I like this blog post from Suzi McAlpine about the importance of integrity in the workplace because it speaks to me as an employee who left his longtime leadership post (somewhat coincidentally) during the Great Resignation. There’s a lot more to say about the Great Resignation, in terms of what is causing it and how it will impact the workplace over the coming years, but one key takeaway is that people want to work at places they want to work. I may not have left my position as Head of School for the same reasons that others are leaving their jobs (I had planned from the start of my most recent four-year contract that it would likely be my last at the school) but as I have searched for new work, I am finding myself asking questions about my potential future workplace that I may not have a few years ago.
As I reflect on my own values, what I would like to see in any organization for which I work is integrity, as a stated ideal and in practice. Doing the right thing. Striving for the right thing in every decision and action. Now, of course, there is always gray when it comes to the ‘right’ thing, but that doesn’t mean that a person or an organization cannot hold that concept–doing the right thing–at the center of all meetings, decisions, and actions. This is a value I personally find important and, if I’m fully honest with myself, find it hard at times to uphold even in my own personal life.
There are borderline situations where people could deliberate what the ‘right thing’ is, such as when a small lie might be the ‘wrong’ thing but the truth might cause someone undue harm, but I think focusing on more clear scenarios, when establishing this value as an organizational guidepost, helps build the ‘integrity muscle’. For example, if you hit someone’s car and they are not around, you should leave your information. If you find a wallet on the street with cash and identification, it should be returned. Maintaining a standard of honesty, following through on promises, and doing what is best for the earth and other living beings is rigorous work that requires a certain amount of audacity and a tremendous amount of practice and self-discipline.
I personally believe that integrity is the top quality for a leader, an employee, and an organization. This may not be everyone’s top choice, but it is mine. Above all else, if you can reflect back on your life or your life’s work or even your day’s work, if you can say that you did it with integrity, I believe you will feel fulfillment and success. I also believe that integrity throughout an organization will attract and retain great employees, because trust is so key to employee success and happiness. I recommend all places of work consider adopting some form of core value of integrity that can not only be seen in the physical or virtual workspace, but is a value upheld within every action and interaction that takes place in the organization.