Can Integrity Be Negative In Business and Life?

Integrity cannot be taught, it has to come from within. If you don’t have it, you could have it but you will have to make conscientious efforts. There is one very important caveat though, which is that success will always come and go but integrity can never be eroded. Everyone believes they know and understand a thing or two about integrity, however, they miss the point when it comes down to actually practicing it in their daily lives.

Integrity could mean a lot of things and to me, it means doing what is right every time no matter what the circumstances are and whether anyone is watching or not.

Having integrity is a dicy game, you can have it for a very long and lose it in a matter of seconds. It may be extremely difficult to gain over the years but it could be lost in the blinking of an eye. This simply means that in all you do, you must do everything in your power not to lose your integrity.

What integrity looks like today

Today’s world is different though, it is now strongly believed by a lot of people that “the end justifies the means”. Integrity is not even talked about that much anymore. Over time, a lack of integrity has slowly become the norm across the board in business and society.

In the world of business, marketers often overstate the functionalities or benefits of their products just to meet up with weekly and monthly quotas. Company leaders also overstate their projected earnings to keep their board off their backs. Even job applicants fabricate and overstate their capabilities these days just to get the job, which tends to produce misunderstandings down the road.

Today’s entrepreneurs pad their business documents because they want the highest valuation possible from an investor. Investors understate a company’s value in order to negotiate a lower valuation in a deal. Customer service representatives cover up a mistake they made because they are afraid the client will leave them. Employees call in “sick” because they don’t have any more paid time off when they actually just need to get their personal job done. The list could go on and on, and in each case, the person committing the act of dishonesty told themselves they had a perfectly valid reason why the end result justified their lack of integrity.

Take people who cut lines for instance. If you are someone with an ounce of integrity you wouldn’t cut a line just because everyone else is doing it. Although it does seem like people can gain power quickly if they are willing to cut corners. This creates a false perception of the path to success that people should follow.

Of course, there are numerous people without integrity who have “made it” in life. Unfortunately, this sort of momentary success comes at an incredibly high price with very serious consequences. What most people don’t understand is that integrity is the most valuable quality anyone could have in life. The real truth is that profit in money terms is temporary, but profit in a network of people who trust you as a person of integrity will last forever.

With integrity comes a network of people who are willing to vouch for you anytime and in anyplace. Everyone who knows you as a person of integrity will trust you enough to spread the word to their own network. The misunderstood value in today’s world of business is that the trust others have in you is far beyond anything that can be measured, even money. 

Integrity means different things for different sets of people

  • For entrepreneurs, it means investors that are willing to trust them with their money.
  • For employees, it means a manager or a boss that is willing to trust them with additional responsibility and growth opportunities.
  • For companies, it means customers that trust giving them more and more business.
  • For you, it means having an army of people that are willing to go the extra mile to help you because they know that recommending you to others will never bring damage to their own reputation of integrity.

In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy.  And if they don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you.

Warren Buffet – Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

How do you keep your integrity?

I am sure you have heard the adage that “birds of the same feather flock together”. To keep your integrity intact do the following:

  • Avoid those who are not trustworthy.
  • Do not do business with them.
  • Do not associate with them.
  • Do not make excuses for them. 
  • Do not allow yourself to get enticed into believing that “while they may be dishonest with others, they would never be dishonest with me.” If someone is dishonest in any aspect of his life you can be guaranteed that he will be dishonest in many aspects of his life.
  • You cannot dismiss even those little acts of dishonesty, such as the person who takes extra change even they knew. After all, if a person cannot be trusted in the simplest matters of honesty then how can they possibly be trusted to uphold lengthy and complex business contracts?

The bottom line is that if you want to build a reputation as a person of integrity then you must surround yourself with people of integrity. If you surround yourself with dishonest people who are willing to cut corners to get ahead, you will slowly find yourself accepting and adopting those behaviors.

I will round this up by stating that the harder and smarter you work with integrity the more luck you will have. It takes tenacity, and persistence to achieve this level of integrity but it is definitely not farfetched.

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