Integrity at Work: How to Uphold Your Principles in the Corporate World

Look away. Don’t look away. Can’t look away!

Do it. Don’t do it. Maybe do it. Do a bit of it.

Have you experienced a situation at work where you have asked yourself ‘what do I do about this situation’?

Picture this

Taylor* does a good job in Sales. They turn up each day and put in the hours, contact clients and sell products for the company. Taylor has been with their employer for four years and knows what is needed of them. They are considered to have good integrity.

The end of quarter is coming up and Taylor’s sales pipeline isn’t looking as strong as it should be. A few colleagues have been laid off in recent times leading to many feeling like they will be next in line to be let go. Taylor is worried and cannot afford to be out of work.

With the pressure mounting, Taylor starts to consider what to do to avoid losing their job and making sales or at least having a pipeline that is more positive.

Taylor considers several pathways:

  1. Bring forward their buying decision
  2. Telling customers the products can and will do more than they know they will do; and
  3. Adding phantom prospects to the sales system

What would you do? How would you navigate the balance between your values and integrity and workplace challenges?

The temptation for Taylor is to bend or break the rules of integrity to achieve the needed sales results and avoid being laid off.

Integrity at work means adhering to moral principles, honesty, and consistency in behavior, aligning actions with your and the organizations values even in challenging situations.

Demonstrating integrity involves being trustworthy, reliable, and accountable, upholding ethical standards, following company policies, and prioritizing honesty, fairness, and transparency in interactions. It fosters trust, a positive work culture, and preserves credibility for individuals and organizations.

How do you uphold your ‘bar of integrity’ in your career?

Upholding your ‘bar of integrity ‘in your career requires commitment to your principles and ethical conduct in your professional life. Here are some key steps to maintain integrity:

  • Define Your Values: Clarify your personal and professional values, and ensure they align with the standards of ethical conduct in your company and industry. If you find there is a mismatch between your values and that of the organization, you may want to see if they can be aligned, and if not, consider finding a new role elsewhere.
  • Lead by Example: Demonstrate integrity in your actions, decisions, and interactions with colleagues, clients, and stakeholders. Aim to be a role model of that behavior.
  • Stay Informed: Stay up to date with industry regulations, laws, and ethical guidelines relevant to your profession. Knowledge empowers you to make informed, ethical decisions.
  • Communicate Transparently: Foster open and honest communication in your workplace. Avoid withholding information or misleading others and encourage a culture of transparency and trust.
  • Take Responsibility: Accept accountability for your actions and decisions. Acknowledge mistakes openly and take steps to rectify them, demonstrating honesty and integrity. This is a big one as we all make mistakes!
  • Avoid Conflicts of Interest: Be vigilant of potential conflicts between personal interests and professional obligations. Disclose conflicts of interest promptly and take appropriate steps to mitigate them.
  • Respect Confidentiality: Safeguard sensitive information and respect confidentiality agreements. Avoid sharing confidential information without authorization, and handle data with care and discretion.
  • Seek Guidance: Consult with mentors, ethics officers, or HR professionals when faced with ethical dilemmas or challenging situations. Seek advice to ensure your decisions align with ethical standards.
  • Continuously Reflect, Calibrate and Improve: Regularly reflect on your actions and decisions to assess whether they align with your values and ethical standards. Strive to uphold your ‘bar of integrity’ in your career.

Use these steps to help you maintain your integrity. It will lead to having trusting and respectful relationships, and credibility with colleagues, clients, and stakeholders alike.

What if you are continuously presented with ethical dilemmas?

Sometimes it can feel like you can’t cut a break. That you are presented with situations that push the limits of your resilience, values and courage. Over and over again like waves breaking on a reef. What do you do in these situations?

Firstly, give yourself a ‘bar of integrity’ check-in. Perhaps jot down the instances and timing of situations that are challenging your integrity and ethics. If possible, and without too much emotion, look for the root cause of the situations that you are being presented with. What has your role been? What role have others taken? What has happened? What actions did you take? Do they pass your ‘bar of integrity’ standards?

NOW IF TEST the outcome of your check-in with:

IF NO, take time to consider:

  • What you are doing.
  • Why you are doing it.
  • What you can do to pass the ‘bar of integrity’ test.
  • Once you have the outline, create an action plan to guide you to not lowering your standards.

IF YES, take time to consider your role.

  • What you did.
  • What others did.
  • How you influenced for an integrous outcome.
  • How that landed with others.
  • Did it influence positively toward the outcome?  
  • Once you have all of the information from asking these questions, consider what you can do differently the next time.
  • You may also want to consider if this environment is fit for you.

Footnote: Having alignment between your values, integrity, actions and performance can lead to career promotion and leadership opportunities.

What’s in it for you?

Taylor* checked their ‘bar of integrity’ and sought counsel from their boss and their mentor. As a result, they found a way of identifying further sales opportunities that legitimately filled their sales pipeline and saw them nearly meet their quarterly sales target. They were able to hold their head high and earned respect from their boss and mentor as a result. Their name wasn’t on ‘the list’ when layoffs occurred towards the end of the next quarter. Well done, Taylor!

You will gain more than lose by having a ‘bar of integrity’ that you consciously work to. Compromising your standards, no matter how inviting, will leave you with a feeling of ick. And will sit in your mind for a while, or a long while as a time when you could have done better. Been better. You will likely change the course of your career somewhat, leading to missing out on some opportunities. Perhaps opportunities where you unconsciously berate yourself for not living by your standards and so don’t deserve the opportunity being presented. Or if others know of your integrity challenge, they will avoid offering you opportunities. No matter what form your punishment takes, it will be there in some form, and it will hurt.

The traits of a good leader

Who do you think of when you think of a good leader?

What traits do they have that permit them to be included in your list? Afterall, not just anyone deserves a place on the list.

The chances are that among other things, they are known for their integrity. They will demonstrate honesty, transparency and ethical behavior among other things. They uphold moral principles and act with integrity, earning the trust and respect of those around them. People will talk about them behind their back in a favorable way. They will say things like:

  • I trust …
  • I really liked the way … handled that situation.
  • When … was happening I knew they had my back.

One of the questions to ask yourself when presented with an ethical dilemma is, ‘what do I want people to say about me when this is done?’

  • Provide tips for leaders to promote a culture of integrity within their teams.

Instilling a culture of integrity

To instill a culture of integrity in your team

  • Start by leading through your own actions.
  • Set a clear example of honesty and ethical behavior.
  • Communicate your expectations regarding integrity openly and provide training to help team members understand their ethical responsibilities.
  • Establish transparent policies and procedures and encourage open communication about ethical concerns.
  • Recognize and reward integrity in your team members, while also holding them accountable for their actions.
  • Continuously reinforce the importance of integrity through discussions, support, and ongoing education.
  • By consistently promoting and upholding integrity, you can foster a culture where ethical conduct is valued and practiced by all.
  • Apologize for situations are that aren’t optimum.
  • Accept apologies from people and don’t recriminate!

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