I am sure that people see the word professionalism and it brings to mind a variety of things. For me, it means the ability to deal with work-related issues in a non-personal (and typically non-confrontational) manner. However, I have discovered on more than a few occasions that not everyone holds to the same standard. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I did not always adhere to that standard, either. But I was lucky enough to have a manager one day sit me down – after we’d had a huge blowup in front of the rest of the staff – and explain to me that being professional did not mean being good at what I did but also meant being able to work as a part of a team and not bringing personal issues into my daily professional life. In other words, if there were things going on at home, leave them at home. If things were happening in the office, don’t take them home. And, above all else, treat everyone you work with and for with respect – even if the respect is not always returned. In the long run, it will always serve me better to take the high road.

Being rather quick-tempered on certain subjects, this has not always been easy. But I feel I have managed it rather well.

Recently, it was put to the test again. I had to seek the assistance of a co-worker on a problem project that I knew they had been part of earlier in its life cycle. So, I IM’d the co-worker asking if they knew about a certain file that appeared to be missing. I was polite in my initial query as this is a co-worker with whom I have not really dealt with previously. The response was abrupt and rude. After trying to explain the problem I was encountering and asking for their assistance, the co-worker offered a caustic question in response.

I terminated the conversation with my own short “I’ll find it” and left it at that. Of course, I had to delete the first two responses because they were, while appropriate in context, completely unprofessional – much as my co-worker’s responses had been. But stooping to their level would not have resolved the issue and only would have aggravated the situation. Instead, I found another way of resolving the issue (with the help of a much more cooperative co-worker) but it took me longer to fix it due to the intransigence of the first co-worker.

Perhaps I am overly simplistic in my approach to work. We are all on the same team and all trying to accomplish the same overall goals. I know, when others ask me a question, I will do what I can to help them resolve the issue. That is what co-workers should do. We do not have to like each other or hang out after hours, but inside of the office, if we want to have a successful product, then we have to work together and put aside personal issues. It is not always easy and sometimes we have to take the high road when the low road is far more easily accessible, but it is the end result that counts. In the long run, we will all fare better that way.