Commonality Between Virginity and Integrity

These are two serious subjects that are usually only talked about when we want to appear deeply philosophical or when someone has already messed up. The commonality between the two is that once you have lost either one, you never get it back.

For the most part, loss of virginity is an individual’s deliberate decision. With integrity things are a little more complicated. Integrity usually implies honesty, and we usually associate trustworthiness with integrity as well. Yet different people handle trust differently. Some people find it hard to trust any other person, others are too trusting, and most regard others with varying degrees of trust. Trust is usually extended based on topic, and I have found that a person can be trusted for some things and not others, or by some people and not others. I am going to focus the rest of this article around trust, as that is the part of integrity that costs your company the most money because it results in the most lost productivity.

My hypothesis is that most people do not wake up in the morning planning to do, not do, say, or write something that will cause another person to trust them less. However, many inadvertently cause trust issues daily without even realizing it. The more you interact with people through e-mail, on the phone and in-person the more chances you have to violate trust. It is a numbers game. The more interactions you have the more chances you have to mess up.

C-level executives have to be very careful as their actions, comments, inactions, and silence (together referred to here as “Transactions”) are magnified 10 times compared to the Transactions of staff-level employees. This is one of the prices people pay for deciding to be a leader. Ironically, most leaders are naive in this area. Many are so self-possessed that they believe that being the boss entitles them to not have to watch how they handle their Transactions. The problem with this belief system is that it is wreaks havoc on their businesses. A company loses productivity every time a Transaction is construed as being inconsistent, untruthful, underhanded, immoral, or illegal. It will be deemed by the other parties as “a breach of integrity.” Thus, a common way to express that one has experienced an integrity issue is to say, “I do not trust the boss.”

People known to be decisive, impulsive, and quick to act frequently push the integrity button without realizing it. I have a number of well-meaning clients who have partners and subordinates who have just come to expect them to constantly breach integrity. I want to suggest that it does not have to be this way, that these leaders should try to modify their styles. Sometimes leaders who have a tendency to make statements before thinking things through are actually thinking out loud. They do not realize that by doing so they appear to be disorganized and inconsistent to their subordinates, and give the appearance of changing their word. As a result, the employees do not believe they can count on their leaders to keep their word and that directives will be the same week to week, adversely affecting their productivity and motivation.

The following are common trust-busters that I’ve seen in my clients’ companies. We all do these things on occasion. You should be careful to avoid consistently doing any of the following as you can be having a large negative impact on your team members:

  • Not keeping your word
  • Not giving your word
  • Talking behind people’s backs
  • Being judgmental
  • Being overly critical
  • Twisting the truth
  • Place personal needs over the company’s best interests
  • Blaming others for your own bad decisions
  • Being inconsistent
  • Not treating someone with respect
  • Withholding information
  • Assigning multiple people to work on the same project

Working on building trust within your organization can have dramatic impact on overall performance on a company in many ways. First, workers who trust their managers and co-workers are more likely to put forth extra effort, voluntarily help each other in times of need, make fewer mistakes, have higher job satisfaction, and maximize work output.

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