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California State University, Long BeachCalifornia State University, Long Beach

Professionalism in the Workplace

Staff Human Resources has developed a comprehensive set of guidelines for all staff employees, touching on the importance of professional conduct in the workplace.

The brochure titled, “Exercising Professionalism in the Workplace”, includes expectations for employees regarding professional conduct, definitions of harassment and bullying, and related on-campus resources for employees in need.

You can also find additional information in regards to professional behavior, in the section below titled, “Professionalism: Fact, Figures & Best Practices”. Here, Staff Human Resources shares some background information and best practices, on professional behavior in the workplace.

Professionalism: Fact, Figures & Best Practices

Aspects of Professional Conduct

Professional conduct translates into a functional work environment. Civility and mutual respect foster:

  • Commitment to organization
  • Job satisfaction
  • Productivity & synergy
  • Minimal absenteeism
  • Minimal turnover
  • Communication

Unprofessional conduct translates into a dysfunctional work environment . Bullying and harassment foster:

  • Increased absenteeism
  • Frequent tardiness
  • Decreased productivity
  • Low morale
  • Poor customer service
  • Poor collaboration
  • Increased turnover

In a 2007 Study, it was found that 1 in 8 employees leave a dysfunctional environment; their estimated replacement cost was 1.5 to 2.5 times the salary . In a different study in 2000, it was estimated that Dysfunction at work costs $6 million per year among Fortune 500 companies.

Harassment vs. Bullying

Unwanted, offensive, and intrusive verbal or physical behavior that is perceived to be linked to a legally protected category such as race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

Some examples of harassment would be, note the protected categories:

  • Unwanted sexual advances
  • Derogatory comments, jokes, or slurs
  • Physical touching or assault
  • Display of offensive objects, posters, or pictures
Defined as offensive, intimidating, malicious, insulting or humiliating behavior; an abuse of power or authority which attempts to undermine an individual or group of employees and which may cause them to suffer stress.

Some examples of bullying would be:

  • Abusive verbal behavior
  • Abusive or intimidating written communication
  • Taking credit for others work (undermining others)
  • Intimidating or aggressive behavior
  • Spreading of malicious rumors (disparaging comments/remarks)
  • Isolating or shunning individuals (deliberate exclusion limiting consultation on important issues or excluding them from general/specific activities)

Employee Rights and Responsibilities

Here are a few of the rights and responsibilities that an employee can expect:

  • Right to express needs and wants
    • Explain what would help you in your job;
    • Feel free to ask any questions;
    • Never feel embarrassed;
    • Don’t assume others can read your mind; If you don’t express wants and needs – they will be unheard.
  • Right to tell your perception
    • Tell others how they are behaving towards you, often people don’t realize how they’re communicating.
    • Let them know in a friendly manner – good possibility they will change their style
  • Right to an expectation that office conflict will be addressed
    • Co-workers, management and the University will make every effort to address and respectfully resolve conflict
  • Responsibility to be respectful
    • Never appropriate to raise voice or use profanity toward another person.
    • Be wary of subtle disrespect such as impatience or sarcasm.
    • Even in conflict there is no room for disrespect.
  • Responsibility to seek alignment
    • All interpersonal interaction should seek to identify plans which help achieve goals of you and your peers.
    • Modest extra effort can often help achieve a solution to meet everyone’s needs.

Suggested Best Practice

Focus on effective communication. Here are the six elements in the “Listen to Understand” method:

  • Notice your emotional reactions, physical cues, stress thoughts.
  • Separate those reactions to another part of your mind.
  • Observe momentarily without judgment, record what you see.
  • Listen to the words of the other person.
  • Paraphrase the person’s message back to them to confirm your understanding.
  • Reply when you are ready; be calm, thoughtful and responsive.

Resources for Resolution

An employee who has witnessed or experienced an instance of bullying or harassment may feel unsure or uncomfortable about how to deal with the situation. We urge such employees to come forward and report the incident. Employees have various campus wide resources, including their own department.

Department Resources

The employee’s department should be their first point of contact. An employee may report an incident to a supervisor, manager department chair, director, or administrative services manager.

Campus Resources

If the employee is unable to report an incident to someone within their department, the following campus resources are also available.

  • Staff Human Resources – (562) 985-4031
  • Office of Equity & Diversity – (562) 985-8256
  • Office of University Ombuds – (562) 985-5983
  • Faculty/Staff Assistance Program – (562) 985-7434

Unless legally required, the Faculty/Staff Assistance program will not investigate or report employee concerns. All other campus wide resources will investigate incidents and take appropriate action.