Last month we offered a snapshot of how Boomers (ages 50-66) and Millennials (19-30) define "professional" conduct differently. In a nutshell, Boomers see more distinction than Millennials do between how they behave at home and at work. Millennials have been brought up in an era where the lines between home and work have been increasingly blurred (thanks to, or maybe not "thanks to" but at least "because of" technology). As such, they to see less difference between the two environments and therefore less need for significantly different demeanour and attire in these two settings.
Our take: as behaviours reflect values, the definition and evaluation of what it means for you to be 'professional' has to stem from you. That doesn't mean others won't define it as polished shoes, a good suit, and powerful demeanour, or evaluate it against shareholder returns or sales quotas, or rankings on an extensive HR list of behaviours. It just means any/all of those methods are praise-worthy if they provide insight, and hold weight against your values.
But the story doesn't end there. Because we do not exist in a vacuum, we all need to find a way to honour our values and reflect those in our way of being, while also honouring the values of those we work with. That begins with finding out what those values are, and how they translate into behavioural norms.
When someone says: "Drive on this side of the road"; "Walk facing on-coming traffic"; "Wash your hands;" they are telling others about the behaviours their country or society has devised to ensure the health and safety of all. Sociologists call them formal norms. These also exist in smaller sub-groups, such as companies, councils, clubs, project teams, sports teams, and so on. Along with the formal norms comes a set of informal norms - the kind of thing you usually learn over time by trial and error - especially when you've contravened one. Together, these two sets of norms constitute the expected behaviours of a group's members