Hope Hicks had a tough job. In any administration, the communications director and press secretary are under constant pressure. Considering the turnover in these positions under the current administration, it would seem those jobs are even harder than usual right now. Hicks recently told Congress that she told some "white lies" in her time as Communications Director. But how do you judge the occasional white lie when your job IS spin? Show me a prior director who hasn't done the same or worse.

When I interview CEOs as part of YPO's 10 Minute Tips from the Top podcast, I always ask what their core values are. Many of them include integrity on their list. Sounds like a worthy inclusion!

But what is integrity, really? People like to think they have integrity, but it can mean something different to everyone.

Most people associate integrity with the following:

Honesty - Telling the truth.

Loyalty - Protecting or standing up for your people.

Transparency - Being open and not underhanded.

Consistency - Doing what you say you are going to do.

Morality - Doing the right thing ethically

The problem is that maintaining these elements can sometimes conflict even when intentions are honorable.

Here are examples of how these elements of integrity can come into conflict with each other:

1. What about those white lies?

Most people agree that lying is bad. Honesty and trustworthiness are important elements in any relationship, business or personal. But are all lies bad? Are they sometimes even required? Salespeople need to express enthusiasm for every client, even if they're not the largest or easiest client. If your spouse's favorite shirt isn't your favorite, do you need to tell them?

2. Can you be loyal to two conflicting forces?

What happens when two people to whom you feel deep loyalty come into conflict? For example, two of your friends simply do not get along, despite your best efforts. How should you react when they have a disagreement? If neither is wrong, or if both are at fault, it puts you in a difficult position as a friend and as a colleague.

3. What do you do when your friend does something wrong?

What do you do when your friend at work is bad at their job? Maybe he's a great colleague, a hard worker, and popular, and no one else recognizes that the slagging company performance falls squarely on his shoulders. You've talked to your friend directly about moving on from the position, but he needs the job to support his family. Now, someone else's job is at risk as a result of your friend's ineptitude. Do you go to your boss? Do you protect your friend and his family, or do you protect the other person? There's no easy answer.

4. Can you promise confidence to one, but transparency to another?

Imagine this scenario: you work in the same office as your friend's spouse. On a business trip, you accidentally discover that the spouse had a fling, and you're not sure if it will happen again. But the spouse is an otherwise excellent partner, dedicated parent, and terrific colleague. What do you do?

Published on: Mar 8, 2018
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