Professional Behavior Expectations

The Department of Business is preparing you for graduate school and the world of work. Therefore, we expect professional behavior as part of your class participation and as preparation for your future.

What does it mean to be “professional” in the world of work?

Your employer will expect you to arrive on time and be present to complete your responsibilities.

  • You are responsible for arriving on time for class. Any late arrival or early departure is a disruption.
  • Do not enter the classroom when one of your classmates is giving a presentation.
  • If you must leave early, let your professor know in advance and sit as close as you can to the door that day.
  • Do not leave and reenter the classroom unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • If you are in a meeting at work, you will be expected to give your full attention to the meeting and your co-workers will not expect to be interrupted or distracted by your electronic devices.

Be mindful of the technology policy and expectations in the class or work culture.

  • Set your mobile device to vibrate and leave it turned upside down on your desk.
  • Do not use any electronic device for anything other than what is related to the class you are attending at the time you are attending it.
  • Do not make/answer calls or text message during class (if it is necessary for you to take an emergency call, tell the instructor if there is a problem before class begins and leave the room to take the call).
  • In order to work as an effective team member, you will need to respect the people with whom you work.
  • Demonstrate the kind of behavior toward your classmates that you expect to demonstrate to your co-workers.

Complete the portion of any team assignment you have agreed to accomplish.

  • The workplace will have nonnegotiable deadlines.
  • Assume that the due date and time for an assignment is as important as the due date/time for a workplace report.
  • Assume that the date and time assigned for your presentation is as essential as a due date/time for a presentation to a client.

As a professional, you are responsible for the details that accompany your work products.

  • Present homework assignments in the required format.
  • Do not assume the instructor will provide staples, paper, folders, printing services or any other material required for your final work product.
  • On the day of an exam, bring pencils, calculators, and everything you will appropriately need to complete the exam.

The organizations for which you want to work will expect and promote ethical behavior.

  • Develop the skill of respectful disagreement and logical argument.
  • Ensure that your work is indeed YOUR work. Do not plagiarize from written or electronic sources. Do not use the work of others with the intent to present it as your own.
  • Even when you are in an entry-level position, colleagues and supervisors expect that your previous experience and education will influence your ability and potential to perform on the job. You will be responsible for your own learning.
  • Take ownership of concepts learned in previous courses and be prepared to apply them to current coursework.
  • Acknowledge that your effort to acquire your previous academic skills (e.g. your writing and math skills) will affect your performance in many of your courses.

Professional Communications

One of the responsibilities faculty have to their students is to develop their communications skills and professionalism so that they have a better chance at succeeding in their academic and professional careers.  To this end, the faculty in our department have developed a list of professional communications expectations for all of our students, advisees and mentees.  These expectations are not meant to be cumbersome, but rather to set a high bar for professionalism that will be highly advantageous for you as a student now and as a professional well into the future.  Even if it seems superficial, people do and will judge you according to how you communicate with them.  Right now, professors and other professionals that you interact with on a daily basis are part of your professional network.  As such, you want these professionals to judge you as “above the rest of the crowd” when it comes to your professionalism, as they can write you letters of recommendation for graduate school and connect you with lucrative employment opportunities in your near future.

Communication occurs across multiple domains, and includes body language and tone of voice as well as the content of what you say.  We have split out this list according to the medium through which communication occurs, because each domain raises different issues. First there is Rule Number One:  Always error on the side of formality.  It is better to be too formal than too casual in your communication.  Begin formally, and then if the person with whom you are corresponding uses more informal language or format, then you may adapt to that person’s preferred style.

Email (and any written correspondence)

  • Address the person by name at the beginning in your first email.  If the conversation becomes a back-and-forth casual and short exchange (for example, a simple confirmation “Yes or No” or confirming the time or location of a meeting) and the person does not address you by name, then it is typically safe to not include their name in the email, although it doesn’t hurt to always use their name if you are uncertain what to do (this would be erring on the side of formality, Rule Number One).
  • Use the appropriate title for the person.  Here too, always error on the side of formality.  If you are not sure if a professor holds a Ph.D. or not, assume they do and use the title “Dr.” or “Professor”.  Never use the titles Miss, Mrs., Ms. or Mr. for someone that holds a Ph.D.  Unless someone has specifically asked to be called by his or her first name or specifically asks you to use the title Mrs. or Miss, use Ms. for a professional female that you know does not have another title (such as Dr.) or Mr. for a professional male that you know does not have another title (such as Dr.).
  • If someone has a higher ranking than you in an organization or is older than you or is a professional (which would include all faculty and staff at UNC Asheville), use a formal introduction, such as Dear _________, Hello_______, or slightly more casually, Hi_________ at the beginning of your email.  Avoid using the super-casual “Hey” in the professional world.
  • In the Subject Line, always indicate the purpose of your email and your identity. As a student, for example, always put the class number, section, and a very concise description of what the email is about: “re: MGMT130.001 question about Wed homework”. Be sure to never leave the subject line blank.
  • Be sure to proofread before you send, checking for all spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, punctuation and typos.  Use capitals appropriately in professional correspondence and avoid any informal or “text” like language.  Treat the email as if it were a typed, professional letter.
  • End all correspondence with a friendly and professional closing. For example, “Thank you and see you in class tomorrow!  John Dunn” or “Best regards, Katie Smith” will suffice.
  • Before writing the email, check for the correct spelling of the person’s name. This may require a Google search if you do not have their business card), their appropriate title, and always address them as they wish to be addressed (if you are not sure, you can ask them). Also use the full name that is given on their correspondence or business card (do not truncate hyphenated or double last names).
  • Do not write the email when you are angry or intoxicated.
  • Read the email carefully before you hit the send button. Check this list that you followed all of the rules above.
  • Respond to all emails addressed specifically to you and not the entire organization or class within two business days.
  • For additional sage advice for writing emails to your professors

Face to Face

  • If the office door is closed, always knock and wait for the person to open the door for you.
  • If the person is on the phone or with another person, do not knock or disturb the person. You have a few options here:  either wait for the person to become free, come back later, post a note on the door or email that person to (re)schedule the meeting.
  • If the meeting is not arranged in advance (or is outside of office hours for professors) and if what you have to discuss is more than 1-2 minutes, always ask the person if now is a good time to talk or if it you should schedule a meeting at a more convenient time for that person.
  • Bring a notepad and writing instrument with you and take notes during the meeting.  It is also good practice to summarize what you heard during the meeting (paraphrasing) and reiterate next action steps you will take, if relevant.
  • In terms of the length of the time you stay in a meeting face to face with a professional, unless the time is arranged in advance, read the body language of the person.  If they appear distracted, uninterested, stressed or busy, then ask if there might be a better time for you to continue the conversation. Further, if you schedule a 15 minute time slot, then take the 15 minutes but don’t stay over your time slot and always be on time to your set meeting.  In addition, it is good practice to estimate how much time you will need in advance when you set the meeting.
  • If you say you will meet someone, be there and be there on time.  If an emergency happens such that you will not be able to make it, call the person on the office line (or cell, if they give it to you) as soon as you know you will need to reschedule.  On the other hand, if you arrive early, ask the person if they might be available to meet early or wait until the actual time you set your meeting.
  • When you see your current or a former professor in the hallway or on campus in passing, it is considered appropriate and polite to say “Hello, Professor XYZ” or “Hi, Dr. XYZ”.
  • When a professional, whether staff or faculty greets you upon entering a room, please respond back in kind (i.e., “Good morning!”, your response “Good morning!”; “Welcome!”, your response: “Hello”,  “Good afternoon”, etc.).


  • Use a greeting, title and name as you would in an email, for example “Hello Dr. Jones”
  • Always identify yourself by first and last name and what class you are in, example: “This is Katie from your 8am MW class.”
  • To be safe, only text or call a personal cell phone if you have been invited to do so, and only during standard business hours (M-F, 9-5pm).


  • Address the person formally and identify who you are in the very beginning.
  • If you need to leave a message, say who you are, the time you called, the purpose of your call (briefly) and leave a number where to reach you.
  • Only dial (or text) someone’s personal cell phone if you have been invited to do so, and only during standard business hours (M-F, 9-5pm).  It is always safer to use the business/ land line if you are uncertain.

Third Person References

  • In referring to professionals including engineers, entrepreneurs, managers, CEOs, executives, etc. as hypothetical cases and/or in third person references, use gender neutral or gender inclusive pronouns, such as “they”.

Professional Attire

Consider the position, organization, and industry and clearly understand what might be considered professional in that setting; it is best to err on the side of caution. The interviewer should be concentrating on your ideas, answers, and personality, rather than your appearance. Impression management is important to avoid perception errors and unfortunate stereotypes. When you start work, remember that your first impression is a lasting one.  You can always relax after you learn organizational policy and culture.