Building a Culture of Integrity

Building a Culture of Integrity

Jill M. Purdy (University of Washington Tacoma, USA) and Joseph Lawless (University of Washington Tacoma, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-510-6.ch025
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Although business students can learn about ethics through case studies and examples, this learning may not lead to future ethical behavior in ambiguous situations or unsupportive cultures. Business schools can incorporate an experiential component to ethics education by giving students the opportunity to work in an organization with integrity: the business school itself. As students begin to develop their professional identities, the business school can establish students’ expectations about how ethical people and organizations function. This supports students in developing professional identities that incorporate integrity. The authors recommend that business schools utilize the cognitive triangle of thoughts, feelings, and actions in developing a culture of integrity. Addressing all three of these components can help students avoid cognitive distortions that make them unable to recognize ethical dilemmas or render them unaware of the consequences of decisions and behaviors. The authors suggest using a portfolio of tactics to create a culture of integrity, including integrity codes and honor codes, policies and procedures, reporting mechanisms, consequences, symbols and ceremonies, top management support, faculty-student relationships, and open, truthful exchange. Unethical actions are more likely to occur in organizations with individualistic, egoistic climates, thus the challenge is to create a more collectivist, community orientation.
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What Is Integrity?

Integrity describes adherence to a code of standards or values. The concept of integrity includes two components: honesty and consistency (Kaiser & Hogan, 2010). Honesty reflects the expectation that people will play by the rules of society and act in a way that is consistent with shared ethical standards. Consistency refers to the relationship between words and deeds, or to acting reliably over time and across multiple contexts. Together these components suggest that integrity describes persons whose beliefs and actions are internally correlated, and are aligned with the moral expectations shared widely in society (Kaiser & Hogan, 2010). This definition incorporates both person-centered, character-based elements such as moral development and more situational components that acknowledge the influence of opportunity and consequences on behavior (Bernardi, et al., 2004).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cognitive Distortion: Having inaccurate thoughts about an event or situation.

Culture: A pattern of shared assumptions learned by a group as it has solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration that has worked well enough to be considered valid and is taught to new members as the correct way you perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.

Socialization: The means by which individuals learn the values and behaviors that are appropriate for a social group. 1Scholars disagree about whether to use the term “culture” or “climate” to describe the social context and values of an organization. We follow Thumin & Thumin (2011, p. 106) in using the term culture because it is “the richer, more meaningful, more all-encompassing term.”

Cognitive Triangle: A psychological model encompassing the interrelationships of thoughts, actions, and feelings surrounding an event.

Integrity: Adherence to a code of standards or values; having qualities of honesty and consistency.

Honor Code: A pledge that students make to behave with honor and integrity within their academic context.

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