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Whatever Happened to Integrity?


Thirty years ago, I was a banker. It was a very different time then. Banks and bankers had a reputation for being honest and truthful. Today banks and financial institutions are the least trusted institutions in the global economy. Only 50% of the public trusts banks and financial institutions. What happened? It’s an integrity issue that today permeates more than just banks and financial institutions.

Integrity (in·teg·ri·ty) is defined as: The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.

Business integrity includes:

  • Meeting Commitments – Examples include meeting deadlines, attending meetings on time, a commitment to having quality products and services.

  • Honesty – Honest as seen by others. You tell the whole truth. If a mistake is made, you apologize.

  • Moral Code – You have a strong, consistent commitment to your customers, work associates and your employer.

  • Respect – Courteous and considerate of others regardless of how they may differ from you.

  • Build and Maintain Trust – Trust is built on character, strength and ability. It occurs over time by building long-term relationships. It can be destroyed by one bad act. Employees must personalize the organization. An organization is its people and people do business with people.

How do organizations lose integrity? Here are a few examples:

  • A board of directors doesn’t adhere to policies that they adopted.

  • An organization punishes a whistleblower.

  • An organization violates its code of ethics.

  • An organization under legal investigation destroys documents related to the investigation even though a document retention and destruction policy had been approved by the board years earlier.

  • An organization publicly airs their dirty laundry.

  • A board of directors works behind the CEO's back to undermine them.

Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching. Today people are watching, especially in the age of instant communication and the Internet.

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