Integrity: The Great Puzzle and The Great Misconception
“Integrity” — a keyword used extensively by leaders, employers, recruiters. We are all conscious that integrity at the workplace is expected of us. But, what does integrity mean in practice? Is it an empty phrase, a high-level concept, or perhaps, a virtue that can be quantified and measured?
When you think about integrity, what words come to your mind? As it turns out, most professionals misunderstand this term! When asked about the meaning, they come up with associations such as “integral to the company,” “fitting the workplace,” or “fitting the team.” While in fact, “professional integrity” means something completely different!
The Meaning of “Integrity”
According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, “integrity” has two major meanings. Firstly, on an individual level, it can mean the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles that you refuse to change. Secondly, on the level of an organization, it means the quality of being whole and complete. But, what do “moral principles” mean? According to the same dictionary, “morality” means a set of personal or social standards for good or bad behavior and character.
For a professional in the workplace, integrity means nothing else than sticking to firm social standards of behavior and staying faithful to virtues such as honesty, accountability, and loyalty. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to adopt the exact same standards as your employer’s personal standards. It just means that you do develop your own set of rules for how to proceed towards other people depending on the circumstances. That you are not a loose cannon.
In other words, integrity means reliability. It is not relative. If you are a person of integrity, it means that you have a moral corpus and you will stick to it wherever you go. Employed or jobless, your level of integrity stays the same!
Why Is Integrity So Important To Employers Today?
You might be asking yourself: why is integrity so crucial to employers today? Aren’t the credentials to do the job enough to get you hired? Well, not really! There are three major reasons why this is the case:
1. The Business Equals The Team
In times of economy based on services and white-collar work, the strength of the business is the strength of its team. Unlike in the case of blue-collar workers, in intellectual work, the output of the team is not an arithmetic sum of the output coming from single team members. Namely, it is a much more complex function of the team members’ individual capabilities and ideas, and the synergy between them.
Therefore, in the long term, the dynamics building between the team members is more important than the work conducted by each individual pair of hands. In such conditions, developing a sense of respect and honesty in the team is the key to success. A person with integrity has a moral code that lets them admit whenever they make mistakes or show poor judgment.
A person with integrity is also a team player — lets other team members express their opinions and develop their talents rather than trying to absorb all the attention. Overall, integrity leads to better team dynamics, more satisfaction from work, and higher productivity.
2. Integrity Means Quality
People with integrity do what they say they would do. When they sign a contract for 8 hours per day, they work 8 hours per day — whenever they are controlled or not. And, in times of hybrid and remote working schemes, this is crucially important, as employers no longer have the opportunity to closely watch their employees. In other words, for the employer, “integrity” implies high quality of work.
3. Integrity Means Safety
Today, in the economy based on services, most companies build their value of Intellectual Property (IP). It not only means patents and trademarks, but also: novel algorithms, product features, procedures for solving problems, insider professional training schemes, community building techniques, company documentation, and correspondence.
For any business, it is crucial to hire employees that can be trusted. In other words, your employer needs to trust that you won’t make the company IP leak, as it can lead to major losses, or even failure on the market. That’s why “integrity” is the honey to the employer’s ears!
How To Talk About Your Integrity At The Job Interview
How to talk about integrity to the recruiter though? Well, the most important thing is to explain what you understand by integrity. As mentioned before, many professionals misunderstand the term. Therefore, the bare fact that you are conscious of what it means, puts you in a good light. You could say, for instance,
“I believe I am a person of high integrity. I am respectful and honest towards all members of my team. I am a good listener and I let other people shine, but I am also open and helpful when I see what could be improved. I can admit to my mistakes. I do what I promise, I can work on my own, and I stick to agreements. I always respect Intellectual Property and the confidentiality standards of my employers.”
This statement will demonstrate to the recruiter that you have a mature attitude to work, and that you are perfectly aware of what “integrity” implies. Of course, it will also be warmly received if you mention “integrity” among your core competencies.
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