• Focus On: Professional Image

    Both employees and employers must tackle individual image that impacts organization.

    The ways we present ourselves to the world—how we interact with others, what we wear, and how we conduct ourselves—creates an image that can make or break a career. But an individual's image also affects the reputation of the organization for whom that person works. Consequently, many firms are stepping up professional image and business etiquette training to help employees and improve perceptions about the organization while they do so.

    Several components must come together before an organization and its employees can agree upon image. First, employees need to understand that their own professional progress is affected by how they dress, behave, and are perceived by others. Next, both employee and management must be willing to cede something to attain a more unified company image. This means the individual gives up a degree of personal image in lieu of taking on a more professional one, while employers drop hard-line stances on employee appearance.

    Experts say that improving professional image and business etiquette requires people to look inward to assess workplace behavior and appearance. Starting outward, employees should examine the message their clothing gives and ask themselves questions such as, How does wearing wrinkled attire affect my image? To analyze behavior, individuals should examine their workplace manners and take stock of everything from their body language to actions. Asking oneself, Do I walk into the office with a scowl? Do I return phone calls in a timely manner? Is my workplace tidy? I can help an employee start to see him or herself as others do.

    To help employees work on creating a more professional image, organizations often bring in third parties to lead staff through the paces of self-analysis. Some facilitators break employees into small groups and start them off by having them agree on commonplace annoying workplace behavior such as talking loudly in cubicles and cell phone etiquette. Then the group discusses how such behavior affects professional image.

    For etiquette training to succeed, all parties must agree on a common vision of the message the organization wants to communicate to the outside world. Attaining that vision is only possible if all involved give a little. And change comes about more fluidly when management involves employees in the decisions rather than hands-down policy.

    The result is a happier employee—with upward mobility—and an organization that presents a more professional face to its stakeholders.

    Source: Gotsill, G. (2011, September). Your best foot forward: Image in the workplace. T&D, p. 30-31.