GVI BLOG SERIES: How to co-create a values-driven UN/global system? BLOG III – Hire for Integrity

Kitty ArambuloFor the Solution “Hire For Integrity”, Kitty Arambulo, of the GVI Board of Directors, shares her ideas on a framework and practical steps to promote integrity in the global system.


Inspiring and ensuring integrity in the workplace

These days, integrity (defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles) appears to be an increasingly rare commodity, as our understanding of morality is challenged and boundaries of acceptability are stretched by a myriad of current events, ranging from disturbing revelations in the #metoo discussions, to the rise of extreme movements seeking to undermine the world’s stability and expressions of blatant untruth, discrimination and bigotry from powerful political figures and regimes.

Instant and constant media coverage, as well as ubiquitous access to world news has exposed us all to an incessant barrage of what is wrong with the world, leaving us to struggle with how to untangle truths from lies. This phenomenon is having a variety of effects. On the one hand, the never-ending exposure to bad news could be rendering us inured to violence, duplicity, hate and all other kinds of evil. On the other hand, it could engender in us a growing sense that integrity is still a very important quality to uphold and develop. Evidence of the latter is the outrage from many quarters in response to the many disturbing events and heinous acts of these times.

Integrity, personal and professional, has always been regarded as a fundamental good in one’s character: it is the building block that will allow each individual to make a difference and the cornerstone for a better world.

Indeed, the universal values and principles, including those that underpin UN and other global organizations, such as justice, equality, inclusion and peace, would only seem attainable if everyone comported themselves with a certain degree of integrity; at a personal level, in their behavior and relationships, and in a broader context in their general environment and specific work places. As Mahatma Gandhi said: you can be the change you wish to see in the world.

Focusing on the work place, the face of an organization or company is mostly a reflection of the people who work there, and in particular its leadership. Even with a framework of rules and regulations in place to ensure proper conduct, there is no guarantee that an organization would function according to these rules, if they are not actually adhered to by the people. The example given by directors and managers in their actions is mirrored by those on the work floor: if fundamental human values, such as respect for the other, inclusion, equality and justice, are upheld and respected by the top, many – if not most – employees would be inspired to follow suit. However, if an organization’s leadership does not appear to live by such values, it would give license to similar undesirable behavior by the staff.

According to some surveys, people cannot be trained for integrity. It can be argued that some people have more inclination towards honest behavior than others, and that it is their natural tendency to do good rather than bad. However, there are ways in which everyone can be encouraged to be, and stay, on their best behavior, and therefore be “trained” for integrity.

People generally do the right thing for a number of reasons. One reason is they do the right thing because they feel from within that it is the right thing to do, i.e. the intrinsic rationale. In this case, people act on the basis of an inner motivation or conviction. Another reason is that they do the right thing because it is in their interest to do so or there is some gain or benefit to had from such an action, i.e. the pragmatic approach. Here, people act because there is an external motivation or reason.

Although the first case of someone acting based on their own conviction of good is the ideal scenario, the second case of someone acting due to an external motivation is more often the case than not, and therefore not altogether to be rejected. And as with any habit, repeatedly doing the right thing due to an external motivation often eventually leads to doing the right thing ipso facto. One example is speeding: if there is strict monitoring of speeding and penalties are consistently imposed, people will initially adhere to speed limits in order to avoid the fines. However, over time, people eventually control their driving speed of their own accord.

Similarly, organizations can make use of both approaches to ensure good behavior among staff. Employees can be encouraged to be the best that they can be, if organizations take the following steps:

  • Ensuring a robust code of conduct that inspires people to do the right thing, and that sufficiently deters them from lapsing into doing the wrong thing.
  • Ensuring that the organization’s leadership abide by this code of conduct, and “walk the talk”.
  • Ensuring that there is a comprehensive integrity/ethics framework in place to effectively identify, address and remedy any wrongdoings.
  • Rewarding individuals showing outstanding integrity, for example in their performance appraisals.
  • Supporting networks of persons showing outstanding integrity and encouraging their contributions and participation in organizational decision-making.
  • Providing trainings on integrity and ethical behavior in the work place.

To make sure that organizations attract people with integrity and high moral fiber, organizations can do the following:

  • “Walk the talk” and make the organization a place where persons with integrity would like to work.
  • Explicitly include service to humanity and universal values in job descriptions.
  • Ensure that during interviews, questions (and documentation, if available) are asked about demonstrated good behavior, attitudes and approaches in their previous professional, civic and personal activities.

Promoting integrity in the work place is the gift that keeps on giving: it will bring benefits to the individual, the organization, and hopefully to the world beyond.


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