The Weekly Tiger: Workplace Professionalism

As a college student, there’s something I’ve noticed throughout my years here about doing business with local businesses: no one takes me seriously or cares about maintaining professionalism.

I have an executive position with Alpha Delta Pi in which I plan social events, like formals or socials with other Greek organizations, for the chapter. Recently, I finished planning and executed the final steps in preparation for our formal this past Saturday. After reflecting on the experience, I realized that some of the individuals that I encountered were the furthest thing from professional. I think it’s entirely due to my age.

I’m sure as a business person, seeing a younger individual walk through your doors, you don’t expect much, but we all know what assuming does to you. Over the past several months that I’ve spent planning and coordinating this event, I’ve had people deliberately ignore my calls, take weeks to respond to messages or inquiries, try to take advantage of me financially, attempt to discuss wildly inappropriate topics with me and literally not do their job. It’s infuriating.

It’s not a joke when I say someone I was doing business with was discussing smoking weed before our event and asked about avoiding the security we had at the event. I think because of my age and because of my status as a college student, this person assumed that I would be “chill” enough to discuss these things. I’m not. It makes me uncomfortable to know that someone I’m giving money to for business could potentially be using it in an inappropriate way because it’s assumed that I do the same with my own money or in my own free time.

This behavior is inappropriate not only because it’s disrespectful to me, but because it shows me that this individual thinks less of me. It seems obvious to me that this same person wouldn’t be discussing smoking weed if a man in a suit showed up to do business with this company.

I did, on the other hand, have several other companies and individuals who were very helpful and spoke to me as if I were a seasoned adult businesswoman. Some even appropriately and respectfully educated me on better ways to go about things in the future.

Treating our encounters, even if said encounters were in a casual setting, like through text message, in a professional manner shows me that I am respected and that I deserve the same treatment as anyone else, no matter my age.

There then also becomes this weird power dynamic between myself and those I’m doing business with. Because it’s been established that some of these people don’t have respect for me as a customer and individual, how am I supposed to ask them to behave respectfully if they don’t respect authority to begin with? If I would’ve asked that individual to discuss smoking weed outside of work, I don’t think I would’ve been taken seriously at all.

I can’t imagine I’m the only young adult who has run into this issue before. I want to call this matter to the attention of business owners and professionals alike: My age is not an excuse to throw professionalism out the door, especially when there’s money and a business exchange involved.

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