Tag Archives: Professional Conduct

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



Filed under Our Profession

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul: That’s Not Professional Conduct

When we attend library school, we are united by our interest in joining the library profession. As a team of soon-to-be professionals, we work in groups to discuss current issues facing libraries; we collaborate on projects and talk about emerging trends. We are comrades and colleagues.

Unfortunately, when we enter library land, we tend to follow our interests and grow away from each other. Whether we choose reference, cataloguing, youth services or readers’ services, we follow our passion and feel that the area we have chosen is vital to the services that libraries provide. Because of this passion and dedication to our own area of librarianship, some professionals come to the conclusion that their interests and their services are more important to the running of the library than another area of librarianship. As a group of professionals, we no longer look at the importance of librarianship as a whole, but divide it into smaller parts, which results in an “us or them” mentality.

This problem is further exacerbated by budget cuts and library closures. In an effort to save their own job, librarians become even more divided as they seek to devalue another library service so that they remain “safe”. In essence, they are attempting to rob one area of librarianship to sustain another.

Unlike reference staff or readers’ services, cataloguing is a silent public service. As long as we are doing our job well, things run smoothly and therefore, we attract little to no attention. As a result, we are often forgotten. Most patrons are not even aware of our existence.  As such, we are hard pressed to defend ourselves to the public we serve when the services we are providing are denigrated by front-line staff. What is more disturbing is that many front-line librarians attempt to devalue our services and commiserate with patrons when they complain about Dewey or the library catalogue.

Is it really very professional to put down colleagues in order to make our own services more attractive? As professionals, we should be making ourselves aware of the importance of each service provided in the library – whether we like it our not. I have to admit, I dread the thought of sitting at a reference desk, and I certainly wasn’t interested in pursuing a career in children’s services. However, I discovered something while attending graduate school.  I may not like performing those aspects of librarianship, but they are a vital area of the profession and as such, it is important to understand them and why they exist.  Embrace the diversity of services that we offer – it is those services as a whole that we should be working together to protect.

As professionals, we should not be denigrating the services that our colleagues provide due to our own dislike or ignorance.  To bad-mouth one area of librarianship is to devalue the whole of our profession.  I suggest that in doing so, it exhibits a lack of professional conduct.


Filed under Our Profession, Professional Ethics