15 Professional Characteristics for the Workplace

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 5, 2022

Published August 17, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

There are many thoughts and behaviours a professional can have to show that they're serious about their work and reputation. Professional characteristics are qualities shared across many jobs and industries that display commitment and responsibility. Learning what some of the most common characteristics are and how you can adopt them is important to developing your professional skills. In this article, we discuss 15 common characteristics for your professional life and describe the career benefits of showing these in the workplace.

What are professional characteristics?

Professional characteristics refer to the qualities a person shows in a business environment. Professionalism includes standards for behaviour and the employee's ability to embody the company's values and do what their employer expects of them. Professionalism is necessary for the long-term success of any business and individual. It ensures that customer relationships are positive, company culture is meaningful and desired, and that a company meets its goals and objectives.

Related: 15 Steps on How To Be Professional In Your Workplace

15 characteristics for your professional life

Here are 15 characteristics that can help you earn the respect of others and position you for promotions:

1. Professional appearance

Professional appearance requirements vary depending on the industry, company, and your role. This can include your wardrobe, your body language, and verbal communication. To ensure a professional appearance, maintain healthy grooming habits and adhere to your company's dress code. Professional appearance is important because it shows competence and confidence. For people who work directly with customers, it's important that your professional appearance reflect your company.

2. Reliability

Reliability is the professional quality of being consistent with your work habits. As workplaces depend on individuals to achieve department and company goals, being reliable means your colleagues and managers can trust that you can complete your work. Things you can do to show your reliability include coming to work on time, reaching quotas and deadlines, and communicating frequently.

3. Ethical behaviour

Ethical behaviour is showing your integrity, honesty, and respect for other people and company policy. A company's ethics are what each employee can agree is right and wrong. This can include things like following the company's dress policy, coming to work on time, and following the rules. Ethical behaviour can also include soft responsibilities too, like communicating effectively, being responsible for your actions, and respecting your colleagues.

Related: What Is Integrity? Definition and Examples

4. Organization

A professional keeps their workspace neat and organized so that they can easily find items when they need them. You might organize all files and papers and, if you have to deliver a presentation, prepare all materials in advance, so there are no unexpected delays. This can help you perform your required tasks efficiently, showing your colleagues your professionalism.

5. Accountability

Just as a professional accepts credit for having completed a task or achieved a goal, they also are accountable for their actions when they fail. They take responsibility for any mistakes that they make and take whatever steps are necessary to resolve any consequences of mistakes. They're accountable and expect accountability from others.

6. Professional language

People who behave with professionalism monitor every area of their behaviour, including how they talk. They minimize the use of irreverent words and avoid using inappropriate language in the workplace. They're conscientious of the language they use in informal settings. Professional language shows respect for the workplace, for others, and an understanding of workplace etiquette.

7. Personal and professional boundaries

Professionals understand the importance of separating their personal lives from their professional lives. While professionals may experience the same challenges in their personal lives as others, they maintain a clear separation between their professional lives and workplace demeanour. Understanding those boundaries is an essential part of presenting yourself as a confident professional.

8. Positive attitude

Having a positive attitude at work means showing that you can remain hopeful and dedicated in any circumstance. When you're positive, there's a possibility you can influence others to become positive, improving the overall work environment. With a positive attitude, you may motivate yourself to complete your tasks and motivate others. Some ways you can be positive include:

  • Celebrate each success, even the small ones

  • Learn from past situations and mistakes

  • Seek out and spend time with positive people

  • Use positive words and language to describe activities

  • Develop a gratitude practice

  • Note the positive aspects of each situation

9. Emotional control

Emotional control is another key characteristic of professionalism. Professionals understand the importance of maintaining their composure and staying calm in all situations. By remaining calm, even during challenging moments, others can rely on them to be rational and of sound judgement. Similarly, it's important to resolve conflicts appropriately. If there is a conflict between you and a colleague, staying calm and following the appropriate steps to report an issue can show your professional behaviour.

10. Effective time management

Some characteristics of time management abilities include showing up at the office on time in the morning, being on time for meetings, and letting someone in the office know if they suspect they might be late. As with many of these professional characteristics, the ability to manage time, both yours and others, can show your colleagues respect and improve the work environment.

Related: Personal and Professional Skills You Should Have on Your Resume

11. Focus

A professional is clear about their goals and understands what they need to accomplish to achieve them. They know how to stay focused on their work to maintain their productivity. Professionals recognize the importance of maintaining focus to improve the quality of their work and be as efficient as possible. Some ways to show your focus include:

  • Setting goals

  • Creating a detailed work schedule by the hour

  • Organizing your work area

  • Completing tasks one at a time

  • Avoiding distractions like other applications

  • Responding to emails promptly

12. Poise

Professionals show poise, a calm and confident state of being. Being poised means maintaining a straight posture, making eye contact when communicating, and helping to establish a friendly and professional presence. Being poised means also staying calm during times of heightened pressure.

13. Respectful of others

Professionals always treat others with respect. This means respecting people's boundaries and their time and speaking kindly of others. The only time that professionals engage in conversations about other people is if they're evaluating their performance and looking for constructive ways to improve their performance in the workplace.

14. Communication

A professional must have strong communication skills. This means that they not only can effectively and efficiently convey messages to others but also that they can actively listen to and understand what others are telling them. By engaging in open and constructive communication with others, professionals can collaborate more effectively and accomplish a lot.

Related: Top 10 Business Skills You Need As a Professional

15. Soft skills

Soft skills are personal attributes that allow someone to interact effectively with others. These include things like leadership, critical thinking, teamwork, and people skills. Soft skills help professionals to behave courteously when addressing colleagues and managers, use the right language when communicating, and respect the opinions of others.

Related: A Guide To Soft Skills

Benefits of developing these characteristics

There are several key benefits to having and developing professional characteristics:

  • Better reputation: They improve both your reputation as a strong employee and the company. If you show professionalism with customers and clients, they might refer their friends to your business, citing their positive experiences.

  • Increased respect: Being professional shows that you have respect for your colleagues, the company, customers, and leadership. If people feel respected, they can be more likely to respect others as well.

  • Less conflict: Professionalism often involves knowing appropriate ways to avoid or address conflict within a workplace. Rather than reacting with anger or judgement, professional employees can understand and respect each other's boundaries and follow the resolution paths.

  • Greater ownership: These responsibilities show ownership of your responsibility to uphold professionalism and represent your company can increase the pride you feel in doing your job.

  • Clear boundaries: With clear boundaries between individuals or between you and a customer can help establish a professional relationship with a shared goal. Similarly, these characteristics can clarify your role as a professional and separate any personal situations or issues you may have.

  • Encourage improvement: Showing your characteristics reveals you care about your job and can help you focus on your responsibilities. Professionalism can encourage you to improve your performance and show future career opportunities that you're willing to grow.

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