Why Personal Integrity Matters in the Workplace
Have you ever worked with someone who seems willing to sell their soul to get a promotion or the attention of the boss? You know who I’m talking about. The person whose moral compass is spinning like as fidget widget, going round and round in a circle, never really stopping anywhere?
If you’re fortunate to have no idea what I’m talking about, just watch or read the news. I promise you there will be a story about the treasure of an organization who has been embezzling money or a person being accused of sexual harassment (usually multiple accusations).
Regardless of the great work and contributions these people may or have not made to their company, their reputation is how they will be remembered. They will be judged by their personal and professional integrity.
Your reputation defines you
When I was a university instructor, I used to talk a lot to my public relations and marketing students about why personal integrity matters in the workplace. In the Leadership in Marketing course, each time we studied leadership traits or did a case study about a leader, I would include a discussion about the leader’s integrity and how it showed up (or didn’t) in their career.
My goal was to get my students to really think about how integrity defines a person and their professional legacy. For me, I have always listened to that voice in my head, following my moral compass. This meant standing up and saying I didn’t agree with a decision, even when it meant sticking my neck out.
And guess what? People took notice. I have never been seen as a yes person. I am not afraid to voice my opposition and enter into a discussion about ethics or how a decision impacts people. And sometimes this has meant cutting ties with a client or leaving a job.
Your resume only goes so far
When you’re interviewing for a new job or promotion, what’s the one thing ever employer wants? References. While these references will be asked questions about your professional capabilities, your personal integrity and reputation will also come into play. Either formally or informally.
When I was being considered for a senior communications position, little did I know that calls were being made to people I had worked with who were not my references. These were informal personal calls (I found out six years later from a person who had been called).
And a lot of the conversation (which was off the record) was about how I was as a person. How did I show up as a team player? Interact with others? And, you guessed it, my personal integrity.
Any HR professionals who are reading this are likely gasping. Wait, you can’t do that. You can only make decisions based on listed references. But we all know this isn’t always the case. We do this every single day when it comes to interacting with new people. We ask around, trying to find out what that person is really like.
For me, my professional resume is strong. But I truly believe much of the work I’ve received as a consultant, as well as employment opportunities, have been largely based on my personal integrity and reputation in the workplace. After all, there are many other public relations professionals with 20+ years experience. But my personal approach and reputation is what makes my work impactful.
What’s your reputation?
I encourage you to take stock of your personal reputation and how your personal integrity shows up in your professional work. If 10 people who have worked with you were questioned about your reputation and integrity, what would they say? How will you be remembered?
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