Part 3: Understanding integrity: How to demonstrate integrity

Integrity issues have received considerable media attention in recent times, at both the federal and state/territory levels. While the focus has mainly been on politicians and senior public servants, applicants for public service roles need to stay current on integrity-related developments.

Understanding integrity explores this subject in five articles:

Several parts provide additional resources for further guidance.

Part 3: How to demonstrate integrity

The Australian Public Service Commission provides a wealth of information about what integrity is and how you demonstrate it. The agency points out that it relates to conduct, both individual and collective, and includes:

  • ‘compliance with legislative frameworks, policies and practices, including those set by APS agencies – compliance ensures standards for integrity are being met.
  • a values-based approach that promotes ethical decision-making and reflection in how we undertake work as APS employees.
  • institutional integrity, where organisational systems, policies and practices are purposeful, legitimate and trustworthy.
  • pro-integrity culture, in which there is a positive, conscious effort to make integrity a central consideration of all activities.’

The APSC Fact Sheet on upholding integrity suggests APS employees:

  • ‘Do the right thing—integrity should be central to every action and every decision, every day.
  • Call out poor behaviour—do it in the moment if you feel safe to do so, or report it to your manager or HR. Don’t ignore it.
  • Support your peers—be available to help when you can; make it safe for colleagues to come to you with questions or concerns.
  • When in doubt, discuss. If you don’t know what is expected of you, if you’re not sure how the APS Values and Code of Conduct apply in a particular situation, if something doesn’t feel right—talk about it, e.g. with your manager, HR, or the Commission’s Ethics Advisory Service.’
How do you demonstrate integrity?

Many behaviours demonstrate integrity. They include:

  • admitting mistakes and learning from them
  • being dependable and keeping commitments
  • being accountable to team colleagues
  • giving credit to others for their success
  • sharing the spotlight
  • sharing in disappointments rather than blaming others
  • accepting constructive criticism
  • continuing to learn and grow
  • following and enforcing organisational rules, policies and ethical guidelines
  • meeting deadlines
  • showing consideration for others’ feelings
  • completing projects to a high standard
  • handling sensitive information with care and keeping things confidential
  • taking responsibility for actions
  • being respectful when communicating with others and during conflict
  • showing up ready for work
  • calling out poor behaviour
  • reporting unethical behaviour
  • when in doubt, discussing issues with others (see resources)
  • informing new colleagues about relevant integrity matters.

Situations and processes that involve ethical awareness and decision-making include:

  • Procurement
  • Financial instructions
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Gifts, benefits, hospitality
  • Second jobs and volunteering
  • Workplace behaviour
  • Alcohol and other drugs
  • Social media
  • Confidentiality of information
  • Union membership
  • Public interest disclosure
  • Criminal offences
  • Public comment.
Who demonstrates integrity?

All employees have responsibilities to demonstrate integrity. In addition to their obligations as individual APS employees, managers and supervisors have particular responsibilities in upholding integrity in the APS. These are:

  • Helping staff understand and apply the APS Values, Employment Principles and Code of Conduct.
  • Supporting employees to act with integrity.
  • Creating a psychologically safe workplace.
  • Addressing systemic issues.

People with specific roles to play are HR, members of the SES, and agency heads.

Management roles may ask for an ability to foster a productive working or pro-integrity environment. Part of this environment concerns one that promotes integrity. The Integrity Metrics Resource, while designed for organisations, gives details of elements that relate to integrity and how to measure them.

The Integrity Metrics Maturity Model offers three levels of maturity performance: Initial, Defined, and Optimised and over six pages of metrics. These metrics may not all be relevant, observable, or measurable, however they could provide ideas on what to look for to identify areas for improvement, capability development, and risk.

The Integrity Good Practice Guide has a section on measuring integrity performance, with five pages of Finance’s Integrity Metrics Register. Reading these pages can help applicants understand the many factors related to integrity and how they are contributing to a pro-integrity culture.

Developing a pro-integrity workplace is a strong focus of the APS, particularly for executive leaders. Applicants can gain insights into their own leadership by reading this material. This topic is explored in Part 4 of this series.

Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.