Integrity in the Workplace
Updated 29 December 2020
What Is Integrity?
Integrity is the act of behaving in an ethical, moral, honest and honorable way – even when you know no one is watching.
If a manager runs out to the shop and leaves an employee in the office, they trust that that employee will continue with their work whether they are being supervised or not.
An employee who starts playing games on their phone as soon as the manager has left, is not showing integrity.
The word ‘integrity’ doesn’t feature heavily in job descriptions, but it is a quality that every employer looks for in an employee.
In many cases it is implied – an employer assumes the person applying for the job is honest and trustworthy, so it should not need to be specified in the personal specifications required for the position.
However, many of the words you see frequently in job descriptions are values that contribute to a person having integrity.
Integrity is about more than simply trusting an employee. An individual with integrity lives their life in a moral and ethical manner, they have good interpersonal skills and the core values they hold extend to their professional life as well.
Employees who do not exhibit traits of integrity can be toxic to workplace culture and therefore a company’s productivity. Where integrity does not exist, there is often corruption.
What Key Traits Might a Person With Integrity Have?
Below are some examples of integrity and the traits a person with integrity has.
Many of them are important interpersonal skills to show.
A person with integrity will:
- Be thoughtful of others
- Be dependable
- Be responsible
- Be reliable
- Have good ethics
- Be patient
- Be self-aware
- Be trustworthy
- Be honest
- Be respectful
- Be hardworking
- Have sound judgment
- Have good morals
- Be helpful
- Do the right thing
- Be gracious
Why Is Integrity Important in the Workplace?
No employer wants a dishonest employee, but the reasons for seeking an individual with integrity go far deeper than simply wanting a workforce that is not deceitful.
Integrity in a working environment helps create a positive culture where staff work well together, trust each other, have respect, can depend on each other and are compassionate.
This working culture is conducive to a motivated, happy workforce that will typically be more productive than a workforce where integrity is lacking.
Integrity in the workplace helps foster an ethical approach to internal decision-making. A company that has loyal, trustworthy staff is likely to put their wellbeing first.
An employer with a workforce comprising individuals who have integrity can trust that their staff will work to the best of their ability and put in the hours without being supervised. They should be able to rest safe in the knowledge that employees will not cheat, lie or cut corners.
By hiring employees with integrity, a company can create a more robust framework that forms the foundations of a business that provides a quality service and has a good reputation. Clients, vendors and customers will know that the company is honorable and will not seek to take advantage of them.
Regards of level, whether an intern or a CEO, it is important to show integrity at work.
As an employee in an entry-level position, integrity is vital to maintaining a successful employee-employer relationship. It also helps make you a valued member of the team and a person people feel they can approach and depend on.
Those in a senior position or position of power should demonstrate integrity in all aspects of their work to set a good example to those who look up to them and are learning from them.
As an employer, it is vital to show integrity to maintain a positive relationship with employees.
Being honest about proposed changes to the business or possible layoffs, for example, may mean a difficult conversation in the short term, but long term, this transparency helps build trust with employees and a positive working environment.
If an organization has dishonest employees who do not follow the company’s policies (for example, working day timings, dress code, break length) and are not trustworthy, these internal problems will very likely show externally, causing issues with retaining clients and maintaining a positive reputation.
10 Examples of Integrity in the Workplace
1. Show up on Time and Work Your Hours
Getting to work on time shows that you are respectful of the company and your duties.
The agreement between you and your employer is that you are ready to work from a certain time or within a certain time frame.
The employer trusts you to do this and be honest about occassions where you did not make it in on time. Therefore, if you ignore that agreement, you are not acting with integrity.
You show up late every day – but it is only by ten minutes, so you think that it does not matter. Over time, your colleagues consider that if you can come in 10 minutes late, so can they – some of them push it to 20 minutes. Your colleagues start to push the boundaries further in other areas of work, leaving 10 minutes early at the end of the day and taking longer breaks.
What started as a simple bending of the rules leads to a significant decrease in production levels and negatively impacts motivation.
2. Be Ready to Do Work
Demonstrating that you are willing to get your hands dirty, rather than purely delegating and shouting orders from the sidelines, shows integrity.
Employees with integrity support their colleagues and go beyond the call of duty to help others.
You are responsible for getting advertising in for a magazine. The deadline has been reached so all of your advert copy is in and signed off. The production team is visibly stressed by the amount of work they have to do to get the magazine to the printers on time.
Sitting back and taking the view that your part of the job is done so you can relax does not show integrity. Instead, ask how you can help, even in minor ways like making coffee and getting snacks, to keep the team motivated.
3. Do Not Make Promises You Cannot Keep (and Keep the Ones You Do)
Whilst it is tempting to say you can do something, perhaps to impress someone, your colleagues and employer will trust and respect you far more if you only promise to do things which you know you can and will do.
You say that you will be able to collect props for your theatre company’s production. The props are plants that are being loaned so you must get them on the day of the show. On the day of the show, you ask to borrow your friend’s car and, unfortunately, they need it – you have no way of collecting the props.
If you knew that arranging transport could be an issue because you did not have reliable transport, you should never have promised to collect the props. The team will respect and trust you far more if you explain in the first place that whilst you would love to help and may be able to, they should not rely on you to do so as you may not have the transport.
4. Be Honest About Your Shortcomings
Honesty is the best policy when it comes to your capabilities at work. If you cannot do something, do not pretend you can.
Covering up your inability to fulfill a task could impact relationships with your colleagues and prevent them from trusting you. It can also affect productivity – you might be spending a long time on something you struggle with when you could be working on something else.
You are responsible for managing the budget for a large event. Budgets are not your strong point and a few months into the planning you feel like you have lost control. You could push on to save face, hoping that things will be ok, or you could tell your manager and team the situation and ask for help, ensuring that things will work out.
By alerting your employer and team to the fact that you are not comfortable with what you are doing, they can support you. It is far better to be honest in the short term rather than carry on and create a disaster that your colleagues will all be affected by.
5. Deal With Conflict Professionally
Conflict in the workplace is common – personalities clash and one person’s ideas differ from another’s.
Show integrity by dealing with conflict in a professional manner that does not let the issue become personal. Listen, take the other person’s comments on board and be respectful.
A colleague believes their idea is better than yours and things get heated.
You should remain calm and respectful, keeping your comments constructive. Do not get personal (‘I seem to remember you got a written warning last time you tried to be creative’) and do not raise your voice or make hand gestures. Only engage with the ideas presented, not the person presenting them.
6. Take Responsibility for Your Actions
Covering up your wrongdoings could make you seem untrustworthy. Admitting your mistakes and taking responsibility shows integrity.
Not everyone is perfect all of the time; it is better to demonstrate your ability to own up rather than passing the blame or trying to cover something up.
Covering something up with a small lie can lead to you having to tell more and more lies; eventually, you will be confused with your own story and be caught out. If this happens, it can damage your relationship with your employer and colleagues.
You were supposed to tell the bottled water company that you have enough water for the office this month and do not need a delivery, but you forgot and a delivery driver has turned up with 10 full bottles. Your boss wants answers as to why the order was not canceled.
It can be difficult to own up to something when the person is so angry about the situation, but rather than passing the blame onto someone else or accusing the water company of making a mistake on their end, it is better to be honest and take responsibility for the fact you forgot to pass on the message.
This way, your boss will know they can trust what you say and that you will not lie to their face.
7. Uphold Confidentiality
It can be tempting to share something confidential to shed light on a situation or feel empowered, but upholding confidentiality is a critical part of being a trusted employee or employer.
Your boss tells you confidentially that a member of your team will not be in for a month because they have had a cancer diagnosis. He asks that you do not break confidentiality by passing the information on. In the canteen, you overhear your colleagues speculating that the employee must be off because he has a new girlfriend and wants to spend time with her.
Regardless of how tempting it is to stick up for the employee and let your colleagues know the truth, the matter has been kept confidential for a reason and breaking that confidentiality will mean breaking the trust that exists between you and your employer and your coworker and your employer.
8. Set a Good Example and Lead by Example
Regardless of your position and status in the company, you should set a good example to those around you.
Those who lead by example set a standard for behavior and have a responsibility to the company not to let their standards slip, as others will follow.
A colleague keeps going outside to make phone calls, uses the printer for personal documents unrelated to work and puts personal items on expenses. Those around them, seeing the person getting away with doing these things, may not consciously decide to break the rules but they may start to let their values slip considering it ‘just one personal document to be printed’ or deciding to make the phone call during work time, rather than waiting until after work.
The colleague here is setting a bad example – other coworkers are following their lead and overall standards are slipping.
9. Be Accountable
Integrity is about supporting the people around you and being self-aware. It is easy to focus on your own work, leave when it is finished and block out everything going on around you. But being accountable means accepting responsibility for producing positive results.
By isolating yourself and not working as part of the team, only doing exactly what is asked of you, you give the impression that you do not care whether there is a good or bad outcome to the overall situation and will not help others achieve the common positive goal.
You are going away on holiday and will be away when a report, which you are usually responsible for submitting, is due. Rather than leaving your colleagues to piece together something they know little about, you spend time before you go on holiday talking a colleague through the process so that at least one other person understands how to complete the task.
Therefore, you take accountability for the results of a task you are responsible for, even if you are not doing it directly yourself.
10. Stand up for What’s Right (Even if It Means Rocking the Boat)
There is a fine balance between keeping the peace and standing up for what is right. However, if the situation is negatively impacting the business or employees you should act with integrity and stand up for what you think is right.
This can help the company avoid a lawsuit if they are found to be acting discriminatory towards someone due to that person’s protected characteristic (race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy and genetic information).
Your manager is making your pregnant colleague lift heavy boxes so you raise the issue with a more senior manager
Someone makes an insensitive joke about a gay colleague; rather than laughing along with everyone else, you explain to them why the joke is inappropriate before raising the complaint with their line manager or higher up the managerial chain.
People warm to those who demonstrate integrity because they know the person is trustworthy, honest and dependable.
Similarly, employers will be more comfortable with those who demonstrate integrity; they may give them more responsibility, promote them sooner, trust them to represent the company publicly, allow them to lead a team and share confidential information with them.
In a working environment, honesty opens up communication channels and makes for a more robust, productive organization.
Whilst integrity is a quality rather than a skill, it can still be developed. By reading through the traits of integrity and the examples we have included in this article you should be able to identify your own strengths and weaknesses and build on the areas that need improving.