How much integrity do you have? If you are like most people, your response is a definite ‘lots!’ Yet in spite of our character strengths such as courage and loyalty, our self-appraisals of integrity can be seriously influenced by our own self-serving distortions—namely, rationalizing away inconsistencies between our purported values and our actual actions. ‘I am a moral person and a model person’ can be one of the greatest self-evident truths of human history, at least to ourselves. …

Unfortunately we can all be seriously duped and disabled by Machiavellian-type people and processes (Luke 16:8) [who believe that in order to maintain order, they must “know how to do wrong, and to make use of it or not according to necessity.”]

We call these DD Realities (DD): personal and organizational dysfunction (distortion of reality for one’s own ends) and deviance (exploitation of others for one’s own ends).

DD is often disguised as ‘virtuous’ or ‘necessary for the greater good’. In organizations, managing DD is especially tricky when there is insufficient understanding, accountability, or political will to enforce good practice standards resolutely. Above all, DD is reinforced when people compromise their integrity by looking the other way, rationalizing their responsibility, and ultimately becoming polluted themselves (see Prov 16:2 and 25:26).

This grid helps recognize the presence and progression of DD in organizational settings. These five tactics can overlap. The grid can also be used as a mirror into one’s own integrity:

Deny. Conceal DD. ‘Don’t ask about problems (even obvious ones), don’t tell about problems, and don’t rock the boat’ is a pervasive, core, unwritten rule.

Downplay. Minimize DD’s negative impact. State that it is probably ‘normal’. Relational unity and conformity trump truth and genuine relationships.

Distract. Distract from the real DD issues. ‘Feign pain’ and get sympathy; or admit that something is ‘not exactly right’ and refer to problems as being largely a matter of having different perspectives/preferences–a need to agree to disagree.

Discredit. Belittle those who point out or inquire about DD. Silence them. Instill an atmosphere of fear of reprisals and intimidation to prevent people from speaking up or calling for good practice.

Destroy. Demolish people’s reputations, contributions, relationships, and wellbeing. Use half-truths, spin, lies, rumors, threats, false accusations, and dismissals. Reap the benefits of control, position, respect, status quo, and revenue streams.

This was an excerpt from the article “A Summons to a Global Integrity Movement: Fighting Self-Deception and Corruption” by Kelly and Michèle O’Donnell, in the Lausanne Global Analysis · March 2018 · Volume 7 / Issue 2.

Image: Illustration courtesy of Marc Rosenthal, originally posted in article

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