There was a time I considered integrity a given; a man’s word was his bond and most people had personal integrity. Similar to thinking everyone in the world has the same value system, same code by which they live and make decisions for their lives. Unfortunately that is not the case.
In the past year several public figures and entities have fallen from grace due to their lack of integrity: John Edwards, Bernard Madoff and Claremont McKenna College officials who lied about its students’ SAT scores to boost its position in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of colleges to name a few. Our economic situation has brought to light questions of integrity as it pertains to large financial institutions, big business, and politicians. Have we become a nation that lacks integrity or are our expectations simply out of touch with reality?
A common theory is that people want to fit in, be seen as successful or become famous and will sacrifice their integrity to do so. Corporate Attitude Strategist Kevin Burns sees it this way, “Anyone who gives up their personal integrity in the workplace in order to fit in really doesn’t seem to stand for anything. I mean, how could you? If you are prepared to give up your personal integrity in order to be liked and in order to fit in then you really don’t have anything that you stand for do you?”
In the workplace, home and relationships, integrity works. Why does it work? Because integrity is tied into everything that makes people feel valued, safe and good about themselves. And when people feel good about themselves in a grounded, non-superficial way they are more productive, more creative, more responsive, and in turn want to do their best to make others feel good also. When integrity exists you can say goodbye to the mob mentality that tells you in order to fit in you must take on the attitudes, opinions and beliefs of everyone else. That sort of thinking reminds me of high school, not adult America.
So where are you on the integrity scale? Take the following quiz I found on www.cheatingculture.com and see how you score.
1. You’re a young lawyer who could lose your job if you don’t bill enough hours. All your colleagues are padding their hours. Do you pad yours?
2. Your next-door neighbor offers to hook you up with free cable television. Do you take the offer?
3. You’re an accountant who discovers that a company you’re auditing is inflating its earnings. Your boss says to go along or you’ll be fired. Do you comply?
4. You move to a state where auto insurance is sky-high. Do you keep your car registered at your old address?
5. You’re a CEO with a chance to make $100 million by cooking the books. The worst penalty you could face is two years in a country club prison – and you could keep the $100 million. Do you cook the books?
6. A friend offers you a dirt-cheap illegal sublet in a prime apartment building with a waiting list. Do you take the offer?
7. You don’t have enough money to pay your taxes at the end of the year. Your accountant recommends some made-up deductions, saying the IRS doesn’t audit anyone these days. Do you go along?
8. You’re a minor league baseball player trying to make the majors. Most of your teammates are taking steroids to hit better. Do you also dope?
9. An HMO denies a certain treatment to a patient under your care. Do you lie to the HMO to make the patient’s condition seem worse so they will get the treatment they need?
10. You’re a car salesman paid on commission. All the other salesmen are saying that the next shipment of the hot new model everyone wants is due in three weeks – when it’s really six weeks. Do you also say three weeks?
Ethically Challenged – if you answered yes to all questions.
An Ordinary American – if you answered yes to half the questions.
A Saint – if you answered no to all questions.
Why not make integrity matter in 2012!
“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.” – W. Clement Stone