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The Importance Of Integrity In Society Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 4938 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The concept of integrity has played a key role in moral philosophy throughout history and is promoted in all societies because of its importance to social relations (Schlenker, 2009). Individual integrity is vital to society as the kind of society which is likely to be more conducive to integrity which is one which enables people to develop and make use of their capacity for critical reflection, one which does not force people to take up particular roles because of their sex or race or any other reason, and one which does not encourage individuals to betray each other either to escape prison or to advance their career. Besides, societies can be favourable to the development of individual integrity. Society expects and requires integrity of its leaders. A person of integrity insists on doing what is right at all times, not only when he knows that a superior or subordinate is watching him. It is the courage to complete a bombing run when one knows full well that the chance for survival is poor or non-existent or the courage to admit failure rather than alter a report (Duggar nd.).

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Ethics come into play when the interests of others are incorporated into the calculus of personal and business decision-making as human beings we live embedded in a society. The most successful individuals and companies are those with reputations of high individual integrity among everyone they deal with. This level of integrity builds the confidence and enables them to do more business than their competitors whose ethics may be a little unstable (Barry & Stephens, 1998). 

Integrity is complete honesty in any situation (Flynn, 1978). We must determine what is really right and really wrong. Right even transcends the violation of regulations. You must oppose what is wrong and support what is right even if it costs you your life or your career. In other words, integrity means more to the professional officer than the dictionary definition. It means honesty, truthfulness, reliability, impartiality, sincerity, open mindedness, trustworthiness, and courage. It means totally ethical behaviour at all times and in all situations, regardless of the consequences. It cannot be turned on and off as desired; it is the focus of the professional’s life (Flynn, 1978).

Babbitt (1997) explicitly links individual integrity to social structures in a way that broadens the concept of integrity. If social educational structures fail to facilitate the life of integrity, other structures may be positively hostile to it. As Babbitt (1997) notes, one needs to be able to make choices in order to develop the kinds of interests and concerns which are significant to leading a life of integrity. On the other hand, oppressed people are often able to reflect on social realities with the greater insight because they do not benefit from them. They have no incentive to accept self-deceptive attitudes about circumstances of oppression or to see past them with convenient blindness. Oppressed groups therefore have all the more scope to think about social reality with integrity, and to act out of this understanding with integrity. A capacity for reflection and understanding enables one to work toward integrity even if it does not ensure that one achieves an ideal of integrity.

An adequate account of personal integrity must recognize that some social structures are of the wrong sort altogether for some individuals to be able to pursue personal integrity, and that questions about the moral nature of society often need to be asked first before questions about personal integrity can properly be raised (Babbitt, 1997). Questions about integrity may turn out to be, not about the relationship between individual characteristics, interests, choices and so on, and a society, but rather about what kind of society it is in terms of which an individual comes to possess certain interests, characteristics, and so on. This does not imply that questions about personal integrity are entirely moral, not having to do with idiosyncratic characteristics of individuals; instead, it suggests that the very meaning of personal integrity in particular cases sometimes depends upon more general considerations about the nature of the society that makes some idiosyncratic properties identifying and others not. The pursuit of adequate personal integrity often depends, not so much on understanding who one is and what one believes and is committed to, but rather understanding what one’s society is and imagining what it could be (Babbitt, 1997).

3.1 The Importance of Integrity in Organization

Integrity refers to the culture, policies, and leadership philosophy at the corporate level. A culture of integrity has to start at the top and be seen in the activities of the executives. The leadership of the corporation must develop a consensus around the shared values (Warren, 2009).

Placing organizational and personal integrity in the moral context could give organization a framework for articulating subtle aspects of the company’s organizational life such as culture, routines, and so on. These have direct impact on profitability and on the company’s sustainability. The reason is that in the same way as individuals possess an identity or character, the company does too. The organizational culture of a firm is the personality, identity or character of the company. It is comprised of the assumptions, values, norms and ethical orientation of organization members, as well as of their behaviors (Nelly, 2007).

Integrity is necessary to effective leaders in the workplace. It may possibly place at the top among the characteristic that a leader needs to possess. Thus, when faced between right and wrong, integrity means making the correct choice for leader. Besides, leaders in organizations and companies demonstrate ability to manage and motivate workers while furthering the aims and goals of the business. A leader who consistently demonstrates integrity and the willingness to make the right decisions for the good of the organization encourages loyalty and commitment from workers. It is an important factor in moving the company for those workers respond positively to a leader or manager with integrity (Kelchner nd.). Workers will catch on and follow suit if employers will demonstrate honesty and integrity in all situations.

According to Bruyn power for the leader does not flow from the organization but from the influence that leader has to convince people to recognize and accept that power. Simply, a leader must build and maintain credibility with his followers. Those leaders who rely upon the organization to give them the authority they need will never have sufficient authority to carry out their tasks because what they need is not authority from an outside source but to build influence through integrity so that they can influence people themselves. It is not the plate on the door that gives a leader the authority to lead but the trust of the people being led (Maxwell, John, 1993).

It is important for an individual to determine for an employer with similar values. This match will be a key factor in one’s ability to grow professionally and gain experience. As Quigley (2007) has pointed out, the culture of integrity may be far more important than the starting salary in one’s quest for personal and professional fulfilment. He notes that corporations with a culture of integrity will offer support to employees through colleagues and processes in place. Consultation with other is seen as strength rather than a weakness and supports a work-life balance. This is because it reduces job stress, balances one’s perspective, and contributes to job satisfaction (Quigley, 2007).

3.2 The Importance of Integrity in Individuals

Integrity is attributed to various parts or aspects of a person’s life. There are those attributes such as professional, intellectual and artistic integrity. Integrity is more than ethics at the individual level. It is all about the character of the individual. It is those characteristics of an individual that are consistently considerate, compassionate, transparent, honest, and ethical. However, the most philosophically important sense of the term ‘integrity’ relates to general character (Cox, La Caze, & Levine, 2001).

Integrity communicates to self and others in a way that psychic wholeness or individuation does not. It is this quality of communicability that reduces integrity such an essential factor in psychotherapeutic practice. It determines the way in which the individual relates to the world and to others in the world as well as to his or her own self. It can be understood as a particular moral, as opposed to psychological attribute which has a direct relationship with the rest of the subject’s moral being while being independent of it at the same time. It is a given of personality and cannot be achieved (Gross, 2001).

According to Quigley (2007), he emphasizes the critical role of trust in the professional success of an individual. He states: “Simply put, those who bend rules are not considered trustworthy, and without trust an individual’s value is severely diminished. Markets do not function and value is destroyed without trust and confidence.” (Quigley, 2007, p.9). Quigley goes on to note the critical importance of integrity and character in the workplace. Competencies are meaningless if lacking trust. Individuals who are not trustworthy will not be given opportunities or responsibilities, and they will not be wanted as team members by clients or other employees. Individuals are untrustworthy without integrity. Individuals who own integrity will commit to choosing right before they find themselves in a situation (Quigley, 2007).

Integrity is a quality of spirit that lives in all of us (Sherman, 2003). Professional integrity and ethical behaviour is crucial for personal credibility and professional success within the business world. Each profession has a set of core values by which it identifies its very essence (Brown, 1980). Professionals who have worked with personnel who lacked integrity talk about the inability to count on individuals to do what they have said they would do, environments where the focus has gone from customers to protecting oneself, and where leaders are unwilling to live by the values that they publicly espouse (Warren, 2009. To act with professional integrity, each member of the profession has the responsibility to have personal integrity, and the best of us create environments that nourish the integrity of others (Sherman, 2003).

4.0 Other Relevant Theories

4.1 Kohlberg Theory

This section discusses the relevant theories in explaining integrity and ethics. In order to study the theory for integrity and ethics, one must understand moral development. According to Kohlberg (1971) moral development is divided into three levels with six stages. His theory for this development is based on the thinking of Jean Piaget and John Dewey, who are Swiss psychologist and American philosopher respectively (Barger, nd.). Moral development proposed by Kohlberg believing that people progressed in their moral reasoning through a series of stages.



Social Orientation



Obedience and Punishment


Individualism, Instrumentalism, and Exchange



Good boy/girl


Law and Order



Social Contract


Principled Conscience

Table 1: Lawrence Kohlberg’s Moral Development Framework

The first level in moral development is pre-conventional level with two stages. Stage one is obedience and punishment. In this stage, people will try their best to avoid punishment and will not question human meaning or value on these consequences. In short, people behave is depends on social acceptable norms which set by authority group, such as parent, political leaders and teacher. This element can be found in ethic context. One is regarded to fulfill the ethical behavior if they behave consistent with social norms that set in their society. While in stage two, the benchmark for right behavior is means acting for self-interest. They will typically satisfy their own needs before the others. People in this group are practicing the element of fairness, reciprocity and equal sharing, however, in a pragmatic way, for example: you scratch my back and I will scratch yours (Kohlberg,1971).

Conventional level of moral development is much common in today society. Good boy/girl in stage three explains that good behavior is usually judge by intention. It further explained that good behavior is actions that making others happy, helping others, and must approved by them. Integrity consists of element in stage three as integrity is not solely depended on rule and regulation by authority group. Instead, it is emphasized on personal judgment, for example, ‘trust’ is hardly to measure with rule and regulations. On the other hand, stage four is law oriented. This means that people in this group are behaving based on a fixed set of rules and regulation. This can explain well the characteristic of ethic. In ethic study, one is considered acting ethically if he/she complied with the legal point of view set by authority in society. He/she is considered practicing moral if he/she doing his duty, respecting authority decision, and comply with the given social norms.

Third level of Kohlberg moral development is suitable to explain the characteristic of integrity. In Solomon (1999) view integrity incorporates a balance between loyalty and moral autonomy and it is associated with moral humility. Social contract in stage five under post-conventional level is the continuous of stage 4 ”law and order”. Behavior under social contact is still based on law and regulations set in society, but subjected to rational consideration. This means that there is a possibility of changing in law set by society, depending on the situation. It is about the mutual benefit, welfare and interest of the society as explained by Palanski and Yammarino (2007) integrity is about wholeness. The last stage is about principled conscience, which emphasize on universal principal and individual conscience. As discuss in Gutmann (1945) paper, integrity is seems to be something far more than a simple agreement. Gutmann said in order to achieve integrity, adjustment of innumerable elements which themselves compose the people character. There is no fixed rules and law, but it is based on intrinsic moral value. It is consistence with stage five in Kohlberg Moral Development, theorem emphasize on the universal principles of justice, reciprocity, equal respect and the dignity of human right. For example, a person claims to practice integrity if his /her actions are based on their conscience. At the same time, the actions done are fulfilling the universal principles.

4.2 The Forsyth Theory

High Relativism Low Relativism


High Idealism

-Rejects moral codes

-personal analysis of actions in each situation


-Idealistic Skeptic


– Accepts moral codes

– Ethical decisions must not harm others

– Deontologist


Low Idealism

– Rejects moral codes

– Personal values determine judgments,

– Not universal codes

– Ethical egoists


– Accepts moral codes, but open to exceptions.

– Optimal outcomes not possible for all

– Teleologist, utilitarian

Figure 1

Forsyth’s Taxonomy of personal Moral Philosophies (S.J. Forsyth, 1980)

Sources: Chan. L. M, Othman. J & Joned. R (2011), The Conceptual Model of Personal Philosophy Ethical Decision Making. Journal of Management Research.

According to Bass, Barnett & Brown (1998) the differences between the ethical theories of deontology, teleology, and scepticism are the degree of the theories which is relativistic or non – relativistic. Generally, most of the ethics theories recognized the personal moral philosophy (PMP) as one of important elements for individual’s ethical decision making process.

Forsyth (1980) has designed a 2 X 2 category of moral philosophies based on these two dimensions. He terms the integrated system of ethics as “personal moral philosophy” (PMP). According to Forsyth (1980) a person’s moral beliefs, attitudes and values are included PMP. In the PMP, it provides the guidelines for moral judgments, solutions to ethical dilemmas, because it contains the elements produced by previous experiences in resolving ethical dilemmas (Chan, Othman & Joned, 2011).

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As Forsyth (1980) states relativism is the degree to which an individual rejects universal moral rules as appropriate guidelines for ethical decisions. Forsyth (1992) argued moral rules exist in a situational context as a function of time, place and culture and relativism said that moral absolutes should be rejected. Normally, high relativistic people who will believe the universal ethical codes or moral principles are not important when making ethical judgments and decision because they must consider external factors also. While, low relativistic person when making a moral judgments or decision will more stress on the importance of rigid adherence to ethical codes.

Forsyth (1988) explained that idealism is involves expand of an individual’s concern with the welfare of others. This is the degree to which an individual believes that desirable consequences can, with the right action, always be obtained (Forsyth, 1980). An idealist believes that morally correct actions will always produce negative and also positive consequences (Forsyth, 1980). A person who are highly idealistic individuals are believe that harming is avoidable, and they would rather not choose if the decision will lead to negative consequences for other people (Karande, Rao, & Singhapakdi, 2002). Idealism involves the values which related to sense of optimism in considering responses to moral issues; however, it is not based on an embrace of moral absolutes (Singhapakdi, Vitell, & Franke, 1999). Therefore, idealism and relativism are conceptually independent, and individuals maybe high or low on either dimensions (Forsyth, 1980; Karande, 2002).

From the previous research and finding found that many authors concluded the differences in personal moral philosophies are influence individuals toward the argumentative of ethical issues (business ethics). Based on the variety of social and ethics issues, the personal moral philosophy have shown that the beliefs on which ethical decisions should be made are important elements of attitudes (Chan, Othman & Joned, 2011).

5.0 The Relationship Between Integrity and Ethics In Organization

An organization’s success depends on the integrity of its employees. Over the past several of the studies, many documented evidence proven of unethical behaviour in organizations (McDonal & Nijhof, 1999). The lack of morality and ethics (employee) in an organization will results in lost security and credibility. The employees are the person who always contact with customers; therefore, they are representative of organizations’ image. If an employee acts without integrity will cause organization’s reputation damaged and both customers and employees a tragic loss (Czimbal & Brooks, nd.). The behaviour and performance of leaders were assumed to affect other people and organization (Cielo, nd.).

According to Cheney (2006) organizations that have conducted an ethical orientation will witness the improved reputations. Generally, most theories and empirical research have attributed unethical behaviour to situational variables associated with the organization, characteristics of the individuals, or the interaction between these two factors (Trevin, 1986; Ford & Richardson, 1994; Loe, 2000). Following by this, ethics and integrity also became a research focus, and specifically the relationship between a contribute individual’s prosperity and the collective good. However, Dehspande (1996) argued that ethics policies in an organization and ethical behaviour of employees and management within an organization are two different concepts; yet, they do influence each other.

According to Peterson (2003) the degree to which a person believes in universal moral is influence by how are the situational variables is. That is, some individuals may believe that certain acts such as bribe, unfaithful, are always wrong. However, the other individuals may reject the concept that there are universal moral rules and assume that what make up ethical behaviour depends on the situation of the behaviour. One of the possibilities that is, every people is different, in terms of their degree of believe in universal moral rules, and the belief that related to ethics. All such elements have been incorporated into a number of theories on ethical behaviour. The belief of ethics is relative incorporated into a number of theories on ethical behaviour is related to the possibility that individuals differ in terms of the degree to which they believe.

One of the situational factors is after the observed unethical behaviour among many organizations; it assumed that the much of the differences is the integrity or ethical attitudes of the organization’s leaders (Sims & Brinkmann, 2002). According to Resick, Hanges, Marcus, Dickson, and Mitchelson (2006) explored approval that one of the components that characterize ethical leadership is integrity. Due to Beu and Buckley (2004) claimed that organization members will be influences if that leaders with unethical practices. Follow by Simons (1999) studied integral behaviour as an ingredient of leadership and found that a meaningful direct relationship between integrity and the ability to incur the changes. Davis and Rothslein (2006) further commented that ethical leadership involves personal integrity.

The six core universal moral values stated in the Aspen Declaration have been referred to by other business ethicists (Carroll, 1993; Schwartz,2002) Josephson institute of ethics (1996) claim that what appear from the analysis is that moral values are declaim by other resources. The values include the following (Josephson, 1996):

Trustworthiness (including the notions of honesty, integrity, reliability, and loyalty;

Respect (including concept of civility, autonomy, and tolerance);

Responsibility (including notions of accountability, excellence, and self- restraint);

Fairness (including concepts of process, impartiality and equity);

Caring (including notions of concern for the welfare of others, as well as benevolence);and

Citizenship (including concept of respecting the law and protecting environment).

According to Peterson & Forsyth (1980) was proposed that the beliefs of individuals varied along from a strong belief in universal moral rules to a belief that ethics is relative. Kohlberg’s (1969) original model viewed moral development as progressing through a series of stages and levels. An individual are assumed to believe in universal values or principles where highest level of moral are developed. It would seem logical to assume that individuals would not easily to be affected others views, such as leaders in organization because of the strong belief in universal moral rules (Peterson, 2003).

Forsyth’s model normally individual who expected to solve ethical dilemma is adapted to belief in universal moral rules. However, in Kohlberg’s model, individuals functioning at the highest level of moral reasoning are assumed to follow to a self-chosen set of moral rules and are expected to reason beyond the norms, laws, or authority of any individual group. Therefore, it acceptable to say that individual with strong belief in moral rules is not easily to be influenced.

Conversely, it also reasonable to say that individuals who are strongly belief universal moral rules could be easily influenced by external factors in determining ethically appropriate. In Forsyth’s framework, individual will judge ethical dilemmas based on their personal perception and knowledge towards the situation if they do not belief in universal moral values. However, according to Kohberg’s model, some of the individual will classified at the level of moral to determine ethically appropriate based on their expectations of behaviour of others, such as family, a peer group, or society in general. Therefore, based on all these theories, people who not believe in universal moral rules seems likely easily influenced by others, as well as the leaders in the organization ( Peterson, 2003).

6.0 Conclusion

The relationship between integrity and ethics remains unclear because the researchers (McAllister, 1995; Kramer, 2000; Tyler, 2003) failed to declare the relationship between these two concepts through their researches. The reasons behind this phenomenon are clear as the relationship between integrity and ethics are mutual in nature. Integrity is a personal code of conduct that goes above the letter of good conduct and encompasses the spirit of good conduct (Shane, 2007) whereas ethics is an entity to be formed within a societal or environmental situation. The foundation assumption of ethics is that it develops through time, space and context. Integrity defined as the consistency of an acting entity’s words and actions (Palanski & Yammarino, 2007). The reciprocal relationship has create confusion towards the understanding on how exactly these two distinct concepts works in a social phenomenon.

Kohlberg theory attempts to capture the whole relationship between these two dimensions which is integrity and ethics. However, this theory is still way behind to explain the relationship. Kohlberg’s theory is concerned with moral thinking, but there are always a big gap between knowing what we should to do and our real actions (Cherry, nd.). Perceived an individual’s functioning at the highest level of moral reasoning are assumed to follow to a self-chosen set of moral rules and are expected to reason beyond the norms, laws, or authority of any individual group (Peterson, 2003) . Thus, it adequate to about that individual with strong belief in moral rules is not easily to be influenced.

The challenge of modern society is that there is a missing link between people and the quality of integrity. It has been lost to most in our world and culture. Some people not even know what integrity means. Integrity is a model of truthful and honest, yet its value in society seems to be underrated. Integrity is complete honesty in any situation (Flynn, 1978). Having a high level of integrity is one of the most important characteristic people can possess. It is a core value, a choice and something people can nurture. Integrity means totally ethical behavior at all times and in all situations, regardless of the consequences. People may not always be right or do right, but if people have integrity, they will accept the responsibility associate with their actions. People will feel remorse if they have done something wrong and revise their mistakes to ensure it will not happen in the future.

A general is that an organization always overvalues the differentiation of the organization culture from the national culture. Different organization from a given country share many characteristics (Hofstede 1991; Zander 1997). They are differing according to the ethical values focused on and the implementation approaches used. Some companies focus on the core values of integrity that reflect basic obligations, such as respect for the rights of others, honesty, fair dealing, and obedience to the law. Other companies highlight ambitions values that are ethically desirable but not necessarily morally obligatory such as good service to customers, a commitment to diversity, and involvement in the community (Paine, 2001).

As widely defined, integrity is more than ethics (Duggar, nd.). However, the issue arise is that it is hard for one to be classified as an individual of integrity. This is because the meaning of integrity itself is ambiguous and confusing, for instance, Turnnet (nd.) stated that individual of integrity will be responsible to keep promises. In practice, we are hardly to judge whether someone are keeping promise based on their responsibility. For instance, an employee could work overtime because he wants to keep his promises and responsibility in completing tasks. It may also happen because the employee intends to earn overtime paid by dragging the given tasks. Unlike ethics, integrity has no guideline or code to be followed. As mention by Duggar, integrity is about fair, just and acceptable. However these elements are hardly to be standardized as it is very subjective.


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