Oh how I loathe it.
By the Gawds, I really fucking hate this word. I see it used around all my work as a goddamn bludgeon against all things the speaker does not approve of.
Don’t wear the correct kind of clothes? It’s not professional.
Don’t have the correct desktop background? It’s not progessional.
Laugh out too loudly? Desk too cluttered? Not correct combination of colours? Not goddamn professional.
It’s the new ‘Decent’. It is so vague in use that everyone finds it a perfect excuse to judge and get others to change habits they do not approve of. This is marginally tolerable from co-workers who you can either ignore or explain that being efficient has much more to do with being a professional than all the rest of the “peripherals” but lo and behold when a manager mentions it. Then your only option is to shut up and take it.
How can you talk back to your manager? What can you argue? That his subjective understanding of what constitutes professionalism is wrong? Get ready to look for another job (a manager who feels the need to talk about professionalism is unlikely to be the laid-back type who tolerates his employees talking back at him). And you can’t ignore it either as that’s simply undermining his authority.
The way I see it, when anyone (especially your boss) starts demanding ‘Professionalism’, they basically don’t like something about you and can’t reasonably argue why. They simply fall back to vague business speak and back it up with hierarchical authority to enforce it.
And this is what makes it for me such a despicable word. It doesn’t help either that Business-oriented Magazines use their imagery and marketing to present an image of the pristine, sterile business look of suits and ties and fake smiles. Then all the managers try to imitate this and we end up with demands for “professionalism”, which of course feeds directly the pockets of those being advertised in such magazines. Business attire clothing companies and other sources of company sterility.
I wonder if we’ll ever escape the clutches of herd-mentality, status-oriented culture and focus on having fun when working rather than following obsolete nonsense which originated from puritan practices of sex-starved protestants with a mission from Gawd to make everyone as miserable as they were.