VOL. 133 | NO. 119 | Thursday, June 14, 2018
Keep Your Integrity Intact
Dr. Mary C. McDonald
The most important ingredient we bring to any job, in any profession, is not talent. It is our integrity. Integrity is being truthful to yourself and having the courage to do the right thing in spite of the personal or professional consequences. A person’s integrity speaks loudly through the behavior they engage in at work.
Some lapses in integrity can affect individual employees or the entire organization. All lapses affect the person who compromises his or her better judgment.
I have heard the excuses. Some say, “My boss told me to do it and I need this job.” For others, “Everybody takes office supplies home. Anyway, they don’t pay enough.” People spend a great deal of time convincing their ethical selves that their lapses in integrity are OK this one time.
Integrity, like any other trait, gets stronger with use. That’s why it is called practice when you continue to make ethical decisions in matters great or small. There will be times when the challenges to you, who you are and what you stand for, may be called into question, and it will take courage to withstand the temptation of compromising by taking the path of least resistance.
It isn’t often that we are affirmed when trying to be the best version of ourselves. But every now and then something happens that encourages us to keep going. I had that experience several years ago, and it was a defining moment in my life that has made a real difference.
As a school principal, I made the decision to expel a student for a very serious offense. The offense and its consequences were clearly outlined in the student handbook. More importantly, the offense negatively affected the core values of the schools, and my decision would send a clear message of what the school stands for, what we will and will not tolerate, and how we ensure a safe environment.
Then it began. There was a barrage of pressure to reverse my decision. It came from the student’s parents, their friends, people of influence in the city and within the organization. There were phone calls, emails, visits and letters. I would be the hero of second chances if I let the student stay. All of which was unimportant to me. What mattered to me was what the rest of the student body would learn, and that the offending student received the help needed. The pressure intensified and lasted for days.
Then, a few weeks after the expulsion, the student’s father returned to the school to talk to me. Reluctantly, I invited him into my office. He said, “I just came to tell you that if you had let my kid back into the school, I would have never respected you or the school again.” His words defined integrity.
At the end of the day, you have to live with yourself and the decisions you make. Despite consequences, or questionable compromises, your integrity is intact.
Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a National Education Consultant, can be reached at 901-574-2956 or mcd-partners.com.