Increasingly in organizations, the use of the term “integrity” has come to refer to the degree to which individuals refrain from misconduct or corruption. In other words “integrity” is about refraining from making poor decisions, rather than choosing to make good decisions.
This is reflected, for example, in a report by the International Association of Chiefs of Police that identifies a significant shift in perspective on ethical responsibility from “viewing misconduct as a reflection of the morals of the individual officer” to that of a reliance on administrative responsibility to “enhance integrity,” with a subsequent focus on the “individual officers’ interpretation of agency rules.”
This shift now exists in most organizations. Ethics and compliance programs end up reinforcing that integrity is a function of administrative thoroughness and clarity of expectation of what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. The result is that individual integrity is defined by adherence to written policy with the erosion of an expectation for individual, personal responsibility and accountability for professional ethical decisions. Ethical decisions are made less by what is the right action to do or choice to make, and more by which policy applies or does not apply. The mindset becomes, “I can’t because the policy says…” or “I can because there is not policy…”
An outcome of this shift is the current dominant approach to ethics training that emphasizes an adherence to policy and procedure, to compliance, reflecting a concern for more legalistic and liability-based priorities. This approach has been dominated by training programs and curricula developed by the legal community and trainers focused on legal accountability. This approach does not provide the necessary knowledge and tools essential to ingrain ethics and integrity in personnel by empowering employees to make, with confidence--and with the confidence of their supervisors--the individual ethical choices that are a part of building cultures of integrity in organizations.
The outcome of ethics training must empower individuals, at all levels of the organization, with the skills and tools for making right choices. When people have the tools to make right decisions, they will make right decisions. Then, the mindset will be, “I won’t because it’s not the right thing to do.”