The Dark Side of Professionalism: An Epiphany

Lidor Wyssocky talks about the dark side of professionalism. I was going to just leave a quick comment. But this subject brings so many thoughts, I could blog for a week just on these alone. Even narrowing the subject down to the most important point, it deserves a full blog post. So here it is.

Jim Shore’s Change Your Organization Diary ends on an apt note about professionalism, the dark side. He’s not there yet in the current edition of the Change Diary, linked above, but you can read the original edition on wiki.

Here’s the part I’m thinking about:

I had the opportunity to talk with Gerald Weinberg, a personal hero… We talked at length about professionalism and how it applied to the work I was doing at this company. My conclusion from that conversation was that I wasn’t being treated with respect by this company, and it was because I hadn’t behaved professionally in the way I negotiated my contract or in the way I had reacted to an unrealistic schedule. Specifically, I should have renegotiated my contract when my duties changed, and I should have stood up for myself, resigning if necessary, when I first realized that the schedule was wrong.

I came away with the conclusion that I didn’t have the ability to deliver on the schedule my company wanted or the credibility to change the schedule. The professional thing to do would be to resign.

So on my last day at the conference, I crafted my resignation letter. When I got back to the office last Monday, I handed it in.

Now, I’m not suggesting that anyone resign his job. That’s a highly personal decision, of which there are many aspects to consider. But when it comes to professionalism, these few paragraphs really drove the point home for me. Reading them brought an epiphany.

At the time, I was in a troubled company, working under a great manager, but so depressed I felt I could cry. During that time, I wrote little that didn’t stem from my depression and my work experiences. I wrote more poetry than usual, emotionally charged under the surface. “Living Inside a Top” and “A Tribute to Lorelai,” for example. I drew on these feelings for assigned creative writing projects, like “Things to Make My Life Perfect.” Even some seemingly innocuous sketches had meaning beyond the sketch itself. “Running” was a scene I based heavily on a real experience getting home after an interview.

I was not in the same situation Jim Shore had been, but there were similarities. And when I read through to the last part of the Change Diary, something clicked. I understood that no one was going to make sure I did a professional job, and few would even encourage me to do so. I knew what professionalism meant, and I had to be responsible for it in my own career. And sometimes that means doing the right thing against the grain, even being willing to resign if necessary.

I don’t know if that’s helpful, as it’s only a start. But I still think it’s a good start.


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