Integrity in Management
by Dennis AuBuchon

In today’s fast paced business world sometimes important things are forgotten.  Integrity is one of those things. People often forget how important integrity is in business, education, and life in general.  This article presents information to show the importance of integrity at the management level.  Integrity should be a quality we all should have and management has a responsibility to assure that information under their control has it.  Information will be presented to identify the management responsibilities while letting the reader know what management must do to ensure integrity in their operations. 

A commonly accepted definition of integrity is: adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values or incorruptibility. Integrity is also an unimpaired condition or soundness.  Honesty, which is discussed below, is a key element of integrity.  Data integrity, truthfulness and character are also qualities that need to be present to have integrity.  They are key to establishing and maintaining respect for the companies/organizations they work for and from the people that work for them. Integrity is important in our economy today and the reader of this article needs to care whether the management they work for or interact with personally has integrity.

Today’s economy has examples of the lack of integrity in corporate management of companies such as Enron, Worldcom, Tyco and others.  The result of these incidents has led to a loss in prestige by the companies involved and a lack of trust in company management in corporate America. These situations resulted in bankruptcy, employee/shareholder losses, public disgrace, personal lawsuits and felony convictions.

The information presented in this article, if corporate management in America implements it, will eventually have a positive affect on the public perception of business operations today.  People are more suspicious of information they see today and companies must earn their trust with examples of honesty and the other qualities presented in this article.

Another point to make is that as part of a company or organization we as individuals must take pride in providing information of high integrity to make the job of management easier.  As we provide a record of integrity to management we will earn the respect of our superiors and help provide a positive image of the company or organization we work for.  This will add a positive perception of the company/organization by the public.  This can only help to secure not only the future of the company but also our job.  People want to do business with a company that has integrity and is honest with its customers. 

Integrity and Business Ethics

The connection between Integrity and business ethics is simple.  The concept of integrity involves honesty, character and truthfulness.  It also involves a strict moral or ethical code and this is where the term ethics and integrity connect.  Many segments of society have generated a code of principles for their members to follow.  These codes involve principles of integrity and in some cases moral or ethical principles for members to follow.  This is an example that brings integrity and ethics together.

Another example of the connection between business ethics and integrity involve the enforcement of policies for company principles that meet ethical and integrity standards.

Today business ethics and integrity involve companies making sure the rules they have in place are the right ones and that they are strictly enforced.  Without enforcement of the  rules or policies in a company/organization they become meaningless.  This can and does result in a loss of prestige through public perception if what a company says they are doing is actually not being done.

However a portion of business ethics also involves using information that is generated to arrive at an honest conclusion.  This means that people in business sometimes use data to see the perspective they want even when the facts do not support their conclusion.  Business ethics involves drawing a conclusion based on the information not what we want the data to say.

The importance of the information in the previous paragraph cannot be taken lightly.  While integrity does involve ethics it is important to note that the definition of ethics is limited to a strict set of principles of right conduct and is a theory or system of moral values. Ethics by definition also involves the rule or standards governing the conduct of a person or members of an organization.  This again is how integrity and business ethics are connected.  Examples of the corporate scandals such as ENRON, Tyco and Worldcom show how the lack of honesty, truthfulness, and character impacted not only the employees of the company but also the stockholders and the economy, as the facts became known. The examples referenced above show that the conditions involved were both dishonest and were an effort to misrepresent the health of the individual companies noted.

Running a business must be accomplished with an atmosphere of honesty, integrity and character.  It is important for a company to project and show proof that the policies and methods they put in place to operate the company have integrity and are ethical.   Ethical policies are such that people in a company must know that the policy is to provide the best product and/or service possible within the realm of integrity and ethics.  Actions taken by individuals at all levels must know through their management that integrity and ethics in their work habits is a requirement.  Management must project and exhibit this quality not only in their words but also their actions.  Ethics involves being honest and providing leadership to the people and exhibiting the qualities that project a person or company to have integrity.

Below are qualities of integrity that management should have and the public should expect of any company or organization.  Also involved is the concept of respect for a position rather than the person who fills it.  This concept is something that all people should recognize not just management.       

Honesty

Honesty is important in our society today as evidence shows this element has been lacking as witnessed in news reports in the paper or on television.  Management must be honest and open with their employees and display this in their actions not just their words.

Management of any company or organization must be honest with the public and  their employees.  If they are not, they lose the respect of their employees and the public. While performing their assigned duties employees should be able to see positive examples of how management wants them to perform.  Management must be honest and open with their employees as well as the public with which they interact.  This should be displayed in both their words and their actions.  All this should be documented for future verification of statements made by management if problems arise.  Many people, not just management, create the perception of saying one thing but doing something else.  Management has a responsibility to back their words with actions. If management makes a statement, which must later be changed based on new information, they should explain the reason for the change. Employees have the right to expect management to be honest with them and management has a right to expect honesty from their employees. It is a two way street.

Data Integrity

Management must make sure data generated under their responsibility is honest, complete and reliable.

This statement signifies the importance of being honest, complete and reliable for  data that is generated.  Management must make sure data generated under their control   is both honest and complete. Companies create much data today that makes it to the public through reports or the Internet.  The data transmitted must have at least some degree of verification for accuracy and completeness if not 100%.  People must feel that information they receive is truthful and complete. If it is not, it can affect decisions people make about their lives and family.  This can be from buying stock in the company to buying company products or services.  If the information turns out to be inaccurate and incomplete, people will lack the confidence and willingness to do any future business with the company.  Therefore, a company, which transmits unreliable data, will be hurt in future dealings.  This is true, as the inaccuracies will eventually be revealed. It is management’s responsibility to place people with integrity in charge of such things as financial reports and customer service.

When errors are discovered, management must make things right. People should be held accountable for their actions and management must ensure that the root cause of inaccurate data is corrected and/or that personnel are removed from their positions. This is only necessary where applicable conditions warrant such action.  However, management should not arbitrarily fire someone because of his or her position. When false information occurs, the person actually creating the false data or information should either be fired, if it is proven that it was done with intent, or be retrained if errors in  training exist.

Management in an effort to lay blame for an act must not speed up the effort to determine the responsible person. Management must properly identify the cause.  The public want answers when things happen but they want honest answers and corrections made where systems have failed.

There is a statement that honesty is the best policy. This is a good statement but sometimes the policy of an organization dictates that certain information not be made public. When the management of a company or organization is faced with following  company rules or being honest and complete the person or company must realize withholding information that affects decisions made by someone else will eventually hurt the company or organization. The true facts will eventually present themselves and a company who is placed in this situation looses far more than they gain.

The image of a company in this case becomes tarnished and is hard to overcome in the public perception on how it operates.  If a company is truly honest with their employees and the public they are much more favorably perceived and normally have a better profit margin. In some cases this situation can cause a person to become a whistle blower.  However, we must be sure that the person making the claims can prove them, as this is only fair.  If the facts are proven or management knows the statements to be true, then actions should be taken by appropriate personnel within a company or organization to rectify the problem and take preventive measures for it not to be repeated.

The connection between honesty and truthfulness is the fact that if a person states or is believed to be honest, the documentation or proof of this fact is validated by data. That data comprises the term truthfulness.  It is when there is consistent data verifying that information being transmitted about a person; company or organization is reliable.  

Truthfulness

Truthfulness is the attribute of consistently telling the truth.

The proof of a company, individual or organization to tell the truth is verified by documentation.  A company, and its employees must be truthful with the public for when it is not the case, the organization will usually suffer either through reduced profits or may cease to exist. By not exhibiting documentation of being honest a company and its management will create a perception they do not want from the public. If a company is not being truthful, the actions eventually will be discovered and the reputation of the company, it’s management and its employees will suffer.

People respect individuals, companies and organizations that are truthful in their operations, especially in today’s environment of corporate scandals. A company, which is above board in its operations, will be successful in today’s economy.  This is especially true if they have a product or service that is needed by the public. If a company exhibits truthfulness and their competitors do not, then the public is more likely to trust an honest company over one which has not proven itself.

Character

Good character is something that management must exhibit if they and their company are to be successful.

Character is the set of qualities or features that distinguish a person, group or thing from another.  Character involves not only being truthful but also following the integrity principles established as an individual, group or organization. The character of individuals within a company or organization will reflect on the operations of the company and the perception that the public has of it.  Management must also exhibit good character in their decision making process. This should be a result of making the right decisions based on information not on a pre-determined position.

People can earn a reputation by their association with other individuals. If management and the individuals that fill these positions associate themselves with people considered to have good character qualities, then they at least can have an initial perception of good character.  This must be substantiated by actions not words.  We also tend to learn from people with which we associate.  As we learn from this kind of activity, we must put into action what we learn and thereby improve our character qualities.

We all can learn from each other, including the employees that may be under our supervision or the workers that perform routine tasks that make up the company or organization. Management must assure an avenue exist for employees to communicate and become a part of improving the company procedures or operations.  This can be a measure of proof for good character if proper credit is given to the source of changes. It may also increase the trust and respect for management and the employees. In mentioning the word respect, there are two kinds that are discussed in the following paragraphs after a general discussion of the term respect.

Respect   

Respect is something that amounts to being regarded with honor or esteem and a willingness to show consideration or appreciation.  As part of being in a management position within a company, organization or group, character can exhibit an atmosphere of respect. Respect is something that management should strive for as individuals so that their company or organization can exhibit or earn respect. When management earns the  respect from their employees they may find that people work harder to meet their responsibilities.  If management does not have respect, efforts should be made to earn it.  There are two kinds of respect that are identified below:

Respect for Position

There are two kinds of respect. The respect for a position and the respect for an individual. Respect for a position is something that should be present in every position of authority.  Positions such as various levels of management not only in private industry but also government should be respected for the positions that are in place. Positions earn respect by being the position they are such as the president of a company or the President of the United States. Society should show respect for a position irrespective of the individual holding that position.

Respect for Individual

Individuals do not have a right to respect -- it must be earned.

Respect must be earned as a result of our actions and decisions we make based on appropriate principles, which involve integrity and its characteristics. Discussion of these characteristics is limited in this article but more information can be found through the Internet or a source used for this article. There is a listing toward the end of this article that provides a number of additional sources of information on the subject of integrity. One source used for this article involves a book that I have written called Integrity: Do You Have It?

If a person stands up for their beliefs and is not affected by pressures to make inappropriate changes to information to change the outcome, then that person deserves to be respected. I respect individuals who stand up for their beliefs and refuse to change their principles, and we all should, especially management. However, the principles should not be something that is forced upon someone else. Companies or organizations want and need people who earn respect not only from their employees, but the public as well.  It would project a better image of the company as a whole and help to improve the bottom line as those individuals deal with the public.      

Conclusion

"I told you I would show what integrity is and why it is important. And you can now see that I did that."  In conclusion the integrity of management is a key ingredient in today’s economy. As management every individual must exhibit integrity not only in the words we use but also in our actions. Management has a responsibility to assure that tasks under their control or jurisdiction are being accomplished with integrity. If management does not assure data being presented to the public is accurate, and then they are lacking in that it will affect the public perception for the company they represent. 

Additional Information

AuBuchon, Dennis, Integrity: Do You Have It. 2nd edition [order from Infinity Publishing.com] 2005

Duffy, Grace, Quality Management Forum article in 2004 on integrity

Bracher, James and Daniel E. Halloran, Integrity Matters. Badger CA:  Torchlight Publishing, 2004

Carter, Stephen, Integrity, New York: BasicBooks, 1996

Gostick, Adrian and Dana Telford, The Integrity Advantage: How Taking the High Road Creates a Competitive Advantage in Business, Layton Utah:  Gibbs Smith, 2003

Johnson, Larry and Bob Phillips, Absolute honesty : building a corporate culture that values straight talk and rewards integrity, New York : American Management Association, 2003.

Quality Progress October 2003

Anderson, Bjorn, Bringing Business Ethics to Life: Achieving Corporate Social Responsibility

Batten, Joe, Building a Total Quality Culture ISBN: 1560521767 ISBN: 1560521767Item P973 through ASQ Published 1993

Tichy, Noel M. and McGill, Andrew R, Editors, The Ethical Challenge: How to Lead With Unyeilding Integrity  ISBN: 07879676X Item P1035 through ASQ, Published 2003

ASQ Code of Ethics, Copyright 1970 ASQC, Quality Progress Vol 3, No. 7  July 1970, p.16

ASQ web site Article “Confessional” Advertising: Start of a Trend

ASQ web site Article: Ethical Leadership and Public Confidence:  A Q & A With Manu Vora India September 2002 – Kanchana Suggu, Senior Editor

Arter, Dennis; Russell, J.P., Ethics, Auditing and Enron, Copyright 2003 ASQ Quality Progress, Vol 36, No. 10 October 2003 pp. 34-40 (Article free for ASQ Members)

Meyer, Charlene, Column In My View: Do Sweat the Small Stuff, Copyright 2003, AQP
Journal for Quality And Participation, Vol 26, No. 1 March 2003, pp. 31-32

Brandl, Patty, Maguire, Miles; Code of Ethics: A Primer on Their Purpose, Development, and Use, Copyright 2002, AQP Journal for Quality and Participation, Vol 25, No. 4 December 2002, pp 9-12 (Free to the general public on the journals web site

NOTE:  Other articles and sources of information on integrity are available but were too many to list.  If a reader of this article would like a more extended list they can contact me through my e-mail listed below in this article.  The remaining items are part of a list that I received from ASQ.


Dennis AuBuchon worked for the government more than 35 years and had various positions including functional leader, audit team leader and facilitator. He is the Region 9 Quality Audit Division Councilor and has been a certified quality auditor since 1992. He is author of a book titled, Integrity: Do You Have It?2nd edition which is currently available as an e-book on his web site www.myqualitywriting.com through the e-book link.

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Copyright 2007 by Dennis AuBuchon. All rights reserved.

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