How to turn the tide of unprofessionalism in academia

Instead of making excuses, show that you are committed to your obligations

Members of academia must recognize and correct the behaviors that make them come off as unprofessional, Rob Jenkins writes for the Chronicle of Higher Education

Jenkins is an associate professor of English at Perimeter College of Georgia State University.

He argues that some academics have become complacent with unprofessional behavior like being unresponsive, flaky, and flat-out rude.

But "unprofessionalism, in the long run, is highly destructive," Jenkins says. "It puts a strain on what should be collegial relationships. It harms reputations, as people get labeled 'hard to get along with.' It drives away potential clients, collaborators, and students. It prevents the college and its programs from running as smoothly as they could."

He offers the following advice to show more courtesy and professionalism in the academic office:

Respond to messages

Faculty and administrators receive tons of emails, texts, voicemails, and letters on a regular basis. It's a lot to go through, but if people take the time to send you a personal message, you owe it to them to respond, even if it's just a brief acknowledgement. 

How toxic employees can hurt your bottom line

Stick to your word

If you say you're going to get something done by a set deadline, follow through. If you must ask for an extension, do so courteously, but remember that failing to honor your obligations causes problems for the people around you.

Show up

You likely have a lot of places you need to be, and it's important that you make it to all of them. That also includes attending the events that are less relevant—such as student shows and colleagues' parties—to show that you are committed "to the institution and to our fellow human beings."

What to do with your hands during a presentation

Watch the way you speak

It's easy to get excited and raise your voice in the heat of the moment, but it definitely doesn't make you look intelligent or respectable. Consider your tone and delivery, not just the words coming out of your mouth.

Treat others the way you want to be treated

The Golden Rule exemplifies the height of professional conduct. True professionals "treat everyone else's time as just as valuable as your own," Jenkins says. "You do what you've committed to do. Although you may have very high expectations, you are tolerant of human failings (including your own) and considerate of other people's feelings" (Jenkins, Chronicle of Higher Education, 3/16). 


Next in Today's Briefing

A new challenge to success for low-income students: Career undermatching

Next Briefing

  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague