What Is Integrity—Really?

Honesty and Trust Are Core in Integrity as These Examples Demonstrate

When you treat people with integrity, you raise the trust level in your workplace.


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Integrity Is an Example of a Value

Integrity is one of the fundamental values that employers seek in the employees that they hire. It is the hallmark of a person who demonstrates sound moral and ethical principles at work.

Integrity is the foundation on which coworkers build relationships, trust, and effective interpersonal relationships. Any definition of integrity you may find valuable and illustrative will emphasize these factors.

A person who has integrity lives his or her values in relationships with coworkers, customers, and stakeholders. Honesty and trust are central to integrity. Acting with honor and truthfulness are also basic tenets in a person with integrity.

People who demonstrate integrity draw others to them because they are trustworthy and dependable. They are principled and you can count on them to behave in honorable ways even when no one is watching. They are principled enough that they perform even when no one even knows about their performance. They form the core of the people who you want to hire if you seek a superior, trustworthy workforce.

Examples of Integrity in the Workplace in Action

Integrity is another fundamental value that you immediately recognize when you see it in the behavior of a coworker. But, it’s hard to describe adequately to provide a picture that produces shared meaning. So, the following are examples of integrity as it plays out—or should play out—every single day in the workplace. You may be surprised to learn that integrity is demonstrated in large ways and in small daily activities and practices.

1. The CEO of the company kept the employees up-to-date on the struggles the business was experiencing with clear and frequent communication at team meetings. Employees felt as if they knew exactly what was happening. They were not blindsided by the CEO’s request that they all take a 10 percent pay cut so that the company could avoid layoffs or furloughs for the time being. The employees also felt confident in the turnaround plan they were following as they had helped develop it and they trusted their CEO.

2 John was a developer who had taken a path, that was not working out, to optimize the process the code was supposed to create. Rather than patching together a solution that was not optimum, but that would allow him to save his work, he went to his team. He explained the dead ends he had run into and that he thought that they could create problems for the continual development of advanced features for the software product in the future.

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

3. Barbara went to the women’s restroom and used up the last bit of toilet paper in her stall. Rather than leave the dispenser empty for the next employee, she tracked down the location of the toilet paper and replaced the empty roll. Sure, it took her five minutes, but she didn’t leave the next employee in a bind.

4. 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 they put in place safeguards that would keep them from underperforming again.

Team members recognized their contribution to the failure but there were no repercussions because Ellen took responsibility as the team leader. (They also recognized that a repeat failure was not allowed.)

5. Two team members were discussing another team member’s failure to perform. They talked critically about the individual’s lack of skill and imagination. They criticized his follow-through efforts and his production. Paul entered the room in the midst of the gossip and discussion, listened for a minute, and then, interrupted. He asked the two team members if they had discussed their issues with the employee who they were criticizing?

6. Mary, the HR manager, was approached by an employee who wanted to formally complain that her boss, a senior manager, was bullying her. Mary immediately investigated the situation and discovered that indeed, the manager was acting in ways that could be considered bullying.

Other employees had experienced the same behavior. Several employees had brought to his attention about how his actions made them feel (Brave souls.) Mary asked the complaining employee how she wanted the situation handled. The employee asked Mary to mediate a conversation because she was afraid to talk to him on her own.

Mary set up a meeting and was able to facilitate the conversation. She also warned the manager that he could not retaliate against the employee. It would be a positive outcome to say that the manager stopped the behavior. But, unfortunately, he did not. This required the next step in followup.

Mary finally went to his boss, a Senior VP, who intervened—powerfully and immediately. Then, the person's behavior changed. This story is an example of employees doing the right things, having professional courage, and demonstrating personal and professional integrity at each step of the journey.

7. A customer asked Mark, a customer service rep, whether a software product would perform certain functions that she needed. These capabilities were the deciding factors in whether she would purchase the product. Mark thought that the software would perform the needed tasks and told her so.

However, he also indicated that he was not positive and that he would talk with the other reps and the developers and get back to her that day with an answer. After talking with the others, he discovered that one capability was missing. He called the customer who decided to purchase the product anyway as she had been unable to find one that did a better job.

8. 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 advantage of her vacation time in the near future, Marsha ensured that the report would be produced as needed in her absence. 

She completely prepared another employee to create the report. Additionally, she wrote out the appropriate procedures so that the coworker had a guide in her absence. She 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 rather inexperienced person would be creating their report in case the coworker needed help.

In big ways and in small ways, in visible or invisible situations, employees have the opportunity to demonstrate their integrity—or lack of it—every single day. If you've hired the right people, their integrity should shine forth.

Examples of a Lack of Integrity

Now that you have had a chance to consider stories of employees who were ethical and demonstrated integrity in the dealings with customers and coworkers, you'll want to take a look at the opposite.

The number of acts that you may see in your workplace daily that indicate an employee's lack of integrity is breathtakingly simple and complex—and noteworthy.

See examples of a lack of business ethics and integrity.