There are a lot of things in this world that people can take from you or damage, but the one that you should guard and protect more than any other should be your integrity or character. It starts with honesty, decency and trustworthiness. Following through with your word and being impeccable and honorable with your actions creates respect and professionalism.
Integrity does NOT mean living your life according to your beliefs. Hitler did that, and none of us would refer to someone of integrity. Integrity would need to include an understanding and adherence to right and wrong. An example of such standards would be stealing. We can all agree that this is wrong and employees should never be involved in it. However, check out these statistics…
- Employee theft is one of the primary reasons of many small business failures
- 10 – 30% of all bankruptcies are due to employee theft
- Employee theft is rising by 15% per year
- Over 40% of retail and manufacturing businesses admit to employee theft
Employee theft is higher in industries in which there are frequent opportunities or strong inducements to steal, such as retail sales, medicine (especially theft of drugs) and banking.
So, knowing that something is wrong vs right isn’t enough. It requires us to be intolerable to wrong and not condoning it in small things so that it never escalates to the bigger things. The small things? This would include sitting in your office and surfing Facebook or tweeting all day instead of focusing on your work. This is a form of theft – unless you work for Facebook or Twitter. Your employer has hired you to do a job and your focus should be on completing that job each and every day to the very best of your ability…anything short of that is robbing your employer.
Have you ever noticed that teams take on the personality of their coach? It’s true. If you have fiery coach who is big on being physical, those on the team seem to morph into that even if they haven’t really been that way before. Well, the same is true in work environments. Your team will take their cues from you. The way you act. The way you talk. Your tolerance for right or wrong. Your work ethic. They will begin to morph into the example that you set for them. Likewise, if they see that you are relaxed when it comes to working hard, cutting corners, compromising on policies – they’ll follow your lead on that as well.
There are three particular areas where you should focus on having strong integrity:
- Be a person of your word. If you say that you are going to do something, then do it, on time, every time. You’ll find that those on your team will respect you and have confidence in you when they see you are consistent in this area.
- Guarding yourself and others. Again, making sure that there can be no accusation made against you because of your zero tolerance of unethical practices. Have the sort of reputation and history that if someone lies about you and makes an accusation, that no one would believe it anyway.
- Money. This one is the downfall of many people. Make sure that when it comes to money and resources that you are transparent and honest. Keep receipts that can verify where every penny is spent. If you are traveling alone and stop for dinner, don’t just go to the most expensive place you can find, find something is affordable. Search for hotel rooms that are discounted instead of paying full price. Make sure your employer and your team knows that you do your best to save the company as much money as possible.
Unfortunately, we live in a Gotcha World now. People are looking to catch you in a moment that is unhonorable, embarrassing, or compromising. We have to be on guard in ways that we never would have considered 5-10-15 years ago. Make yourself accountable to someone and them to you. Check in on each other and make sure that you’re doing the right things and guarding against any type of moral attack.