Integrity is about behaving consistently with a set of deeply held values and beliefs.
Put another way, it means being true to yourself and usually involves a strong moral code relating to the way you interact with and treat other people (and yourself).
Integrity differs from trust because it is inwardly focused rather than a judgement about someone else’s reliability. However, our own internal beliefs and values are the base on which we usually judge whether others have integrity. Do they act in predictable ways? Unfortunately, as humans, we tend to expect everyone else to be just like us. Even though this defies logic, it is almost irresistible! Is their behaviour consistent with my set of beliefs and expectations?
We often hear people described as either having or lacking integrity. The trouble comes when you realise that these are judgements based on the observers’ own set of values and beliefs. What they really mean is that the person being described behaves in a way consistent (or inconsistent) with their own set of values and beliefs.
In diverse work groups, problems can arise because of differences in these underlying beliefs, particularly with multi-racial groups who often see the world in completely different ways. Race is just one example ― others include different previous companies, different political affiliations, or even different family history.
Lack of awareness about integrity can easily cause problems in relationships at work. Most of us are working on autopilot when it comes to integrity. We will need to become more aware of what integrity means to us and for others if we want to maximise our ability to be trusted, to trust and to influence successfully.
At risk of oversimplifying…
“I can trust people who behave in ways which I believe are right.”
In practice, the implication of this is that you will need to tune in to what other people think is the right way to behave if you want to be seen as someone of integrity ― even though this may be slightly different from your own views.
So if you wish to protect your integrity you will need to…
- Become clear on what it means to you ― what are your core beliefs?
- Consider the hierarchy of these beliefs or values.
- Replay situations where the hierarchy was tested and the decisions you ultimately took.
- Think about the consequences of sticking more rigidly to your values.
- Make a deliberate effort to guard your values and behave accordingly.