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Unprofessional Professional: Part 2


I shared some thoughts on what makes an Unprofessional Professional in Part 1. I’ve since seen and thought about other qualities that make a professional, well, unprofessional.

Here’s one: Running away from something when it’s hard or when you’re scared.

The unprofessional let’s things slide and does their best to hide when the situation gets uncomfortable for them.

A prospective client asks you a question, you give them an answer. It turns out to be incorrect. Do you just leave it and hope that it goes away. Or do you let them know that you were mistaken, expose your error and offer them the correct response?

If you’re discussing making a deal with someone, you agree that they should call you back a specific time and then have second thoughts, what do you do? Do you let the phone ring when they try to call you and not answer it? Do you ignore their emails and tell yourself you’ll pretend that you never saw them? Or do you pick up the phone, because you agreed that you would at that specific time and tell them that you’re having second thoughts and explain why?

Both of these examples may seem inconsequential.

“It’s just a small mistake” you say.

“It won’t hurt anyone”…”it’s just a phone call” you tell yourself.

Well, that’s the attitude of an Unprofessional Professional.

The problem is that every time you let something “small” slide it adds up. It gathers and then one day starts to creep up on you.

Because when you don’t follow through and do what you said you would, people talk.

In the consulting business, reputation is everything.

Sure, maybe you ignored a few calls that you said you’d take and hope that it will go away.

However, what happens if the person who called you starts telling others about your unprofessional conduct?

What if one day you try to approach your dream client with your service offerings. They ask their network about you, and the response they get back is “that consultant is flaky…they don’t follow through…or they seemed like a real professional to start, as time went on though, they really fell apart.”

The professional knows small things add up and constantly stays on top of them.

The unprofessional let’s things slide and does their best to hide when the situation gets uncomfortable for them.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you dealt with an ‘unprofessional professional’?


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6 thoughts on “Unprofessional Professional: Part 2

  1. Ravi says:


    Here are my inputs applicable for both Part 2 and the (earlier written) Part 1:

    A.) I do not think you can term such people as Unprofessional professionals ; they are just ‘Unprofessionals’ – period, technicalities be damned

    B) It is not respect about themselves alone (strategy session example) or lack of commitment, but it’s about not respecting ‘time’ – in general.

    At the risk of not sounding modest, wanted to share 2 personal experiences:

    1) I had put on hold an invite for a ‘free’ session from a ‘big’ company (as I wasn’t sure about attending) and finally confirmed my availability to their coordinator just 2 days before the event, once I was sure.

    The next day, got the sad news of my father passing away, while in office. Before rushing to my home town (which was~ 500 kms. away), I remembered the event – so quickly wrote a mail explaining my situation and apologizing, before leaving office.

    When I was back to work after a few days, the person called up to say while he was sorry to hear about my father’s demise, he really appreciated that I’d informed him, despite the emergency. I told him I felt it was my duty to at least have the courtesy of informing him, since I was not attending – after taking so much of his time (he had called 3 or 4 times) and confirming.

    2) I was responsible for a project with an automotive giant and it ‘split’, I promised my counterpart in the other-half unit that I’d ensure a smooth transition and did it – against some real odds as things became diffficult at the operating level, including resource deployment for a ‘departing’ partner unit.

    On both occasions, it would have been easier to take the path of least resistance and do the ‘usual’ – i.e. being casual and not appearing for RSVP’ed events or running away/abandoning a project mid-way, quoting the Board level ‘separation’.

    But I think it was value system that made me do what I did, on both situations.

    I’d say all the qualities – commitment / trust / courage to accept mistakes etc.- quoted in both the articles are all part of the ‘value system’ that is necessary for one to be a Professional / Consultant in the real sense of those words.

    And: a Consultant with a weak (or absent) value system will soon be ‘exposed’ and can never be successful, in my humble opinion.

    Best Regards,

    Ravi Chandran

    • Ravi says:

      Sorry about the length of the mail…I guess Michael’s experiences touched a chord in me :-).
      Ravi Chandran,
      Aptus Consulting (India)

      • Ravi – that’s a great share! Appreciate the thoughtful and detailed comment.

  2. Michael, I think what you are describing is denial. “Professional” or average person, living in a state of denial of reality can only serve to exacerbate whatever the difficulties may be. “Been there, done that!”

    Taking off the rose colored glasses and confronting our humanity, as threatening as that might be, is the only way to get rid of the fear that is encouraging the avoidance.

    As Ravi said, . . .they are just ‘Unprofessionals’.

    • I came up with the term ‘unprofessional professional’ to describe people that on the outside appear to be professionals yet when you interact with them and dig a bit deeper you quickly find out they are nothing of the sort, simply unprofessional.

  3. Spha says:

    Wow this is touching…. And very true! Lesson learned. Thanks

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