Character Counts at Work

It’s a classic scene from a movie: The crime boss orders a hit and the professional killer finds the target. He looks the victim in the eye and says, “Nothing personal. It’s just business.” I would argue that the situation is extremely personal for the guy that gets shot! It’s also deeply, personally affecting the ones who gave the order and the one who pulled the trigger. We cannot really separate what we do from who we are at the core, that is, our character.

So, assuming that you are not in such an extreme profession, it’s still important to remember that character counts on the job. Whether you’re president of a large organization or just starting out washing dishes at a restaurant, integrity, diligence and honesty are the keys to success and satisfaction at work.

It’s important to remember that character and integrity at work should not be based on external circumstances, but by inner convictions. Sometimes people tend to view a job or a task as being beneath their skill level or position and, consequently, to slack off on quality performance of that job or even refuse to do it. But character calls you to do every kind of work with excellence. Sometimes managers have to answer phones or mop floors. Doing so with courtesy, enthusiasm and attention to detail sets an example to the staff of a winning attitude.

When you find yourself in a situation of temptation, character counts a lot. If a customer accidentally pays $20 too much, what do you do? Are you willing to sell your integrity, reputation and self-respect for $20? The money is much less valuable than your character!

Character begins with identifying the values that are most important to you. Your life and work will never feel fulfilling if your actions don’t line up with your values. If you have never taken the time to clearly define what you value, ask yourself some questions: What issues are black and white, right or wrong, in my opinion? Whom do I respect, and what qualities to I respect them for? What are my priorities and moral convictions? Answering these questions thoughtfully will help you articulate your values and define your character. If you value honesty, make that a priority in your character. Then when the temptation to help yourself to a customer overpayment arises, you won’t have to fight an inner battle because the decision was already made to be honest.

I have, on occasion, talked with someone who was struggling with a dilemma because they possess strong character, but were asked by their employer to lie or deal underhandedly. In today’s tough market, that’s a genuinely difficult conundrum. I can’t tell you what to do, but I can assure you that if you remain in a situation in which you are chronically asked to violate your principles, you are likely to experience negative effects, such as stress, poor sleep, over-eating, anxiety, substance abuse, irritability, or even depression. Even worse, if you persist to the point where you don’t care that you’re compromising your values, you will deteriorate into a person you and others don’t like or respect.

We live in a world that seems to value expediency over ethics, so character stands out and rarely goes unnoticed by others. It’s often the reason someone rises to the top at work – because they are trusted and respected. Remember, you can’t truly separate your inner self from the way you conduct business. Respect yourself enough to develop good character!

Live, Work and Relate Well!

Dr. Todd

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