Notions of Competence, Professionalism, and Responsibility in Business

Studies show that moral character and technical competence are viewed as being equally important for worker excellence. The greater the need to engage with co-workers who have different values, interests and needs, the more important it becomes for employees to be able to connect with colleagues, to understand different perspectives, to balance sometimes conflicting claims and to act competently both interpersonally and ethically. In order to do that a responsible worker needs a minimum set of skills, as well as moral and relational qualities (Whetstone, 2003). The following are the minimum competencies expected of professionals. 

  • Technical skills encompass the ability to apply specialized knowledge or expertise. When you think of the skills of professionals such as civil engineers or oral surgeons, you typically focus on the technical skills they have learned through extensive formal education. Of course, professionals do not have a monopoly on technical skills, and not all technical skills have to be learned in schools or other formal training programs. All jobs require some specialized expertise, and many people develop their technical skills on the job (Robbins and Judge, 2013).
  • Human skill is the ability to understand, communicate with, motivate, and support other people, both individually and in groups, which defines human skills. Many people are technically proficient but poor listeners, unable to understand the needs of others, or weak at managing conflicts. Because managers get things done through other people, they must have good human skills (Robbins and Judge, 2013)
  • Conceptual skills are the skills and the mental ability that managers must have to analyze and diagnose complex situations. Decision-making, for instance, requires managers to identify problems, develop alternative solutions to correct those problems, evaluate those alternative solutions, and select the best one. After they have selected a course of action, managers must be able to organize a plan of action and then execute it. The ability to integrate new ideas with existing processes and innovate on the job is also a crucial conceptual skill for today’s managers (Robbins and Judge, 2013). 

The first and most basic necessary skill for a working professional is solid competence in the human sphere, in the sphere of work. Such competence requires the following characteristics: (a) human maturity—a person works not only hard and solidly but also efficiently, that is, with professionalism; and (b) work is done ina spirit of service and love for those around us—the worker has to take in and develop the social dimension that the work involves. He realizes that work is something that helps improve social conditions generally; it is a source of progress and well-being (Illanes, 2003).

The working professional also needs “relational intelligence (RI)” in order to connect and interact effectively and respectfully with people and stakeholders from various backgrounds, diverse cultures, and with different interests, inside and outside the organization, and to build lasting and trustful relationships. RI is based on a combination of emotional intelligence and “ethical intelligence.” Commercial viability and long-term business success depend on the ability of a firm and their leadership to act responsibly with respect to all stakeholders in business, society, and the environment. Responsibility means to make sure that the company’s products and services meet the needs of the cust6mers and clients, that they are safe and not harmful, and that real and potential risks are openly and transparently communicated (Maak and Pless, 2006).

Part of the responsibility of the worker is to be trustworthy: employees need to demonstrate that they have integrity, benevolence, and ability in situations where trust is important—say, where they could behave opportunistically or let employees down but do not. Trust can also be won in the ability domain simply by demonstrating competence. This trustworthiness is all the more important in managers: those who break this psychological contract with subordinates, demonstrating they are not trustworthy, will find employees are less satisfied and less committed, have a higher intent toward turnover, engage in less citizenship behavior, and have lower task performance. Managers who betray trust are especially likely to be evaluated negatively by followers if there is already a low level of leader-member exchange. Once it is violated, trust can be regained, but only in certain situations that depend on the type of violation. If the cause is lack of ability, it is usually best to apologize and recognize you should have done better. When lack of integrity is the problem, though, apologies do not do much good. When employees are engaged in issues relevant to their interests, in addition to having the competence and knowledge to make a useful contribution, as well as trust and confidence existing among all parties, then they are better motivated. When there is “participative management;’ (i.e., when management is willing to share decision-making with subordinates), then the result is an increase in or improvement in overall morale and productivity (Robbins and Judge, 2013). 

Businesses also support the well-being of members of society through their other key functions. At the very least, a good business carefully avoids any actions that undermine the local or global common good. More positively, these businesses actively seek ways to serve genuine human needs within their competence and thus advance the common good. In some cases they actively promote more effective regulation on a regional, national, or international level. For example, some destructive business strategies, including corruption, exploitation of employees, or destruction of the natural environment, might thereby lower short-term costs for themselves, while leaving the much higher long-term costs to future generations of the local society (Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, 2012).