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WTAF Has Happened to Professionalism?

Can someone please tell me WTAF has happened to professionalism? Do people simply not give a flying fig about it anymore, or did the standards change while I was being, well, professional?

nancy mendelson hertelier

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, professionalism means “conducting oneself with responsibility, integrity, accountability, and excellence. It means communicating effectively and appropriately and always finding a way to be productive.” And while I’ve never taken my behavioral cues from the DOL – this definition pretty much jives with my understanding of what it means to be professional. Don’t get me wrong, although I do know plenty of real professionals, it has simply come to my attention that the numbers are dwindling, and it’s alarming.

Professionalism means “conducting oneself with responsibility, integrity, accountability, and excellence. It means communicating effectively and appropriately and always finding a way to be productive.”

This is not some kind of “Oh, young people today” diatribe, in fact one of the most professional people I’ve met in ages is 24 years old, while the most unprofessional is pushing 50. It is a recent experience with the latter that prompted me to unpack this topic.

This person was referred to me by a client who gave me a heads-up that, let’s call her Veronica, would be in contact. Actually, Veronica got to me moments before my client did and asked if I was available to speak “today”, which was a Friday afternoon, and I was not. So, I asked if we could speak Monday, she said “fine” then asked me to send her a calendar invite for the agreed-upon time—noon my time, 5pm her time-- which I found a bit odd since she had reached out to me…but I did it anyway. I was to call her.


Noon Monday rolls around and I call…no answer and no opportunity to leave a voicemail, so I text to let her know I tried. Twenty minutes later she calls me, apologizes, and begins talking, but there’s so much background noise I can barely make out what she’s saying. I tell her this and she says, “Oh, I am in a café.” Swell!!! Not a great start…so I suggest we reschedule when we can hear one another. “Good idea,” she says. “I’ll be home in an hour and will call you then.” CRICKETS!


Next day I texted her to see if she wanted to reschedule. She says she does, suggests Thursday and asks for my email address so she can send me some materials before we speak. BTW, I did reach out to connect with her on Linked-in so she could check out my background beforehand…and she accepts.


nancy mendelson hertelier

That was over a week ago. No materials, no nothing. My client had asked me to keep her posted, and when I told her about what had transpired, she said, “Unacceptable,” and was sorry she ever recommended me to Veronica in the first place. I thanked her for thinking of me and we talked about how an Ivy League education, fancy job titles and a shit ton of money—all of which Veronica had-- don’t make someone professional.


Leave it to our friends at Merriam-Webster to find the right words to sum up Professionalism: “The skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well

1 Comment


Nico Sheers
Nico Sheers
Sep 28, 2023

How infuriating and inconsiderate.. The most efficient way to blow your credibility is to show up late or not do what you said you were going to do.

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