Why Integrity at Work Matters

A new pastor in a small town got on a bus for his first trip downtown in his new city. When he got the change back from the bus driver, the preacher noticed that the driver gave him an extra quarter. Thoughts raced through the preacher’s mind. “You’d better give the quarter back. It would be wrong to keep it.” Then he thought, “Ignore it, it is just twenty-five cents. Who would worry about this little amount? Accept it as a ‘gift from God’ and keep quiet.”

When his stop came, the minister paused before leaving the bus. He then handed the quarter to the driver and said, “Here, you gave me too much change.”

With a smile, the driver answered, “Aren’t you the new preacher in town?”

“Yes,” he said.

“Well, I have been thinking about returning to church.  But it is full of hypocrites. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. I’ll see you at church on Sunday.”

When the young preacher got off from the bus, he grabbed the nearest tree and said, “I almost sold Jesus for twenty-five cents!”

What is Integrity?

Integrity is doing what is right, despite the outcome. Successful people with integrity remain that way because of their character. Success is only temporary for those who lack integrity. We show our integrity when our actions are consistent with our words. By acting with integrity, we prove that our life is guided and given meaning by our values.

Why is integrity important at work?

Employees and chief financial officers selected integrity as the most critical leadership attribute. Among employees, 75% indicated that integrity is the most crucial attribute, while 46% of the CFOs have the same opinion.

People want their leaders to have integrity because their followers don’t have to guess the leader’s real intent. That ambiguity creates anxiety. When leaders act with integrity, they are reliable. And without reliability, leaders have no followers. People will trust and respect you if you are known for your integrity.

Leaders must occasionally say things that others do not want to hear. Leaders with integrity do not withhold their thoughts because they feel it would be dishonest. But they are not rude either. They share their ideas in a way that demonstrates that they care deeply about their connections with others. When leaders with integrity speak, they talk with sincerity. They advance their team’s work. They are not pessimists who are regularly discouraging others. Instead, leaders with integrity are brokers of hope.

How do I recover my integrity after I’ve been dishonest?

Stop engaging in any dishonesty. Take full responsibility for your misconduct and own that mistake. Do the next right thing. Be honest in every situation, no matter how small the detail. Become radically transparent. Let people see everything that you do. And over-deliver at work and in your personal life. It will be a slow process for people to believe in you again, so be patient. But you can recover from a damaged reputation. It will take time, perseverance, and a commitment to being a better you each day.

How do people with integrity think?  

Leaders with integrity strongly agree with statements like:

  • Things work out when I tell the truth
  • It is more important to say what I believe than to be popular
  • It is essential to be open and honest about my feelings
  • I make mistakes
  • I don’t like phonies who pretend to be who they are not
  • I will not lie to get something I want from someone
  • I always follow through on my commitments, even when it costs me

Leaders must operate with candor. They keep their promises. Once they have made a promise, the leader follows through without regard for the consequence. If you are afraid of candor, you don’t have the guts to be an effective leader. You will surround yourself with yes people who will say what you want to hear instead of speaking the truth.

What are the ways to show integrity in the workplace?

  • Be honest and treat people well. Don’t exaggerate successes. And be quick to praise achievements by other people.
  • Treat everyone fairly, regardless of their position in the organization.
  • Stand up for what you believe in, even if everyone else seems to be going in a different direction.
  • Only make promises that you can keep.
  • Have your own identity.
  • Ask for advice from your manager, employees, and contacts to hear what you can do better.
  • Be vulnerable with your staff. If you make a mistake, take ownership, and fix it. You will alienate people if you are unable to admit fault when things go wrong.
  • Tell people quickly that an agreement was possibly broken.

Integrity is a long term plan

Acting with integrity will help you focus on getting the best results five years from now instead of five minutes from now. People who trade short-term wins for their integrity will lose in the long run. Be mindful of the small decisions that you make. They add up. How we do anything is how we do everything. You will be presented with the opportunity to cut corners or avoid problems by dishonesty. Doing the right thing might lead to more problems at first, but it will ultimately lead to better results long term. Waste no more time arguing about what a good person should be. Be one. If it is not right do not do it. And if it is not true do not say it. Choose integrity.

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