What does it take to be a great co-worker? 

Well, truthfully, lots of things but being honest and acting with integrity are two key traits that certainly help. Now they certainly are nice words and it sounds like a good idea, but what does being honest in the workplace really entail? What does it look like in practice?

Here are a couple of examples:

Be honest with your words – Part I. When you say you will do something, do it. When you say you will be there, arrive on time. Return phone calls, respond to emails, treat people with respect. These are all examples of honest behavior, of acting with integrity. Sure, there are other reasons to act this way, but simply because it is the honest thing to do is reason #1.

Be honest when you make a mistake. If you make a mistake, own it. It’s as simple as that. We’re all human; mistakes get made, and in your career, you’ll make at least one! Trying to cover it up or shift blame to someone else is a surefire way to make people mad and get a bad reputation for yourself. Your manager and coworker’s will appreciate your honesty when it comes to owning up to a mistake. Any fallout will be easier to handle when a mistake is resolved quickly and honestly.

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Be honest with your words – Part II. We hope it’s obvious that engaging in gossip is a no no. Likewise, don’t repeat things that were told to you in confidence, and for goodness sake, don’t reveal anything legally confidential.

Be honest with your words – Part III. When you are asked for your opinion, be honest but tactful, and always consider who is asking the question. If your manager or other senior team member asks you how someone is performing, or whether a coworker is doing their fair share, be honest. But if another coworker or someone who doesn’t have a good reason asks, it’s generally best not to answer. See the answer above on avoiding gossip.

Be honest when it comes to company policies. Padding your expense account, lying about sales figures, or misreporting your hours; these things can get you in trouble, even fired. But showing up late, making excessive personal phone calls, taking office supplies home, these are wrong too. They may not get you fired, your boss may not even know, but if your coworkers see you doing these things, it probably won’t sit well with them. It tarnishes your reputation and could make people wonder what else you might be doing, or not doing. A reputation for honesty is easy to lose and hard to recover – don’t risk it.

Be honest when it comes to the law. If someone is doing something detrimental to your company, something dangerous or even illegal, you need to speak up. Go through the proper channels, report it to a superior, the personnel department, or an ethics office or hotline if there is one. But report it. Honesty is the best policy, and the bigger the stakes, the more critical honesty is.

These are just a few examples of how honest behavior manifests itself in the workplace. And as you can see, it ranges from small, seemingly inconsequential matters to larger, more important issues. But what doesn’t change is letting honesty be your guiding principle. Acting this way will rarely lead you astray. Establishing yourself as an honest individual, one who can be trusted to do a good job and say the right thing, will help you to be a great coworker and a great employee. And a company made up of honest individuals, conducting themselves with integrity, is a company that people will want to do business with.

If all the other reasons aren’t good enough, remember this one – being honest is good for business!

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