Honesty & Integrity in Organizations

Why is being honest difficult & lying so easy?

As children, we were taught to be honest & stick to what is ‘right’. But as we started growing & venturing into the more professional side of life like college & work, it became evident that honesty & integrity are just too idealistic to hold on to. Because lying would probably save us a piece of mind from our professor or supervisor; it might make our mistake look comparatively smaller; it might even give us an ego boost in front of a competitor!

It surely is difficult to be outright honest or truthful all the time. Frankly, it is impossible! We do not need 100% truth all the time. But the question is how much honest should we be?

For example, one can lie to save himself from a traffic police issuing a ticket. One should not lie about what his firm can truly deliver to the client. One can encourage her child a little more than required to positively reinforce the child’s good behaviour but one should not help her child to cheat in an examination to get better scores.

Unfortunately, the concept of honesty & integrity is relative, not absolute. Yet, to take this path, it is important to assess what we are & what we truly stand for. At the same time, when it comes to professional life, it is equally essential to be well familiar with your organization’s mission & values. The organization’s values must always be upheld through the employees’ actions & choices. This promotes integrity in the organization.

While young people & employees learn to be honest, for the same to continue – parents, schools, organizations should aptly reward or at least recognize people who have gone out of their way to be honest. I came across an article in The Hindu, where a poor lottery ticket seller was felicitated for his high level of honesty & integrity. Honesty deserves some amount of recognition since it is difficult to find!

An important point to note here is Operant Conditioning.

Operant Conditioning also called instrumental conditioning refers to the process that our behavior produces certain consequences & how we behave in future will depend on what those consequences are.

For example: If a child is rewarded or praised for being honest, he is more likely to be honest in future. While if a child receives a negative response for being truthful, he might rarely speak truth in future.

Are organizations providing an environment where employees can be honest & frank?

Ideally, they should. People are bringing about a change so that the organization processes are more & more transparent. When it comes to customer service, honesty is important; when it comes to appraisals or promotions, honesty counts. And yet, I hear examples where companies purposely prepare a flawed product & bump up their maintenance costs for the clients.

According to Jack Welch in his book Winning,

Lack of candor blocks smart ideas, fast action, and good people contributing all the stuff they’ve got. It’s a killer.

and

To get candor, you reward it, praise it, and talk about it. Most of all, you yourself demonstrate it in an exuberant and even exaggerated way.

The dictionary meaning of Candor: the state or quality of being frank, open, and sincere in speech or expression; candidness.

Today, every organization in every sector faces competition & so it wouldn’t take time for a client organization to switch over to an organization where integrity exists. In the long run, integrity certainly pays off! Some might still think that being honest is not what we are programmed to be, bringing a conscious change is certainly not impossible. It’s time we make honesty our way of life!

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