There was a time when professionalism was simply defined to mean “an expert in a given field or skill.” In our time, it has had numerous superfluous social amendments that have turned it into something that rubs me in such a way, I can hardly express how much I dislike the term. Please understand that I am probably going to be making some blanket statements, but I mean absolutely no offense to anyone. I know very well that not all people fall into all categories all of the time or even at all.
“You’re not wearing that,” is a term that I’ve heard many times from my wife. Given I tend to have a more juvenile approach to style than my age might permit (I’m 33). Whenever I’m getting ready to attend a wedding or some other “formal” event, I put on my outfit, and my wife tells me that it’s not appropriate. I’ve never understood this concept. How could my comfort be inappropriate? I’m not wearing a Rammstein band tee, frayed shorts, and flip-flops. I’m wearing nice, unscathed dark jeans, a button up flannel, and all-black chucks. I’m not naked. I’m clean, groomed, and happy. What’s wrong with that? All that being said, I also pride myself in being a gentleman, and the most basic definition of a gentleman or a lady is “making sure that the people around you are as comfortable as possible,” as heard from the Brenden Fraser movie Blast From The Past. This might be a reductionist version of the official definition, but I think it hits the nail right on the head.
If that definition of a gentleman is accurate, I naturally assume that everyone else has the same goal. And how am I most comfortable? By not wearing clothes that make me uncomfortable. And if you tell me that my attire is inappropriate, that’s not very gentlemanly or ladylike, is it? Because now you’ve just made it awkward and uncomfortable for you and me. I also don’t expect the people around me to wear such uncomfortable clothing, and it even makes me feel uncomfortable being around a herd of penguins.
So this brings me to my first obvious beef with modern day professionalism. Notably, certain professions require that a uniform be worn while on the clock. This requirement not only makes it easier for people to know who you work for, but it can also be a safety issue. This is not what I am going to be talking about. I am pointing out the suit and tie corporate cultures that put way to much value in appearance. This falls into the “spend money to make money” theory. Since when does the appearance of a suit and tie mean that the person draped in such a way is a professional? A professional is defined by his or her craftsmanship, experience, skill, and results, right? Right?!
Now I know people will argue that you need to put your best foot forward, and I get that. But since when does my shirt and pants contribute to that? The shirt I’m wearing doesn’t increase my typing skills. Nor do my pants make me a better communicator.
“But, Mike, it’s about showing respect!” Did my tie shake your hand and welcome you when you walked in the door? My shoes definitely didn’t offer you anything to drink.
Then there’s “corporate language.” For me personally, it means more for me to refer to you by your first name than to call you sir or ma’am. And then there’s the all time classic, “It’s not personal, it’s just business.” I don’t care how much you think you can argue this, but business is personal. The business we conduct on a daily basis — regardless of the industry — grants us the ability to provide for ourselves and our families. Last I checked, that’s about as personal as you can get. This statement has become the socially acceptable version of, “I don’t care about you or your family, I’m just here for the money.”
What I’m getting at here is that the “corporate mentality” turns people into two-faced anti-humans. The corruption levels in this country are enraging. People don’t realize that they’re being turned because it’s considered the status quo and just accepted. I’ve always been against saying what you don’t mean. How many of us have had to bite our tongues because a customer is being a dick (another rant incoming), but we had to be “professional”? Otherwise we risk getting a write-up or even losing our jobs? That isn’t right. Just because I’m a service employee, doesn’t mean that I’m a person without feelings! And it’s my right as a human being to defend myself against hostility.
But do you see what I’m saying? From my point of view, here in America, capitalism reduces people to mere dollars and cents. It’s not that I don’t think capitalism is a good system, I just think that because people are flawed by nature, we bastardize the system and end up treating other people like property. It’s not capitalism or empathy, it’s capitalism and empathy. Get it right, America. Geez!