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October 8, 2016

The Degradation of Our Professional Environment…and How To Win it Back.

Julie Q. Brush

I recently had a very negative experience with a newly appointed General Counsel. A seasoned attorney with GC experience, but one who has never held this leadership position within a true operating company. Her behavior was so disconcerting it was near impossible to believe that it came from someone who undoubtedly should know better, should behave better, and most importantly… should be better. It was an encounter that added to an increasing number of troubling encounters in recent times and left me wondering…

Who have we become as professionals?

For the past several years, I have noticed a disturbing trend in the professional world: An increase in bad behavior with little to no accountability. I know that each and every one of you reading this article has your own personal stories that have affected you and that illustrate this reality. And each and every one of you – no doubt – has left those experiences with a dropped jaw and a little less faith in humankind.

The cause for this current state of affairs is not entirely a mystery. Increased narcissism, deteriorating loyalty among employers and employees alike, a desire to get ahead at all costs, a “what’s in it for me” mentality, fear, jealousy, discrimination, entitlement and power tripping. These unsavory elements have all contributed to the predicament we face as professionals today.

One common reaction when on the receiving end of bad behavior has been to “just forget about it – let it roll off your back” and “take the high road”. While the latter is a recommended path, the former should not be. We need to hold each other accountable for upholding the highest professional standards of which we are all worthy. For if we do not, we will reach a point where the foundation of good business will be forever rocked.

The path of course correction is plain and simple:

We need to treat each other better.

I have thought extensively about the basic tenets of what this actually means. What are professionals most disheartened about today? What behavior is getting worse? How is this influencing the business environment? What’s at stake? How do we treat each other better? I have ultimately concluded that while shining a light on this topic is important, it is not enough. Creating a specific framework for action is required if we are to change the course of history. The following list provides that framework and serves as a guide for us all to raise the bar:

  1. Keep your word.
  2. Do not lie.
  3. Let people know where you stand.
  4. Respect people’s time.
  5. Don’t expect something for nothing.
  6. Do what you say you are going to do.
  7. If someone does something good for you, do something good for him/her.
  8. Do your own dirty work.
  9. Be transparent.
  10. Treat people with respect.
  11. Communicate.
  12. Be fair minded.
  13. Think more about how your actions affect your colleagues and others in your professional universe.
  14. Take pride in your work product.
  15. Don’t blow people off.
  16. If you have been paid to provide value…provide it.
  17. If you have received the value you have agreed to pay for…pay for it.
  18. When working with others, be a rational participant.

Whether you are just entering the professional world or preparing to ride off into the sunset, use this list and embody it each day. Hold yourself and others accountable to maintain these standards. And spread the word. Send this article to everyone you know – and hopefully they will read it and do the same.

We live in tough and changing times where doing the wrong thing is easy and doing the right thing is getting harder each day. But if we are to preserve a professional environment that allows us all to thrive and experience it in the most positive of ways, we must serve as an inspiration for each other and for those who will follow us in years to come – by having the courage to do what is hard and the honor to do…what is right.

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