INTEGRITY AND HONESTY

 

Definition

Instills mutual trust and confidence, creates a culture that fosters high standards of ethics, behaves in a fair and ethical manner toward others, and demonstrates a sense of corporate responsibility and commitment to public service.

Importance

 

Public service is a public trust.  Every public servant is vested with power and authority.  The highest obligation of every individual in government is to fulfill this basic trust with professional and personal integrity.  Public servants take an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” and the values which it proclaims of justice, equality, morality.  They further pledge to “well and fully discharge the duties…of office.”  Thus, in addition to faithful adherence to the ethical principles enjoined upon all honest and decent people, public employees have an additional duty to discern, understand and meet the needs of their fellow citizens.  They are pledged to ensure integrity in the products and services they provide, as well as provide fair and equitable access to them. 

Public servants must understand the larger context of their work, and the implications and consequences of what they do.  Their judgment and behavior must be built upon more than a list of rules.  They must have a clear understanding of and allegiance to the moral standards they have taken an oath to uphold.  Only in this way can Government leaders hope to find a guide in times of ambiguity, be able to choose among tough choices between competing claims, and to find the ethical balance between risk and responsibility.  This understanding of the principles and values are our Government’s link to credibility and legitimacy and to maintaining the public’s confidence. 

How is This Competency Demonstrated?

 

Fair and ethical behavior and following through on commitments and promises are integral to the ability to build trust.  They are prerequisites to being effective in all roles in government service.  These competencies and/or behaviors are closely allied to the concept of “servant leadership” and are needed from the foundational roles through the executive level.  If one is not ethical and trustworthy, one cannot be placed in any position of trust.  One should not even be considered to become a team leader without having demonstrated the integrity, honesty and trustworthiness to have and maintain a position of public trust.  Individual at all levels with integrity and honesty demonstrate high moral values in word and deed, demonstrate accountability for preserving the integrity of products and services, and build trust through reliability and authenticity.  They meet formal ethical requirements, maintain confidentiality as appropriate for personal and/or organizational information, and refrain from spreading gossip, rumor, and false information.  They understand and adhere to ethical standards for public officials, demonstrate belief in the concept of human dignity, and understand the Constitution, our system of government, and what the Oath of Office requires of public officials.  At all levels, individuals with integrity and honesty show moral courage by doing the right thing even when it is not popular or by expressing dissent when actions or pending decisions would violate organizational and/or constitutional values, laws, and regulations.  In addition, they confront unethical behavior in others.

First appointment leaders, mid-level leaders and senior leaders must understand the legal and ethical framework of the civil service and must create a climate that supports integrity and honesty and that sets the ethical tone for the work units.  They must articulate that all government workers are the stewards of the public trust.  First appointment leaders, mid-level leaders and senior leaders should recognize and support honesty, integrity and ethical behavior of employees, confront unethical behavior in others, hold individuals/units accountable for failures of integrity and honesty, and act consistently with espoused values, even when it might be difficult or unpopular.  They must ensure the integrity of accounting and performance data, inspire others through actions as well as words, encourage and support discussions about ethical issues, interpret ethics regulations for others in a way that meets both the letter and the spirit of the law, and provide counsel to others facing ethical dilemmas in the workplace. 

The Executive must articulate public service values and the meaning of the Oath of Office under the Constitution and ensure that the Civil Service is responsive to elected leaders and faithful to Constitutional values and processes.  They should create an organizational culture that fosters high standards of ethics, service and honor and establish procedures, policies, standards, and training that support an organizational “moral compass.”  Executives should inspire others to act at the highest level of honesty and integrity and work with all responsible to develop and implement ethics regulations that embody the spirit of public service.

Elements of the Competency and Distinguishing Behaviors

 

Element

Distinguishing Behaviors

Exhibits personal and organizational Integrity and Honesty.

FOR ALL EMPLOYEES:

  • Finds a sense of purpose in the larger mission and finds value and personal satisfaction in the intrinsic rewards of service.
  • Practices “servant leadership,” and serves out of concern for the well-being of others and the good of our nation and communities.
  • Understands the larger context of one’s job, its implications, and consequences.
  • Defends what’s right with courage and fortitude.
  • Deals effectively with pressure.
  • Acts as a good steward of all public resources.

ADDITIONAL FOR FIRST APOINTMENT, MID-LEVEL & SENIOR LEADERS AND ABOVE:

  • Models commitment to service.
  • Communicates and acts in concert with the understanding that public service has an ultimate responsibility to the customer, rather than the institution.
  • Does not sacrifice trust and integrity to expediency, even under pressure.
  • Does not make inappropriate decisions for personal gain, to include career advancements.

ADDITIONAL FOR EXECUTIVES:

  • Demonstrates public service as a higher calling and an honorable profession, both through personal example as well as through the principles that visibly guide the organization one leads.
  • Inspires others to act at the highest level of honesty and integrity.
  • Can be counted on to act with courage and consistency with espoused values, even when it might be unpopular, or personally inconvenient to do so.
  • Does not yield to inappropriate personal or group requests for favors or sacrifice integrity to political pressure.
  • Does not compromise on values or principles.
  • Creates an organizational culture that fosters high standards of ethics, service and honor.
  • Ensures that agency purpose and direction are clearly and transparently service inspired.

Acts to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution through the practice of formal ethical requirements and the demonstration of high moral values. 

FOR ALL EMPLOYEES:

  • Demonstrates loyalty to the Government and citizens of the U.S. by fulfilling, “well and faithfully,” the highest obligations of service.
  • Understands and implements the principles and inherent responsibilities of democracy.
  • Understands the constitutional, political, legal and regulatory environment for government.
  • Demonstrates leadership whatever one’s level of authority might be.
  • Expresses dissent when actions or pending decisions would violate organizational and/or Constitutional values, laws, and regulations.

ADDITIONAL FOR FIRST APPOINTMENT, MID-LEVEL & SENIOR LEADERS AND ABOVE:

  • Holds others accountable for issues of integrity and honesty and duty.
  • Encourages and supports conversations about ethical issues and provides counsel to those facing such dilemmas.
  • Brings in expert sources to help clarify issues, legal requirements and thought processes in ethical decisions.
  • Understands the legal and ethical framework of the civil service and does not transgress against it, even when it might seem to offer some benefit to the project or program.
  • Seeks the input of legal and ethical advisors when not clear how such framework must be applied in a given context.
  • Ensures appropriate oversight and control over hiring practices, procurement and contracting.

ADDITIONAL FOR EXECUTIVES:

  • Expresses the values of trust, respect, and responsibility that hold democracy together, and uses these to conceive and articulate the goals of the agency, and to unite employees in the pursuit of honorable, selfless service to others. 
  • Ensures that the civil service is responsive to elected leaders and faithful to Constitutional values and processes.
  • Develops and implements ethics regulations that embody the spirit of public service.
  • Ensures that the Agency has the information, expert advice and other support it needs to act using the full breadth allowable, yet transgressing neither against public perception of what is right nor against the law itself.

Acts in a just, fair, and ethical manner and encourages ethical behavior among others. 

FOR ALL EMPLOYEES:

  • Acts out of motivation to do the right thing, rather than out of pleasure, fear, inclination, habit, peer approval, or social or political pressure.
  • Treats all others with respect and fairness, and openly, consistently challenges bias, intolerance, and incivility.
  • Neither participates in nor condones offensive or discriminatory behavior.
  • Does not join cliques that practice offensive and exclusionary behavior.
  • Recognizes and avoids mental models, ego, and other blind spots which might cloud understanding of fair and just.
  • Makes fair judgments based on merit.
  • Uses control over resources and other sources of power as a means to do good.
  • Is forthright with self and others about one’s own mistakes.

ADDITIONAL FOR FIRST APPOINTMENT, MID-LEVEL & SENIOR LEADERS AND ABOVE:

  • Creates a climate that supports integrity and honesty in the organization, through personal example but also through processes and procedures that reward and encourage ethical behavior.
  • Understands diversity and inclusiveness as sources of strength and acts accordingly in hiring, development, group organization, and decision making.
  • Fairly distributes opportunities and benefits across the entire team/group.
  • Sets team goals and develops procedures dedicated to serving internal and external stakeholders.
  • Ensures that individuals/ teams and units receive appropriate rewards and recognition for good work.
  • Bases reward and recognition decisions on merit and outstanding service, not on expediency.
  • Confronts unethical behavior in others.
  • Offers honest, useful feedback and identifies people’s needs for development
  • Ensures that all employees have training adequate to prepare them for competent and ethical performance.

ADDITIONAL FOR EXECUTIVES:

  • Establishes procedures and policies that support an organizational moral compass-- teaching the principles of integrity and honesty, setting clear and explicit standards of behavior, and ensuring aggressive and visible commitment to observing these standards.
  • Serves as a role model inspiring others to emulate integrity, honesty, justice, respect and civility.

Inspires trust and confidence among stakeholders through reliability, authenticity, and accountability. 

FOR ALL EMPLOYEES:

  • Holds self accountable for preserving the integrity of products and services, and meeting the highest standards of quality and safety.
  • Uses actions to let others know one's values and principles, intentions and feelings, and acts in ways that are consistent with them.
  • Holds self accountable for meeting objectives and keeping commitments; follows through.
  • Takes on a fair share of the work.
  • Does not make promises that are expedient but cannot be kept.
  • Keeps organizational and personal information confidential when required and/or appropriate.
  • Corrects problems promptly and non-defensively.
  • Shows allegiance to meaningful work, using one’s time and agency resources fully in support of the welfare and safety of citizens.
  • Is open to candid feedback, new perspectives, continuous learning, and self-development.
  • Shows moral courage – does the right thing even when it is not popular.
  • Refrains from spreading gossip, rumor, and false information.

ADDITIONAL FOR FIRST APPOINTMENT, MID-LEVEL & SENIOR LEADERS AND ABOVE:

  • Implements programs, policies and procedures that maximize trust and confidence both within the group, as well as between the group and its internal and external stakeholders.
  • Supports personnel-, training-, procedural- and technological strategies that ensure competent, reliable and appropriate service and products to others.
  • Addresses poor performance among team and group members.
  • Makes decisions and the thinking behind them transparent to those affected by them.
  • Gets beyond bureaucracy, jargon and red tape in service to the customer.
  • Listens to experts and assesses the ethics of risk before making decisions of critical importance.
  • Ensures the integrity of accounting and performance data through good data collection and analysis systems.
  • Maintain confidentiality and protect the privacy of employees, customers, and other members of the public.
  • Keeps the confidence of performance discussions, mentoring, and personal issues raised by the employee.

ADDITIONAL FOR EXECUTIVES:

  • Inspires public appreciation for, confidence, and a trust in the necessary work of government both through personal example and Agency policies, procedures, products and services that deserve such appreciation, confidence and trust.
  • Ensures accountability throughout the Agency.
  • Ensures that the Agency is well aligned in its culture and processes to serve the public through demonstrated expertise and commitment to service goals.
  • Provides accurate, current and understandable information to policy makers and citizens, exposing the implications of choice in an unbiased fashion.
  • Ensures that plans, resources and decisions reflect the organization’s focus on public service.

 

Back to the Foundational Leader Competencies