Integrity at work - what does this mean?

Integrity at work - what does this mean?

Integrity is a word often used by organisations as a company value. But was does this word mean? This blog article explores what integrity means in an organisational and leadership context.
Integrity is a word much debated on our leadership and team-working training courses. The word also features highly in our customer excellence training. When it comes to our employee engagement surveys, organisations can often want questions designed to obtain views on how the organisational values, which often include integrity, are lived and demonstrated. After all, organisational values should define the workplace culture, providing a moral compass for when difficult decisions need to be made. 
Integrity is clearly a hot topic. Let’s look to understand what, in an organisational context, having integrity really means.
Let’s start with the definition of integrity provide by the Little Oxford English Dictionary:
Integrity (noun):
wholeness; soundness; uprightness
Not much help here, I’m afraid.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary website the word integrity is currently up for review and is awaiting publication. Interesting… The current published definition is:

Integrity (noun): In moral sense. Soundness of moral principle; the character of uncorrupted virtue, esp. in relation to truth and fair dealing, uprightness, honesty... 
Very often during discussions on our training courses and workshops, words such as honesty and openness come up. So does the phrase ‘doing the right thing’.
Discussions often develop into areas such as ethics and ‘doing the right thing, even when no one is looking’ is often a way that having integrity is described.
Some time ago I listened to professor and author Brené Brown describe what she feels about what having integrity really means. This is my take on her interpretation:

Integrity is:
Having courage over discomfort.

  • Taking the right path rather than the fast and easy option.
  • Practising and not professing your values.

Why do I like these descriptions?   

I like them because they challenge us. Not just in the way we think but in the way that we feel and we behave. They provide an ecology check on our intentions and our actions. These descriptions suggest to me how we will be judged, not only by others but by ourselves too.

 In a world where in public life integrity seems to be in short supply, it’s for individuals to take a stand and act with integrity themselves. It’s always very easy to blame those at the top of an organisation for not acting with integrity. However, if organisations are truly to have a workplace culture where integrity truly exists, individuals need to take responsibility in behaving in such a way themselves and call out those people who do not.
Paul Beesley
Director & senior consultant, Beyond Theory

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