Integrity at work is the quality of being honest, truthful and having strong moral principles. It is the adherence to a set of moral and ethical values and principles, regardless of the situation or the people involved.
A couple of months ago, Alain Hoekstra published a thesis about INTEGRITY MANAGEMENT IN PUBLIC ORGANIZATIONS (source). Having a clear and well-communicated process for handling integrity-related issues can help to promote a culture of integrity within an organization, and help to ensure that employees understand their responsibilities.
One of the most shocking examples of a lack of integrity was “Dieselgate”. You can read about the impact of this in on the brand of Volkswagen in: Lessons From Dieselgate: Leadership Ethics In Personal Branding.
5 benefits of integrity at work
- Trust and respect from colleagues and management: Employees with integrity are viewed as trustworthy and dependable, which leads to increased respect and trust from their colleagues and superiors.
- Improved decision-making: Integrity at work allows for honest and transparent communication, which can lead to better decision-making by management and teams.
- Better employee morale: A workplace culture of integrity can lead to improved employee morale, as employees feel more comfortable and confident in their roles.
- Increased productivity: Employees who operate with integrity are more likely to take responsibility for their actions and work effectively and efficiently towards common goals.
- Positive reputation: A company that values and promotes integrity is likely to have a positive reputation in the industry and among the general public, which can lead to increased business opportunities and customer loyalty.
Characteristic of Integrity
Here are some characteristics of integrity at work:
- Honesty: Being truthful and transparent in all actions and words.
- Consistency: Acting in accordance with one’s values and principles in all situations.
- Moral uprightness: Adhering to a strong set of moral and ethical values.
- Reliability: Being dependable and keeping one’s word.
- Authenticity: Being genuine and true to oneself.
- Fairness: Treating others with justice and impartiality.
- Responsibility: Taking ownership of one’s actions and decisions.
- Transparency: Being open and straightforward in communication.
- Respect: Treating others with dignity and kindness.
- Courage: Standing up for one’s beliefs and values, even in the face of adversity.
It is important to note that integrity in a work enviroment is not just about avoiding dishonesty, but also about proactively choosing to act in accordance with strong moral principles and values.
Integrity is an ongoing process and not a destination, it’s a continuous effort to align your thoughts, words, and actions with your values and principles. In my blog about authentic leadership, I elaborate on the importance of integrity, as it is one of the key features of this leadership style.
What happens if an organization lacks integrity?
If an organization lacks integrity, it can have significant negative consequences for the company and its stakeholders. Some of the potential effects of a lack of integrity at work include:
- Loss of trust: Employees, customers, and other stakeholders may lose trust in the company, which can lead to decreased productivity, lower morale, and lost business.
- Poor decision-making: A lack of integrity can lead to a lack of transparency and honest communication, which can result in poor decision-making and ineffective problem-solving.
- Decreased employee morale: Employees may feel uncomfortable and demotivated in an organization that lacks integrity, which can lead to high turnover and low productivity.
- Legal and regulatory issues: Organizations that lack integrity may be more likely to engage in unethical or illegal behavior, which can lead to costly legal and regulatory problems.
- Damage to reputation: A lack of integrity at work can lead to a negative reputation for the organization, which can be difficult and costly to repair.
- Low customer satisfaction : Unethically behaving company may lose their customer loyalty, which can result in decreased revenue and market share.
- Decreased productivity: The employees may feel demotivated, which can lead to decreased productivity, low morale and high turnover.
- Difficulty in attracting talent: Companies that lack integrity may have difficulty attracting and retaining top talent.
- Difficulty in building partnerships: Companies that lack integrity may have difficulty building partnerships and collaborations with other organizations.
If you’d like to know how lack of integrity affects the morale, productivity and customers satisfaction, consider reading: The High Cost Of Lack Of Integrity In Business Practices
Are there downsides to integrity?
It’s worth noting that integrity at work is not an absolute concept, it can vary from situation to situation and from person to person. Therefore, it’s important to understand that integrity can have its own downsides, but it’s also important to weigh the benefits of integrity against the downsides in each situation. These are potential drawbacks:
- Conflict with others: Holding strong moral and ethical principles may lead to conflicts with others who have different beliefs or values. This can lead to difficult conversations and potentially even ostracism in some cases.
- Difficulty in compromising: People who have integrity may find it difficult to compromise their values and principles, which can be a barrier to building relationships and achieving common goals.
- Difficulty in adapting: Having integrity means standing up for what you believe in, but it also means sticking to your principles and beliefs. This can make it difficult to adapt to new situations and make decisions that may not align with your values.
- Lack of flexibility: People with integrity may be less flexible in their approach to situations, which can lead to difficulties when trying to adapt to new situations and challenges.
- Professional risks: Integrity means being honest and transparent, but it also means speaking up when you see something wrong, which can be risky, especially in some industries or organizations where whistle-blowing is not protected.
- Personal risks: People with integrity may find it hard to accept or overlook unethical or illegal behavior, this may put them at a disadvantage in their personal and professional life.
How can you handle the downsides of integrity?
Here are a few strategies that can help overcome the downsides of integrity:
- Communicate effectively: When conflicts arise due to different values or beliefs, effective communication can help to understand the other person’s perspective and find common ground.
- Learn to compromise: Compromise does not mean giving up your values and principles, but it means finding a middle ground that allows you to achieve a common goal while still adhering to your beliefs.
- Be open to new perspectives: Be open to new ideas and perspectives, and be willing to adapt and change when necessary.
- Be flexible: Be flexible in your approach to situations, and be willing to adjust your course of action when necessary.
- Seek support: If you feel that your integrity is putting you at risk in your professional or personal life, seek support from colleagues, friends, or professional organizations.
- Learn to balance: Learn to balance your integrity with the need to be adaptable and flexible in different situations.
- Understand the context: Understand the context in which you are operating and be willing to make exceptions to your values and principles when necessary.
- Seek guidance: If you are unsure about how to handle a situation, seek guidance from a mentor, supervisor, or professional counselor.
Some important questions about integrity
If you would like to implement integrity in your organization, it might be helpful to investigate the following questions and discuss them with each other:
- What are our core values and principles as an organization?
- How do our actions align with our values and principles?
- Are we being honest and transparent in our communication and decision-making?
- Are we holding ourselves and others accountable for our actions?
- Are we treating all employees with fairness and respect?
- Are we creating a culture of trust within our organization?
- How do we handle ethical dilemmas within the organization?
- Are we encouraging employees to speak up when they witness unethical behavior?
- How do we handle conflicts of interest within the organization?
- Are we continuously evaluating and improving our integrity practices?
Answering these questions can help to identify areas where improvement is needed and develop strategies to promote a culture of integrity within an organization.
Procedures to handle integrity-related issues
If you have addressed the above questions, you could implement procedures to handle integrity-related issues.
- A clear and well-communicated code of conduct: This should outline the organization’s expectations for ethical behavior and provide guidance on how to handle integrity-related issues.
- A reporting mechanism: Employees should have a way to report integrity-related issues, such as a hotline or an online reporting system, without fear of retaliation.
- An investigation process: The organization should have a process for investigating integrity-related issues, including who will conduct the investigation, how it will be conducted, and how long it will take.
- A process for handling violations: The organization should have a process for addressing violations of the code of conduct, including disciplinary action and retraining.
- Communication and transparency: The organization should communicate the outcome of the investigation, and any actions taken, to all employees involved.
- Confidentiality: The process should ensure the confidentiality of all parties involved
- A process for appeal: The organization should have a process for employees to appeal any disciplinary action taken in response to a violation of the code of conduct.
- Continuous improvement: The organization should continuously evaluate and improve its integrity-related processes and procedures to ensure that they are effective in promoting a culture of integrity.
- Ethical culture: The organization should develop an ethical culture that promotes integrity, transparency, and accountability.
Having a clear and well-communicated process for handling integrity-related issues can help to promote a culture of integrity within an organization, and help to ensure that employees understand their responsibilities.
Integrity and preventing sexual harassment
Integrity can play an important role in preventing sexual unacceptable behavior in the workplace. Here are a few ways that integrity can help to prevent sexual harassment and misconduct:
- Establishing clear expectations: A clear code of conduct and set of expectations for acceptable behavior can help to prevent sexual harassment by making it clear what is and is not acceptable.
- Encouraging reporting: Encouraging employees to report any incidents of sexual harassment or misconduct, without fear of retaliation, can help to identify and address any issues that may arise.
- Creating a culture of accountability: Holding individuals accountable for their actions and promoting a culture of integrity can help to prevent sexual harassment by making it clear that such behavior will not be tolerated.
- Conducting trainings: Providing training and education on sexual harassment and misconduct can help to raise awareness and prevent such behavior from happening.
- Creating a safe space: Encouraging open and transparent communication and creating a safe space where employees feel comfortable discussing any issues or concerns can help to prevent sexual harassment and misconduct.
- Emphasizing on zero tolerance: Organizations should communicate that they have zero tolerance for sexual harassment and misconduct, and that they will take prompt action to address any violations.
- Providing support: Providing support to employees who have experienced sexual harassment or misconduct can help to address any negative effects and prevent retaliation.
- Regularly reviewing policies: Regularly reviewing and updating policies and procedures related to sexual harassment and misconduct can help to ensure that they are effective and appropriate.
Integrity and respect for others are key elements to prevent sexual harassment and misconduct, creating a culture of integrity that values mutual respect and promotes positive behaviors can help to prevent sexual unacceptable behavior at work.
“Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box” by The Arbinger Institute
“The Power of Ethical Management” by Norman Vincent Peale and Ken Blanchard
“The Ethical Executive: Becoming Aware of the Root Causes of Unethical Behavior” by Robert Hoyk and Paul Hersey
“Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality” by Henry Cloud
“Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution” by Peter Kalmus