The Price of Professionalism

While running a leadership program for a group of executives, the topic of ‘professionalism’ came up.

One leader was frustrated with one of her employees, and she was trying to be ‘professional’ by handling a situation ‘the right way.’

You know what I mean—trying to give feedback without emotion while in reality she was livid that this employee had gone behind her back on a key matter in the business.

But hey, we all know you can’t just scream at your employee or your boss the way you may want to in the moment. Picking up that doughnut and smashing it in his face isn’t going to help anyone—not to mention will probably get you fired.

So you’re stuck-—hold it in or lose your job. Given the choice, you obviously choose to hold it in.

But if you really pay attention, you can feel the energy it takes to hold back the anger—it takes willpower to make this happen.

As Tony Schwartz writes about, we only have so much willpower in any given day. That means that you could be spending much of your precious energy holding your emotions in.

And chances are, there is a way that if you hold it back today, it may not be as intense tomorrow—but it will still be there. And then another situation arises. And another. And pretty soon, you’re spending most of your day and your limited willpower holding back energy and emotions that could be used for other important tasks.

Instead, you could be using that energy to:

  • Motivate your team
  • Tap into new creative ideas to grow the business; or
  • Implement new systems and structures to accelerate your growth path


And here’s the kicker. The energy you’re wasting in your business life is just the tip of the iceberg.

Most of us hide our true feelings in our personal lives as well—effectively flushing our precious life force down the toilet.

I imagine a world where we have a business culture where we don’t have to be so ‘professional.’ One where we are able to communicate what’s really going on for us internally. One where we can find a way to share and let go of the challenging emotions that come up in the day-to-day in a way that’s not dumping it all on the other person.

Of course the key is sharing it in the right way, and not just dumping it.

Ultimately, I think this could mean more energy freed up for endeavors that are going to move the business forward—and a cumulative effect would start to take hold.

When I work with leaders one-on-one these types of challenges often come up.

“How much of my internal world can I share with those around me?”


Without getting into HOW to do it (maybe a subject for another post), can you imagine what life would be like if we all just got 5% better at communicating what’s happening internally for us every week versus trying to keep the professional persona intact?

Imagine this really taking hold throughout your entire company’s culture. If everyone got 5% better in your company, you’d start to see exponential growth.

I believe you’d get more work done with 20 employees than you thought you could get done with 100 because people would all be spending less emotional energy holding back how we really feel, and more time diving into the key issues of the day.

And don’t forget the impact this will have on your personal relationships. As you start to share more of your inner world in a constructive way, you will start to deepen your connection with your spouse, children, family and friends.

Can you envision yourself working and living in this new way? What would you create? What problems would you solve?