Your ability to maintain professional integrity in the workplace has a powerful impact on your productivity, performance and reputation. Behaving with professional integrity takes practice, strength of character and self-awareness. In this article, we will evaluate why professional integrity is so important in the workplace and share some tips to help you maintain your own integrity and even create a culture of integrity throughout an entire organization.
What is professional integrity?
Professional integrity is the practice of maintaining appropriate ethical behavior. It is the practice of showing strong adherence to moral and ethical principles and values such as honesty, honor, dependability and trustworthiness. People who behave with professional integrity generally uphold a moral standard of conduct, both in professional as well as personal endeavors.
These standards govern how professionals conduct themselves, their work ethic and their communication practices. Professional integrity is what gives employees a reason to trust that leaders will place professional standards over their own self-interests.
Honesty is the basis for maintaining integrity. Being loyal to a company, producing the results expected of you and being trustworthy and reliable are all qualities that characterize someone who has professional integrity.
Related: Integrity: Definition and Examples
Why professional integrity in the workplace is important
Integrity is one of the most important attributes in a leader. Here are a few reasons why:
Employees are typically happier working for someone who they believe is trustworthy and dependable, someone who would never ask them to compromise their own principles. Integrity in a supervisor has been linked to job satisfaction and engagement, employee health and even life satisfaction.
For people to trust you—both in- and outside of your organization—you need to behave with integrity. Investors need to trust you to consider investing in your business. Vendors need to trust that you will pay for goods and services. Maintaining professional integrity will allow you to build a strong reputation that will increase the trust and comfort others have in doing business with you.
Consistently behaving with professional integrity means you have the energy to focus on what is important rather than wasting energy covering up bad practice.
Customers today are motivated to buy from companies that are socially and environmentally responsible. The most effective way to create a culture of integrity and ethical behavior is to behave with professional integrity.
Tips for maintaining integrity
Here are some tips you can use to maintain your own professional integrity and encourage an entire culture of ethical behavior in the workplace.
- Treat everyone the same.
- Reward honesty.
- Admit your mistakes.
- Encourage teams to speak freely.
- Conduct self-assessments.
- Keep your commitments.
- Put in maximum effort.
Treat everyone the same
Integrity is about honesty, wholeness and being the same person in all situations and with all people. Treat supervisors, coworkers and even the intern with the same level of professionalism and respect, regardless of their level of seniority. The same applies to customers. Every customer should be given the best treatment, regardless of the level of service they pay for.
Create a culture of integrity by encouraging others to be honest with you, even when they make costly mistakes. Reward honesty publicly and repeatedly until everyone on your team understands that it’s always safe—and always the best idea—to be honest with you.
Admit your mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes and no one, from customers to employees, expects everyone to be perfect all the time. The key to behaving with professional integrity is admitting mistakes and apologizing when you’re wrong. You must also demonstrate your regret through your actions and demeanor. You’ll generally find that not only do people not think less of you, they actually think more highly of you by your ability to admit error.
Encourage teams to speak freely
Encourage your team to come up with fresh and creative approaches to everyday business challenges you encounter. Team discussions regarding new ideas should be honest and critical, yet respectful and open-minded of other perspectives. Encourage your team to speak freely as well as give and receive constructive criticism to improve ideas.
Periodically evaluate whether you are behaving with professional integrity. Evaluate whether you are heavily influenced by stronger personalities, pressured by your boss or tempted by easy money. You could even ask a trusted coworker their objective viewpoint. Make a non-judgemental inventory of your own integrity and determine whether you need to take action based on potential areas of self-improvement.
Keep your commitments
If you want to develop a reputation as being someone who delivers on their promises, make a habit of always keeping your word. This means that yes needs to mean yes and no means no, without excuses or a change of conditions. This also means being on time—or even early—when you say you will be. It means demonstrating respect for others’ time and notifying them right away if you’ll be late.
Put in maximum effort
Putting all of your focus and effort into something to reach a goal is a character trait that others admire. It demonstrates a strong work ethic and a commitment to results for the betterment of the organization. Giving your work your maximum effort every day and being unwilling to give in to distractions speaks volumes about your integrity.