Is Honesty The Policy?
Different Situations May Blur Your Vision
Is honestly always the best policy or are some things best left unsaid? Can there be more than one version of the truth? When is whistle-blowing the right thing to do and when does it break confidence and trust?
There`s a lot of talk about integrity, ethics and values these days. Sometimes the loss of integrity is obvious such as knowing that a business owner or company keeps two sets of books. Other times it`s less obvious but nonetheless troubling like when individual says “do as I say, not as I do” or “we don`t like it either but that`s just the way everyone does business today”. And then there are the subtle activities that can cause us to question other people`s integrity – calling in sick to go shopping or surfing the internet when the boss isn`t looking.
Is the talk about integrity mostly hot air? When was the last time a whistleblower walked away with a golden parachute that set them up for life? (Contrast this to the millions, even billions of dollars, that many top-level executives escape with.) Are executives and managers and employees really ready to walk the walk, or just talk the talk?
If you think you`re ready, can you pass these tests? Does your organization espouse quality service to your customers, but you tolerate and retain employees who can`t deliver or don`t deliver? Isn`t that dishonest? Aren`t you willingly and knowingly deceiving the public about your ability to satisfy them? If you hire people who knowingly steal, are intolerant of people of different colors and religion, can you honestly say that you are acting with integrity?
Where do you draw the line between embellishing features and benefits for marketing purpose and deceiving the consumer? What obligation do you have to tell the truth when information was shared in confidence? When is “let me check with my manager” after the sales person tells you “this is my best and final offer” a lie? When is concealing confidential information lying and when is it ethical? Is someone who “just says it like it is” honest? And the individual who knows the truth but shows respect and compassion by saying “there`s a time and there`s a place for everything…and now is not the time” deceitful? Where do you draw the line and how is it drawn in your business?
A Breach of Confidence?
During an intense meeting of senior executives, very sensitive information about future plans was being discussed. The chief executive officer reiterated more than once that “under no circumstances, does any of this information leave this room.”
That night, while having dinner with his wife, Jack tells her about his day at work. Jack and Marcia, his wife, are childhood sweethearts and married for nearly twenty-five years. They share everything and have no secrets between them. Deeply religious, a loyal and conscientious employee, and inspirational father and husband, Jack tells Marcia, “you can`t tell anyone, not even your mother about this.” And Jack begins to tell Marcia about what he learned during his day at work.
Does this breach of confidence mean that Jack lacks integrity/ Did he violate a code of ethics? If he didn`t share the information with his wife, was he being disloyal to and dishonest with his wife?
The example of Jack and Marcia is just one example of countless situations when one person follows his conscience and another person considers that very action unethical and a breach of trust.
Integrity is not something you do.
Integrity is something you earn (or lose) from others by your actions. Integrity is about other people trusting you. Do you believe the politician just because he proclaims “I`m a man of integrity” or do you evaluate his proclamation based on actions? Only other people can tell you if you have integrity.
Judy Suiter, co-author of the Universal Language Book and Exploring Values: The Power of Attitudes emphasizes that the reward for acting with integrity is endorsement.
Suiter says that when people are given endorsement, the “law of reciprocity” kicks in and they want to give something back. In the workplace what they give back is performance.
Integrity is all about doing what you say you will do when you said you would do it. Do you and your employees act with integrity? Would your customers and employees or managers agree that you are trustworthy and conscientious?
Here is a quick Integrity audit:
- Do you tend to hold back and qualify everything?
- Do you ever try too hard or become so enthusiastic that you over-promise to make a sale?
- Don`t speak up when you should?
- Do you find yourself saying what you need to say just to get through a meeting?
- Do you say things just to go along and not cause trouble?
- Do you say what needs to be said and not sugar-coat it?
- Do you ever embellish the truth?
- Do you forward materials that you promised?
- Do you ever want to help so much that you put yourself in impossible situations?
- Do you intend to get to things but never have time?
- Do you have trouble admitting mistakes?
- Do other people ever get blind-sided because you don`t warn them?
- Do other people ever think you know more than you let on?
- Do you have a tough time keeping a secret?
- Do you have a special someone with whom you have no secrets?
Are you ready to face the music?
Do your employees and managers even understand the differences between integrity and honesty, ethics and values? Does your organization encourage acting with integrity or do you have managers who consider openness and honesty as disharmonious and disruptive?
Before you can build endorsement, you need to act with integrity. In order to act with integrity, other need to trust you. To build trust, you must understand how others perceive you. To understand how others perceive you, you must first understand yourself – your behaviors, attitudes, values, and motivations and how these traits impact the emotions of other people.
By understanding your own traits and viewpoints, you can begin to learn how to meet others where they are. By meeting others in a behavioral language that they understand, you get done what you need to get done. Without this meeting there is no endorsement and without endorsement in the workplace, distrust infects relationships. Distrust is contagious and without it poor performance, low morale and stress become rampant.
Integrity is a precious commodity these days. It is also a very strong competitive advantage. We hear a lot of talk about integrity, ethics and values but many organizations and the people within them are just stumbling and tripping over their own words.
It`s time to be honest with yourselves. Without integrity nothing else really matters.
Ira S. Wolfe is founder of Success Performance Solutions. He is the developer of CriteriaOne™, the Whole Person Approach to matching, managing and motivating employees. To subscribe to his free weekly e-newsletter the TotalView, firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about CriteriaOne and other pre-employment and training assessment and programs, contact Ira at 717.656.4632, e-mail him at email@example.com.