Ethics, Integrity and Trust: How can we arrive at the same answer?

ethics-integrity-trustIntegrity is choosing actions based on values rather than personal or organizational gain.

Trust is confidence that a person or organization will do what they say they will do.

What steps should an organization take to provide reasonable assurance that their employees will make decisions with integrity and based upon the values of the organization? How can you feel confident that what your organization is saying it will do is what your employees are doing? Now, more than ever, organizations are a melting pot of individuals with differing backgrounds and value systems. While an employee is making the right decision based upon their personal values, is that decision the right decision for the organization? Do their decisions align with the values of the organization? Are your employees building trust or undermining the trust that your clients and customers have in your organization?

According to Stephen Covey, “Trust is confidence born of two dimensions: character and competence. Character includes your integrity, motive, and intent with people. Competence includes your capabilities, skills, results, and track record.” This article will touch on the character component of trust. A person’s perception of someone’s character is based upon their integrity and the ethical choices that they make. The dilemma faced by many organizations is that their employees may have a different ethical basis than the organization. This is where a code of business ethics that clearly states the ethical perspective of the organization is important.

Yet an organization can have a clear code of business ethics, require their employees to sign the code, and even provide some annual training and still have employees making decisions that are contrary to the ethical values of the organization. Why is this happening? Usually it is because the employees do not understand or are not required to apply an ethical decision making framework when faced with ethical dilemmas. There are many frameworks to choose from, including scholarly frameworks such as Langenderfer and Rockness’s seven stage framework, Michael Davis’ Seven Step approach, Vanya Kovach’s Exploration, Evaluation & Reflecting model, and others such as the US Department of Defense Joint Ethics Regulation and even the Rotary Four Way test. It is important that an organization decide upon their version of an ethical framework and teaches their employees how to use the framework.


What is the best way to select a framework? How can a company implement and teach their employees the company’s ethical approach?

Ms. Nissley invites you to join her on December 15, 2016, from 2:00 to 3:00 pm EST for a free webinar titled “Ethics, Integrity and Trust,” to explore these topics further.

“Sow and act … reap a habit; Sow a habit … reap a character: Sow a character … reap a destiny.” George Dana Boardman

Ms. Elaine Nissley is a Principal and leads the Internal Audit and Management Consulting group at McKonly and Asbury. Please feel free to contact her at with any questions.