Pins, Pride & Integrity

A Commentary by James A Graves, Jr.


Warren Buffett says that he hires people based on three key traits; Intelligence, Energy and Integrity, with Integrity being essential. That is good way to quickly size up an applicant. Intelligence and energy are subjective qualities, integrity is not; either you have it or you don’t.


However, I believe that the necessity for integrity goes both ways. Company integrity is just as vital as employee integrity. A company with managerial integrity will treat their employees with fairness and respect, and those traits will in turn be shown by their employees to their customers.


In Brigette Hyacinth’s Linkedin article, If you Treat Employees like they don't make a difference, they won't! she says, "If you don't show appreciation to those that deserve it, they'll learn to stop doing the things you appreciate."


According to the article, Ten Things People Want Most in Their Jobs by Joe Phelps (founder of California based The Phelps Group) the number one thing is; “Recognition for a job well done.”  He goes on to quantify that with a quote from Mark Twain, who said he could live for two months on a good compliment, and then continues, “It is widely known that recognition is the number one motivator of people.”


I wholeheartedly agree, but I would add, based on my observations, I believe most people also want to be proud of their employer and the job they do. I see that kind of pride reflected across a spectrum of jobs, from military & law enforcement, to service industries & professionals. That pride would not exist if the organization of which they are a part did not have integrity as a core value.


Organizational integrity, by its very nature, compels the fair treatment of employees and the timely recognition of their accomplishments. That, in turn, encourages employees to recognize their employer, and that recognition is also important; people wear suits, uniforms, hats and shirts with company or organization logos, badges, pins, rank insignia, etc. And those images matter. Companies and organizations are often known by their employees, and the public image of the organization is based on how those employees are perceived.


Employees also wear tokens of recognition, like longevity pins, for the same reasons; pride in themselves and pride in their employer.  When I was employed by a defense contractor, I wore my longevity pins, a tiny version of the company logo, on the front of my company ball cap.  The pins were a simple way to say ‘thank you for being a dedicated employee’ but they meant a great deal more to me; those pins meant that my employer had integrity, and that recognition of employees’ efforts was a priority. We mattered. 


After I moved into the federal workforce, I realized that organizational clothing, logos, badges and pins were only available at the Academy Bookstore, and at prices a bit out of my budget during my early career. But longevity pins were not forthcoming.


To some it may seem petty and selfish, but a series of longevity pins awarded during the first ten years of service would have made a significant difference in my morale. Instead, as time went by I found fewer and fewer reasons to be proud of my job, or my employer.


A marked lack of integrity displayed by upper management also played a significant role in my low morale. I once had a discussion about federal employee morale with a federal manager. He informed me that employee morale was not his problem.


I finally received my 15-year longevity pin during my 18th year, and my 20-year pin during my 20th year, which was the last one I received. Six years later, when I retired, my main regret was remembering my constant search for reasons to be proud of my job and my employer, and finding very little to show for my efforts.


Hall of Fame football coach, Tony Dungy said, “Integrity is the choice between what's convenient and what's right." It was quite obvious to me which choice upper management had made during my career.


I’m proud to have had the privilege of public service; it is an honor that I hold in high regard.  But if the reasons for pride in my job had been apparent, and had a banner existed, I would have been honored to carry and display it.


©2018 James A Graves, Jr.


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