When did professionalism die?

Two weeks ago, I attended a meeting to explore business growth opportunities. I was invited to this meeting by an acquaintance of a client and arrived to find 2 others who too had been invited to this meeting by the same person.

Let’s call this person Jeff.

The meeting was scheduled for 2 PM and the three of us sat in the reception area until 2:35 PM before we were ushered into a conference room to be told that Jeff and his team would be with us soon.

Twice during the 35 minute wait, one of the two other “waitees” inquired as to how much longer Jeff would be, both times being told Jeff was on a “very important call.”

Apparently, whoever Jeff was talking with was obviously far more important than the three of us who had travelled to Jeff’s office, on time for the meeting he had scheduled for 2 PM.

To describe the meeting room as filthy would be an understatement. The table contained the remnants of a meal with half eaten sandwiches remaining on paper plates spread around the table along with empty soda and beer cans.

The table itself was decorated with ornate artwork which upon closer examination turned out to be food stains.

Whose Sock is That?

Oh, and there was a sock (yes, a single solitary sock), draped over the arm of one of the chairs.

The three of us were sitting on the side of the table facing the door when Jeff made his grand entrance. He was wearing jeans, sandals and a t-shirt screaming “Don’t be an @$$#0!=” on the front and something unprintable on the back. He was accompanied by “my two assistants”, both dressed for a beach party, who seated themselves on either side of him, cellphones poised, ready for intense notetaking.

As I was watching this, taking it all in, I couldn’t stop wondering what egregious thing I had done to my client to deserve this.

No sooner has Jeff began explaining the purpose for the meeting when his phone rang. Naturally, he answered it, swiveled his chair 180 degrees leaving us with an adorable view of the back of his head, and had an animated 4-minute discussion with someone named Bob.

Jeff was not pleased with Bob.

After hanging up on Bob, he turned back to us and, without any apology for keeping us waiting for more than half-an-hour, launched into a dissertation about something or other while his assistants furiously poked at the keyboards on their phones.

At one point Jeff leaned back and put his feet on the table.

It was all downhill from there.

I tell this story because it seems that professional conduct, as we have long known it to be, is on a steady decline and may soon be relegated to nothing more than a story to be told in history books.

Jeff’s absence of professionalism was, perhaps, extreme, but it is becoming increasingly common to hear tales of shoddy workmanship, incomplete tasks, meetings sprinkled with f-bombs as normal, acceptable language, contractors not showing up to do work on the agreed upon day because “I was busy on another job,” experts specializing in getting it right the third time, always sans an apology and often triggering an angry response when questioned.

Looking like, conducting oneself like and performing like a professional seems to have become a quaint throwback to a bygone era.

What Message Are You Sending?

It is quite possible that my perception of professionalism is heavily influenced by my advanced age but is seems to me that standards are being lowered at a rapid rate and the new norms include many of the things I was always warned not to do.

I believe strongly that standards of acceptability are never static, they are always in motion and, left to their own devices, will slide lower and lower until someone yells “enough” and demands that the bar be raised.

I have only one thing to say.

ENOUGH.

Till we read again.

1 thought on “When did professionalism die?

  1. Ross MacInnes, National Training Director - EAL Canada Reply

    I recall vividly, you and I having coffee some 20-some years ago, and you remarking that soon even the weather forecaster would be using F-bombs and innuendo on the air. We aren’t quite there yet, but seem to be ever closer to that precipice. But it is also the royal “we” who accept that conduct. Perhaps you could share with your loyal readers some “to do’s” to compel that bar to be raised. And, by the way, I’m older than you are.

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