Integrity Matters
November 12, 2003

Integrity in workplace never takes day off, even if the boss calls in sick

Question: (E-077)

Dear Jim:

You write about owners and bosses and how the leaders in various organizations need to clean up their acts. But what do you think about employees who don't pull their weight when the boss is absent? What about workers talk on the phone in a retail store instead of greeting customers? What about employees who come in late, leave early, are not very nice to customers and fellow employees, and still expect to be paid for a full day's work? Isn't integrity a two-way street?


Integrity is a two-way street. Employers owe to those with whom they work an opportunity to be productive, successful, safe, healthy and proud. Owners and operators of enterprises are responsible for all stakeholders (investors, customers, suppliers, employees, members of the community).

Fly-by-night enterprises, because they do not provide long-term viability, seldom become good corporate citizens. So, when employees find legitimate organizations to serve, then 100 percent commitment and follow-through ought to be the expected response. Common sense teaches that when the enterprise meets or exceeds its responsibilities for integrity to its stakeholders, then those who join the organization have obligations as well.

Perhaps this short list of integrity-centered responsibilities will serve our readers well, whether as employees or managers:

  • Honesty means more than simply telling the truth. It means being on time, alert and ready to work, every time. Honest employees never take from the workplace materials and supplies intended for the execution of organizational duties (paper, pencils, paper goods, food, etc). Honesty requires being willing to give appropriate attention to customers and clients, support to colleagues and gracious responses to suppliers. When personal phone calls become abusive, to the extent that they draw attention away from customer and client services, employee behavior comes into question. Wasting an organization's money while spending time with idle chit-chat, playing video-games, visiting questionable websites during work hours is not being honest.
  • Competency describes a level of performance that satisfies customer expectations and helps to sustain the quality standards of the organization. Competence applies to more than the mechanical functions of any given job; it also refers to the social skills required for effective interactions with all who are impacted by the work and worker. Competent employees pursue excellence and accept the challenge for continuous improvement. Competent employees improve their own productivity and assist with the efficiency and effectiveness of those with whom they work.
  • Loyalty is reflected in how employees refer to and treat their working environment. Those who understand the importance of workplace commitment often do far better than the complainers, whose lives are filled with stories of bitterness and frustration. Work is not play. Work, a combination of perspiration, dedication, sacrifice and focus, is how many must spend a significant portion of their lives to pay their bills and build some level of economic security for the future. Those who are the wisest have learned and are able to live the wisdom articulated by Mr. Elbert Hubbard, 100 years ago:

"If you work for other people, in heaven's name work for them, speak well of them and stand by the institution they represent. Remember, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness. If you must growl, condemn, and eternally find fault, then resign your position and when you are on the outside, blast them to your heart's content. However, as long as you are a part of the institution, do not condemn it. For, if you do, the first high wind that comes along will blow you away, and probably you will never know why."

Integrity is a two-way street. Employers owe the employee and the employee owes the employer. When they meet and exceed one another's needs, productivity rises, customers are happier and profits allow for better rewards for all who are involved. Not only does integrity matter, it makes for an environment that generates economic success.

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