By Deann M. Baker, CHC, CCEP, CHRC
From Y-Comply, a service of the Society of Corporate Compliance & Ethics.
Integrity is the quality of being honest. Vocabulary.com states “Having integrity means doing the right thing in a reliable way. It’s a personality trait that we admire, since it means a person has a moral compass that doesn’t waver. It literally means having ‘wholeness’ of character, just as aninteger is a ‘whole number’ with no fractions.” (https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/integrity)
The definition above described integrity as a whole number with no fractions. We need to be careful about our decisions and understand what leads us to make poor decisions and what helps us make good ones. Most people would agree that integrity is important to them, especially if the action–or inaction–of an individual resulted in harm to them or others they care about.
Segmenting our lives and behaviors eventually catches up with us. We are either honest in our decisions and actions or we are not. For example, if we know about an issue but were not a participant in the issue, our silence could make us as guilty as those who were engaged in the wrongdoing. Segmenting our lives and choices is often a result that comes from rationalizing.
Rationalization is a slippery slope that often results in making poor decisions. Rationalizing tends to be the temptation to waver from doing what is right. It often causes us to look for the easy way out of a situation and to convince ourselves or others that somehow the end justifies the means to excuse an action or inaction.
Emotions also play an intricate part in our decision-making process. We need to use caution when making decisions while experiencing fear, frustration, or fatigue. When we are experiencing strong emotions or we are fatigued, it’s best to “push the pause button” to help us gain perspective and use our HEADs: Halt, Evaluate, Act, and Defuse.
Remaining knowledgeable about requirements is also helpful in our decision-making process. If we understand what the expectations are and the consequences to ourselves and others when standards are not maintained, then we will have greater resolve to uphold those standards, regardless of the potential consequence of becoming unpopular for doing the right thing.
Compliance and ethics professionals are a resource available to our workforce to help us make good decisions. There are situations that any one of us could encounter that require us to withstand pressures to do what is wrong, including keeping our silence. When faced with these situations, it’s best for us to reach out to others to help us with the tough decisions. When we become fearful of potential retaliation or a hostile work environment, there is a tendency to want to clam up to remain safe, but this can result in tremendous consequences to the individual making that decision, to the organization’s mission, and to the customer or consumer. Maintaining “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” is important and can impact others as well as ourselves. J.C. Ryle says it this way, “Never be guilty of sacrificing any portion of truth on the altar of peace.”
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