What is professionalism?

In view of my last post – and the contradicting sentiments reflected in the comments, I thought I’d explore the concept of professionalism and professional conduct with the express purpose of how an attitude of superiority or arrogance can assist/impact professions and professionals. My last post centered on personal conduct and professionalism in how we handle our achievements, not the attitude or traits of any particular profession. This post continues with that theme.

However, rather than just my own opinion, I thought I’d also include some interesting thoughts and online articles about the subject. I’ve used some examples throughout various professions, including the medical profession, because they were mentioned in the comments. This is by no means an exhaustive list of ideas or thoughts, simply a quick look at what others are saying about professionalism from a variety of fields.

Professionalism…How do I get one?

“So, what is professionalism if it’s not power lunches, golf, drinking with the boss, and business suits? A general, raw view of professionalism is, “a focused, accountable, confident, competent, motivation toward a particular goal, with respect for hierarchy and humanity, less the emotion.” What this means is that you leave out the outbursts and emotional thralls that accompany stressful situations and success. You maintain focus, with a sense of urgency, and accept responsibility on a path toward a specific goal. In the process, you maintain respect for your superiors, peers, and subordinates as well as respect them as human beings.”

Professionalism Initiative: The University of Kansas School of Medicine

This is an interesting article because it also lists the elements of professionalism. In one of its introductory passages, a bold and encouraging statement about what it is to be a professional is provided. The characteristics that are presented can be directly applied to our library professionals, if we choose to accept them.

“In addition to competence in their field, all medical professionals must strive to retain those humanistic qualities – integrity, respect, and compassion – that constitute the essence of professionalism. The core of professionalism thus includes altruism, accountability, excellence, duty, service, honor, integrity, and respect for others. These qualities apply to all aspects of the professional’s life, including the relationships between medical professionals, between specialties, and between professional organizations.”

Also, they directly address the attitude of arrogance in the medical profession:

“Arrogance – Arrogance is an offensive display of superiority and self-importance. Unfortunately, by their nature, medicine and science can foster arrogance in the medical professional. The training is long and arduous with a seemingly endless mass of knowledge, which at times feels impossible to master. Students of science are thus prone to assume an air of self-importance, having survived such an initiation. Arrogance destroys professionalism by reducing the individual’s ability to think for himself or herself, making empathy for others difficult and removing the checks and balances of self-doubt.”

Also of interest in this document is a section on descriptors of unprofessionalism [emphasis added], which includes a lack of effort toward self-improvement and adaptability as described below:

“Medicine and academic science demand continuous personal growth and improvement. Resistance or defensiveness in accepting criticism, remaining unaware of one’s own inadequacies, resisting changes, not accepting responsibility for errors or failure, being overly critical, being verbally abusive during times of stress and displaying arrogance are reflections of a poor professional attitude.”

Turgay Kivrak, a senior developer in Amsterdam recently blogged about arrogance as well in his post Arrogance, Humility and Software Development. I encourage anyone who is interested in the negative impact of arrogance to read this post.

Kivrak’s post appeared on the 23rd of January, but I was not aware of it until this morning. There is a similar theme to my post, Don’t Let it Go to Your Head. In particular:

The feeling you have when you see the greatness of your work and your thought should not lead to arrogance, you should be thankful to have that gift, keeping in mind that it is given to you to use in benefit of humans.

If you look at life, you can also easily see every extraordinary thing given to the human is supposed to be used in benefit of others and if he uses it for himself, like arrogance, he pays a lot for it. So, even if you are gifted, there is no excuse for being arrogant

Kivrak provides a list of additional resources on the topic:
Success, Arrogance, Rise and Fall
Extreme Humility



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2 responses to “What is professionalism?

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