Your Integrity Is Showing

by | Jul 27, 2011 | Spirit-Led Living

leadersLike it or not, people are watching you. Is your character pointing them to Jesus?

We
don’t have to scan far into today’s headlines to see that integrity is
lacking in the marketplace. Scandals of fraud and mismanagement have
rocked nearly every industry.

Our
society seems to have a high degree of tolerance for those who have
made mistakes in the ethics and integrity department. But in spite of
our willingness to forgive and the stories of individuals who have
seemed to demonstrate that crime does pay, most of the time shortcomings
in the integrity department result in ruined careers and demolished
lives.

As
believers in business, how are we to think about integrity? Although we
may never have been tempted to cook the books or commit insider
trading, are there areas we still need to explore in the
integrity-challenged world in which we operate today?

I
say yes, definitely. Jesus’ teachings provide us with examples of how
believers are supposed to behave very differently from those who do not
know God (see Matt. 5:1-48). These teachings have huge implications for
us when it comes to work and other facets of our lives.

More
than just not doing the wrong thing, to an even greater degree,
integrity has to do with doing the right thing. In my experience, there
are three areas in which women struggle the most: integrity in speech,
integrity in image and what I will refer to as our M.O.—modus
operandi—how we do what we do.

INTEGRITY IN SPEECH
There’s
plenty in the Bible to remind us that our speech has an intensity of
power and purpose (see James 3:5-10). The Proverbs 31 woman had
evidently overcome in this area: “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful
instruction is on her tongue” (v. 26, NIV). Several significant areas
come to mind when we’re talking about the tongue: gossip, inappropriate
talk, response to insults and managing conflict.

Gossip.
It is so easy to fall into the gossip trap. We sometimes even use
prayer requests as an excuse to talk about the personal crisis in
someone’s life instead of just leaving it at, “Pray for Bill and
Sally—God knows what they need.”

At
work, the most successful strategy to deal with gossip is to walk away.
It doesn’t do us much good to just keep our mouths shut but then sit
there at the lunch table and listen to all the dirt being dished out.

Not
participating in juicy gossip sessions builds trust between you and
your co-workers. If Carol in sales has been thinking about sharing a
personal problem with you because she knows you are a person of faith,
she’s much more likely to bring you into her confidence if she sees you
back away from the gossip sessions by the soda machine.

Inappropriate talk. Here
is where I struggle. I don’t mean cussing like a sailor but rather
letting my speech slip into clever jabs or funny insults that get a
laugh but do little to build up a person or help the situation.

Personal
jabs and jokes may be routine in your workplace, but that doesn’t make
these conversations right. My advice is to keep your speech pure, being
careful not to appear self-righteous. You may avoid an employee
relations situation that degenerates into a “he said/she said” battle or
something even worse.

Response to insults.
When we have been slighted, it is easy to jump into a defensive mode
and launch into the offending person with a barrage of angry insults. A
couple deep breaths and a quickly muttered prayer can make the
difference between an all-out conflict and a brief encounter that fades
away.

When a conflict
arises, we can calmly confront the offender with a fact-based, personal
statement such as, “You know, Sue, that comment you made in yesterday’s
meeting really hurt my feelings. I want to have positive working
relationships with all my colleagues, so I wanted you to know how I
feel.” Or we can walk away and leave it alone, knowing it’s in God’s
hands and that His truth will prevail (see Deut. 32:35).

Managing conflict. How
we handle conflict says volumes about what we believe. In addition to
heartfelt prayer, you probably have some additional options, depending
on your company. Asking your manager to help mediate and solve a problem
with a co-worker can be a good route to repairing a relationship. Of
course, if the manager is the problem, then you may have to take
advantage of your company’s mediation program or human resources teams
who are available to help with conflict.

If
you take the high road and initiate the resolution of a conflict that
is distracting you from your work, you’ll be seen as someone with high
integrity and a commitment to the business. People who respond well in
the face of conflict are valuable commodities to productivity-minded
management teams.

In her
Bible study Believing God (LifeWay) Beth Moore writes: “When Christ
empowered His disciples to speak under His authority and produce certain
results, He treated the tongue as an instrument….The Holy Spirit
infuses power through the instrument….When we believe and speak, the
Holy Spirit can use our tongues as instruments or vessels of
supernatural power and can bring about stunning results” (see 2 Cor.
4:13).

If we speak the words
we believe based on what we believe, we speak with power. As
Christians, we can speak the presence of God into our marketplace.

INTEGRITY OF IMAGE
Let’s
say we have tamed the temptation to gossip, and we’ve gotten our
conflict-management skills honed to an art. In addition to these, our
image also says volumes about what we believe, who we are and how we
live out integrity in the workplace.

I’m
not just talking about how we dress, although dressing for success has
great merit. I am talking about how we present ourselves not just
physically but also through our interactions in the workplace.

I’m
all for using my femininity to endear myself to people. But I can’t
spout stuff that sounds like Scripture one day and wear a
cleavage-revealing blouse and too short skirt the next. It is important
to carefully consider our appearance and find ways to be stylish and
still appropriate at the same time.

Perhaps
we should totally ignore what people look like, but few of us do. For
that reason, our image has impact on our integrity in the workplace.
This extends beyond what we wear.

When
we send out written communications full of typographical errors, we
convey a carelessness that does not reflect the scriptural command to do
all things excellently. In a world where second best will often do, we
can truly set ourselves apart by portraying an image of professionalism
and excellence.

My mother
used to tell me to dress and act like those a step ahead of me on the
career ladder. That’s not a bad idea. Beyond dress, though, your
integrity is also impacted by your M.O.: your modus operandi.

INTEGRITY IN YOUR M.O.
A
Latin phrase, modus operandi is approximately translated as “mode of
operation” and commonly used to describe someone’s habits. Our habits at
work, how we operate not just what we do, say a great deal about our
integrity. Consider these aspects of your days in the marketplace, and
you will see what I mean:
• Do you always arrive rushing in or late
for your shift or for meetings, or do you get there in time to relax and
prepare for what lies ahead?
• Do you plan out your day the
afternoon before so you are certain you’re ready for any deadlines,
conference calls or encounters you know you will have the following day?
• Do you complete projects on time and under budget to the best of your ability?

How do you respond when you don’t know the answer to a question? Do you
make something up or say, “I need to get back to you,” and then really
follow up?
• Do you behave in a way that is consistent with your
company’s culture? (In some companies it is better to plow ahead and
seek forgiveness later if necessary. In other workplaces, it is
essential to ask permission before launching into something.)

These
are just a few of the basic work habits that can convey your commitment
to excellence in all things and therefore a level of integrity that is
too often missing in the workplace today. These are ways you put feet on
your faith and solidify your standing as a valuable employee.

I
got a low mark once in the integrity department on a performance
review. It had to do with grandstanding. “Grandstanding” means to act so
as to impress. In the integrity category, this can convey that we are
only out for ourselves.

I
felt a need to make sure everyone knew how competent I was. Instead of
letting my accomplishments speak for themselves, I had tooted my own
horn a few too many times.

Yes,
we have earthly roles and responsibilities, and we should do our work
with excellence. But ultimately, we are presenting our work to the Lord
and relying on His strength and timing (see 2 Tim. 2:14-16).

The
last thing you want to do is talk yourself into a position or a set of
responsibilities that you are not really qualified to handle.
Grandstanding can lead to a huge lapse of integrity and career disaster
as well.

Another aspect of
your M.O. at work is the need to persevere. In the face of ongoing
struggle, perseverance dramatically displays your integrity to a world
that is quick to throw in the towel.

Indeed,
a heavenly view of life and work helps us keep our ambition and
therefore our integrity in check. We don’t need to rush God’s plan for
our careers. He’s had our lives mapped out from day one of eternity.

THE GOLDEN RULE
Probably
one of the first things our mother taught you was: “Do to others as you
would have them do to you” (see Matt. 7:12; Luke 6:31). Simple messages
of great truth are easily forgotten in our frenetically busy society.
We miss moments of grandeur in our lives and the lives of others because
we’re too busy. We have forgotten how to enjoy one another’s company
even at work.

Making the
golden rule part of our modus operandi is the fastest way to demonstrate
our integrity at work and in the workplace. It is also the primary way
we demonstrate the love of God to others.

We
sometimes equate kindness with weakness, or we assume that one can’t be
kind and be competitive or relentlessly focused on the business’ goals
at the same time. But we can treat others as we want to be treated and
still make tough business decisions. We’ll just do it more humanely.

It
takes less effort to be kind and see the best in people and overlook
small offenses. But there will always be a few people we have to walk
away from or endure, recognizing that regardless of what we do, they
will not respond in kind. It should not be our mission to conform them
to our level of interpersonal grace. Just walk away. And put that
business card in the x-file.

Jesus’
teaching is clear on this subject. Not only are we commanded to love as
Jesus loved, but we are told that our commitment to treating others
well will show the world whose we are (see John 13:34-35). Wouldn’t it
be great to love more of your marketplace sisters into the kingdom based
on your example of love and kindness?

It’s
not easy to do the right thing in a world that so often accepts what is
not right. However, a commitment to integrity in speech, image and how
we do our work will demonstrate our faith to our co-workers more fully
than a thousand tracts or bumper stickers.

It
will also allow us to approach our work and our careers with the
confidence that we are seeking God’s path and His timing for what we do
and how we do it in the marketplace. When we don’t rush Him and let Him
give us the wisdom and strength to live out our callings, our faith
doesn’t falter in the workplace. In fact the opposite is true—it grows
and intensifies, just like the integrity that He cultivates in our
hearts.

Amy C. Baker is the author of Succeed at Work Without Sidetracking Your Faith (New Hope Publishers) and Slow Dancing at Death’s Door (Life Journey). A  human resources professional at Dell Inc., Baker also speaks
and offers professional development training to a variety of groups,
organizations, businesses, conferences and churches. She and her husband, Wayne, have two children and
live in Austin, Texas. For more information go to her website,
amycbaker.com.

Adapted from Succeed at Work Without Sidetracking Your Faith by Amy C. Baker, copyright 2006. Published by New Hope Publishers. Used by permission.

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