If we open any newspaper there is a real chance that an issue about transgressive behavior or integrity violation will be described. We are all undoubtedly familiar with the deluge of comments when ‘The Voice’ was published. Is this an expression of the here and now under the influence of social media or is this every day?

BeljonWesterterp is currently working on setting up several Integrity committees. As an example, the following:

The Friends Reunion, Joep Dohmen: “One scandal too many led to the departure of the entire Limburg provincial government in 2021. In the years before that, ‘the Bavaria of the Netherlands’ regularly made the news with integrity affairs: conflicts of interest, bribes, favors for friends and pleasure trips. Everything was reviewed. Even further back in time – in the 1990s – Limburg was also administratively upset by a series of corruption cases. Mayors, aldermen and officials had to leave and were sentenced.”

This does not only occur in Limburg. We see the excesses everywhere. “We will take care of ourselves”, “we know each other”, “the feeling of not belonging”, “one dominant political party which is deeply connected in the entire society”, “a feeling of inferiority”. All themes that contribute to playing the ball to each other and keeping their hands above their heads. And… power corrupts!

Integrity and internalizing acting with integrity is increasingly an important leadership theme. It has the full attention of society. But what are we talking about?

What is integrity?

Integrity is a good character trait. An honest person holds on to norms and values, even when these are under pressure from outside. An honest person is honest and reliable and will not be bribed. An honest person can account for his own behavior and choices.

What people consider to be ethical behavior depends on society and the times. In one society honesty is very important, in another it is integrity not to embarrass someone.

Integrity at work

Acting with integrity at work means that you perform your job properly and carefully, with due observance of your responsibilities and the applicable standards and values ​​within the organization and your position. It is therefore important that you are aware of your employer’s vision, the professional code and the standards and values ​​of the organization that apply at that time. In most cases, these have been elaborated in codes of conduct that indicate in concrete terms what is and is not permitted in the performance of your position.

But not everything can be laid down in rules. If rules are missing or unclear, make your own judgment and act according to generally accepted social and ethical standards. Working with integrity means that you work professionally, subserviently, independently, reliably and carefully. You take responsibility for your own actions, you are accountable for your behavior, and you hold others accountable about this. You are aware of the trust people place in you. This often goes beyond sticking to official rules.

Citizens rely on the integrity of public officials, for instance

Citizens count on the government to manage carefully and that all civil servants work with integrity. That is to say: civil servants use their position, their powers, their time and resources for what they are intended.

The boundary between acting with integrity and acting with integrity is often clear. For example, you don’t get paid to tear up a parking ticket. But in your daily work you constantly stumble over doubts and dilemmas. Do you tear up the ticket when an elderly woman with a walker is almost at her car for which you have just issued a parking ticket?

Examples of integrity at work

Most organizations have drawn up an integrity statute or guidelines. Such guidelines explain what integrity means for your organization, such as:

  • you prevent conflicts of interest and you clarify your own position and interests in (potential) conflicts.
  • you handle personal or sensitive information carefully and do not leak secrets.
  • you keep promises, agreements and obligations.
  • you speak to people properly, take complaints seriously and report correctly and correctly.
  • you comply with the law.
  • you inform others from your position and expertise about any risks they run.
  • you indicate when something is asked or expected of you that in your opinion would not be of integrity.
  • you do not choose sides in a conflict, but you try to oversee the whole and you act accordingly.
  • you report it if you have made a mistake and you take action yourself to limit the damage.
  • you are loyal to the organization you work for and you serve the interests of your position.
  • you continue to act with integrity, even when this entails disadvantages, tensions or conflicts for you.

Examples of unethical behavior at work

Unethical behavior is unfortunately common, for example:

  • someone is misusing authority, inside information or personal information.
  • someone is influenced in judgment by a personal relationship, social status, appearance, gender, population group.
  • someone is bribed to ‘look away’.
  • someone treats own people, relatives, acquaintances differently than others.”

The Integrity-theme should be high on the leadership agenda. And a culture based on social safety must be created. Everyone should feel genuinely free to report issues without any form of fear of anything! Anytime, now and in the future!

(Thanks to Vriendenreünie en Handhavingsacademie)

Article written by Alfred Eilering, CFR Global Executive Search The Netherlands

Photo source: Pixabay


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