Integrity – Who, ME?
Today in our company safety meeting, we had a long discussion about integrity. My thoughts on the subject did not end with that safety meeting. If this already does not interest you, then you may click the little red “x” at the upper right hand corner and my thoughts will remain my own.
Our company has a very public policy on integrity. What is integrity, anyway? (By the way, I see curiosity got the best of you!) If you consult the American Heritage Dictionary you will find:
in•teg•ri•ty (ĭn-těg’rĭ-tē) Pronunciation Key n.
1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.
2. The state of being unimpaired; soundness.
3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.
[Middle English integrite, from Old French, from Latin integritās, soundness, from integer, whole, complete; see tag- in Indo-European roots.]
It’s easy to adhere to a strict moral code when there are penalties set in place if you fail to comply. If you will get fired from your job because you share company secrets with a competitor, that’s a fairly good incentive to zip your lips! Besides, adhering when there is a penalty if you don’t isn’t really integrity anyway.
But think with me a little longer about integrity. Look at definition number 3 above. “The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness” What does this mean in the definition of who we are as beings of integrity? If I may share a personal thought, I would suggest it means that we begin at ground level to examine who we are in the scope of integrity. Do we treat our boss one way and our janitor another? Are our attitudes consistent throughout each and every relationship in our lives? Be honest! If your boss emailed you with a subject line “sales expo and golf retreat” and your secretary emailed you with a red flag attached to the subject line “e-meeting topic needed”, whose email would you look at first? And once you looked at both emails, whose would you respond to first? Would there even BE a response to the secretary? If so, when?
You’ve had a tough day with your employees at the office. Your e-mail box today was filled with demands with deadlines attached that you simply don’t know how you will ever meet. You dealt with not one but two customers who had valid complaints regarding shoddy field work and billing issues. You are now on your drive home, reviewing how you remembered to deal with each situation with integrity and your lips curl into a smile as you remember how satisfied both those irritated customers were when you finally hung up the phone with them. Then you walk into your house and your wife greets you not with a kiss but with frazzled hair, your whining son attached to her leg and a demand that you “do something” with him because she is through. Your reaction to her is really less than pleasant and you close the door behind you, get into your car and head to the nearest bar to have a drink to unwind.
This integrity stuff isn’t just for people above some chain of command line in companies, either. It goes for everyone, everywhere, from CEO’s of multi-million dollar companies, to housewives, fast food servers and each and every person in between.
Integrity can climb no higher than the level you show it first in the smallest and most base relationship or area in your life. So what am I saying? Is this integrity stuff so black and white that there isn’t any margin for error at all? Doesn’t it just seem that some people simply have to make choices that will fall outside these margins?
In another discussion for another day I will go into the word failure. But certainly if we “fail” to live up to this seemingly black and white, all encompassing world I am espousing, there is hope!! Once we realize or are made aware of an area in our lives where we have been less than we know we could be, we simply claim a “do over” next go round and we adjust our attitude and actions accordingly. Integrity is a growing, living thing!
In conclusion, integrity is a viable and vital thing for our company to propagate and publicize. We as employees can consistently look for proactive ways to grow and seek out new areas to utilize this virtue with each person and situation we encounter on the job every day, from our boss, our bosses’ boss to the person who shares a desk next to ours, or even the person who cleans our facility each week. Hopefully this discussion has created a desire to think even a step beyond to those outside our work domain. If integrity means being complete, let’s make it complete. Let’s strive to let our ideas of integrity be undivided and all encompassing. It will take paying attention and it will take commitment. But we can do it!