What Is Integrity?

Definition and Examples of Integrity

Woman and man smile at their work in a bright office.
•••

 

Westend6 / Getty Images

Integrity is the quality of having strong ethical principles that are followed at all times. Honesty and trust are central to integrity, as is consistency.

Here are examples of integrity in action so you can recognize this important character trait in employees and coworkers.

What Is Integrity?

A person with integrity demonstrates sound moral and ethical principles and does the right thing, no matter who's watching. Integrity is the foundation on which coworkers build relationships and trust, and it is one of the fundamental values that employers seek in the employees that they hire.

To have integrity means that a person is self-aware, accountable, responsible, and truthful and that their actions are internally consistent.

A person who has integrity can be trusted by coworkers, customers, and stakeholders.

How Does Integrity Work?

People who demonstrate integrity draw others to them because they are trustworthy and dependable. As employees, they are principled and you can count on them to behave honorably.

Here are some examples of how people can reflect different facets of integrity in the workplace.

Honesty

John, a software developer, is attempting to optimize a certain software process but keeps running into problems because of his code. He could push forward with his suboptimal code in order to try to save his work and save face, but instead, he chose to go to his team. He described the dead ends he had run into and explained that he thought that pushing forward could create problems down the line for the product, preventing the development of advanced features for the software.

The team discussed the problem and worked through a solution. John scrapped all of his code and started from scratch with the team’s input. Thanks to his honesty, his new solution gave the team the ability to expand the product’s capabilities easily in the future.

Responsibility

Ellen missed a deadline for an important deliverable her team was supposed to have developed. Rather than throwing her team members under the bus, even though they hadn’t delivered as promised, she took responsibility for the missed deadline. She addressed the problems with her team and put in place safeguards that would keep them from underperforming again.

Team members recognized their contribution to the failure, but because Ellen took responsibility as the team leader, her team was able to learn from their mistakes.

Accountability

Marsha was responsible for producing a report once a week that was used on Friday by two other departments to plan their workflow for the next week. Knowing that she planned to take vacation time soon, Marsha ensured that the report would be produced as needed in her absence. 

She taught another employee how to create the report. Additionally, she wrote out the appropriate procedures so that the coworker had a guide in her absence. Marsha supervised the trainee for two weeks so that her replacement had a chance to do the actual task. Finally, she touched base with the other two departments to let them know that a new person would be creating their report while she was gone, in case the coworker needed help.

Employees have the opportunity to demonstrate their integrity—or lack thereof—every day, through their actions with each other, with management, and with customers or clients. If you haven't hired the right people, a lack of integrity will be evident in their behavior.

Benefits of Integrity

A workforce comprised of people with integrity is one where you can trust the staff to perform to the best of their ability. They don't compromise on their ideals, cut corners, cheat, or lie. They behave according to an internally consistent code of values.

Integrity in business can strengthen relationships with vendors and customers because they can trust you'll keep your promises and act honorably if something goes wrong. Corruption, which can cause scandals and shake a corporation's reputation, is incompatible with integrity.

Regularly discussing dilemmas of integrity with your employees gives them a chance to learn your expectations and also helps develop a culture of integrity in the workplace.

Key Takeaways

  • Integrity is the quality of having strong ethical or moral principles and following them at all times, no matter who's watching.
  • A person with integrity acts with honesty, honor, and truthfulness.
  • Integrity is a valuable skill in an employee, because it indicates they will perform to the best of their ability and act on their principles.
Article Table of Contents Skip to section

Article Sources

  1. Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. "Consistency and Ethics." Accessed June 18, 2020.

  2. Harvard Business Review. "Why Integrity Is Never Easy." Accessed June 18, 2020.