When it comes to integrity, reactive companies are in trouble.
By the time a reputation is tarnished, it’s hard to regain the same level of trust.
Also, with customers caring more about ethics than ever before, it’s easy to get left behind by competitors who take integrity more seriously.
As such, it’s important to develop a robust strategy for building integrity in the workplace.
In this article, we’ll break down workplace integrity, offer some examples, and discuss challenges and tips to help you build a culture of honesty, ethics, and high morale in your workplace.
Ready? Let’s jump in.
First, let’s clarify what integrity means and what it looks like in the workplace.
While integrity, honesty, and morality are related — and often used interchangeably — there are some key distinctions between them.
Integrity is the bedrock of a person’s character. It plays out as an adherence to ethical principles that is carried out consistently in any situation. Integrity is where one’s values and behaviors come together — it’s what they believe and what they do.
Honesty simply means truthfulness. It’s a critical element of integrity, as it showcases a person’s transparency.
Morality is a set of rules or standards that helps one decide what is wrong and right. It’s a guide for our ethics. And integrity happens when a person follows that guide consistently and honestly.
Integrity in the workplace is the quality of carrying out job duties in line with strong values. Acting with integrity in the workplace often means:
But it’s not just about being a good person yourself.
One person acting with integrity can inspire everyone else on their team to do the same. This can shape the way the company as a whole operates.
It helps to create the overall company culture and the way it does business. That, in turn, even affects how people outside the company view it.
Now that we know what integrity is, let’s discuss why it’s important in the workplace.
According to a 2022 Ernst & Young report, company reputations quickly crumble when there is a gap between what organizations say and do.
A company’s ethical behavior becomes more and more scrutinized over time. Companies must build genuine trust with their consumers to stay alive, and that trust relies almost entirely on acting with integrity.
When a business continuously aligns its actions with its core values, it lays a foundation for that trust to develop.
Trustworthiness opens the door to:
A commitment to integrity is an investment in a business’s future.
Today’s consumers are experienced at sniffing out inauthenticity. And they’re drawn to businesses they can trust to be transparent and ethical.
In fact, almost 90% of consumers believe authenticity is a key factor in determining which brands they’re likely to support.
Integrity also means avoiding ethical shortcuts that could lead to costly lawsuits or negative publicity that can damage a brand for years.
Lastly, sustainable business practices, such as reducing waste or switching to energy-efficient technology, can increase cost savings and help ensure long-term financial health.
In the era of social media, word of mouth travels far — and fast. Companies known for standing by their principles are celebrated, giving them a place in the hearts and minds of potential customers.
Branding and integrity have almost become synonymous. A positive brand image attracts not only customers but also top talent who seek more than just a paycheck.
As a result, businesses with a reputation for integrity tend to have less employee turnover and a competitive edge in their industry.
In the next section, we’ll share stories of real companies who have achieved workplace integrity.
Here are some notable examples of companies that have led their organizations to success with integrity at the forefront:
Patagonia is an outdoor clothing company that has shown integrity through its continued dedication to the environment.
Rather than putting profits above everything else, they’ve made decisions that were good for both the business and the planet.
As a member of One Percent for the Planet, they donate at least 1% of their total sales to environmental organizations. And on Black Friday, they donate 100% of their sales to earth-friendly groups and encourage customers not to buy new gear.
These bold moves have enhanced their reputation as an eco-conscious brand. It’s also cemented customer loyalty, demonstrating how making decisions with value can lead to long-term success.
LEGO has a long-standing reputation as a creative part of the childhood experience. But the branding that’s taking the company into the future is built around integrity.
The toy-manufacturing giant puts a premium on product safety and ethical sourcing.
Their transparent reporting on their supply chain operations and commitment to sustainable materials have reinforced customer trust, which has, in turn, continued their strong market presence.
Additionally, their integrity serves as a blueprint for others in the industry, proving that acting with value is good for a company’s future.
Starbucks uses its platform to take a stand on many social issues, often committing to these issues even if it sacrifices short-term profits.
For example, after a racially charged incident occurred in one of its stores, Starbucks decided to close over 8,000 of its locations for racial bias training.
This coffee giant may have sacrificed short-term gains. But they earned the respect of their stakeholders and customers — which has benefitted them in the long run.
Johnson & Johnson faced a defining moment during the Tylenol crisis in the 1980s, recalling millions of Tylenol bottles in response to the tampering of capsules.
Obviously, this issue had huge financial implications. But Johnson & Johnson’s prioritization of consumer safety over profits eased the crisis and increased public trust and loyalty for the long term.
The Johnson & Johnson case study remains, to this day, an excellent example of how integrity can become the bedrock for an enduring reputation and success.
Integrity is integrity. But it does play out differently in different settings.
Hybrid and remote work environments are ever-increasing. As such, we need to look at workplace integrity through a fresh lens.
In a hybrid workplace, employees split their time between home and the office. The challenge lies in maintaining consistent standards for ethical behavior across those settings.
The virtual environment’s inherent anonymity and the on-site environment’s visibility can result in different behaviors.
For example, remote work can dilute the sense of accountability that naturally comes with in-person interactions. Companies need to create employee-centric standards that make sense in the office and remotely.
Differences in communication are also an important aspect of both virtual and in-person settings.
The absence of some non-verbal cues in a virtual setting can create misunderstandings that would otherwise be obvious in person. Clarity, then, becomes essential to maintaining integrity. It ensures that employees understand and uphold company values, regardless of their physical location.
Hybrid workplaces should invest in clear communication protocols and training to enable team members to accurately convey and interpret messages.
The increased autonomy of hybrid work makes workplace integrity even more important. Employees need to belong to a company culture that inspires them to uphold their own integrity.
Distractions at home are plentiful, and without the immediate presence of coworkers or managers, the temptation to cut corners can increase.
Companies should empower their workforce with trust and the tools to act effectively without the need for constant oversight.
To entice in-person collaboration, which is crucial for team culture and productivity, organizations could implement the usage of collaborative scheduling tools.
Let’s transition now into the nuts and bolts of how to implement integrity throughout your organization.
The same Ernst & Young report mentioned above identified an alarming gap. Despite a record-breaking awareness of the importance of integrity, the standards for integrity have worsened over the past 18 months.
Obviously, these findings are at odds with each other. And this underscores the importance of an effective system to embed integrity into a company’s every move.
The line between right and wrong, however, isn’t always clear in businesses. Complex situations and gray areas can test a well-intentioned company’s integrity.
For example, Airbnb faced backlash when some hosts were accused of discriminating based on race. Although the hosts’ actions weren’t illegal, they certainly weren’t ethical.
In response, Airbnb introduced a robust nondiscrimination policy — demonstrating integrity over complacency.
Similarly, Wells Fargo encountered a major integrity crisis when employees, pressured to meet sales targets, opened millions of unauthorized accounts. It might not have begun as intentional fraud, but it became a massive breach of trust.
These examples remind us that:
Leadership sets the precedent for organizational behavior.
As a recent Deloitte report states, “The starting point for any world-class ethics and compliance program is the board and senior management…” They recommend that leaders:
Hosting ethical workshops can also strengthen a leadership team’s sense of integrity. These sessions offer real-world scenarios with ethical complexity and give top leaders a chance to practice reinforcing integrity.
For example, leadership could be walked through specific case studies or led into group debates.
When combined with ongoing dialogues on integrity-related dilemmas, these practices can build a culture from the top that navigates challenging situations. This top-down focus demonstrates integrity in action for the rest of the organization.
Transparency is the foundation for trust in the digital age. Consumers understand that no company is perfect, but they’ll quickly avoid dishonest organizations.
Yet, transparency isn’t about revealing everything. It’s a delicate dance of sharing what matters most to build trust but without compromising privacy or strategic interests.
Apple opened a debate on this balance when they refused to unlock an iPhone for the FBI in a terrorism case, citing user privacy.
It’s crucial to maintain a channel of open communication where honesty is important. But each company has to balance that against the risks of oversharing.
Just as there are specifics to integrity in the workplace, there are unique attributes to hybrid workplaces as well. Let’s cover some integrity best practices and standards you can implement to optimize your hybrid workplace.
Regardless of work location, there needs to be a single set of ethical guidelines that apply universally.
These guidelines should cover the following:
Regularly revisit and reinforce your company’s code of conduct during team meetings and other communications. Your staff should not just understand them, but they should also commit to them.
Create practical tools, like checklists or decision trees, that employees can use to ensure their actions align with the company’s values.
You can also conduct workshops to deeply integrate these values into your employees’ daily workflow. Documents on hybrid work policies can provide a blueprint for balancing flexible work with employee accountability.
Organizations can leverage various AI tools that are available to track integrity and nurture a consistent ethical culture.
These tools can flag potential issues, allowing for proactive management of ethical dilemmas. Additionally, peer review systems contribute to a self-regulating environment where employees hold each other accountable. That helps ensure that every member of the organization is a champion for integrity.
Lastly, have a mechanism for employees to report their concerns confidentially.
Acknowledge and celebrate employees who show integrity in their work. These individuals reinforce the importance of ethical behavior and motivate others to follow suit.
Rewards could include:
You could also offer personalized acknowledgments, like thank-you notes or public shout-outs, or create an “ethics ambassador” role for standout employees. Another option is to implement a points system where ethical actions earn employees rewards or privileges.
Now that you’ve learned about integrity in the workplace and seen real-life examples of integrity in action, it’s time to reap the benefits for yourself.
Keep in mind, however, that you can’t just set it up and forget about it. Integrity is a continuous process that requires the right mindset. But, if established with care, it’ll help your company in innumerable ways.
And so can OfficeRnD Hybrid. We’ve helped many companies adapt to — and thrive under — hybrid work models.
Whether it’s collaborative scheduling, workplace experience, office resources booking, or advanced analytics, we have you covered.
Traits that show integrity include honesty, accountability, reliability, and ethical decision-making.
Yes, employers value and actively look for integrity in potential employees. These candidates are considered trustworthy and reliable.
Nelson Mandela is often regarded as a leader who demonstrated integrity through his commitment to justice and equality.
Showing integrity in the workplace involves consistently being honest, upholding strong moral principles, and taking responsibility for one’s actions.
Integrity is crucial in the workplace because it fosters trust among colleagues, enhances a company’s reputation, and supports a culture of accountability and respect.
Five ways to show integrity include: being truthful in all communications, honoring commitments, taking accountability for actions, treating everyone with respect, and making ethical decisions even when challenging.
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