Integrity pays off — in your network

You have a conscience. You know what the right thing to do is. But the right thing is going to cost you. Do you still do the right thing?

Today I’m going to tell you how doing the right thing paid off for me in unexpected ways. Because it turns out that people notice integrity, and those are the people you want to be your friend.

Some times that integrity paid off

I once reported a questionable set of practices my colleagues were using to my company’s “whistleblower line,” which was set up for that purpose. It was designed to be anonymous, but I contacted the person in charge — the company’s head corporate counsel — without hiding my identity.

Not only did the company eventually ban the practice after an investigation, but the corporate counsel became a professional friend. Being an author in a company generates plenty of nonstandard types of contracts, and that friendship proved valuable as she reviewed those contracts.

In another instance, a client of my analyst firm complained to me that our salesperson was threatening various things (including cutting her off from briefing me or speaking to me in the future) if she didn’t renew her contract. This was an abuse of our sales practices and I assured her that what she was hearing wasn’t true.

Our relationship continued. I don’t know what happened to the sales guy, but my former analyst client is now a client of my editing business and a friend. Among other favors, she got me front-row seats to my son’s university graduation.

Once my boss attempted to pass off my work as his own. I complained and he was forced to back down. He eventually left the company, but the other people involved — including the head of PR and my coauthor — remain friends of mine.

Some sort of error caused stock options to be deposited in error to my account. I contacted the financial officer in charge of such things at the company and pointed out the problem. He ignored my complaint. Later he was let go for irregularities regarding stock options.

Learn from this

If you do the wrong thing for your own gain, not only will you have to live with it on your conscience, but people will learn and start to perceive you as dishonest.

Conversely, if you stand up for what is right and are honest, people notice. It may cost you some bucks in the short term, but in the long-term it pays off, because you get a reputation for honesty and integrity.

This is why I never rip off my clients, never take a job I can’t confidently do, and never take credit for the work of others. I want to be known as that kind of guy.

And after 40 years of working, I am.

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