Integrity at work: how do you stack up?

Sep 11 2007 by Peter Vajda Print This Article

With the business sections of today's papers and magazines reading more and more like a police charge-sheet, "integrity" is fast becoming a hot topic of conversation in boardrooms, around water coolers, in business best-sellers and at work in general.

Integrity means walking the talk when it comes to living one's true values - being authentic. Try taking this self-assessment and exploring how you walk your integrity talk when you show up at work.

Integrity is a lot like being pregnant. Either you're pregnant, or you aren't. There's no middle ground. It's the same with integrity. Either you're behaving with integrity, or you're not.

While integrity is not a robe that one can pull on and take off when it's convenient, many day-to-day workplace behaviors suggest that convenience plays a large role in whether people display integrity or not. Who and how people are at work seems to change like the weather, the weather of convenience.

When asked, many folks will say that they act with integrity. But when we look at their day-to-day, minute-by-minute workplace behaviors, this is clearly not the case.

Why? One reason is that folks' basic need for control, recognition and security gets in the way of integrity. So they move away from their authentic self, from their deeper inner values, displaying behaviors that lack integrity.

So do you think, feel and believe that you live your core values at work? Do you behave with integrity at work, when you are alone, when you are in relationship with colleagues?

1. On an integrity scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), how would you rate yourself when it comes to the following workplace behaviors:
(a) gossiping
(b) bullying
(c) viewing or downloading porn
(d) stealing physical materials
(e) stealing intellectual property
(f) stealing time
(g) telling the truth
(h) taking responsibility for your piece of your team's projects
(i) making excuses
(j) being direct, open and honest in your communications
(k) respecting others
(l) living your values
(m) keeping an honest set of books and following appropriate accounting principles.

2. Who or what stops you from acting with integrity?

3. When you're not acting with integrity, what kind of self-talk do you engage in?

4. Do your needs for control, recognition and security stop you from acting with integrity?

5. Do you lie to yourself about acting with integrity? If so, why?

6. Does it matter to you that you are not acting with integrity?

7. Do you use the same definition to define integrity for yourself as for others? If not, why not?

8. Do you respond if others act without integrity and their actions directly affect you?

9. Do you respond if others act without integrity and their actions affect your team, your unit, your department or your organization?

10. Do you ever excuse, justify or rationalize acting without integrity? If so, when and why?

At the end of the day, integrity isn't just about telling the truth about ourselves, to ourselves and to others Ė it is also about living this truth.

Many of us are quick to judge and criticize others who act without integrity. But truth be told, many of us are just as prone to separate from our core values when it's convenient in some way. The operative question is: "Why?" What does acting out of integrity get me?

So, how did you do with your self-assessment? Who are you and how are you when it comes to showing up at work with integrity?

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About The Author

Peter Vajda
Peter Vajda

Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a seminar leader, workshop facilitator and speaker. He is the founding partner of True North Partnering, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counselling and facilitating.

Older Comments


Thanks for highlighting integrity as the core issue it really is.

As I read along, it occurred to me that while many people would have no problem defining the tenets of integrity, others may not have a similar sense of the right/wrong portion to begin with. Unless there is a fundamental understanding of that issue, one may skip through life being authentic while constantly stepping over the boundaries of propriety.

In the workplace, my experience has been that the leadership has to lay out, and live, that which is considered the model for integrity. As strange as it may seem, organizational life is the first time many people will experience the notion of boundaries and standards that define what it means to be a person of integrity.

Steve Roesler

Steve is really correct on this one.

95% of all employees are followers, more or less. When a follower enters the workplace they soak up everything that is going on and from that they extract a set of standards for every value known to man.

They use this set to perform their work and control their behavior in the workplace. They do not use their own value standards, only non-followers do that. So if the boss uses a top-down command and control approach that naturally demeans, disrespects and demotivates employees, those employees then use those standards. That means that employees will demean and disrespect their work, their customers, their fellow employees and their bosses.

This is called leadership. Everything that an employee experiences at work reflects one or more value standards and those experiences determine whether that employee acts with integrity or not and to what extent.

Best regards, Ben Author 'Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed'

Ben Simonton

Peter, i agree with Ben, that it is the Boss who really sets the standards, or it could be the founder. Should they be used to a command and control, listening to the grapevine type of individuals then there is no question that employees as welll as the management too would show superficial congeniality behaving in a manner that is convenient and appropriate to the - weather!

georgeo marie


I'm struggling with this very issue in my workplace. I scored high on this test, which I expected, since I don't differentiate between work values and personal values. My bosses do not act with integrity. They bait, manipulate, agitate, demean, get people to spy on each other, and undermine their managers (myself being one). They play the game of bad guy, good guy to get workers to complain about the bad boss to the boss who's being nice at the moment. I speak out about things I see at work and am learning to defend myself without becoming angry, but it still upsets me when I'm treated this way, especially since they each have other characteristics to admire and respond to. It's very confusing.

Susette Pasadena CA