Acting with integrity at work

Acting with integrity at work

Acting with integrity at work – here is a dictionary definition of integrity

1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.

2. The state of being unimpaired; soundness.

3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.

“I have found that being honest is the best technique I can use. Right up front, tell people what you’re trying to accomplish and what you’re willing to sacrifice to accomplish it.” – Lee Iacocca

The most effective way to behave in work and business (including large banks), as in life, is to act with integrity.  Note the definitions above which talk about wholeness, soundness and completeness – this is a definition of health?

That means being as honest as you can and being fair.  As Lee Iacocca says, tell your team the truth and tell them what you are doing about it.  Be a model for honesty, openness and fairness and show that you expect all in your team to follow

Be as realistic as you can about the risks    When you can, help your staff prepare for bad news.  But combine all of this with being scrupulously fair.  They will know if you play the favorites game or, for example, take the opportunity to pay off old scores if you have to  lay people off or reduce hours.  You will lose good will and that extra contribution you need from those who stay.

In the good times share bonuses fairly and for good reasons – nothing is more de-motivating than seeing a colleague who doesn’t really deserve it, getting a bonus. If the bonuses you pay will not stand up to public scrutiny – don’t pay them.

There are major advantages in acting with integrity in all parts of the business in  terms of competitive advantage.

  • The public, and that means your customers, are increasingly concerned about ethical standards
  • Customers and good staff are more like to be attracted and retained
  • Shareholders are more likely to invest in those they trust, now more than ever
  • Staff and your own morale will be higher
  • Your reputation will be something you can be proud of
  • (At its crudest) You stay out of jail and believe me in old age, the money will not make up for the shame.

Here are some ideas for acting with integrity! If you can’t get your head round it, hire someone to advise you on good governance – there are plenty of us around and it isn’t hard to put it in place.

Some principles for making decisions with integrity!

  1. Make sure those in management know how to step back from every critical decision before they make it and look at it objectively.
  2. Understand the risks in your own culture.  Monitor those likely to get swept along by excitement or urgency to the point where they lose judgment .   Personal power, ‘winning’, strategic plotting, high drama, etc. feel good – they are exciting – but they rarely lead to real long-term business advantage
  3. Strive for fairness and the long-term, and not short-term polarized ‘winner takes all’ outcomes that threaten the organization’s long-term survival.
  4. Learn from history and earlier situations. Reviewing how previous situations were handled, reduces the risks of making daft mistakes:  Also history is a superb store of already invented wheels, which can often save you the time and agonies of trying unsuccessfully to invent a new one.
  5. Understand the long-term consequences.  You need to build in time, and structures, to think through what these might be. Try to make sure there are no unforeseen consequences which work to your, and other people’s,  detriment. Ask;
    1.  What do I get out of this? If you directly address how you benefit it’s easier to spot biases and blind spots.
    2. If we do this, what will happen? Play out the effects of the  decision. Be alert to the impact on stakeholders you may not have considered.
  6. Make sure what you do is legal, but think about the spirit of the law as well as the words.  No one really respects or trusts someone who is known to “bend” the law and that includes your customers and share holders
  7. Consult widely –  not just your staff, but your customers, if you can,
  8. Above all, resist the delusion and arrogance that power and authority tends to foster. This is especially important to guard against if you live and work in a protected, insulated or isolated situation, as many large-scale leaders and decision-makers tend to do. Being a leader for a long time, or for any duration in a culture of arrogance, privilege and advantage, provides great nourishment for personal delusion. Many unethical decisions come from arrogance and delusion. Guard against becoming so dangerous.

Acting with integrity doesn’t just help you to sleep at nights but you also stand a chance of leaving a real legacy – someone who is remembered and respected in your community and beyond for a very long time!

Wendy Smith, Career, life and Business Coach
Wendy Smith, Principal Coach, WiseWolf Life and Career Coaching

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in organisational development, management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find all her books on Amazon at this link


2 thoughts on “Acting with integrity at work”

  1. Solid post. Let me suggest two questions to ask yourself about every decision you make.

    What do I get out of this? If you directly address how you benefit it’s easier to spot biases and blind spots.

    If we do this, what will happen? Play out the effects of your decision. Be alert to the impact on stakeholders you may not have considered.

    1. Thanks Wally – these are very good and useful questions to ask! I think the point about impacts on stakeholders is particularly important

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