September 30, 2010
We talk of unprofessional organizations, unprofessional behavior. What behaviors are called ‘unprofessional’? As I tried to understand this I realized I needed to define what ‘professional’ means. Professional would mean what is based on the profession.
1: the act of taking the vows of a religious community
2: an act of openly declaring or publicly claiming a belief, faith, or opinion : PROTESTATION
3: an avowed religious faith
4a : a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation b : a principal calling, vocation, or employment c : the whole body of persons engaged in a calling
Interestingly, Profession spans across religion and business. What is common between how it applies to either? Openly declaring a belief, faith or opinion, and then staying true to their word seems to be what professionalism is about.
The distinguishing attribute of professionals is their zeal, their commitment, their efforts to keep their word. Why does it seem that professional fields have more written information than unprofessional domains? Maybe this is so because only when we are committed to what we say do we have the conviction to put it down in writing, knowing we will be true to what has been written. Oral transmission of information is typically ‘unprofessional’, leaving the communicators with a much larger (believed) leeway to deviate from what they said.
An interesting fact to observe is how much significance and commitment is shown by some peoples to their word, to even the spoken words that they speak or hear. It is almost a cult of professionals, a culture of commitment to their word that we see in the West, vis-à-vis the East of the world. While the written word is important especially for transmission across distances asynchronously, the spoken word has equal significance and permanence.
In cultures that do not respect the spoken word, we also find the written word treated with less respect. So maybe professionalism is to do with our commitment to the word per se, which is clearly demonstrative of the ownership and responsibility we take for the integrity (or lack of) of what we say and do.
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