Nurturing Employee Integrity: From Start-Up Growth To Sustainable Management

What is the value of integrity in business and working culture and how can we nurture it?


Integrity is something we all have… somewhere. It’s our navigating impulse leading us towards decisions that feel honest and align with our ever developing personal philosophies and ethical frameworks. Kant wrote exhaustively on these impulses, concluding that we are not judged by our final destination but by the way in which we have traveled. So what is the value of integrity in business and working culture and how can we nurture it?

Integrity is a popular core value and is a term pasted on many a CV or covering letter. Integrity implies honesty, commitment, loyalty, decency; it generally implies a dependable person standing firmly on the side of what is right. Of course we want this in our business, but is integrity something somebody just has, or can employers nurture it? If they can, should they?

In data-driven, predictive analytical approaches it’s easy to allow for a results-driven performance environment to take hold. For startups, results-driven working environments may seem attractive, stimulating fast growth and recognizing and rewarding staff able to keep up and ‘play the game’; at least that’s how lesser rewarded employees tend to see it. Heavy results-driven working environments often create performance hierarchies and encourage a ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality. But hey, this is capitalism: some people are just better at their job than others right?

When we place emphasis on results, game culture creeps in. Performance targets become competition. People win. And people lose. Could it be that in such working cultures those staff with the most developed sense of integrity actually lose out?

So what’s so good about integrity anyway?

For leaders, integrity is everything. If a leader cannot believe and feel in their gut that they are traveling a meaningful, honest, worthwhile path, the people following them will naturally disengage from their own sense of inner purpose, and the enterprise will inevitably whimper. In businesses neglecting the value of integrity in their workforce, they are inadvertently promoting and placing leaders across their organization with no real sense of purpose or conviction; merely an aptitude for gaming.

Staff with integrity are more likely to challenge employers, more likely to emphasize the journey over the destination, will be less flexible at times, will take longer to process what’s being asked of them and may be less immediately responsive to performance targets. But if you want effective, sustainable leadership in your organization, you must encourage engagement that is honest and accept the value of meaningful, sincere investment more than investment for the sake of immediate profit.

Re-evaluate the significance of performance metrics in your organization. Listen to your staff. Encourage them to listen to themselves. Cultivate long-term sustainable progress in your business and in your community.

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