How To Diplomatically Deal With Unprofessional People
Updated: Jan 16
More and more people have become unprofessional and it's not always easy to deal with them. These top 3 tips will help you walk away feeling bigger, better, and empowered.
Is it just me or has our society become more unprofessional?
Are the days long gone when people made it a point to return phone calls, reply to emails, and show up for scheduled appointments?
What’s changed over the years such that more and more businesspeople don’t extend that professional courtesy?
Before I go any further, let’s get on the same page with what “unprofessional” means, shall we?
Merriam Webster’s definition of unprofessional is: not exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, or generally businesslike manner in the workplace.
Sounds reasonable enough, right?
Given that definition, I’m amazed at how often I meet people who would win gold for being over-the-top unprofessional.
Case in point…
I recently met two guys from two different businesses who were overachievers in the unprofessional department. While I would love to give a shout-out to them by name, they shall remain anonymous because that’s what any professional content writer would do.
The one gentleman contacted me to discuss a long-term, lucrative copywriting opportunity. It piqued my interest, so I met him in person to discuss the same. I was living in Austin, TX at the time and he lived in LaGrange, which was a 90-minute drive one way.
The meeting went well, and we were both excited to get started. The day we met, he started peppering me with a lot of emails and text messages and me giving me links to this, that, and the other as it pertained to his business.
Doing my due diligence, I spent some time looking at what they sent me to familiarize myself with what they had going on, what they offered to their customers, the resources they gave me, etc.
Now, as a results-driven content writer and copywriter, I’m curious about everything, so I ask a lot of questions and I like to get as many answers as possible. I thrive on details, love clarity, and make it a point to keep people in the loop. Those proactive traits make any project run a whole lot smoother. Wouldn’t you agree?
Going the extra mile, I spent a considerable amount of time putting together a detailed spreadsheet of potential partnership profits for the LaGrange guy. I was curious to know what those yields would look like and thought he would be interested in having that valuable information, too.
I contacted him regularly to ask what kind of copy he needed in an effort to keep the ball rolling. That seemed a little backward to me since he reached out to me for my copywriting expertise, but I obliged, nonetheless.
Sadly, I got no response from him.
I sent the LaGrange guy a detailed proposal and asked him what his thoughts were.
Still, no response.
Weeks went by and I never heard back from him (or the other guy).
Any entrepreneur will tell you that their time is extremely valuable to them. After all, time is money, right?
A professional businessperson would’ve handled this situation much differently.
What Does Being Professional Mean?
It means that you are...
Courteous. When you’ve established a business relationship with someone, take a few minutes of your time to reply to their emails, voicemails, and text messages. It literally would take only a couple of minutes to A) acknowledge receipt of the person’s email; B) let them know you’re working on it and you’ll be in touch soon or C) advise that you decided to go in another direction and won’t be needing their help. That’s so simple and easy to do, a five-year-old could do it in a blink of an eye.
Conscientious. You believe in the Golden Rule and you treat others as you want to be treated. Imagine for a moment that you just had a cancer biopsy test and you were anxiously waiting for the results from your doctor’s office. How would you feel if they didn’t take a couple of minutes to call you with the results? Some people may say that something like that is totally different than the above scenario, but it’s not. It’s simply a matter of being conscientious and treating others with the respect they deserve no matter what profession you’re in.
Working in a generally businesslike manner. I understand that even the most well-intentioned people get insanely busy sometimes and things fall through the cracks. Or maybe they get sidetracked and forget to do things. Still, others may have piles of paperwork on their desk and be so disorganized, they can’t see straight (let alone think straight). It happens to the best of us. However, when a business associate repeatedly follows up with you on a project that was discussed at length, blatantly ignoring that person is anything but working in a businesslike manner.
So, how do you handle careless people like the two guys I mentioned above?
Top 3 Tips For Diplomatically Dealing With Unprofessional People
1. Stay calm, cool, and collected. Maintaining even a little bit of self-control goes a long way in preventing more problems to arise. The less reactive you are, the more good judgment you’ll have to handle the situation professionally.
2. Move from being reactive to proactive. This will reduce the chance of things getting misinterpreted and misunderstood. You know the quote, “If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.” Focus your energy on solving the problem rather than fixating on the problem.
3. Pick your battles and fly like an eagle. Some people are simply not worth your time, effort, or energy. Your time is valuable and, if you’re an entrepreneur, time is money, so unless there’s something big and important at stake, don’t waste your time by trying to get someone to be more professional. Simply move on and enjoy the peace of mind you’ll get in the process.
So, you may be wondering what happened to the two here-today-gone-tomorrow guys that briefly graced my life.
Well, after taking the high road like any true professional would do, I chalked it up as another learning experience. I secretly thanked my two unprofessional teachers for teaching me to be more discerning, to ask better questions, and to set better boundaries in the future.
In our fast-paced business world where it’s so easy to ignore a person's attempts at doing business, getting answers, or moving the needle, just remember how you would feel if you were anxiously waiting for your doctor to call you with the results of your cancer biopsy test and they didn’t.
Now imagine how much better our lives would be if we got back to the basics and showed each other what it means to be a true business professional more often than not. The choice is yours.
Cheers to all the awesome professionals out there!
And may those repeat offenders in the unprofessional department experience spontaneous enlightenment sooner than later.
Article Written By Shelli Schilke, Founder, Write Attractions