Integrity – Do You Exude It?

Integrity – Do You Exude It?

“In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.” – Warren Buffett. 

Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. This seemingly simple trait exposed those without this character quite easily. 


What are some tell-tale signs of people without genuine integrity? 


They are doing the right things only when there is an audience. You may come across some people, prominent or otherwise, displaying the best behaviour and saying the most appropriate stuff in public. They wow their audiences and make the latter wanted to be like these leaders when they “grow up”. However, the moment they stepped away from the limelight, they started to sing a different tune. 

Incongruence between action and speech. Admired leaders have many people watching them, drawing cues to confirmed the moral standards that they uphold. In the process, these observers hope to learn from these leaders to become better persons. Any discrepancy in behaviour will raise a question and become a talking point.  

Suppose there was a senior leader who spoke passionately about workplace safety. In one of his walk-around in the office, he came across a puddle of water on the pantry floor. He can choose to step over it and walk away, pretending not to have seen it. Or, he can stop right at his track, take some tissue to cover the puddle of water, and request a cleaner to take care of it. The choice of action will reflect the integrity of this leader or otherwise. 

A person lacking in integrity often displays disrespect to others. You may have also observed actions manifested in situations like not giving due recognition to others on a job well done. In a worse scenario, they may take the credit for others’ hard work. 


There can be many more examples. The question is, how do you feel when you come across such behaviour? 

Your thoughts are very similar to a manager or an HR lead seeing such behaviour of employees in the workplace. 

I have read an article that used the structural integrity of a building as a metaphor for personal integrity. When a crisis like an earthquake happens, the building with good structural integrity will remain standing. While those lacking in these core fundamentals will collapse, bringing much loss of lives and properties. 

Integrity as a core value ranks high in the organisational culture of many US MNCs, which I have had the chance to work for before. Leaders in such companies walk the talk and these never fail to have an immense influence on the employees. 


So, what are some attributes of integrity?  


Honesty is the best policy

Speak the truth. There is no need to exaggerate or embellish to become socially acceptable or tries to impress. When a question is asked, take time to reflect. It is perfectly all right to say, “I don’t know the answer”. A make-up answer may lead to more lies subsequently to cover the initial one. The lies will catch up with you one day.  


Respect others to gain respect. 

There are many ways to be respectful. Being kind and courteous is fundamental. This teaching was our basic childhood education.  In today’s fast-paced world, you may have forgotten to lend a helping hand or ear. Perhaps you can slow down a little to see the needs around you. 

The world has become more competitive and you may have encountered countless unpleasant situations. Along the way, self-protection may have taken priority. Whenever a question is thrown in your direction, you allow your defence mechanism to take charge and speak offensively instead of thinking before you speak. Regardless of prior experiences, staying respectful will always position you on high ground. 


Give recognition when it is due

It can be as simple as expressing appreciation to people willing to spare some time for you, like pressing the “door open” at the lift or listening to your joys and woes. In the office, you can try putting “Recognition” stickies at your colleagues’ desks.  Messages like “Your idea was a great one, thank you for sharing. It gives me some directions to my project”; “Thank you for giving the critics on my proposal”; “Appreciate your time in joining the brainstorming session”, can go a long way. You can also try this tip on your subordinates and bosses. The results might surprise you.  

Also, when you collaborate on projects, remember to give credits to team members, coaches and project sponsors.  


Do not argue over a disagreement

To avoid an awkward situation, some of you may choose to agree with the other party even if you don’t. While you may have stayed clear of an argument, this method contradicts with being honest. That said, it is a good idea to walk away from a heated situation. Doing so gives all parties the opportunity to cool down and the space to re-think from each other’s perspectives. Above all, It can help to circumvent saying things that you might regret later.  

You can use phrases like “Let me think about that”; “This might not be the best time to continue; let’s take a break and re-convene a little later”.  

However, if you realise that you are indeed in the wrong, then take the courage to say “I am sorry”. Many of us do not want to accede to fault due to ego or “face value”. However, it is the courage to admit wrong that will gain respect.  

The definition of integrity may seem simple; the practice is profound and extensive. There are many facets to it and I have touched upon a few in this article. Practises will help you become better in this area. In a situation when you are not sure if you have lost your moral compass, ask yourself, “Did I do the right thing?”; “Is there another way?”. 


If you build this attitude to every aspect of your life, it becomes your natural habit. 


Integrity is not something you show others. It exudes from your engagement and behaviour.

Janie Wong is a volunteer writer for Bridge, with over 3.5 years of content curation on digital platforms. If you would like to join Janie in contributing to sharing more career guidance, do feel free to contact us.

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