Over the years, integrity has become something that every business likes to talk about and work towards. Some organisations have roles that are specifically dedicated to enforcing ethical business practices and monitoring non-compliance.
Integrity is a core value for many organisations and it is likely you will find a visual of some kind referencing integrity in almost every company.
The bigger the organisation, the more of an uphill task it is likely to become maintaining integrity across the business.
Things get more complicated as the number of employees increase, processes become more complex and the business expands to include different service lines.
While things like fraud, kickbacks, direct conflicts of interest especially in procurement and tax evasion may immediately come to mind when we think of lack of business integrity, we should consider what integrity really is in our day to day interactions at work.
Integrity is essentially doing the right thing even when no one is watching. Integrity also means standing for what is right regardless of any political pressures within the organisation to conform to the status quo.
Sometimes, employees witness things in the business that are not right but are too afraid to call them out because of a lack of proper reporting mechanisms, a reporting system that is dysfunctional or simply because they do not want to risk being viewed as trouble makers.
Evaluating the integrity levels within your organisation beyond the common focus areas such as fraud requires a high degree of commitment. Some measures that are rarely considered but that definitely tell a story on the integrity levels include the following:
Tolerance for Bullying
It’s really sad that we did not leave bullies in the school playground but they grew up just like we did and followed us to our workplaces. If there are no consequences for bullying, the organisation culture begins to crumble. It’s easy for bullies to hide behind a lack of structure and lack of independent escalation so it’s critical that these are in place. The integrity element comes in where there is a policy in place stating that bullying will not be tolerated but bullies in the organisation continue to thrive.
One of the riskiest things to do that eventually leads to a complete breakdown in trust between the organisation and its employees is making promises without ensuring that they are feasible. While it can be tempting to do this in a bid to turbo charge performance, promising employees’ specific rewards and not honouring them is worse than remaining silent. A culture of integrity starts at the top and it is important that any promise made is honoured.
Discriminative Recruitment Processes
An organisation that indicates it is an equal opportunity employer but proceeds to eliminate the top candidate for a position because she is a woman who appears to be expecting a baby should re-evaluate its stand. The possible return on investment from the hire may far outweigh the paltry maternity cost that the business will incur. Being an equal opportunity employer means living up to it even when it’s difficult.
Leave days not honoured
When the policy and employment contracts indicate that everyone is entitled to the minimum stipulated leave days as required by law but taking time off is a real problem especially for star performers, businesses may need to truly reflect on what the right thing to do is. I think what’s worse is when star performers are unable to proceed on leave later on due to the policy prohibiting carry forward of leave days, despite the fact that their leave requests during the year were not approved.
At the end of the day, integrity is doing the right thing not only when no one is watching but also when doing the right thing may have a perceived unfavourable impact on the organisation or be highly inconvenient for the business. In the long run, doing the right thing enforces the right behaviour and drives a great culture which will be a strong competitive advantage for any business to deliver growth and great business results.