That’s an in-your-face question. It almost slaps you across the face with its audacity. How dare anyone cast aspersions on you or your company’s integrity. Your knee-jerk reaction is to undoubtedly to say, 100%. But, is anyone 100% honest and ethical all the time? Is any company that honest and above board? What about shades of grey? Would every one of your employees score 100% on an integrity meter? What about you or your management team? Now for a scary thought: what about your advertising and promotional literature or your hiring practices?
The problem with integrity is that there is no sliding scale, you either have integrity or you don’t. Of course how you personally define integrity can alter the perspective. For the sake of this article, let’s assume that your company can’t claim to be 100% squeaky clean. Perhaps you employ a few questionable characters who are less than honest when they interact with your customers, your advertising exaggerates a little, and you’re making a little more profit than might seem reasonable should your customers be aware of your margins. Did anyone say gouging?
It happens; as a start-up the thin edge of the wedge is hardly noticeable. Later, slightly questionable practices become the norm and fade into the background. Your employee over charges a customer, or sells them something they didn’t need, and they get away with it. And you don’t catch it, or worse you turn a blind eye. You let a few clients pay cash and “forget” to claim it at tax time.
With the best will in the world there is probably no business that is totally ethical, moral, or not walking on legal thin ice in some part of its operation. It’s often not intentional, it’s just the way it is, or has become. But every time someone does something in your company that is not 100% ethically above board, it’s your personal integrity that takes a hit.
Every now and then, it’s a good idea to take a step back and look at some of the key areas where honest companies and honest people stray a little to the dark side. Here is a checklist to get you started on reviewing how far away your company is from that 100% integrity score.
- Are you exploiting any of your staff? Are men and women paid equally? Is everyone treated the same?
- Are your hiring practices honest and ethical? Or, are they biased in anyway based on gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nepotism, or anything else?
- Is your corporate tax return 100% accurate or is your accountant constantly looking for loopholes to avoid paying tax?
- Would you break into a sweat if an independent auditor was to come in an review your books? Or would you be positive they would be completely above board?
- Do you put health and safety of your customers and staff above profits? Always? Or do you sometimes cut corners?
- Are your products and services the best they can be, or does profit dictate quality (even a little)?
- Read your advertising and promotional literature carefully. Now, hand on heart can you honestly say it is not misleading in any way? How truthful are your claims – 80%, 90%? Can you honestly say 100%?
- Is your pricing fair, or are you charging what you think the market will bear? Or like some pharmaceutical companies charging whatever you like because your customers desperately need what you provide?
- Are you honest when talking about your competitors? Are you completely accurate in any comparisons you make or imply?
- Are you as green as you should be? Or do you take the easy (or cheap) way out when it comes to environmental sustainability?
We can all do more to increase our integrity score. We can all act in a more ethical and honest way. All we have to do is start noticing where we personally, and/or our business are straying from the straight and narrow and make some corrections. It’s easier to turn a blind eye of course, but someone else may not be and that someone might be your customer.