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Guest blogger Shaunda Johnson currently serves as an English teacher in South Korea. She graduated from the Manship School of Mass Communication in May 2015 with a concentration in public relations and a double minor in business administration and theater. To learn more about Johnson or connect with her, please click here.

Shaunda Johnson, 2015 graduate of the Manship School of Mass Communication

Shaunda Johnson, 2015 graduate of the Manship School of Mass Communication

Working in the public relations field is definitely a reminder that circumstances are out of your control. Imagine this, the caterer is two hours late for your huge company event. When the caterer arrives, the food is cold and the servers are moving very slowly to set up. Your promotion is heavily reliant on the success of this event and you are furious. The owner of the catering company is also your supervisor’s best friend and all of upper management is waiting to see your interaction with the catering owner. The catering owner comes to greet you warmly in front of everyone as if all is well… what do you do?

This scenario is one of many high-pressure situations that you can find yourself in while on the job. Though the circumstances may be out of your control, you are always in control of yourself. You are expected to have good judgment and polite behavior regardless of the circumstances.

The Webster dictionary defines professionalism as “the skill, good judgment and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well.” In reference to the previous scenario, you are expected to warmly embrace the catering owner and you should have figured out a way to keep your guest happy as well. Just because things are going wrong, doesn’t give you permission to neglect your professional up bringing or your obligations.

According to Mindtools.com, “professionalism is a trait that’s highly valued in the workforce.” The article also states that the 7 attributes for professionalism are: specialized knowledge, competency, honesty and integrity, respect, accountability, self-regulation, and image. Many of these attributes may come as second nature, however, when you’re under pressure they may not seem as clear.

Here are some tips to maintaining your professional demeanor under pressure:

Step 1: Take a deep breath as you count to 10.

 If you’re in a situation that you’re so angry your blood is boiling, take a break.

When dealing with stress in a high-pressure situation, reacting in the moment is never a wise thing to. You may find yourself wanting to say or do things in that moment that are not of good taste and can permanently damage your reputation. While taking your breath you should find a place to be lone to avoid the temptation of venting to someone, especially in the work place. If you can’t leave, then ask for a moment to think about your answer and get back to the person or situation when you’ve calmed down.

Step 2: Evaluate your emotions for a decision.

Use your emotions to think, don’t think with your emotions. Making emotional decisions can be very dangerous to your professional judgment and cause you to end up in a worse decision than you started in. Thindifference.com states that “ responses contain reasoning” and that “ reacting is more sporadic and emotional.”

While practicing step 1, do a self check-in and evaluate the emotions that were aroused in the situation. Once you have taken into account your emotions, use that information to make your decision on a course of action. This way you’re not simply reacting to the situation, you’re responding.

Step 3: Align your decision with an effective professional response.

Now, that you have calmed down and evaluated your emotions, its time to tailor a professional response to the situation. This response will determine relationship with your professors, peers, clients and supervisors. You are not always going to get alone with everyone, but showing respect and being professional goes a long way in making a positive impact your on your relationships.

Here is a personal account of how I used these steps in an unfavorable circumstance. I had a situation where my supervisor and I did not quite see eye-to-eye my sophomore year in college. When I was not rehired for the next semester, I asked my supervisor for an explanation via email to receive feedback. Her response was far from professional with many personal insults and attacks. Despite her reaction, I proceeded to respond in a professional manner. I was a bit distraught at her response at first, especially because she had not mentioned these issues or that there were issues while I was employed. I took some time to calm my mind, evaluate my emotions, and think of a professional response instead of a reaction. In my responding email, I appreciated her for the opportunity and her feedback. I apologized for anything that I did that she didn’t deem acceptable. I told her how much I enjoyed working there and that I will cherish the experience that I gained from the position. She never responded back to my email, but in the end my professional response gained her respect.

Professionalism is the basis to your personal brand; protect it at all cost because an impression lasts forever.

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