This year I came to understand that the phrase ‘act professional’ is subjective and in some cases, a cop out clause.
Being and looking professional means different things for different people, it looks different in various institutions and it’s relative to your role.
‘Act professional’ as a blanket statement ensures good etiquette in the workplace and encourages us to maintain high standards for your area of work. It’s not a bad thing.
But more importantly, it’s better to walk and work with integrity.
In your role, you should aim to make the right decisions with good intentions for the sake of the people you serve. Integrity is making those choices when no one is looking and it’s sticking to your principles even when the tide is rising high against you. This is why the term ‘act professional’ is dangerous. It’s often used as a way of controlling and silencing others. Furthermore, it’s been used as a way to strip away ones identity in order to conform to things you may not relate or subscribe to.
Before my role as Assistant Head Teacher, I am first a Black, British Born , African Male. I’m also a father, husband & Christian. I can’t hide most of my identity and I can’t put my feelings aside when my livelihood is being affected. So when your identity is being diminished at work or you’re forced to stand up for your rights and maintain your well-being … remember, it’s far more important to walk with integrity than to be professional. With integrity you judge yourself on your intentions and principles. With professionalism you judge yourself on someone’s policy and expectations of you. Find the balance but never lose yourself for a job.