Integrity Means Everything

Integrity: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.

Dishonesty in the workplace comes in many forms from employee theft, disrespectful social media sharing, submitting incorrect time sheets, abusive behavior, unethical conduct such as harassment, and lying to co-workers and managers.

Within the United States, around 120 million people go to work each day. A recent study conducted by the Washington, D.C. – based Ethics Resource Center (ERC), revealed that almost half of these workers personally witnessed some form of unethical behaviors in the past year.

What causes people to lack integrity at work? There are many reasons: childhood upbringing, low morale, lack of accountability or consequences within an organization, power trip or the feeling of being so valuable that the company wouldn’t dare discipline, being disgruntled, low self-esteem, having a manipulative personality, being uncaring, low pay, and selfishness. These people view others as pawns to be used for their own advantage.

Companies that allow these behaviors will eventually have consequences. Instead of being known as a global presence that practices strong working ethics, unfortunately, some business leaders turn out to be laughingstocks and financially ruined. Just like trust, it is very difficult to recover from a ruined business reputation due to dishonesty, misconduct, and lack of ethics.

Therefore, how do you minimize risk and prevent bad behavior?

1.     Instill strong company values. Trust and integrity or similar should be mentioned specifically in the value statement. The team should be aligned and aware of the consequences for not meeting expectations. Ensure that the leadership team models the values from the top down.

2.     Create internal processes for accountability. Every organization should have a detailed process for reporting unethical behaviors where there truly is no retaliation. Reporting paths could be to HR, any member of senior leadership, another manager, or even a third party ethics hotline.

3.     Measure everything. Expenses and timecards should be clearly tracked and reviewed. Exit interviews should be conducted and results should be shared and acted on for improvement. Turnover should be tracked and analyzed for high trends in certain areas of the business or departments. Regular employee pulse surveys should be completed.

4.     Pay attention to the details. Senior leaders can become out of touch with the culture and day-to-day issues. As a manager, it is your responsibility to be in tune with what your team is working on, challenges, complaints, overall morale, and expected results.

5.     Encourage open feedback. Build a culture of trust and transparency. Employees should be encouraged to escalate wrongdoing to their managers. The best way to model this is by having a zero tolerance policy and holding employees accountable for inappropriate actions.

If you find yourself working in a company that has a low moral compass and you’ve escalated your concerns appropriately and there is still no improvement, it’s best to move onto an organization that better matches your values.

As a wise colleague once told me, “If I stand by and witness wrongdoing and take no actions, I now become an accomplice to the behaviors.” Don’t become an accomplice.