Integrity Matters
December 31, 2003

Look for integrity in a leader's eyes

Question: (E-004)

Dear Jim:

I'm in the human resources department for a high-tech company. Our business is way down, like most companies in our industry. Having lost 40 percent of our employees over the past two years has created a lot of wear and tear on me because I'm involved in outplacement. I really don't have any good news for the laid-off staff. There are no new jobs to be had in our area for most skills, and it doesn't look like we'll be rehiring any time soon.

But what's really bothering me is our senior management. They seem to be in denial. There's so much money being wasted. We still have our corporate jets, fancy perks and big expense accounts. There's also a rumor that the CEO and COO paid themselves substantial bonuses last year.

Are all companies run by greedy, me-first people?

I don't know if I can look one more coworker in the eye as I hand them their severance check and try to explain why they are being laid off.

On the other hand I find it tough to stand on the moral high ground when I feel so desperate to keep my own job so that I can take care of my family.


If you cannot see integrity flickering in leaders' eyes, engineer a plan for your own exit.

You cannot represent integrity in an organization that has none. Balance your own desire to sustain your personal and organizational values while simultaneously remaining responsible for the health and welfare of those you love best.

Now, for the future. If nothing substantive changes where you are, you will probably move on. Establish the right criteria for responsible leadership. You can develop the list from what you see done poorly where you are and from what might also be done well.

Build this list into a performance scorecard. Utilize the information in future interviews. Even painful learning is learning.

In summary:

  • Assess your own needs and those for whom you are responsible.
  • Determine what the right (sensible and prudent) time is to move on, only after thoroughly addressing financial needs and future opportunities.
  • Seek leadership next time that more clearly fits with your definition of integrity in leadership.
  • Move on when you find the right situation.

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