Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. But these days, we seem to be obsessed with being seen to do the right thing. Being seen to be supporting the latest cause, championing the underdog or being a good mentor at work. Even our charitable donations end up on our Facebook pages, an announcement that we're supporting someone less fortunate than us.
However, when we scratch below the surface, our integrity seems to be just for show. In reality, it seems there is a lot of unhappiness with how we're living out lives.
In the pursuit of looking like we're upstanding people, our moral compasses are a little off kilter. Put down to being a symptom of modern life and the need to get ahead at all costs, we seem to be tolerating stepping over anyone to get what we want professionally or personally. But what is this insatiable desire for success doing to our workplaces and, more importantly, ourselves?
In a survey of employers, the top three qualities looked for in a future employee were integrity, intelligence and energy. Integrity or honesty is the cornerstone of a workplace that is functional, collegiate and healthy. In the wake of bullying and discrimination scandals which hit the profession in 2016, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons 'Operate with Respect' campaign relies heavily on tapping into an individual's need to act with integrity at work, calling out bad behaviour and working towards being better workmates.
In the age of social media, integrity has become a cornerstone of marketing oneself. Instafamous celebrities who are seen as disingenuous often come crashing down. When the audience perceives that they are being advertised to or misled, a backlash can occur. YouTuber Essena O'Neill last year released a tearful video denouncing her authenticity and integrity showing the careful crafting of her insta-perfect life. Ironically, her honesty led to a secondary backlash where people questioned the integrity of the about face, claiming that was for publicity too. While audiences may struggle with their own integrity from time to time, they demand it of public figures more than ever.
Our personal lives are not doing much better in the realms of integrity or honesty. With trolling, bullying, infidelity and cheating a fait accompli of modern life, we're playing a dangerous game with our own self-worth and with each other. While dealing with each other in a less-than-honourable way is often met with outrage, we just seem to keep treating our fellow humans badly.
Acting without integrity has obvious consequences when it comes to others. A bad reputation spreads like wildfire and getting a name as someone who is untrustworthy in the workplace will absolutely have consequences. That may not be today or in this job, but it will happen. Not to mention the creation of toxic workplaces by disingenuous and selfish employees is starting to be poorly tolerated.
In our personal lives, eventually being not so nice to others will also catch up with you. From the extremes of prosecution to the social isolation by others of bad behaviour, acting without integrity is a sure way to stunt your personal life.
But what about on the inside? Most people know when they've done something less than ideal. And the feelings of guilt or shame create an incredible psychological burden. Even if we don't admit that we're wrong, that sense of "I was not the best version of myself" can haunt us and manifest as anxiety, anger or depressive feelings. With these icky emotions a bit of a staple of living in the now, perhaps it's time we look inwards at our own behaviour and feelings as a cure.
While calling out bad behaviour is a start and sign of integrity in others, we will only change our workplaces and ourselves when we realise that on the inside, behaving with integrity trumps the need for power, success or instant gratification. It is that personal brake on bullying at work, bullying at school, internet trolling or damaging gossip that will actually help us interact with each other in a much better fashion and soothe our souls. It's not nice to look at ourselves as mistake makers but it can be far easier than the consequences if we do not.