[Ask Alice] Integrity and Work Ethic

Dear Alice: I struggle to respect coworkers who display a lack of integrity and work ethic. What can I do?

Alice Says: This is a tough one! I suspect you have high standards and it’s difficult to watch when others are less conscientious than you are.

Your question raises a host of questions on my part: Does the quality of their work have a direct effect on your own? If their performance directly or indirectly has a negative impact on yours, you need to address that with them on an individual basis. This worksheet on assertive “I Messages” can help you do that in a truthful and logical way.

If one or more of these individuals report to you, that’s a different story! My motto for the employee/employer situation is, “No surprises!” The employee needs to feel comfortable enough to let you know when something isn’t going well. Likewise, you need to be able to quickly let the employee know when work is sub-standard, and not save criticism for the annual review session. How often do you meet with each one?  Do they know what’s expected of them on a daily basis? Have you created a culture of productivity and performance in your own department? Do you offer praise for a job well done, in a manner that suits each person’s preference?

A previous post has a set of four questions to use for meetings with your individual direct reports. Using them pretty much guarantees that there will be no surprises on either side. Improved communication can increase trust, and increased trust can improve work performance, attitude, and engagement over time.

Does the culture of your organization support ethical behavior and high integrity like yours, or are rules and standard procedures often set aside? Does the leadership team display integrity and high ethical standards? Are your personal values and the values of your organization in conflict? If so, you may want to read this article in a previous newsletter.

If these measures don’t help, is it time to polish your résumé and move on?