character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking.
There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.
Being a critical citizen like me you will probably agree with me that it is almost common to find situations or incidents that erode your confidence in institutions. Regularly the media reports on yet another government official such as a politician, police officer, mayor, judge, or member of the management of a local or central government official that overstepped the boundaries. More recently we have seen the attention to use of perks and all kinds of compensations for Members of Parliament. Rightfully citizens require integrity of the actions of or politicians, and worryingly all too often the opposite is exposed. Professions that have traditionally been held in high esteem such as lawyers, doctors, accountants, brokers, pharmacists are also showing members who let their own personal interests prevail where the client’s interests should have been at the centre of their attention. It is no different in the corporate world. On a regular basis we see media reports on how corporations, companies, businesses are involved in fraud and corruption: selling unsuitable products, making false claims about products or business opportunities, negligent care of environmental obligations or responsibilities. The reputation and trustworthiness of the organisation is directly at stake in such instances.
We have a tendency to bring it all back to the ‘black sheep’ within an organisation. Integrity is a personal trait so when bad things happen it has to do with personal choices that harm the organisation. This to some extent reflected in laws even where the idea of “intent” of an organisation is deemed to be impossible so it will necessarily be brought back to the individuals behind unethical or even illegal behaviours. Integrity however, is not a trait that can only be attributed to individuals but also to organisations. Is it not true that we already judge organisations on their integrity; employees, consumers, shareholders and society as a whole, or stakeholder groups within society. There is a tendency to look at people in relation to integrity. It is in my view important to note that integrity is also a quality that can be attributed to the ‘system’ in which people function. Where the system is sick, anyone dealing with the system will ultimately be ‘infected.’ Where the integrity of persons is subject of attention, the integrity of the organization will also need to be taken into consideration.
With that said can one but conclude that integrity management is important for organizations?
It’s easier to cope with a bad conscience than with a bad reputation.
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