Businesses all over the world use Value Statements to guide employee behavior and actions. The value Integrity is a topic that appears quite-often, and yet, there are varying definitions. The following examples highlight this abstract nature:
We must demonstrate integrity in all our business conduct to include our dealings with all internal employees and external customers.
Our company is committed and dedicated to the highest level of integrity and is at the core of everything we do.
We expect every employee to follow and behave in an ethical manner in all relationships.
As nice as these statements sound, the meanings are blurred and the interpretations are unclear; thus, leaving the door open for employees to judge their own behavior and decide their own actions—regardless how it affects the company.
Everyday, however, there are opportunities to demonstrate integrity—a persons’ moral and ethical compass—deciding what behaviors are right, good, and proper. An example of integrity is to return money found in the vending machine to the HR manager—a simple but honest act. Or, you decide to study, as to not cheat on the final exam. Perhaps, you notice a potential safety hazard on the shop floor and report it immediately to the operations manager.
Integrity is being truthful to your boss and the team about a project that is failing and off-track, rather than covering it up by excuses and lies. It is being trustworthy with very sensitive and confidential information, such as specific financial data or a boardroom discussion of a potential acquisition or talks of going public. Integrity is also about supporting peers and co-workers, such as giving credit to someone's idea, rather than saying it was yours.
There are many opportunities to demonstrate integrity, and when you apply in your own life, it will reward you with being perceived as credible and reliable. You will rise higher in your career and in your personal life. There are many benefits to others, but you will experience a sense of goodness and righteousness. With all it's wonderful attributes, it's highly recommended to have an Integrity Statement within your organization. If you already have one, perhaps, now is the time to improve.
The design process of an Integrity Statement begins at the top management level—since these managers will be responsible for administer and control. Integrity Statements vary in size and scope; they can also vary from simple to complex; some are wrote based on company type, such public or private. Some companies do not have a Integrity Statement at all, which is unfortunate.
But, whatever the organizational structure may be, it’s a good idea to consider the following ABC items:
A) It is important to define what integrity means to the organization. Start with a list of the behaviors or best practices that are important to the organization and will encourage integrity. Then, provide company-wide training and case-studies to reinforce the seriousness and significance of ethical and moral behaviors.
The following is a short list of examples:
I will think before I act by asking: is this in the best interest of the organization?
I will take the time to fact-find and gather evidence before I act.
I will consider and evaluate the outcome of my decisions.
I will be considerate of the safety and condition of the organization.
I will be sensitive to the companys’ reputation and image in the marketplace.
I will uphold the company’s non-disclosure—e.g., finances and strategy.
B) Create a List of Do’s and Don’t of what is expected. This can be as simple as creating a template of common everyday activities, such as a rule to always use an anti-virus program to download software. Or, always use a service ticket when an IT issue occurs. Or, never spend more than $x-amount without authorization from finance. Merging procedures and policies into an quick, easy-to-use format will help guide all employees in making right decisions.
C) Designate a compliance or ethics leader, who is trustworthy and reliable, where employees can feel safe to openly discuss sensitive issues and situations in strict confidentiality. It’s vitally important for employees to have an open channel, as to vent their concerns, opinions, or frustrations—empathy and kindness play a key role. For instance, all employees have good reason to trust Katy because she is very careful with confidential information, and she makes good on a promise and agreement.
Up to this point, we know that integrity includes ethics and morals. We also know that integrity requires ‘meaning definition’ or having clear expectations of employee behavior. We discussed that integrity has many dimensions such as virtues of honesty, trustworthy, loyalty, goodness, truthfulness, faithfulness, and empathy. We also discussed why an integrity statement is important for any business—the main criterion is an environment where employees and customers can experience a sense of security and safety—a high quality work-life.
A Quick Story
Gary is a good sales manager; he works hard and puts in long hours—he has high expectations of himself and others. Just recently, he has been withdrawn and quiet—he appears bummed out. Linda, the VP of Sales, noticed and wanted to know what was troubling him, so she spoke with Gary right after the morning sales meeting.
Linda expressed her concern by stating that she would support him in any way possible and reiterated that the discussion is confidential. Gary revealed that, late yesterday afternoon, he lost one of his major accounts, MTA Inc, to a competitor, RPM Inc—he felt responsible and disappointed that he allowed this to happen.
Over the next 2-hours, they both performed a deep dive into root-cause. They listed all the reasons as to why the account was lost and they organized into a cause-effect diagram. This led to a few compelling issues that were raised that they could not answer, so Linda phoned MTA Inc and spoke with the company President, Tim. He stated that his company was acquired by RPM and could not release the news until finalized (which was just a few hours ago).
After the phone call, Gary felt somewhat relieved, but still disappointed. Linda empathized with him and stated that the right thing to do was to tell me as soon as possible upon hearing the news. He said that he was going to, but first, wanted to try to understand what went wrong. She understood by acknowledging his passion for good work, but also reaffirmed the responsibility to do what is right—we need to reveal issues that pose a risk to the organization ASAP. Gary agreed.
Everyday, there are opportunities to demonstrate integrity. How will you make a difference?