in-teg-ri-ty (from Dictionary.com):
- adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
- the state of being whole, entire or undiminished.
- a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition.
I have always advocated that one should take responsibility and accountability for what one does, does not do and for what one says. We are not perfect, but that’s not the issue. In our imperfections, once we make a mistake or do something that isn’t right, we need to own it, apologize if need be and make it right. This is all rooted in the concept of personal integrity. This is what bothers me most: when one does not act with any integrity!
Today, living with any sense of integrity is not seen as a positive attribute. Actually it is seen as a weakness. The latest celebrity figure from our community who has manifested this lack of integrity is Olympic track and field star Marion Jones. These s/heroes from our community once were the standard, the model of hard work and personal integrity. Now they are just a reflection of the the lack of responsibility, lack of accountability and loss of personal integrity which the wider society now perpetuates…. and this wider society includes us! There are those we come in contact with every day, even some of us, who act with no sense of personal integrity. It’s not that we never had it, it’s not that our parents or grandparents never schooled us on theses values…. we’ve either lost it or sold out for selfish accolades and/or material trinkets.
“Integrity comes when character is tested; keep true and never be ashamed of doing what is right.”
I was faced with a situation where I was temporarily assigned as a supervisor towards the end of last year. I didn’t receive the customary supervisor’s pay for the first 2 months of this assignment. Why? Because my manager who is “white”, didn’t file the required paper work in time. It is policy that temporary increases in pay for acting supervisory assignments must be filed and approved before it starts. When I enquired about this at the time, my manager lied to me and said that he had filed the paperwork, but his manager who had to also approve it, had at first lost it and when he had filed the paperwork a second time, it sat on his supervisor’s desk and didn’t get approved in time. He assured me that I would receive all my supervisor’s pay in the next period. I didn’t make an issue of it at the time since I felt that getting the experience was beneficial enough at that point. After 6 months of performing supervisory duties, I was finally given my supervisors wage but it was retrograded to the start of 2007…. so I only received 4 months compensation. My manager informed me that I couldn’t get compensated for the first 2 months, since they were in 2006, in another fiscal period. hmmmm ok…
Because it was a temporary assignment, the paperwork for supervisor’s pay has to re-filed for every 3 month period. My manager again filed this paperwork late for the summer period that I had supervised…. he actually filed it at the end of the summer. For this reason, his manager refused to approve the late request for my supervisor’s pay, which I had already received, so I had my pay deducted! Now I got to find out that another colleague of mine, who is “white” and also on temporary supervisory assignment, had all his paperwork filed on time by this same manager and therefore received his due compensation… no problem. Subsequently, I also found out that my manager never filed the original paperwork so I could receive my supervisor’s pay for the first 2 months of my assignment!
My manager was informed the same time I was from our human resources department that my pay was being deducted. He never contacted me to explain or apologize for his negligence. There were a number of factors at work here and one of them is “racial”. I believe that subconsciously, my manager felt he had no responsibility to treat me fairly, explain his actions or apologize for his inaction, due to the colour of my skin. It’s a slave masters mentality…. he values my work, but he does not value me as a human being! So after a month I contacted him and made it known that this issue was not about the money, which I was no doubt entitled to, but for me it was now a matter of principle! So I asked him to explain why:
- I was being punished by having my pay deducted, for his not filing the required paperwork on time to extend my supervisory assignment over the summer period?
- Why I didn’t receive my supervisor’s pay right from the time I started the assignment as did my white colleague?
Needless to say this has caused a sh*t storm! My manager took no responsibility nor accountability for his failure to treat me fairly, or for lying to me…. and went on the offensive. He made it known, very strongly and in no uncertain terms, that he was disappointed in me for being so ungrateful for the opportunities he had provided me. He attempted to twist the whole affair around to make it my fault…. my problem…. and I was the one who was being unfair and he was the victim!
“Your integrity is your destiny. It is the light that guides your way.”
I now have a son. I have to be the primary example in his life of acting responsible and being accountable for what one does, doesn’t do and/or say. I have to teach him how to stand up for his principles, beliefs and values. I have to educate him on the fact that as a man, especially a Black man in a “white” dominated society, there are those who will try to take advantage of him, who will devalue him as a human being…. and expect him to be quiet and accept his “fate”. I have to impress upon him that you don’t need to “fight every fight” that comes your way…. you need to pick and choose your fights but you always fight for your principles. I have to be a role model to him on having personal integrity…. no matter what the cost.
I had other co-workers warn me that if I made an issue of this, if I confronted my manager as I had done, that it would seriously jeopardize my chances to get promoted. My reply is “what does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul”. Integrity resides within our soul. Once you lose your integrity, you lose your soul. They say everyone has a price. For Judas, like for some of us, it is 30 pieces of silver. For others it’s the opportunity to eat the scraps from “Massa’s” table. My integrity is not for sale.