Maintaining Integrity in Compromising Work Situations

I think we can all agree that displaying integrity in a situation is not always the easiest thing to do. Doing what is right is not always easy – but it is right.

There are many potential compromising situations in the workplace. If I were to list all the ones that I can think of from my experience, I guarantee it would spark you to think of two or three more. 

As many permutations as there are in relationships, the same opportunities apply to compromising workplace scenarios: employee to employee, employee to vendor, employee to customer, senior leader to employee, senior leader to shareholder… and the list goes on and on. Those relationships can get caught up in lies, misuse of money, misstatement of the facts, abuse of power, etc.   

So, what do you do when you find yourself in a situation that is compromising to you from an integrity standpoint? Here’s the situation that I find myself in most often:

As a project leader, I’ve been asked to misstate – or embellish – the facts of progress or spin the truth in order to appease a senior leader. I also have the personal pull to tell the story of a challenge that paints my actions in a rosier view than I should. No matter where that pressure comes from, it doesn’t encourage me to come from a place of truth.

A couple of things I know for sure about truth:

1. The truth always comes out. The truth always comes out. The truth always comes out. No matter how long it goes hidden in the dark, it will eventually come to light. 

2. Bad news doesn’t get better with time like wine. Delaying sharing the truth or allowing someone else to tell it on your behalf makes it worse, not better.

3. If someone asks you to not be truthful, chances are they are not being truthful to you about why they need you to be less than honest. Always ask yourself what they could be hiding.

4. Telling the truth is freeing. Once you say “I messed up”,  you have the opportunity to improve the reality and shoot for a better outcome. 

5. Telling one untruth about a situation will require the telling of a new untruth. Or, one lie begets two lies, begets three lies… and so on and so on. 

6. Telling the truth, even when it doesn’t paint the role that you played well, will help you sleep better at night. You can save yourself those moments of anxiety when you worry that someone might figure out that a detail you provided is not 100% true.

7. You will lose the trust of your team members who know the real story. I am always disappointed when I learn that a teammate is bending the truth. It makes me wonder- ‘What else have they been less than truthful about?’ Even if this was your first time being untruthful, your integrity will be questioned moving forward.

8. The truth might allow someone to do something to fix the situation altogether, but we have cheated them out of that opportunity by being untruthful.

Yes, sometimes it will feel easier to misstate one or two little things that might not paint you or your team in the best light. Hopefully, the eight things that I shared about being truthful in compromising work situations will inspire you to share the facts in the best way possible, even when it makes you or your team seem less than perfect. And that takes courage.

I’d rather be courageous versus scared anyway.


Holloway Consulting Group is an Atlanta-based firm helping corporate technology teams all over the world set goals, create plans, and solve complex problems. We aim to service organizations through our training, coaching, and project management programs. Visit our website to schedule a call with our team today!

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