Understanding integrity in the workplace is important for a couple of reasons:
First, it can help you put your best foot forward and be a model employee. And second, you might be asked to share your personal definition during a job interview!
This guide goes over what integrity is in a workplace setting and gives you some great examples to keep in mind.
Table of contents
What is Integrity?
Integrity is something that employers hope to foster in the workplace. While you might not see details about integrity in a job description, hiring managers and interviewers try to gauge candidates through every response they hear.
But what does this really mean?
Simply put, having integrity in the workplace means acting honorably, even when no one is around to see you do it. It’s about holding yourself to high moral standards and acting ethically in everything you do. Maintaining a high moral code means you do the right thing regardless of the outcome.
In a professional setting, integrity can manifest itself in many ways. It subconsciously dictates how you interact with others, make decisions, and approach everyday challenges. You may not think much about those little details, but that’s the point!
It’s staying true to your moral code and upstanding the ethical principles you live by.
The Importance of Practicing Integrity in the Workplace
Having integrity is crucial to thriving businesses. Employers look for it in potential employees and actively try to cultivate it in the work environment because it can lead to lasting growth and success.
When you have integrity in the workplace, you’re dependable, honest, and capable of holding yourself accountable. Teams only prosper when everyone demonstrates high integrity in everything they do. While mistakes can happen, employers want you to do the right thing when they occur.
They want people who will own up to their mistakes, take steps to correct them, and act ethically. It’s about open and honest communication while being unafraid of potential pushback.
Integrity makes you and your colleagues responsible for their actions. Employers want to have trust in employees. They want to rest easy knowing teams operate with high moral standards and can self-govern themselves.
No company wants to be forced to constantly work to keep everyone in line. Your employers shouldn’t have to worry that you’re behaving honestly and in line with your ethics and the ethics of the company.
Integrity at work also maintains productivity. It ensures everyone takes commitments seriously and can hold themselves accountable for deadlines and core responsibilities. Without integrity, people might bite off more than they can chew or take actions that hurt the company.
Having a bad reputation inside your organization will hurt your chances of a raise or promotion. A bad reputation that spreads outside your organization may prevent you from getting hired.
A lack of integrity is harmful, so you must uphold high standards and demonstrate integrity at all times. Not only will it benefit your organization’s bottom line, but it could help you further your career.
How to Demonstrate Integrity at Work
There are many ways to demonstrate integrity in the workplace. The concept can seem vague and difficult to pinpoint. But once you understand how to spot it, you can learn to exercise and display this trait.
Here are a few ways how.
1. Be Honest
Honesty is always the best policy at work, no matter the situation. Open and honest communication is a keystone of integrity, and the best way to show this trait is not to avoid difficult conversations.
Everyone has been in a situation where they had to talk about something challenging. For example, you might have made a mistake at work or are dealing with a mountain of work with a looming deadline that seems impossible to make. Instead of bottling those stressful feelings and avoiding conversation, face them head-on.
If you’ve made a mistake, talk about your mistake with supervisors and discuss what you can realistically complete. If you’ve encountered a process that’s inefficient, don’t be afraid to discuss it. Holding everything in is not only unhealthy for you, but it does the company no favors. The worst-case scenario is that it’ll create resentment that makes you lose interest in your job.
Honesty avoids those conflicts and shows that you’re unafraid to speak openly, even when doing so can be uncomfortable.
2. Stay True to Your Word
Has a coworker ever promised to do something only to back out at the last second? That shows a glaring lack of integrity. Keeping your word is paramount.
Breaking promises at work is more common than you think. One common scenario is accepting more work than you can successfully do. Instead of learning not to make promises you can’t keep, you continue to try and push through.
The result is missed deadlines and broken words. That reputation can follow you. Suddenly, you become unreliable and unpredictable. And this reputation can even reach people outside of your company. People talk.
The solution goes back to open communication. You must learn how to not bite off more than you can chew so you can make accurate promises in the future. Always keeping your word can prove to your colleagues and employers that you’re trustworthy and reliable.
3. Respect Others
Respect is another critical component of integrity at work, and it’s a two-way street. You must have respect for yourself and others.
When people think of integrity, they often focus on the inner moral standards they uphold. But how you interact with others is also a big piece of the puzzle.
You can show your respect by being honest, caring for others, and giving people the benefit of the doubt when faced with difficult situations.
And obviously, It’s also important to avoid engaging in gossip or rude behavior (even if it seems like all your coworkers are).
A big part of respect is to uphold the boundaries people set. For example, if someone doesn’t want to talk about their home life, you must respect that and not pry.
Treat people the way you want to be treated.
4. Be Responsible
Being responsible in your job can mean many different things. It might mean being available when you’re supposed to be, answering calls, or fulfilling your duties as expected. Whatever the case, showing integrity requires you to take your job seriously.
Employers don’t want to see you mindlessly going through the motions or avoiding responsibilities. The same thing applies if supervisors constantly have to remind you of your duties.
5. Work Hard
Employers expect you to show up and do your job. You’re not there to mull about or apply only a fraction of energy to your responsibilities. Your company hired you to get the job done!
Workplace integrity is about being a dedicated and vigilant employee. It all comes back to trust and reliability.
Your supervisors want to know they can trust you to do your job to the best of your ability. They don’t want to spend time constantly hounding you or reminding you to push yourself. If you’re regularly in meetings that revolve around your productivity, it likely means that your employers think you lack integrity.
Work hard to show that you care about your job and want to be there. Build that sense of confidence, and you’ll find that your employers will spend less time micromanaging you and more time trusting you.
6. Be Trustworthy
Trust is fragile. It’s easily broken and can take much longer to rebuild.
Integrity and trust go hand in hand. If your employers can’t trust you, they might have a good reason. Perhaps you’ve made mistakes in the past or were dishonest about previous failures. Whatever the case, your actions speak louder than words.
To become trustworthy, you must show up and prove to people around you that you’re someone they can rely on. That involves working hard, upholding promises, and holding yourself accountable.
Don’t do anything that could break your employer or colleague’s trust. Be honest and upfront while doing things that reinforce your commitment.
7. Strive to Be Someone Others Rely On
Reliability is a big deal in any work environment. Whether you’re in an office or a construction yard, employers want people they can rely on. They have no reason to keep you around if you frequently don’t show up or break their trust.
To be reliable is to be someone people can count on for anything. It’s about being that go-to person when they have something difficult to work on or a tight deadline. Now, that doesn’t mean you should be a people-pleaser. Boundaries are important, too.
But simply showing up, working hard, and earning people’s trust go a long way. Listen to others and accommodate the needs of others whenever possible without sacrificing your well-being.
8. Show Gratitude
Giving thanks and showing gratitude can also help you put your integrity on full display at work.
Being thankful for others whenever they take time out of their day to assist you goes a long way. People expect you to acknowledge their good deeds and help. When you don’t provide it, it comes off as ungrateful.
No one will volunteer to help you out if this is the case. Saying “thank you” and doing something nice for your coworkers will never be overlooked. It proves that you understand sacrifices and are grateful for the impact others make.
9. Respect Company Policies
Policies exist for a reason. They’re there to create a safer and more productive environment while avoiding conflicts that could derail success. You might not agree with each one that’s in place, and that’s fine.
But you still must follow and respect the policies your company sets.
Understanding the rules and following them to a tee shows that you respect the company and are willing to be a productive and helpful employee. Flagrant disregard for company policies will get you into hot water and make you look like someone who lacks integrity.
10. Handle Conflict Appropriately
Conflicts happen all the time. There are people in your workplace you don’t get along with, and there may be moments when disagreements occur. It’s a natural part of putting multiple personalities together under one roof!
To show integrity, handle those conflicts maturely. Avoid the high-school antics. There’s no need to gossip or fume in the corner.
Instead, show your professionalism and communicate honestly with the other party. If that’s not possible on your own time, don’t be afraid to hash things out with HR if necessary.
The goal is to squash drama quickly without causing more issues. Conflicts have the potential to create a toxic work environment for everyone. It’s not conducive to the bottom line and can ruin productivity.
Handle those conflicts like a mature adult. Being honest and focusing on open communication is the best way to do that. Bottling things up until your emotions erupt will only cause trouble later on.
11. Take Accountability & Acknowledge Your Mistakes
Finally, always take accountability. This is a big part of demonstrating integrity in the workplace, and owning up to your mistakes can leave a lasting impact on employers.
Mistakes happen all the time. Some are avoidable, but others aren’t. Either way, never turn a blind eye.
Failing to address mistakes can have a snowball effect. It can harm the bottom line, prevent others from doing their job, and worsen over time. Bring the mistake up to your supervisor the moment you realize what happens.
Then, take steps to correct it. Owning up to your mistakes is the best way to prove you’re a mature employee who has a great deal of integrity.
Employers appreciate honesty, and holding yourself accountable shows you’re not afraid to face the consequences of mistakes.
Examples of Integrity at Work
Defining integrity in the workplace isn’t always easy, but you’ll know when you see it. Here are a handful of examples to provide more context on what integrity is and how you can show it at work.
Working Hard, Even When No One is Around to Appreciate It
In this example, we have a team of marketing professionals in the midst of a stressful project. The team is completing a campaign with a deadline looming at the end of the week. While morale is low, the team continues to push forward.
On the day before the deadline, the team’s supervisor had to leave early due to a family emergency. As she notifies the group and leaves the office only a couple hours into the work day, most people breathe a sigh of relief. Most people take it as a “day off” and immediately stop working.
But one team member, John, understands that the project is already at risk of not meeting the deadline. He tries to convince the rest of the team to keep working. A few realize what’s at stake and pitch in to keep working. However, the rest ignore them.
John and a few of his coworkers push hard and manage to get the rest of the deliverables finished by the end of the day.
Because John had the integrity to keep working, the team completed the project. The employer took notice of the effort John and his coworkers put in, which was very helpful for them during their next performance review.
Being Honest About Needing Help
In this scenario, Jessica is responsible for implementing a new feature on her company’s mobile app. She’s spent weeks developing code and experimenting with new scripting features. However, things aren’t working as she imagined, and the feature isn’t working as smoothly as the company needs.
Instead of ignoring the glaring bugs and hoping for the best, she speaks up.
Jessica goes to her supervisor and fellow coders with her issues. Several colleagues work with her to solve the issues. Not only did the new feature launch on time, but the finished product delivered a much better user experience.
Had she not spoken up and demonstrated integrity at work, there could have been a delay in implementation or a hit to the company’s reputation.
Showing Accountability Despite the Consequences
Austin works in the finance department of his company. He’s relatively new. As a result, he shadows more experienced accountants to understand his responsibilities better.
One day, he receives receipts for a collection of brand-new computers the company bought for another team. He knows that these receipts need proper expense accounting.
He assumes that this is something that he’ll need to send to the proper accountant who deals with business expenses. He uploads it to the company’s shared file repository, leaves a note for the specific accountant to handle, and moves on to another task.
A couple of weeks go by, and the previous month’s expense report comes out. While reviewing the information, Austin noticed that none of the receipts he received were accounted for in the budget. He incorrectly labeled the receipts when uploading them to the file repository, making them go unnoticed by the accountants who needed them.
Despite being a bit embarrassed and worried about making a bad impression, Austin goes to his direct supervisor and lets them know what happened. The manager was unhappy with the mistake but appreciated Austin’s honesty. The supervisor worked with Austin to show him the proper labeling techniques to avoid a similar error in the future.
Providing Credit When Due
Carol is completing a difficult project for a major client. She’s worked months on this project and is on the verge of providing deliverables.
But in the last stretch, she encounters a problem she can’t solve. After trying everything, she goes to one of your colleagues, Paige. Paige provided a game-changing tip that greatly impacted how she completed the project.
Not only did she apply that tip to cross the finish line, but she used it to make improvements to her earlier work.
During a team meeting, Carol receives great commendation from the client and her direct supervisors. Instead of taking all the credit, she makes a point to thank Paige for her contributions and express gratitude for her assistance. She mentions how Paige’s expertise was integral to finishing and improving the quality of her work.
As you can see, integrity in the workplace isn’t rocket science. By following the Golden Rule as well as putting forth a solid effort, you’re probably going to be just fine!
But thinking about this and knowing some examples can also be helpful during a job interview. Questions about integrity might come up as a way to see if you fit in with the company culture, and now you’ll be ready to answer them.
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.