Practice Development Counsel

Phyllis weiss haserot
Phyllis weiss haserot

President & Founder

212 593-1549

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Attitudes on Professionalism Affect Firm Productivity and Image

While the structure of many established organizations hasn't changed much since the Baby Boomers and younger members of the Traditionalist generation (born, say, after 1937) entered the workplace, it is fair to say that attitudes on work ethic and what is “appropriate” have shifted back and forth along a spectrum.

Each new generation (or segment of a generation) enters with its own ideas - formed from a combination of the environment in which they have been educated, their family upbringing, and the cultural, social, economic and political forces prevailing at the time their impressions of working are formed. Assumed lines of authority and expectations were clearer in the past, or so we think. It is difficult for anyone of a previous generation to take in and understand completely how later generations have no firsthand experience with, for example, non-electric typewriters, no cable, no cell phones, formal dressing for school and for office jobs. While we know this intellectually, it is difficult to actually integrate into our thoughts and feelings. And younger generations can't possibly “remember” what they never experienced or no longer exists. So there are likely to be misperceptions on both sides.

No wonder each generation has a somewhat different concept of “professionalism.” (Disclosure: A substantial part of generational statements are generalizations, but they are based on typical patterns of behavior that have been exhibited by each generational cohort.)

I've divided the issues of professionalism in the workplace into eight categories, mostly focusing on interpersonal skills and behavior:

  • Appearance of work product – including format and organization, pelling, grammar

  • General “appropriateness” – including image

  • Styles of communicating – such as media used, appearing “engaged,” client perceptions, deadlines and schedule changes

  • Work ethic perceptions and time management – including face-time, time off, flexibility and spending office time on personal activities

  • Privacy – such as caution in social networking, confidentiality regarding work and clients

  • Management styles – shifting styles, and which are most effective in various situations
  • Social and political causes – such as when it's OK to be involved during office time, negative associations with causes

  • Succession and transitioning – including how preparation for succession into new roles and transitioning impacts the quality of client relationships and service delivery

Each of these is a subject for cross-generational dialogue with an open mind and reaching consensus on expectations and policies. We are raising the issues, facilitating these discussions, and guiding firms to re-orient their orientation programs and answer the “why” questions coming particularly from Generation Y/Millennials. The goals are greater productivity, retention of desirable talent, and reduction in stress levels and wasted time.

Please share your stories and experiences with these professionalism challenges.



© Phyllis Weiss Haserot, 2008. All rights reserved

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For coaching, training and special programs on inter-generational relations and maximizing the potential of young professionals, call Phyllis for an exploratory talk or complimentary coaching session at 212-593-1549. See and We also provide *Next Generation, Next Destination* transitioning planning programs and services for baby boomer senior professionals and their firms.