Although employers don’t usually list ‘integrity’ under the list of skills and qualities that they are looking for in job vacancies, it’s something that’s desired from an employee and is a valuable quality to have. Integrity encompasses honesty, dependability, morals, ethics and honour. It means being thoughtful of others and always doing the right thing, even in difficult circumstances.
This act of honesty in the workplace creates an environment of trust, compassion and teamwork, which is why it’s so valued. So, to prove just how important integrity in the workplace is, here are 10 distinct ways of acting with integrity.
1. Work when you’re on the clock
Integrity in the workplace begins by showing up on time and dedicating yourself to your job. Although you don’t have to be glued to your screen for the entire workday, you should prove to your employer that you’re there to work and not spend hours by the water cooler talking about personal issues with Jane from accounting. After all, you’re hired to do a job and work your scheduled hours.
Dave arrives at the dealership and, as usual, sees some of his fellow mechanics standing around talking, texting their friends or watching videos on their phones. Dave gets right to work at his scheduled start time. As much as he’d like to stream movies on his laptop, he knows that a four-wheel brake job requires his full attention. He focuses on his work and gets the car back in safe, working order. Because he worked diligently with no distractions, the customer gets their car back sooner than expected.
Dave resisted the temptation to slack off, even though he had something he was more enthused about than work that day. He showed integrity by not only doing his job but giving it his full attention to do it correctly. He considered the needs of the customer, as well as his employer, ahead of his own interests.
His efforts resulted in a satisfied customer; therefore, Dave’s bosses will be more likely to consider him for a promotion as they know that they can depend on him to deliver a good and efficient service.
2. Admit your mistakes
Mistakes are easy to be made, but the way you handle it and rectify it is what matters the most. As appealing as it may be to let the blame fall elsewhere, it’s still a better option to maintain your integrity and own up to your mistake. Most bosses will appreciate your honesty, and your coworkers will be happy you didn’t throw them under the bus. This, in turn, fosters a sense of trust in the workplace, making it a positive environment for productivity and teamwork.
It’s the day before the trade show, and Helena realises that some of the equipment will arrive late because she initially typed the wrong date for delivery. Mistakes like this have happened before, and Helena knows she could probably blame the shipping company and save herself from the wrath of her bosses. Instead, she calls the company and manages to get a delivery that will only be a few hours late. She then informs her supervisor about the error, apologising and letting her know she has done her best to mitigate the inconvenience.
3. Keep your promises
Everyone makes promises at work, whether it’s promising your boss you won’t be late again or assuring your team that you’ll get a complex report in by the end of the week. Making promises is easy; the important part is keeping them.
Manoj has been hoping to get a promotion at work, so when his boss asks for volunteers for a new marketing campaign, he quickly steps forward. As the weeks pass, though, he realises it’s more difficult than he’d realised to juggle his regular workload with this new assignment. He brainstorms with two more experienced colleagues and partners up with a designer in another department to help him get the project done on time. Even though he misses out on some plans with friends, he stays late every night for a week to get all his work in as promised.
This is a perfect example of integrity in the workplace because it requires making the right choice even if it’s more difficult. Manoj has now proven to his coworkers and his boss that he’s reliable, resourceful and true to his word. That will likely be remembered when it’s time to decide on promotions.
4. Give credit where credit is due
In 1777, Samuel Adams wrote ‘give credit to whom credit is due’, a wise bit of advice that we can still follow to maintain our integrity. In the workplace, people will need to work collaboratively, and if you praise each other, you’ll lift up each other’s spirits and produce a higher standard of work.
Nina has been struggling to gain approval from her new boss, Mr Nguyen, who has exacting standards about even the tiniest details. It’s a welcome change when he calls her into his office to praise her for her work but, unfortunately, Nina soon realises his appreciation is mostly for the new streamlined format for invoices that her assistant Jane designed. Nina informs Mr Nguyen that she is pleased he approves of the new format and gives Jane credit for her ingenuity.
It would have been easy for Nina to simply accept the praise from her boss since the work came from the department she manages. By being honest, however, she has shown that she is a leader with integrity. This should impress her boss, who will also realise she inspires creativity and teamwork. Nina’s staff will respect her and will work harder, knowing their accomplishments are valued.
5. Follow the rules
Part of having integrity in the workplace is living by the rules and regulations that your company has carefully crafted to guide employee actions and behaviour. These rules help you avoid bad habits like an unprofessional wardrobe and poor email etiquette, but also help you comply with laws and ethical standards.
Ned phones a patient at home to let her know about her latest test results. He checks the patient’s privacy form and sees she has only given permission to leave a non-specific message to call the doctor back. When the patient’s husband answers the phone, he asks to know the reason for the call. He sounds caring and concerned, but Ned cites patient confidentiality and politely ends the call.
Sometimes company rules may not make sense to you, and you’ll feel tempted to override them. Ned might have been sympathetic to a worried husband and given him details about the test. He showed integrity by sticking to the rules, however, even if they made him uncomfortable. He put the patient’s rights above his own feelings and showed his employers he can be trusted with confidential information.
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6. Treat people with respect
Another way to demonstrate integrity at work is to follow good office etiquette and treat everyone with respect. This means being polite, professional and considerate, even those you might not get along with.
Mari is part of a team that has spent the last six months developing new software for a client. In a meeting with management, discussion gets heated about some problems with the design, and one of Mari’s colleagues blames her for all the issues. Though the accusation stings, Mari remains calm and asks him to explain in more detail so she can address his concerns. She doesn’t interrupt and then suggests the other team members offer their input. Together they explore the problems with the software and work towards a solution.
When things are going well, it’s easier to be cordial to your colleagues. In this case, Mari was confronted with an antagonistic situation and might have lashed out to defend herself. Instead, she made the effort to keep things civil and let everyone have a voice in the discussion.
7. Stand up for what’s right
Many of the examples of integrity in the workplace involve keeping the peace, playing well with others and putting your employer’s best interests ahead of your own. There are times, however, when having integrity means going against your colleagues or bosses.
Hector walks into the break room at work and hears a couple of his coworker friends making crass remarks about one of the female coders. Hector remembers a Daily Life article his girlfriend showed him about calling out sexism. He grabs an empty mug from the counter, dubs it the ‘Sexist Moron Jar’ and demands his buddies cough up $5 each.
Calling out sexism, racism and other bigoted comments is not an easy task at work. Depending on whom you’re addressing, it can make things socially uncomfortable or put your job security in jeopardy.
As with any communication at work, it’s important to know your audience. Hector’s joke might be an effective way to shame his friends without causing an argument, but it’s probably not the wisest course to take with his boss. A subtler approach is usually recommended, especially with an isolated comment that can be reproached with ‘I know you probably didn’t mean it this way, but…’
It won’t lessen your integrity to be cautious of your actions. Always try the least aggressive reactions first. If you see repeated patterns of bad behaviour, however, report it to an approachable superior or go directly to HR.
For particularly hostile environments, your best bet will be to leave for a better company and encourage others to do the same. Sometimes a high turnover of employees and subsequent loss of productivity and profits is the only way to get a company to change its ways.
8. Demonstrate flexibility
How do you respond when unexpected obstacles show up? No one enjoys for their plans to be derailed by an unforeseen hurdle. That said, how you approach such hurdles will say a lot about you. Being adaptable and flexible will allow you to overcome any situation and illustrate both your positivity and commitment to do a job well done and deliver results, despite any difficulties.
Emma and her team have been working on an in-depth marketing campaign for an external client. After weeks of meetings, discussions and revisions, the campaign is nearly ready. However, days before finalising, the client decides that they want to take a different approach, making major changes to the initial vision for the campaign.
While Emma and her team feel a tinge of frustration, Emma leads by example and instantly finds a new way to salvage most of her team’s work and repurpose within the new campaign approach. Her flexibility has a positive impact both on her team and her work, leaving both the apologetic client and her anxious supervisors with a feeling of relief.
9. Be considerate of others
Being considerate of others and their needs is an essential aspect of having integrity. Even if you’re not asked directly, offering help when someone might need it or covering for someone when they’re dealing with an emergency shows you have strong character and empathy. Of course, being considerate doesn’t mean you should be prioritising everyone else’s needs above your own, but if you’re willing and able to lend them a helping hand, then you should.
Mark has finalised his tasks for the week and is about to log off from work for the weekend. His colleague Sarah is about to do the same when she gets handed a last-minute urgent task by their manager. This means Sarah will be unable to pick up her daughter from school, leaving her in a tight spot. Being in the same department, Mark, who has no plans for the rest of the day, other than his weekly grocery shopping, offers to take the task off her hands, allowing Sarah to leave work on time.
The following week, Sarah covers for Mark when he has a family emergency, causing him to leave mid-task. By being considerate of each other, they manage to create a solid support system within the workplace.
10. Express gratitude
We often forget, or underestimate, how impactful gratitude is. Just as it is important to offer help, it’s equally important to be gracious when others provide help to you. A simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way but taking it a step further and recognising someone’s contributions and help while expressing your gratitude is even more powerful. Taking the time to do this will help you build trusting relationships with the people you work with.
John and few other colleagues offer to help you with a big project that is due soon. Although they’re not officially assigned to the project, they distribute pending tasks among themselves and start working on them. At the end, the project is delivered successfully and on time. You make sure to acknowledge their help, giving them credit where it’s due, but also ensure to thank each of them individually and express how glad you are that they were a part of it.
Recognising someone’s efforts and commitment is essential, and in this case, it once again helps build stronger team dynamics and a more positive work environment.
As you can see, having integrity at work isn’t always the easiest path to take. That said, it is the most personally rewarding, and it helps create a positive and healthy environment in both business and life.
Further workplace reading
Join the discussion! Can you think of some other examples of integrity in the workplace? Let us know in the comments section below.
This article is an update of an earlier version published on 4 August 2019 and contains contributions by staff writer Melina Theodorou.