry.