Career Development: The Importance of Integrity to Your Career Success

Integrity sometimes sounds stiff and kind of esoteric yet there are aspects to it that are so critical to your success that it bears pointing out – repeatedly.  Integrity can make or break your career which makes it well worth paying attention to.

In the world of work the primary thing we trade off of daily is trust.  If you are unable or unwilling to trust the other person to do what they say they will do, then how can you work with them?  This is very basic in work and in life.  If you make a commitment and then don’t pull through with it and simply shrug it off, you are shrugging off your ability to advance in your career.  You are also shrugging off the opinions of others.  You may think you have some truly valid reasons for missing it, you may even think it’s not too important.  That might be true to some extent however all it takes is missing the small stuff enough times to permanently impact your brand. Trust given to someone is the basic building block for the foundation of all of our relationships.  We have to know we can trust someone to be reliable, to have our best interest in mind and to behave honestly. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a big or small goof up.  You just dented your reputation. It is better to be upfront if you know a situation is going to not “work out” and be honest in dealing with the goof up prior to the impact, this act of integrity can usually minimize the dent.

In our relationships at work, we are all allowed a margin of error for when circumstances impact our commitments.  We all understand that thing happen in ways we could never predict.  When we have too many uncontrolled situations and therefore too many missed commitments our credibility eventually diminishes to nothing.  Those working around you expect you to cover your bases and manage your environment to ensure what you say you will do gets done.  It doesn’t matter if it is showing up on time to a meeting or delivering a report on a certain day.  The expectation is that you are intelligent and insightful enough to make commitments based on your assessment of your environment and likely impacts.  Simply saying that you got caught in traffic during rush hour will only work a couple of times.  Everyone will then expect you to adjust your departure time to allow for those conditions or come up with other options.  If you can’t do something that simple, how can you handle bigger things?

Trust is the kind of thing that usually is given to you instantly when you begin working.  It can take only one act to completely destroy trust.  Rebuilding trust after it is gone takes many consistent acts to gain back slowly.  Sometimes trust is never fully restored.  Granted, the magnitude of the act will often dictate if it completely destroys it or if it chips away at the foundation.  Even if your missed commitment has little impact, when you do that sort of thing enough times you will destroy the trust you were given.  I think the phrase “death by a thousand small cuts” describes this.  The thinking then moves to not wanting to increase your responsibilities because you can’t handle the small stuff.  You have to take your assignment seriously.  If you can’t increase your responsibilities you won’t grow your career.  It’s that simple.

You may not even realize that you have this issue as I think many people have behaviors that don’t serve them well and are simply unaware.  Your lack of personal insight is your second issue.  You have to spend time thinking about whether this might be you.  You may have people making a joke about it which is a cloaked way of telling you about your problem.  Even if they haven’t, you need to ask for feedback if you have any remote suspicions that this could be you.  This is a game changer for your career.

If your career seems to be going no where you might want to think about your integrity.  Start with understanding if you are as good as your word.  If you have had any history of missing deadlines, showing up late or saying things in the excitement of the moment (and later not following up), then you need to consider changing your behavior.  When you are as good as or better than your word, you will be sought out and great things will happen.  Integrity can be summed up as doing what you say you will do.  It is honesty, accountability and commitment to doing what is right even when no one is looking.

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran is a certified life and career coach. She works with aspiring professionals who are looking for career growth, advancement and entry into the “C” suite. As well, she works with people to overcome the sometimes daunting task of changing careers. With over 21 years in management, Dorothy has coached, trained and guided other professionals who have gone on to impressive and fulfilling careers. Her personal philosophy about careers is: “It’s not JUST a job; it’s half your life – so love your career”. You can check out her resources, blog and services at Next Chapter New Life and MBA Highway.

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