Ok, I’ll say it because I know others have thought it, but I’m not sure anyone has ever admitted it. Having integrity in your role at work can be tough, very tough! Especially if you are really ambitious. First, let’s make sure we are talking about the same thing here. What I mean by integrity is that are you doing the right things for the right reasons no matter how difficult it is. Not having integrity doesn’t mean you are breaking the law, although breaking the law means you don’t have integrity. It can become very easy to do things for personal reasons (because you are ambitious in your career, because you are unsure of yourself, because you like being the center of attention). If you incorporate any of those selfish feelings into your decision-making process on even the smallest tasks at work, you aren’t being as truly honest as you can be. I am thankful that many, many years ago when I became a manager, I had a boss that had a ton of integrity. I honestly had situations where I didn’t know the best course of action to take. Do I pick the one where I do what I think is best for me, best for my team, or best for everyone. And at times, I couldn’t even see what was best for everyone else, only for me or my team.
Some of the smallest items can turn out much differently depending on the level of integrity you have. As a lead, if you are sending out an email communicating status or work that has been accomplished, have you considered how to word it so that your people get credit for it, not you? Or so that the right people get credit and you don’t overstate work that wasn’t done by your team. Subtleties in your wording can be interpreted as you being less than honest. Now of course, you need to add a dose of confidence to this because maybe you truly need to give yourself some credit for the work. See how it’s not always clear and straight forward?
Another example – you have negative feedback or input for the overall organization. Do you keep it to yourself because you are afraid that your career will suffer when others hear you giving your opinion of what is wrong, or do you state what is wrong and help come up with ways to fix it? Obviously stating what is wrong and coming up with solutions is the right thing to do even though it may be the hardest route. But in this example, if as you state what is wrong you blame others, make excuses, or just rant and nay-say without any evidence to prove it, then that doesn’t show integrity. Let’s say your team and another team aren’t getting along. How do you approach this? Do you join in on complaining about the other team so your employees think you understand? Do you help your team come up with ways to work around the issue with the other team, maybe by avoid some of the heated issues? I’ll give you a hint, if you answered yes to either of these two questions, you have some room to improve on your integrity. Remember the definition of integrity: doing the right thing for the right reason no matter how difficult it is. The right answer is that you get your team and the other team to talk through the issues, hear both sides of the story, and work to solve those problems openly. Avoiding the problem is the easy way out, and the problem will continue to build. Joining in with your team and complaining only makes the situation worse and makes the other team think you and your team are not very trustworthy. This hits a bit upon talking behind someone’s back or being two-faced; characteristics most people don’t want to have associated with them yet characteristics that many people have and don’t even realize it.
As a people manager, how often do you delegate work to your employees? I don’t just mean the obvious work that you dispatch to them because that’s the work they get paid to do. What about the challenging, exciting work that would really show to others that you are good at what you do? Should you hand that off to someone on your team or just do it yourself? If it would help someone on your team to grow their career and skill set, then yes, apply that dose of confidence and hand off that task so it can showcase someone else’s skills. You’ll get plenty of chances to shine if you are doing all the right things for the right reasons. As a people manager, you get paid to make your people better so if you keep all the exciting and challenging work to yourself, how will they ever get better?
Now if you are reading this and are thinking, hey cool I don’t do any of this so I must have integrity, I commend you for thinking that, but you are wrong. 🙂 Its human nature to think about ourselves first, so changing that is something all of us need to focus on every day. At the end of every day, think about when you could have had more integrity, when you said something or made a decision for personal gains more than for what was right for your team or your company.
This topic, with all the possible examples, can go on forever. Integrity is something you need to find and practice regularly. If your manager has integrity, it will be easier because they will hold you accountable for doing the right thing. As you go through your daily tasks at work, ask if you are doing the right things for the right reasons. If your answer is yes and you believe what you did is right because it’s the easiest way, you may actually not be doing it in a high-integrity way. So muster up a bit of confidence, stand firm on doing the right thing, and although it may be the more difficult route to the solution, it is much more rewarding when you get to that solution.