On “professionalism”

20 Jun

So over on tumblr, I saw an excellent post speaking out against judging folks for their tattoos or piercings. It was in the context of “professionalism”, so I added the following comment:

I am done with the word “professionalism” until it stops meaning “adheres to a series of arbitrary norms that have nothing to do with the quality of one’s work.” If it decides to mean, “Does their job well while being respectful of others,” then I will happily embrace it.

Then I got to thinking. It’s not like “professionalism” has a choice in how it’s defined; it lacks sentience, sapience, and agency. If the common connotation of the word is going to change, we’ve got to do it.

So, I’m going to try. Starting now, I will consider, “Doing your job well while being respectful of others” to be the only valid definition of “professionalism”. If someone tries to use the other definition with me, in reference to me, a co-worker, a job applicant, or basically any other human being, I will try to call them out on it. (I am totally in agreement with the original poster on tumblr’s use of “unprofessional”, by the by: turning down a job applicant for superficial reasons is unprofessional both because it’s disrespectful of them and it means you’re doing a bad job of hiring folks.)

We’ll see how it goes.

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