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Integrity: Is it even scarcer than we think?

About Philosophically

I think, therefore I am.

‘Transparency is more credible than integrity.’

In a study I completed, nine out of 10 women said that they wanted a man with integrity. Those same women did not believe their husbands had the level of integrity they needed - and said they did not believe a man when he said he had it.

Few of us believe anyone who claims to have integrity.

Few of us believe anyone who claims to have integrity. Pic: iStock

Integrity - according to these women - is a valued but all too rare commodity, particularly among men. But is it limited to men? Do women have any more integrity?

A study by someone else found that lying was very common on first dates. Indeed, this study found that 61% of people lied on their first date. While men were found to lie more often on a first date, both men and women were found to lack the integrity to tell the truth all of the time.

Another study, supported by many replications, found that while 22% of men had extramarital sex, so did 14% of women. Men may be worse, but both genders lack integrity.

So, it seems that integrity is even scarcer than many think and it is by no means limited to individuals. Businesses are notorious for lacking integrity. Consider:

  • In 2015, OPTUS was fined for false and misleading advertising.
  • In 2016, Coles was fined for poor behaviour toward suppliers.
  • In 2016, BHP subsidiary Samarco - following the deaths of 19 people in Brazil after its dam burst and devastated a nearby village - made it difficult for those affected to claim damages.
  • Over several years, the COMMONWEALTH BANK has been the subject of many investigations regarding Bankwest, superannuation and, more recently, insurance.
  • Not only did these major businesses demonstrate a lack of integrity in all of these cases – ALL FOUR of them have ‘integrity’ listed as a core value on either their website or that of their parent company.

    Certainly, these businesses may have a different definition of the word ‘integrity’ than me, but I have little doubt many people would consider the behaviours described above as reflecting a high level of integrity – at least as commonly defined.

    While it is true that integrity can be defined as relating to consistency and ‘the state of being whole or undivided’, most people also take it to relate to qualities of being honest and having strong moral principles – something the behaviour of these businesses brings into question – at least in so far as they are concerned.

    Research suggests that trust in business is at an all-time low. One recent worldwide study with 26,000 respondents found that just 50% of respondents trusted businesses to do the right thing, while just 18% of respondents trusted business leaders to do the right thing. Trust in government and politicians was even lower.

    This research suggests that business and government are seen as lacking integrity. My research suggests that men in general are seen as lacking in integrity and subsequent research has found that women are also inclined and have extramarital sex.

    This and other research has found that claims about integrity are rarely believed – and, it would seem, with good reason. We all are well aware of the lack of integrity out there.

    The only thing I can think of that will restore integrity and the perception that individuals, genders, businesses, business leaders, governments and politicians have integrity is transparency.

    We need to do everything we can to maximise transparency at every level. This will enable those who want to judge do so on the basis of data, rather than claims that they do not believe anyway.

    If we all demand transparency of each other, integrity will return. If we all demand transparency of business, integrity will return. It we all demand integrity in government and by politicians, integrity will return. What is more, in all cases the perception of integrity will return.

    Transparency enables us to judge integrity for ourselves.

    How do we facilitate integrity? Well, that is another question!

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