Integrity and its importance at work

5 min min read
Updated on November 19, 2021
By Katherine Quan
Integrity and its importance at work

Key takeaways

  • A person with high integrity is someone who acts in accordance with their values, even when no one is looking.
  • Having high integrity is important as it is what builds your reputation.
  • Building integrity takes intention and practice – take the time to reflect on every decision you make to ensure that it aligns with your true values.

What is integrity

Integrity is when your conduct matches your values. It means doing the right thing, even when no one is looking. Integrity is anchored in honesty, responsibility, and accountability. Those who have integrity are trustworthy and reliable. Both these traits are highly desirable for employers and peers.

Being a person of integrity is very important because it determines your reputation. Your colleagues, family, and friends can come to expect and rely on you based on your reputation. Demonstrating that you hold strong and ethical values brings reassurance to those around you that you will always act with good intentions.

With that, those who lack integrity may make poor choices that do not align with their values. This creates inconsistency – those around you may question whether your intentions are honest and true. As a result, your reputation would be tarnished, which can have major impacts on your personal and professional life.

Examples of high integrity

Rob is a Consultant and is up for a promotion to Manager. He works diligently for his clients to ensure their financial reports and records accurately represent the financial health of the company. On his most recent project, he discovers a discrepancy in the financials and asks the client’s project lead about it. His project lead informs Rob to ignore the discrepancy since it was asked for by the Vice President. Rob feels uncomfortable about ignoring the discrepancy since GAAP filings require that he states this. Against his client’s wishes, Rob files the discrepancy in accordance to GAAP.

In this example, Rob is demonstrating high integrity. Despite a client’s wish and recognizing that it may jeopardize his chances of promotion, Rob took the honest route.

Opposite of integrity – hypocrisy

The opposite of integrity is hypocrisy – or when a person is not acting in accordance with their claimed values. For many, hypocrisy is very distasteful because it usually means that someone is being treated unfairly. Namely, the person is holding others to a standard to which they do not hold themselves. For example, a person may say they don’t steal, but you may find that illegally stream and or download copyrighted music and movies. While this may seem like a benign action, it is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy can be detrimental to one’s reputation because it brings into question one’s character.

Why this matters at work

Integrity matters in the workplace for two primary reasons. First, hiring employees with high integrity will lead to better results for the organization. This is because you can count on the employees to be reliable and trustworthy. This also means you can count on the employee to represent the company appropriately to clients and vendors, bringing consistency to the brand promise your company makes.

Being able to trust your employees will also allow them to be happier in their roles. You can provide them with flexible work arrangements, such as working from home. You can also give them more autonomy in their work. Both of these can lead to improving job satisfaction.

Second, more and more, customers are holding companies to higher standards when it comes to living up to their corporate values. As a business, you too have to act in accordance with the corporate values that you espouse. Anything short of this and your customers will call you out.

We saw this in aftermath of the death of George Floyd. Both employees and customers held businesses to a higher standard. Businesses claiming to stand for equal rights were called out if their actions did not reflect their purported values. For example, Yael Aflalo, founder and ex CEO of clothing brand Reformation was called out by former assistant store manager, Elle Santiago. Aflalo ultimately stepped down amid backlash from the public.

An example of a company that has continued to strive to act with integrity is Patagonia. In 2019, news outlets reported that Patagonia began being selective with which companies could dawn their logo some of their most popular products. They parted ways with corporate clients that do not share the same values when it comes to prioritizing the planet. Such moves can help strengthen customer loyalty as they continue to uphold the things that matter most to their clients.

 

Confused about what your own core values are? Take our free course on Building Your Personal Annual Plan today!

 

How to increase your own integrity

Acting with integrity takes intention and practice. And the reality is life will tempt you with opportunities to win big in the sacrifice of your integrity. Here are three steps you can take to bring your actions closer to your values.

  1. Understand your values – the first step in increasing your integrity is to understand what your values are. Understanding your moral code is imperative to leading a life that is fulfilling by adhering to the things that are most important to you.
  2. Reflect on every choice prior to making them – while this can be an onerous step, it is important for building integrity. Taking pause prior to making a decision ensures that the actions you are about to take do in fact align with your values. This takes practice to build.
  3. Be honest – finally, even when it is difficult to do, be honest. It can be tempting to tell a white lie to spare a friend a feeling, but the reality is that is still acting out of line with your values. Being honest, even when it is difficult, is what builds integrity.

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