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Sunday 23 September 2018
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A peak at professional distance


“You best teach others about healthy boundaries by enforcing yours.” - Bryant McGill

Over the last couple weeks, many voices were heard echoing their concern regarding sexual harassment, calling for the establishment of sexual harassment policies as well as legislation to treat with the issue. Though advocacy would no doubt be ramped up to ensure that it is dealt with, self-caution should be foremost. We all strive towards cultivating an atmosphere of camaraderie in any office space, but at the other end of the spectrum, certain levels of decorum and respect must be maintained at all times. We often hear about professional distance which is defined as the space a professional must maintain between their professional relationship with another colleague, and any other relationships which they may share with that person.

According to Dr Anna Corbo Crehan, lecturer at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne, Australia “questions of professional distance occur when two or more people involved in a professional relationship also have an additional relationship, such as one based on love, attraction, friendship or family.” Crehan stressed “just as a conflict of interest need only be potential or perceived to be properly labelled a conflict of interest, so too with breaches of professional distance.”

Though such distance must be adhered to within almost every sphere of operation doctor-client, teacher-student, employer-employee, driver-passenger and the list is endless, by no means are we suggesting that one must exhibit hostile tendencies when dealing with another; however, because environments are now becoming fragile and sensitive, it is indeed a safe platform to work with, so as to avoid untoward situations and perhaps untrue accusations. Professional distance is a gateway to establishing safe and comfortable boundaries in various work spaces, and is simply aimed at defining the line between your professional and personal life. Start by avoiding the use of casual-type language in your emails as words and/or phrases connote particular meanings…all emails should be professionally structured and pointed.

Maintain cordiality in your phone conversations and stick to the subject matter as much as possible, especially if the receiver is a senior official…along with this comes respecting another person’s time when placing the call; if the person indicates that they’re busy then let it be and call again. Always keep affairs in your personal life confidential; conversations about your love/sex life and/or personal engagements should be kept private. What happens in private, should remain there. Focus on work issues only. Professionalism also includes being punctual for meetings including your weekly or monthly team meetings, as there are instances where familiarity affects focus. A major occurrence which is very common is assuming that your friendly boss is your friend. Some bosses are wonderful people but professional distance here is critical. Be cordial but continuously maintain your professionalism.

Sandrine Rattan is a communications &branding consultant/author/empowerment builder and president of the International Women’s Resource Network (IWRN). Contact: thecorporatesuitett@gmail.com or intlwomensresourcenetwork@gmail.com


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