Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires: Professionalism in the Workplace

By Shanken, Howard | College and University, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires: Professionalism in the Workplace


Shanken, Howard, College and University


Professionalism: (i) the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person; (2) the following of a profession (as athletics) for gain or livelihood. (Merriam-Webster Online).

Professionalism in the workplace is expected, but what is it? What do you think professionalism is? What about the staff and colleagues you work with: How would they answer this question? Do we assume that everyone knows what the code of conduct is, or do we believe it is self-evident ? We hear all too often of our leaders' (not to mention our politicians') ignoring the principles and expectations of character associated with their professions.

Teachers and administrators may invest years in their careers only to have a moment of indiscretion undermine all they have gained. Whether you are just starting out in the field of education or have been in it for years, it is important to be reminded often of what the rules of engagement are. Remember: It only takes a bit of carelessness to start a forest fire. Our behavior, our speech, and our attitude can act as matches to ignite situations we later may regret; it may take years to rebuild our credibility.

This article focuses on how we act and how we treat people. In essence, we are talking about professional etiquette, which can be described as "conforming to the standards of skill, competence, or character normally expected of a properly qualified and experienced person in a work environment" (Merriam-Webster Online).

So what is our role? As leaders and part of the community, we need to keep an ever-watchful eye out for smoldering situations or those which may give rise to negative attitudes. When we say a potential problem is "not our problem" - perhaps a student is upset with a faculty member - or we respond by saying, "Oh, that doesn't surprise me," we fuel the problem. Ignoring a problem only fans the flames; ultimately, the fire is likely to extend to politically sensitive areas of the institution. What am I saying? Only you can prevent forest fires!

FORCEFUL: Being overly forceful sends potential friends and allies running. Although we may not say it, people sense it. "My idea is the right one! I will raise my voice and pound my fist, letting others know to back off. It is my agenda or no agenda!" The forceful person is readily apparent in meetings. He forgets to listen, and, though often the "loyal" opposition, he lacks tact and savvy at soliciting support for what actually may be a good idea.

How do people demonstrate forcefulness in your institution? Is it a supervisor who comes from the old-school way of "My way or the highway" or "Ours is but to obey"? This is the boss who becomes paranoid and who wonders whom he can trust.

At Grand Rapids Community College we work in teams whenever possible; we consider the impacts on others; and we solicit ideas from the community. "Who else should be at this meeting?" is a frequently asked question. This is what has made us an NCA Vanguard school.

OUTSPOKEN: The outspoken quickly can become the outcast. She dismantles efforts to work together. And although groupthink is not the desired result, she seems to have an opinion on everything. Though she may mean well, she dominates conversations, igniting brush fires of animosity and gossip.

Think before you speak: Don't be more confident than the facts warrant. It can be very easy to make statements that sound true but that upon closer reflection or more current information may prove not to be. What a quick way to ruin credibility! In a recent legal situation, a subpoena requested items not normally requested; having spoken with more authority than an attorney, I quickly realized that my statements were not consistent with legal interpretations. To correct the situation, I had to clarify everything with the attorney. It is OK to be wrong; just don't be wrong for long.

RAGE: Off-road rage is the most glaring sign of a lack of professionalism. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires: Professionalism in the Workplace
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.