In his book The Millionaire Mind, Thomas J. Stanley asked 733 millionaires to rank 30 factors which led to their success.  The number one attribute, “being honest with all people,” tells volumes about the importance of integrity in the workplace: it is more than living out good moral principles – it is also critical for succeeding in the business world.

Corporate Integrity: It Starts at the Top

I used to be affiliated with a construction company whose owner ordered the workers to cut corners in every way possible without getting caught.  Some foremen were even chastised for taking extra care to do a good job.  Did this philosophy work?  No.  The company did make money, but the employees who took pride in their work went elsewhere, leaving a workforce who simply was not trustworthy and a company which had a shady reputation.

When a new owner set a policy of always doing things right, the company slowly began to grow.  Those who continued to cut corners were dismissed and a new vitality began to emerge as the employees felt good about themselves; they began to love their jobs and became proud of who they worked for.  Guess what?  This company continues to flourish today.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Individual Integrity: We Are All Accountable

Writer and speaker Nicky Gumble punctuates this truth in the following story:

A man named Gibbo used to work as a clerk for Selfridges.  One day the phone rang and Gibbo answered.  The caller asked to speak to Gordon Selfridge, who happened to be in the room at the time.  When Mr. Selfridge instructed Gibbo to tell the caller that he was out, Gibbo handed him the phone and said, ‘You tell him you’re out!’  Gordon Selfridge was absolutely furious, but Gibbo said to him, ‘Look, if I can lie for you, I can lie to you.  And I never will.’  That moment transformed Gibbo’s career at Selfridges – he became the owner’s most trusted employee.

Integrity, for Gibbo, was so deeply ingrained that he disobeyed his boss without hesitation.  Yes, he might have been fired, but I am guessing that Gibbo wouldn’t have wanted to continue working there anyway.  In this case, however, his integrity was instrumental to his ascent at Selfridges.

Why Integrity Works

It is no surprise that employees with integrity shine.  They do not undermine their fellow workers, they work just as hard whether they are being watched or not, they can always be counted on to do their best, and they will be honest enough to admit it if they have made mistakes.  They won’t pass the blame, but they will share the credit.  They are an inspiration to others, creating a positive and upbeat work environment.

If you were in charge of hiring and networking, wouldn’t you dig beneath the surface of a potential employee’s resume to learn of their integrity?  Of course you would.  Therefore, if you are that employee, your services will be coveted, both when you are hired and for years thereafter.

How Are You Doing?

  • Do you leave work early when there is no possibility anyone else will find out?
  • Do you accept full responsibility (or your share) when things don’t go well?
  • Do you share the credit when things go right?
  • Do you confront wrongdoing, even if it means confronting a supervisor?
  • Do you hide legitimate income to avoid paying taxes on it (such as not reporting cash payments)?
  • Do you claim tax deductions you can’t document?

Another Test

Because we tend to be blind to our own shortcomings, I challenge you to ask a friend – one with integrity – to tell you honestly whether you are more like Gibbo or his boss.

The answer is critical to your future success.

How important is integrity in your workplace?  What can you do to make a difference?  Does your employer encourage and model integrity?  In what ways?  If you are a boss or supervisor, how well do you model integrity?  Leave a comment below!

This article originally appeared on Christian Personal Finance. Used with permission.

Joe Plemon started Plemon Financial Coaching in 2006. He has been the Money Columnist for the Southern Illinoisan newspaper (circulation 30,000) since October, 2007 and blogs at Personal Finance by the Book.

Christian Personal Finance is a resource dedicated to building God's Kingdom and helping others through money.

Publication date: October 25, 2012