Why Personal Integrity is Key
After serving in several senior Human Resources roles for over thirty years (both in Fortune 100 organizations as well as fledgling startups), I can state unequivocally that the most critical and valued employee attribute in most organizations is personal integrity. My rationale for this is simple: In the context of organizations where objectives are met and strategies are achieved only through the collective efforts and interactions of people, it is essential that those interactions be conducted with the highest standards of personal integrity.
Regardless of role, personal integrity is the trait that invites human beings to trust each other. Without a culture of trust, there is simply no way of achieving maximum organizational effectiveness because employees end up expending wasted time and energy on activities such as checking ‘what the others are doing’, being careful to over communicate information that should already be known to the key stakeholders, and generally behaving in a “cya” mode. As such, tasks take longer than necessary to complete, projects miss critical milestones and organizational effectiveness is the ultimate victim.
What does personal integrity look like? Well, it manifests itself in several ways. Personal integrity is clear in:
1) The employee who honestly reports hours worked to receive pay.
2) The employee who refuses to participate in office gossip or even worse, harassing behavior toward another employee.
3) The supervisor who doesn’t “play favorites” and manages employees fairly and consistently.
4) The manager who, rather than ignore the problem, addresses the inappropriate behavior of a top producing subordinate because of its detrimental effect on the entire team.
And finally, personal integrity is doing your job to the best of your ability and working to do it even better tomorrow.
In summary, it’s a combination of honesty, reliability, consistency, courage, and an appreciation for the contribution of others. Without it, the true potential for any organization is seriously jeopardized, or as I like to put it, the truly professional organizations “demand it” and the truly professional employees “reflect it”.