True business integrity is a rapidly dying art form in today’s day and age. I don’t claim to be perfect by any means, but I have noticed a trend among business people that not only frustrates me from time to time, it scares me. The blatant disregard for honesty is something that has become commonplace among business professionals and if you are trying to stay on the “narrow path” the ability to do so has become increasingly difficult.
One of the sayings you often hear people say is, “It’s just business.” For me this is often a red flag and a foreshadowing of what is to come. Justification of an action based on the circumstance is often a direct conflict with the definition of integrity. Business professionals will often make decisions that have a major effect on their colleagues or the business itself and justify it using this phrase. It is something I have come to recognize and loath at the same time.
Integrity is defined by doing the right thing even when no one is watching. It is the act of operating with complete honesty no matter what the circumstance is or who is involved. Often times business professionals make decisions not based on what is right, they make decisions based on what benefits them the most. Sometimes this is a personal benefit and sometimes it is a benefit to the company.
Over the years I have found myself in different situations where I had to make a decision based on what I believed was right, and what my company wanted me to do. This is difficult because depending on the situation you may be directly affecting your own future. Often times the correct choice is not the path of least resistance which makes consistently operating with integrity difficult. I have learned that making the wrong choice often leads to dealing with future consequences that often come in the form of guilt. What I can tell you is making the honest choice is usually much less detrimental in the long run.
If you find yourself in this situation the best advice, I can give you is to always be ethical and operate with integrity even if it effects your immediate future. You should never be asked to do anything that directly conflicts with the essence of your values. Lying to customers or vendors to gain a benefit is not something you should have to do. If you find yourself having to deliver messages like this to clients or employees, the reality is you are being used as a shield between your leaders and the person receiving the message. Often times if the lie itself is discovered, you will quickly go from participating as the messenger to becoming the scapegoat. The consequences may not be seen for some time, but they will come.
In today’s social media world “It’s just business” is no longer a term that business professionals should embrace. It was a term originally coined by an accountant for the mob in the 1930’s to remove the human element from unethical decisions. Now this mentality is a risk as every business engagement is a personal interaction that can easily include others via social media.
I read an article on this subject some time ago and it stated that in the business world, we are all faced with integrity-based choices on a regular basis. It questioned if we should tell our clients when we make a mistake. It stated that we often tweak facts to suit our position, or make promises we do not keep. According to the author, operating with integrity in these situations would mean that our business would not succeed. My experience has reflected directly the opposite. I have learned that operating with integrity even in difficult times often helps cultivate stronger relationships. It leads to people relying on you in difficult situations and respecting the fact that you will always give them honest information. You can still be a very strong negotiator for your company while operating with integrity and honesty. In the long run your company will benefit and you be respected for it.