In an organisation, it is not sufficient to feel you are an individual with integrity.

These are my concluding reflections on the report ‘Real Integrity’, the second half of which focuses on strategies that help organisations to instill a culture if integrity (see my first blog entry on the report here).

The report explains that the environment we are in profoundly affects the ethical choices we have to make, and our capacity to make – and to act on – such judgements. In an organisation, structures, incentives, deterrents, processes, procedures and conversations all impact on our integrity. It is not sufficient to feel you are an individual with integrity, the authors say. The organisational environment matters too.

The  report analyses the perceptions and reported experience of interviewees and survey respondents from the various participating organisations and it it reviews some of the research already published in this area. It comes up with five inter-related techniques to promote and encourage integrity in organisations (these are set out in a helpful diagram on page 35).

First and foremost is ‘tone from the top‘, including ethical leadership and clear values. The other strategies are unlikely to work unless this is in place. Of corse the values must be clear, real and embedded.

If individual integrity is ‘the result of an on-going series of decisions with ethical dimensions’ then it ‘is vital that organisations support ethical decision making‘: this is another of the five techniques (p35). The ways to achieve a culture of ethical decision making include codes of conduct (something I’ve written about quite a bit on this blog), good advice and training. The word ‘good’ is important here – some training is seen as ineffective and off-putting.

Promoting openenss is another of the five techniques. This requires an open culture where information is shared, issues can be aired and the gulf between the top of the organisation and its staff is not too great. A whistleblowing policy needs to be in place as part of this but the more general tactics are key. I wondered about feedback on the outcome of disciplinary procedures – this is so sensitive an area, and decisions may be reached on the basis of information that cannot be shared.

Managing incentives is the fourth technique: this consists of rewards and disciplines. It is hard to reward integrity, but including ethical behaviour in appraisals seemed a good proposal to me.

Monitoring is the final technique. Its one I struggle with as I work on my internal report for Bradford College. Integrity manifests itself in diverse ways, and monitoring can be resource intensive. Techniques, perceptions and assessment of consequences – intended and unintended – are all on the menu, through qualitative and quantitative methods.

I found the action points on page 51 particularly helpful, including (in summary):

  • provide genuinely confidential advice
  • advertise sources of advice outside of the line-management chain (eg mentoring scheme, using professional bodies, external experts as sources of ethical advice, and
  • don’t give the impression that seeking advice is only appropriate where there is a clear, definite concern.

I have a friend who is a philosopher and trained logician and I love getting his advice. The thought of having someone wise and funny on hand to support me officialy at work is delightful – but on second thoughts, I am fortunate that so many of my colleagues and superiors fit this description!


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