What Is Integrity? (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Nov. 4, 2020
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Integrity is one of the most highly sought-out characteristics in potential employees, but it can be difficult to decipher what it means to display integrity in the workplace.

Integrity is a quality that involves having a deep sense of what is right and wrong according to your own core values, and being able to act in alignment with these values. Involving your moral and ethical principles in every workplace decision you make is at the heart of integrity.

Here are some helpful tips on what it means to have integrity, why this quality is so crucial for a healthy work environment, and how you can display integrity in the workplace.

What is Integrity?

Integrity is defined as a firm, unwavering commitment to behave ethically. It is firm and unwavering because it does not depend on the situation, the people you’re interacting with, or even your own personal (temporary) feelings. It means that you have a clear sense of your moral values, and you stick to them at all costs

To have integrity means that you are honest, considerate, and empathetic to the lives and perspectives of others. It also means that you are able to stick up for yourself and your own perspective in a kind and professional way.

It’s obvious that kind, empathetic and considerate people are the ones you want to work with. This is why it’s such a highly sought-after trait. If each person on an organization’s team acts with integrity, it is a much more pleasant and productive work space. Each person feels supported and respected by the other.

It goes back to the golden rule: treat others how you would want to be treated if you were in their place. In business, that means respect coworkers, employers, and all stakeholders, and respect the organization and its aims.

Learning to act with integrity is simple, and practicing it can have a profound impact not only on your professional life, but on your personal life as well.

Characteristics of Great Integrity

Displaying integrity really comes down to sticking true to what you think makes a good person and a good worker.

No matter what level you’re at or what position you hold within your organization, you can practice these characteristics of integrity to earn the trust of those around you.

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Becoming familiar with these characteristics and learning to implement them in your daily life will help you earn the trust of your team and foster the healthiest, most creative possible work environment.

Read over these character traits and perhaps think about what they mean to you. You are already coming to this article with a unique worldview in which you have most likely thought about these traits and their value. Now’s the time to continue that project into the professional realm. The following traits are considered attributes of great integrity:

  • Respect. Respect for your team members — and for yourself — is absolutely a requirement in all circumstances. It doesn’t matter whether someone is “higher” or “lower” ranked than you, and it doesn’t matter how they affect your bottom line, everyone deserves basic respect.

  • Empathy/Consideration. It can be easy to get stuck in a world of self-interest when we make decisions, but it’s crucial to remember that our lives exist among many other lives that are equally as important. Each person you interact with in your work has their own life story, their own trials and tribulations. Listen more than you talk and pass judgments.

  • Honesty. Truthfulness is the path of least resistance. Be honest with what you’re doing and how it’s going. This will make your life — and the lives of those around you — much easier.

  • Sincerity. In the same vein as honesty, practice being a sincere person. People are very good at sniffing out “fakeness”, and very averse to it. On the flip side, people love others who come off as “real”, and even (appropriately) vulnerable.

  • Humility. You don’t know everything, and you don’t (and can’t) do everything perfectly all the time. Accept help from others, and be willing to apologize and own up to mistakes if necessary.

  • Helpfulness. In your company or organization, everyone is working towards common goals. Show that you are eager and willing to help out for the common good, and those around you will know that you are someone they can depend on.

  • Accountability. If you say you are going to do something or be somewhere, follow through on it. Keep those involved in your commitments in the loop, especially if you are struggling.

  • Punctuality. Show up to work, meetings, and other obligations on time and ready. Turn in projects and other documents by the agreed upon dates. Other people are depending on your work, show them that you understand this.

How Does it Work?

Here are some practical guidelines for displaying integrity in the workplace:

  1. Speak kindly and professionally with all team members, clients, and stakeholders. When communicating at work, act like the mature professional you are. Don’t gossip about others or make fun of them. Don’t condescend to or speak over others. Absolutely no harassment or speaking in ways that make others uncomfortable. A smile and a kind tone will take you very far.

  2. If you have concerns, bring them up directly and empathetically only with those involved. Don’t complain to coworker A about coworker B’s shortcomings. Instead, give coworker B the chance to learn and grow — and to give their side of the story — by bringing it directly to them instead. Maturely and respectfully managing conflict is one of the biggest shows of integrity.

  3. Remember that you aren’t the center of the universe, and you aren’t always right. Of course your perspective matters, but it isn’t the only one that matters. Be willing to take others’ suggestions and help. Similarly, if someone comes to you with a concern, be willing to hear them out without getting defensive. You can learn a lot by paying attention to what others are telling you.

  4. Help out, but set clear and reasonable boundaries. Offering help when you have extra time and energy shows your character as a team player. Just be sure to set clear and reasonable boundaries around what you’re willing to do, and don’t take on anything you don’t think you’re actually going to be able to do.

  5. Don’t lie, steal, or behave dishonestly. This one sort of goes without saying, but showing integrity means you aren’t acting in a selfish, dishonest way. Don’t take advantage of the company or its people to benefit yourself. Don’t lie about the work you did or didn’t do. Don’t take money or supplies from the company.

  6. Follow through on your commitments, and be honest when you are struggling with them. Honor your word. If you agree to do something or take on some responsibility, make it an earnest priority in your life. Consistent work ethic is an incredible show of integrity. If you are struggling with a task or responsibility, let the people involved know what’s going on so you can work something out as a team.

  7. Take responsibility for your mistakes. Be willing to admit when you’re wrong, or when you’ve made a mistake. Show that you can hold yourself accountable. When necessary, apologize and explain how you will make things right.

  8. Respect others’ time. Show up on time and turn things in on time to be courteous and build trust with others. Respond to communications in a timely manner. Be sure to also mind and respect the free time and non-work obligations of others by not expecting them to be available and working 24/7.

  9. Be human. You’re not a smiling work robot. You don’t have to fake an overly positive affect, especially not as a means of trying to force positivity on others. Be gracious and pleasant, but not at the cost of being a real person.

  10. Show self-respect. Lastly, remember that you are just as deserving of respect and consideration as those around you. Be able to kindly stick up for yourself, your ideas, and your values.

Integrity at Work (Examples)

With all of those traits and tips in mind, let’s explore some scenarios of what this might look like in action.

Example 1: Managing Conflict

Graphic designers Sanaya and Amber were assigned to collaborate on the visual design for a new ad campaign, but Amber has been consistently ignoring Sanaya’s feedback and has missed several meetings.

Instead of complaining to coworkers about Amber’s irresponsibility, or silently letting her resentment grow, Sanaya asks Amber if they can privately discuss some concerns about their project. Sanaya then expresses her interpretations of Amber’s behavior, how this behavior has been affecting her, and how they can compromise or make other arrangements.

Letting Amber know how her behavior is affecting and being interpreted by others gives her the chance to make informed changes.

Example 2: Helping and Setting Boundaries

Michael serves at a restaurant and often helps other employees with their tasks when the restaurant is busy.

A fellow server asks Michael during a busy day if he could clear off her tables for her while she takes a break. Though Michael doesn’t want to let others down, he knows that he still has a lot of his own work to do and likely wouldn’t be able to get to his coworker’s tables in time.

Michael is honest with his coworker about being unable to help her this time. She clears off her own tables without any expectation, and without any ill will towards Michael.

Example 3: Honesty and Following Through

Keely is a marketing specialist tasked with turning marketing data into an important deliverable by the end of the week. She put in good work on the first day, but by the second day she quickly realized that she was struggling to process such a large amount of data.

Keely knew it was important to stick to the task and not give up. She reached out to her team members working on this project and to her manager to update them on the work she had done and where she was struggling.

This situation could have resulted in Keely’s team thinking she was being irresponsible if she had not kept them in the loop. However, because Keely was honest and made completing this task a priority, her teammates were able to help her out early on, and the project was completed on time.

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Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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