I AM sure that from an early age people have told you to be honest and truthful. Even in my entrepreneurial life, the best piece of advice I have ever been given was when someone very successful told me that to be effective, I must always conduct myself with integrity.
Author C.S Lewis said, “…integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching” and management guru Stephen R. Covey asserted that “…moral authority comes from following universal and timeless principles like honesty, integrity, treating people with respect”.
However, integrity seems to be a rare commodity in current times. The occurrences of prominent figures losing their integrity through lying or stealing or infidelity, seems to be at an all-time high.
We have witnessed the likes of politicians, celebrities, religious figures, and a wide range of people who have held esteemed positions fall from grace due to a lack of honesty.
Perhaps to a lesser extent, in your own life, there have been instances where you have hidden the truth, or failed to admit your mistakes, or walked dangerously down the path of duplicity. I know I have had to deal with these situations.
Why do people waver even though they know that integrity is so necessary?
In 2015, Oliver Sheldon, an expert in organisational behavior at Rutgers University, and Ayelet Fishbach, a social psychologist at the University of Chicago, studied the dynamics that impact self-control in ethical decision-making.
The researchers created experiments to examine the thoughts that occur in people just before they made an ethical decision.
They then recorded the behavior of groups of participants during the exercise after the individuals were given different combinations of prompts, designed to activate thoughts of either past temptation or social and moral integrity.
They learned that forewarning the participants did help them prepare to proactively offset the influence of any ethical temptations on their behavior.
An interesting pattern emerged through this research.
It seems that if you successfully recall a previous transgression, it is a little less likely that you will repeat your mistake.
This led them to propose that if you actively think about your past actions, it helps you better anticipate any temptation of doing something dishonest.
But this recall technique does not necessarily prevent you from being dishonest.
The second pattern that emerged is that even when people anticipate temptation, they are less likely to resist if they think their decision will have no impact on their future integrity, social acceptance, or self-image.
This means that if people think they can get away with doing something dishonest and not get caught, they might still do it.
I figure this is why we all succumb, sometimes
In her book, “Integrity; Doing the Right Thing for the Right Reason”, Barbara Killinger, a clinical psychologist, suggests that integrity is a personal choice. It is an internal guide or state of being that leads you to making decent, honourable choices, and intelligent ethical decisions.
I know from experience that behaving with integrity a top priority, especially if you want to progress in your work-life.
For example, I usually meet organisational leaders before I start any leadership coaching for members of their team. In this meeting I try and find out what results they want. Leaders consistently place reliability, trustworthiness, and honesty as their highest requirements for their staff.
This past week, I appointed two new senior members of staff to the food and beverage division in my company. While I examined communication ability and problem-solving acumen, my primary focus was to figure out how much personal integrity they both have.
I know that for the success of my business, I need team members with a strong work ethic that is founded on uprightness.
Therefore, one of my first tasks upon selecting them was to ask them to answer these questions below, at the end of every work day, so that they remind
themselves of how important being upright is.
Did you "neglect to tell the truth" at any time today?
Did you say “Yes” when you really should have said “No”?
Did you promise to do or commit to something, and then didn't deliver?
Did you mislead someone by agreeing to do something in less time than is realistic?
Did you consider the impact of your behaviour on other people before you acted?
Were you understanding, rather than judgmental, with a colleague?
Were you too critical, impatient, impulsive or rigid in any of your interactions?
Were you controlling, and not open to different ways of doing the same thing?
After listening to others' input, did you willingly share responsibility, co-operate, or delegate?
Did you consider the equitable, ethical, and moral implications of your choices?
How would you rate your self-control today?
Did you resist a temptation to do something unethical, or to act improperly?
How strong is your sense of duty as revealed in your behavior today?
Did you do the "right thing" despite the fear of negative consequences?
Do you have integrity?