Personal Integrity (Staying Sane in the Midst of Chaos)

One of the reasons I blogg is that somewhere, sometimes, someone breathes just a little bit easier because of what I write. This post is in response to a reader’s email on how to maintain personal integrity in a challenging workplace.

Office politics generally refer to power play and personality conflicts. People who hate the politics sometimes leave large companies. But for others, leaving is not a realistic option. How then do we go through each day maintaining personal integrity and sanity in the midst of chaos? Here are some suggestions.

1. Adopt a “personal integrity” hero

Remember those “What Would Jesus Do?” bumper stickers? They became popular for a reason. Christians used this to guide their actions when faced with tough choices in today’s world. Your hero may be someone else. Whoever you choose should serve as your model of personal integrity. Then imagine what your hero would do in your circumstances and try to do the same. .

2. Draw a boundary

Identify your non-negotiable values. For example, tell yourself that you will refuse to snitch on a colleague, or lie to a customer. If this boundary is crossed, your personal integrity would be compromised and you can’t live with yourself. Then, go along with whatever is needed as long as these core values are not challenged.

3. Decline to partake in gossip

Sometimes other people try to draw us into their personal politics. They put down another colleague, and try to get us to say something to the same effect. Refuse to be drawn into such office gossip. Any comment you make could be used, usually inaccurately, and attributed to you. You will then make enemies unknowingly. As a rule of thumb, never let negative comments about anyone leave your mouth.

4. Hang around models of personal integriry

One of the mistakes I made early in my working life was to hang around negative people. Their constant whining naturally affected my own attitude. In hindsight I should have spent more time with colleagues who were able to stay focused on what was important to the job and to themselves. Wise people find a way to keep their personal integrity in the midst of chaos, and being around them helps us do the same.

5. Make a fall-back plan

Decide in advance the point at which you would find it completely unacceptable to stay on. For example, when harsh criticism of your work crosses over to personal insults against you. Leave calmly when your limit is reached. This is much easier to do if you have a fall-back plan. Start creating multiple sources of income, so that in a few months or years you are in a stronger position to walk away from compromising situations. In the meantime, learn to survive the office politics.

Only you can protect your personal integrity

The above steps may not be easy to implement, but true personal integrity is hard-won. It takes strength and perseverance to swim upstream against the flow of negativity surrounding us. Here’s one of my favourite quotes to cheer you on your uphill path.

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any¬† human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

– e e cummings

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14 replies on “Personal Integrity (Staying Sane in the Midst of Chaos)”

Hi Victor,

Sounds like you have a challenging workplace, which sadly seems to be the norm these days. Glad you find that drawing boundaries and declining to play are possibilities for you. Yes, heroes are few and far between, and so valuable when we do find them! I hope things get better for you, and please do continue to be yourself – that’s a role in the world that only you can play and don’t let anyone take that from you!

Hi Daphne, wow , all so relevant to the situation at my workplace at the moment. “Drawing Boundaries” and “Declining to Play” are my favourites….as for “Adopting a Hero” there is no suitable one in my workplace….I will get one from elsewhere…. thanks for the post. Retaining my dignity ….”being myself” is so important in this day of the modern corporate world where people tend to be reduced to mere digits….

Hey Betsy,

You said it. Being impeccable with your word is so under-valued today yet so important. Reminds me of the English phrase “A gentleman’s word is his bond.” I absolutely agree with this!

“Declining to play” has been an important one for me – I think of it as letting go of the egoism of others. When you’ve been working to get beyond your own egoism, there’s no point in buying into anybody else’s!

@ Tamsin / Nudgeme,

You make my day as usual with your cheery, supportive comments. Over the last few years I realise how important values are, and how much they can simplify living and loving. All is truly good in my world, and I hope in yours too Tamsin!

@ Lana,

Thanks for your comments. I love your blog name – Daring Clarity. It’s true that it takes courage to see things clearly, since we may not always like what we see and it’s easier to filter things to look better. Glad you were inspired to keep writing your blog too!

@ Self Improvement Minded,

“Keep the company of the wise” is a great phrase. Thanks for sharing it.

@ Paul,

You said it so well. Once we see through the ego, whether our own or that of others, then it’s hard to keep engaging it because we see so clearly the futility of it all. Thanks for commenting here – you know how much every letter you type means to me.

Those were great points Daphne, thank you. And I so loved how you started that the reason you “keep blogging is that somewhere someone sometimes breathes just a little bit easier because of what I write.” Beautiful and very inspiring!

Great pointers on maintaining personal integrity Daphne, and always lovely to log on and see a post from you! Identifying your non-negotiable values is so right, especially if these are based on things that are really important to you. One can easily get pulled off course, and this is a good way to stay on track – makes it much easier to say yes and no to things and keep your focus on what really matters.

Thanks Daphne and hope all is good in your world!



Hi Daphne .. good points .. adopt a hero – yourself – ensure you smile, be kind, be open, be friendly ..
Draw the boundaries is a good one .. sometimes it’s so necessary to say “no” ..
Decline to play – could apply to families too ..
Tie up with wise, kind people and leaders, who are true ..
Limits – don’t go over the edge, or get stressed, or ‘ill’ with anxiety, ..
Learn to breathe and live life as it’s meant to be lived .. in peace with yourself and the world ..
Good to be back here .. Hilary

@ Lance,

Trust you to be the first to leave a comment! You’re such a lovely friend, full of integrity! I fully agree that hanging out with people is one of the easiest ways to absorb their attitudes and life views, which is why it’s so important to choose our friends carefully. That’s why so many people hang around your blog, I’m sure… you’re a wonderful filter for so many!

@ JD,

Great point about taking less energy to be ourselves in the long run… and that brings not only energy but also peace and power. I’m always grateful for your comment as I value your insights.

@ Hilary,

You’re right that all these points can definitely apply to family and even friends too. ‘Learn to breathe’ sounds so basic and yet so important – living life one breath at a time is so under-rated.

Beautiful distillations … heroes, boundaries, and buddies are the way to go.

It takes less energy to be yourself than be somebody you’re not, so it’s way more sustainable and fulfilling over the long run … and energy is our juice to go the distance.

Hi Daphne,
Number 4 is an important one for me. It’s so easy for other people’s attitudes to filter over into our own – even when we try not to let that happen. So, when I am around positive people, I find that I feel more positive myself. And that is a great place for me to be!

(and I love the e.e. cummings quote)

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