How To Be Professional At Work

Do you feel held back at your work despite several efforts? Are you and your co-workers not satisfied with each other? Do people hesitate to rely upon your work? Is your working environment exhausting? If so, then all you have to do is change the way you work, not the work itself. You need to stop hustling and bustling all over the workplace in order to take your time and bring some professionalism in. But, you may be wondering, HOW? Don’t worry, because Drew Magary is on the rescue with some crucial guidelines on, how to be professional. Here is Magary’s guidelines in his own words:


My kids are now at the age where they actively question the future utility of things that they have to learn in school. Every kid in recorded history thinks that they invented the “When will I ever use algebra in the REAL world?” gripe. Discovering that it’s not an original complaint and having it dismissed outright doesn’t stop them from making it, either. I have tried to frame my answer to this question as candidly as possible, telling my children that they go to school to be smart, not just to fit in as cogs in BIG CAPITALISM’s elaborate machinery.

But they only wanna know what’s useful and what isn’t. On a superficial level, this is fair. I took Rocks for Jocks in college, and I have never had to identify any sedimentary rock during my career. I have regrets about taking the course, mostly because it was hard. Kids wanna learn, but they want to know that they’re learning something for a reason. So I’m gonna acquiesce to this petty whining for a moment by taking off my Dad Hat and putting on my Life Coach pants so that I can tell you kids out there some genuinely useful shit to carry with you out into the big bad world.

Regardless of whether you attend a school that teaches you liberals arts basics or a vocational school that trains you in a specific craft, few schools ever teach you what it means to actually be a professional: to be a dependable and respected member of the workforce. To make matters worse, we live in a culture that has long venerated rule breakers, iconoclasts, and other people who have experienced blazing success by supposedly operating outside of the norm. There’s even a terrible X-Ambassadors song about it. Some of the most famous people in this country love to sell you on the idea that the rules don’t apply to them, and that THAT is why they have been able to excel. The president is unprofessional. Elon Musk, currently under investigation by the Justice Department for violating securities laws, can be remarkably unprofessional. When Draymond Green kicks people square in the testicles, that too is unprofessional. Some of our highest achievers love to frame their unprofessionalism as a virtue. They all wanna be in the old “Think Different” Apple ads. The whole phony-baloney empowerment culture we live in only helps reinforce the delusion. God forbid you do anything but you.

You can be a fan of these people—well, maybe not the president—but that doesn’t mean it’s gonna serve you well to emulate their worst habits. You don’t become special by acting like you already are, and can thus do as you please. That’s a dickhead move. You become special by going in the opposite direction, doing your work with joy and care and making OTHERS feel special rather than playing up your own rebel status. Take it from me: uh, a blogger. I may be the professional dickhead who writes stuff like “Why Are My Fellow Whites Still So Awful at Naming Children?” but I’m also a RESPECTED JOURNALIST who is definitely admired for his courtesy and compassion behind closed doors, unless someone angers me in a Slack channel. It’s true. Definitely.

Want to be like me, a haughty keyboard cowboy who otherwise meekly respects the parameters of good workplace behavior? Then follow these simple rules, which very much DO apply to you:

Be on time. You know who was reportedly never late to meetings? Anthony Bourdain. The rocking-est rock star of the food world, and he was 20 minutes early to everything. Some people are habitually late and want you to accept their lateness as a given, perhaps even as a charming attribute. It’s not. It sucks. Lateness is the hallmark of inconsiderate dickheads trying to look important and openly trying to avoid wasting their own precious time at the expense of yours. Your time is of no importance to shitty late people, who inherently presume that their time is more valuable. This, my friends, is unprofessional.

Do what you say you’re gonna do. Being a professional means that people can rely on you, and the way that they come to rely on you is if you have a proven track record of doing what you say you’re gonna do. If you talk up a big project idea (“Hear me out: snap peas, but in a bottled smoothie!”) and then just let it die on the vine, you’re of no use to anyone. Everyone at work will be like, “That Brayden Coochford talks a big game, but he doesn’t ever do anything.” There’s nothing worse than working with someone and constantly wondering just what it is that he actually does. You have to pursue your ideas, even if they fail. But really, how could a sugar-snap-pea shake fail? That’s a no-brainer.

Don’t burn bridges. Everyone has to work with a fuckhead on occasion. I’m not talking about creeps or corrupt bosses who commit wanton acts of harassment and criminality on the job. By all means, torch those bastards. I’m talking about basic, legal fuckheadery. Why, I have to work at this very magazine with editor Chris Gayomali, who’s just INSUFFERABLE. Tough sledding!

It’s only human to want to quit a miserable job in style, walking out the door with double birds hoisted and dragging everyone you hate on social media after the fact. This is a tempting thing to do, but it’ll end up fucking YOU over in the long run. You never know who you’ll have to work with again, and you never know if a future employer may blanch at the prospect of hiring the author of a “Fuck All Y’all” resignation letter that went viral. That’s their loss, obviously, but a signature trait of all unprofessional dickheads is making a frowny face and huffing “Their loss!” in the face of rejection.

Shower regularly. I work from home and I still shower regularly. Who am I trying to impress? ME. If you smell good, you feel good, and therefore you work good. That’s my slogan, baby.

This slogan is especially true if you work with other people, who would prefer that you NOT smell like a block of feta cheese that’s been left out in the sun for a week. Steve Jobs famously eschewed using deodorant and showering regularly because he thought, according to biographer Walter Isaacson, that this would prevent body odor. He was wrong. He smelled like bad pickles. Tech goons love to emulate all of Jobs’s worst qualities—from being cruel to underlings to making unreasonable demands of vendors—without doing any of the good stuff. Jobs’s place in history will always be secure, but he was an unprofessional, pungent dick. No one will respect you if you engage in similarly rotten personal hygiene and don’t even have the courtesy to invent the app store to make up for it. Respecting yourself, and your lingering scent, is a way of respecting others. Speaking of which…

Work sober. I know that Brett Kavanaugh got confirmed to the Supreme Court by loudly and angrily pledging eternal devotion to tapping the Rockies, but he (and you) should save your libations for after you’ve handed down a formal ruling that classifies torture as speech. Take it from a guy who’s gone back to the office after downing a few pints while watching the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament: Working drunk isn’t terribly productive. It’s depressing and shitty, actually. The fact that icons like Hunter S. Thompson and John Belushi and Steven Tyler wrote and/or performed while less than sober should not encourage you to do likewise. Are you John Belushi? You are not John Belushi. You’re Crandall Hinkley from accounting. Keeping a mountain of blow on your desk is poor form.

Be horny elsewhere. This shouldn’t even have to be said (especially for managers and their underlings), and yet it appears that many people willfully ignore it. You’ve got plenty of chances to be horny on your own time. Don’t shit where you eat, especially if you have been expressly told that your shit is not welcome on anyone’s plate.

Have standards for yourself and live up to them. The toughest phase of my professional career was transitioning from being someone who waits to be told what to do to being someone who actively thinks of productive independent projects and endeavors to make them a reality. That takes forever to happen, mostly because bosses yell at you to be a self-starter but often neglect to teach you how, and they fail to give you the resources to do it.

That’s how you end up at a new job dying to make a good impression on everyone but failing to assess what you want out of the job and then working to get it. It’s hard to be self-disciplined in the work force, because doing what you’re told is easier on your brain and, frankly, school requires so much self-discipline that it can sour you on the practice. In my 20s, all I wanted to do was get out of work and get to the bar. I wasn’t the most professional ad exec.

You need to have your own standards. Noel Gallagher—famous red-ass Noel Gallagher!—makes a point of writing new songs every day, even when they’re songs that he stole from other people. You gotta have a routine, and you gotta have goals, and you gotta abide by them. They don’t have to be lofty goals. You don’t have to set a deadline to invent the flying car. You just have to have your own expectations and labor to meet them. Do your work for your own sake. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Having my own goals is how I ended up making bacon gravy one time. That’s a true story.

Treat the lowest person on the totem pole the same as the highest person on it. And by that I mean: treat them well. Don’t treat EVERYONE like shit. Bring cookies. Everyone loves cookies.

Make your colleagues’ lives easier and not the other way around. I know I roasted Chris up above, but in reality working with him is a relief because he’s a professional editor man who makes things easier and doesn’t hassle me with petty bullshit (Bonus rule: Only brown-nose if you have to!). Chris isn’t emailing me at 4:59 p.m. on a Friday to be like, “Hey man, sorry to bother, but can you come to New York and wash the office windows?” Every company in America is plagued with busybodies who seemingly LIVE to foist tedious bullshit onto others, or to needlessly complicate their own duties so that those duties look more arduous than they need to be. It’s an illness among office drones. If you’re a relief to co-workers, they’ll be a relief to you. In theory. They’ll probably just be ungrateful assholes about it, but at least you can look down on them in private after the fact.

Give extra consideration to the people who stand to benefit from the work you do. I know this can be hard if you hate your job, or if you think that the end product you churn out is a waste of everyone’s time. Take discount furniture ads, for example. I had to work on those. Did they improve anyone’s life? Reader, they did not. But I did try to keep in mind that people had to SEE these ads, and that maybe they could use a good deal on a dinette set featuring only rocking chairs. So I tried to make the best shitty furniture ad I could, and that made doing the project bearable. You’re not necessarily brainwashing yourself if you aim for your work to improve lives, even by the tiniest of degrees. It just means you take a little pride in your work. This is why I make sure to sand down and paint the INSIDE of all my blog posts. No one can see that craftsmanship, but I can.

Get back to people. It’s faster to reply to an e-mail than it is to concoct an elaborate excuse as to how you, an Internet user, failed to notice an e-mail and respond to it in a timely manner. I have been genuinely impressed by people who make the simple gesture of actually replying to an e-mail, rather than letting it ferment inside a growing inbox. I have also been left politely stunned by people who just NEVER fucking reply to anything, and there are a lot of them! Sometimes you do a favor for a peer and they don’t even write “thank you” back! APPALLING. Last time I help you, Barney! If you make a point of getting back to people, you’re already ahead of 90 percent of everyone else.

Own your fuck-ups. You’re gonna get things wrong out there in the workforce. Unless you’re running for public office, there’s no sense in trying to disguise your fuck-ups or blame them on others. If you admit your failure and give a whole spiel about it being a learning opportunity, you’ve essentially ended the blaming process and made lives easier. Just don’t fuck up again. I’ll be watching you.

If you think a colleague or boss is wrong about something, push back and have a good case for it. Other people fuck up on the job, too! This is a relief, but the best way to react to a co-worker being wrong is NOT to taunt them and call them “poopyhead,” or to loudly berate them for being wrong. If you wanna resist your taskmasters, there’s a polite way to do it. You tell them you don’t agree, explain why, and then shake your head when they charge ahead without listening to you. THAT is the skilled way of doing business. You might see self-appointed special people motivate others by lashing out and throwing fits—one time I saw a boss launch a phone into a wall when he was pissed—but those people suck, and your colleagues will appreciate it if you aren’t one of them. Speaking of which…

Don’t be a fucking prick. Don’t yell. Don’t throw shit. Don’t be cruel. Don’t get violent or abusive. And don’t be vindictive. Minnesota senator and presidential hopeful Amy Klobuchar allegedly tried to sabotage the future job prospects of staffers who left her office. That is truly fucked up and deeply unprofessional. Klobuchar shouldn’t be allowed to get away with such flagrant assholery, and neither should you. You shouldn’t even want to do that shit. You should want to be a decent, cheerful human first and a decent worker after that. One feeds into the other.

I can’t guarantee you’ll end up as CEO or as a multi-squillionaire if you follow these guidelines—which really do have future applications—but you’ll at least be able to pour yourself a stiff drink at the end of each day and feel satisfied that you did your job the best you could, and that you did the right thing by following the advice of a stranger on the Internet. That’s its own existential reward, right? Cheers to you, King of All Professionals.

A version of this article appears on GQ. | Author: Drew Magary (@drewmagary)

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