How Would You Rate Your Employees Integrity?

Courage may be required when employees do the right thing in the face of consequences

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | November 28, 2017

A few months ago, I read an article by Amy Rees Anderson, Managing Partner with Rees Capital and a contributor to Forbes Magazine and the Huffington Post, where she addressed the importance of integrity. In this article, she stated, “If I could teach only one value to live by, it would be this: Success will come and go, but integrity is forever. Integrity means doing the right thing all the time, in all circumstances, “whether anyone is watching or not.”

Employers don’t want to question the integrity of their employees. Unfortunately, we live in a world where “the end justifies the means,” and compromising integrity is all too common. Sales people overpromise and under deliver, because they need to make their sales quota. Job applicants lie on resumes and exaggerate in job interviews because they desperately need a job. Customer service representatives cover up mistakes they’ve made because they’re afraid the client will “walk.” Employees call in “sick” because they don’t have any more paid time off when what they really plan to do is go Christmas shopping. In each case, the person choosing to compromise their integrity rationalized that they had a perfectly valid reason to justify their lack of honesty.

I can think of several examples of employees who despite lacking integrity, are successful and have never had to face any consequences for their actions. Unfortunately, their co-workers know about their lack of integrity and therein lies the real problem. These individuals no longer have a reputation as a person of integrity, which is one of the most valuable qualities anyone can have in their career and throughout life. Financial profit and status is temporary and subject to change, but a network of people who trust you as a person of integrity is forever.

The value of this trust is far beyond anything that can be measured. For employees, it means a manager or a boss who is willing to trust them with additional responsibility and advancement opportunities. It means having a circle of people that are willing to go the extra mile to help you because they know that recommending you to others will never bring damage to their own reputation.

What should an employee do if required to work with a co-worker who has demonstrated that he/she isn’t trustworthy. My advice: Associate with them only as necessary to get the job done effectively. Never confide in them. Never, ever make excuses for them. Above all, don’t be fooled into believing that such people think of you as a friend. You may be a resource, a supporter, and possibly even an enabler, but you are not their friend. It may be tempting to think, “they may be dishonest with others, but they would never be dishonest with me,” but it simply isn’t true.

Employees will be judged by the character of their associates. Why? Because people have always judged others by their associations. That statement may not seem fair, but I assure you it’s true. If an employee wants to build a reputation as a person of integrity, they must surround themselves with people of integrity.

Integrity is one of the most important characteristics of a great employee and even more so for anyone aspiring to a leadership position. Without integrity, you lose trust. When you’ve lost trust, respect typically disintegrates. Building a reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a momentary lapse in judgment to lose. The path of integrity is not always easy, but the respect of your employer and the potential rewards make the journey worthwhile.

David Cox

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