Integrity in the workplace | Main Region

Integrity in the workplace

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Integrity. It’s the foundation of strong ethical standards and the reason you develop a reputation at work as reliable, trustworthy, honest and respectful – or not. 
Ironically, the word ‘integrity’ is heard most frequently when discussing a person’s character flaws. It is, for example, a well-known differentiator between politicians who see out full-terms and those who exit political life early. 
In contrast, a high level of integrity will enhance your reputation at work as a trustworthy, reliable and valued employee. No wonder then that employees with integrity can earn attractive job opportunities and promotions, while managers with integrity attract and retain staff.  
Suffice to say, in the workplace, integrity matters. But what is integrity in the workplace? 

What is integrity in the workplace? 

Fundamentally, workplace integrity is about having strong principles and values, which you demonstrate through your conduct in the work environment. A common integrity definition states that people with integrity do the right thing even when nobody is watching.  
High-integrity employees are dependable, honest and trustworthy. In organisations with high integrity, employees support one another to fulfil their organisation’s overarching mission by sharing time, resources, constructive feedback and advice. For example, they typically respond to customer service enquiries in a timely fashion and do what they say they will, even if there are other priorities to balance.

The importance of integrity in the workplace

Historical research outlined in the Journal of Academic and Business Ethics puts the importance of integrity in the workplace into perspective. When there’s integrity at work, it highlights, employees and employers are likelier to unite over values that advance an organisation’s productivity and wellbeing. 
The research shows that high integrity organisations foster better performance in areas such as teamwork and employee advocacy. 
Low integrity organisations, on the other hand, characteristically report poor retention rates, trust issues, broken promises, disrespectful conduct between staff, a blame culture and information concealment.  
No wonder then that employers value job candidates and employees with high integrity, who can operate in high integrity organisations.

Examples of integrity in the workplace 

How do you demonstrate integrity in the workplace and become known as a person with integrity? Integrity in the workplace is an amalgam of small and large acts, as the following three examples of integrity in the workplace show.

An organisation’s integrity 

A university declines to act on an opportunity to apply for a grant after learning the funding organisation has links to a tobacco giant. The university’s policies state that the university doesn’t accept funding for research and other activities from tobacco companies or related organisations. In this example, the organisation acts with integrity when its commitment is tested. In contrast, if the university didn’t act with high integrity, it might compromise its values for financial gain.

A manager’s integrity

An administrator is starting to require more flexible hours at work, so he can be more available to support a parent who needs medical care to live at home. The staff member is unavailable for several meetings, which is creating pressures for the team he plays a core role in.  
The employee’s manager creates a more flexible work arrangement for him, involving hybrid work. The manager also advocates on the administrator’s behalf to shore up support from colleagues, while the administrator adjusts to his new work-life routine. The administrator continues to perform to a high level, with a newfound appreciation for the company’s integrity. The organisation, meanwhile, continues to thrive. 
In a low integrity organisation, however, this scenario might play out differently. It could be that some staff start to make disparaging remarks about the administrator’s absences and call into question his commitment to the job. The administrator, in turn, struggles to balance the pressures coming from management with the pressures of family life. He decides to take stress leave and, during this time, resigns. Shortly after, he joins another organisation with a more supportive and compassionate culture in place for carers. He discovers his work-life balance improves rapidly. His performance at work does too.

An employees’ integrity

An accounts manager makes an unofficial announcement to a close colleague that she has just resigned. After the conversation finishes, the colleague says nothing further about the news until an official announcement is made.  
In another scenario, things could be very different. It could eventuate that the colleague tells another employee and the news spreads before an official announcement is made. This makes it challenging for the accounts manager to continue to work for the organisation during her notice period. 
Every day there are many ways you can act with honesty and integrity in the workplace. These include:  

  • Respecting the privacy of colleagues in private conversations  
  • Communicating honestly  
  • Taking responsibility for your actions 
  • Making promises you keep 
  • Supporting your organisation’s values with or without recognition 
  • Acknowledging your colleagues when they perform high quality work  
  • Being trustworthy

Lack of integrity in the workplace examples

Now that we’ve seen what integrity in the workplace looks like, it’s easier to spot examples of its absence. While the business case for integrity is well-made, instances of unethical behaviour in organisations still occur. For example, a Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence and Fass Foundation survey of 14,500 United States employees found that almost one quarter reported experiences with unethical behaviour in the workplace. 
Workplaces compromise their integrity when they turn a blind eye to unethical behaviour or when they model unethical behaviour. Employees demonstrate poor integrity when they frequently show up to work late, share misleading information with customers or colleagues, or marginalise others.  
There have been many high-profile examples of organisations that have had to defend their integrity in recent times. They all show that when employees and employers are at odds over the integrity of their organisation, the impact can be damaging.

How to develop and demonstrate integrity in the workplace

If you’d like to understand how to develop and demonstrate integrity at work, we suggest you:

1. Clarify what integrity means to you

The first step to developing your own integrity in the workplace is clarifying what integrity means to you and your organisation. This exercise helps you uncover the values your organisation promotes that you identify best with. These values might relate to self-improvement, investing maximum effort into your performance, keeping commitments, being open and trustworthy, or supporting others to be their best. 
As part of this process, it can help to examine your organisation’s corporate information and company policies – including operational plan, strategic plan, mission and policies – to clarify how your employer conceives of integrity. Keep in mind, also, that there is often a lot of guidance in these documents that can benefit your career direction in general.

2. Appraise your own integrity

Next, take stock of your own integrity and moral principles. Ask yourself the following questions:  
  • How consistently do I follow through with commitments and promises at work?  
  • Am I transparent enough with information?  
  • How do I support my colleagues to be their best?  
  • Do I show up ready to work each day and give my best performance? 
  • Do I keep myself accountable – including when I make mistakes? 
  • Am I responsible? 
  • Do I always keep to the set deadline?  
  • Do I lead by example?  
  • Do I show respect for the ideas of others? 
  • Do I always give credit where it’s due?  
  • When do I show integrity – always or only when someone will notice? 
Thinking about the answers to these questions is a positive step towards better understanding areas where your integrity is strongest and areas where you need to improve it.

3. Set self-improvement goals

From here, you can set some scalable goals and introduce new habits to develop and demonstrate your own integrity. If you find punctuality challenging, for example, your first goal might be as small-scale as ensuring you are on time for every meeting for the rest of the week.  
Once you’ve identified your goals, make sure you also plan how you will meet them and build on them. Remember, too, to set aside time to evaluate your progress on an ongoing basis.

The benefits of integrity in the workplace – watch your career grow

Now that you know what integrity in the workplace is, have read integrity at work examples and understand how to improve your integrity, you can take steps to ensure you always act with integrity. In response, you’ll enjoy many benefits. After all, employees who can demonstrate integrity in the workplace enjoy great working relationships with supportive and like-minded colleagues. By demonstrating integrity you’ll also gain more responsibilities from people who trust you to deliver. You’ll be more likely to earn promotions and enjoy the satisfaction of being a valued team member, too.

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