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Are we suffering from ‘integrity insufficiency’?

Dan Bobinski

Dan Bobinski

Integrity isn’t written on a ‘to do’ list. It’s what the ‘to do’ list should be written on.

Unfortunately, some people do things while ignoring integrity. Consider the soccer referee expelled for life last year by the European soccer’s governing body for fixing games.

Then there’s the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos caught in recent years illegally videotaping their opponents’ practices.

Impaired integrity may also exist at the Golden Globes. A recent lawsuit by an ex-Golden Globes publicist accuses the organization of taking kickbacks and selling media favors so that less-than-wonderful movies get undeserved publicity.

In previous columns I have noted that lack of integrity contributed to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last summer as well as the Enron fiasco of five years ago. No doubt each of you could also add examples of how impaired integrity has caused grief, strife and loss.

The problem of integrity insufficiency has not gone unnoticed – even by 17-year-old Teresa Scanlan, who was recently crowned Miss America for 2011. I don’t know if it’s more refreshing or more sad to hear a 17-year-old say “attorneys and politicians are looked down on and have terrible reputations for being greedy and power hungry.” According to the New York Daily News, Scanlan wants to pursue a career in politics, saying “I want to be there making sure that I stand up for what’s right, stand up for integrity and honesty.”

In another positive event, the Makati Business Club, in cooperation with the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, recently announced a new Integrity Initiative. The initiative is aimed at reducing the amount of corruption in government contracts in the Philippines, which, according to the New York Times, has a reputation for being among the most corrupt countries in the world.

There’s also Bob Muglia, the departing Server and Tools president at Microsoft, who made integrity the theme of his “going away” message. In Muglia’s e-mail to Server and Tools employees, most of the content was about the need for integrity. The topic was so prevalent throughout his e-mail that several tech columnists have hypothesized that Muglia was also sending a message to Microsoft’s remaining senior management team.

On my philosophical tree limb, I maintain that every choice people make is an effort to bring about a better life for themselves. This succinct statement includes even our selfless, altruistic efforts, because such actions are made from an internal belief that doing them is the right thing to do. And, we equate “doing the right thing” with living a better life for ourselves.

So, if people are trying to bring about a better life for themselves, why do people break their integrity? Is it because they think nobody will know? Do they really believe the end justifies the means?

Taking risks and working to achieve goals and agendas is part of everyday life, but workplace fulfillment does not have to come at the expense of integrity. Frankly, it seems that goals achieved through dishonesty will forever ring empty.

Take, for example, baseball’s Mark McGwire. After admitting to steroid use throughout his career, McGwire’s record of 70 home runs in a single season will forever carry an asterisk in the record books (as will Barry Bonds’ record of 73 homers). And, based on the voting trends of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America and the Veterans Committee (those that select Hall of Fame inductees), it’s unlikely an admitted steroid user will ever be inducted into Cooperstown.

McGwire and Bonds achieved phenomenal goals, but they ring empty.

Dr. Dennis R. Rader, my co-author on Living Toad Free: Removing Obstacles to Success, wrote the first doctoral dissertation on the subject of personal integrity. Essentially, Rader summarizes integrity as “moral soundness.” Author Kate Russell says that having integrity means “being honest with one’s words and actions, being honest with one’s dealings with others, and extending to others the right to live by their own standard, so long as it does not cause harm to others.”

To answer the question, “whatever happened to integrity,” I think it will always be a struggle for those who were never taught it. And, maintaining integrity can get tough when leaders all around us are lacking it. But I also think we need to set and strive for high standards within ourselves. May the following points, taught me by a wise, learned man, help you in this effort:

1. Be Honest. People rarely do business with those they don’t trust.
2. Work Hard. It’s amazing how fulfilling an honest day’s work can be.
3. Consider that Every Action has Consequences. In large part, integrity is defined by what you do when no one is looking.

I believe people can set good examples and reap wonderful rewards through maintaining integrity. Don’t cave. Set your standards high.

Dan Bobinski is a certified behavior analyst, best-selling author and director at the Center for Workplace Excellence. He makes his home in Boise. Reach Dan at (208) 375-7606 or dan@workplace-excellence.com.

About Dan Bobinski