The Blog

Is There Any Integrity Or Honesty Out There?

Self interest seems to trump "doing what is right," dragging the world into more and more of the kind of "caveat emptor" thinking that helped created the economic crisis that seems to pervade life these days.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Over the past few months, I have been taking a look at what separates us, ranging from cynicism and criticism to the difference between listening to understand and the growing epidemic of intolerance that seems to be the dominant form of discourse these days.

In the continuing spirit of diving into what separates us, I thought we might open the Pandora's box of integrity and honesty this week. The debacle surrounding Shirley Sherrod provides a great backdrop for beginning to explore this critical aspect of human character.

Merriam-Webster tells us that integrity means a "firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values;" they also tell us that honesty is the primary synonym for integrity. Honesty is defined as "free from fraud or deception."

While it is easy to look at either side of the political divide and see considerable evidence of self-serving deception, it's also pretty easy to look at day-to-day life in the less rarified atmospheres that you and I most likely spend our time and find equally disturbing signs of cracks in the integrity and honesty veneer.

Recently, I was working with a corporate client who was bent on restoring some of the sheen to a formerly stellar growth curve. The great recession-depression of the past two years had taken its toll on their revenues and the organization was desperate to get back on top. They hired a new crop of seasoned sales executives and offered them some pretty aggressive sales incentives for hitting lofty goals.

When I asked them how this was going, the response was a bit startling. The COO said it was going great and that they would be paying out some hefty commissions this year. He then went on to say that next year they planned to pull the plug on these incentives, and drop back to former levels of compensation.

On the one hand, I suppose that sounds like "business as usual." On the other, all these new sales people were recruited with the promise of something that would be "industry leading" and each was encouraged to invest heavily in the development of their territories out of their own pockets, under the assurance that they would be compensated on the back end if successful.

When I asked the COO how he thought all this would play out when the compensation reverted to "normal," long after these sales folks had invested personally to develop their respective areas, he replied that by then, the sales staff would have little choice but to stick around given the investment already made.

That was enough for me to thank them for the opportunity and decline further involvement.

Sadly, this kind of story is all too familiar. Self interest seems to trump "doing what is right," dragging the world into more and more of the kind of "caveat emptor" thinking that helped created the economic crisis that seems to pervade most of life these days.

And it doesn't start or stop with politics, business, banks or sales organizations either.

How about you? Do you ever lie? I know I don't. I just tell "white lies." I occasionally embellish the truth to make it more interesting. Or make excuses for being late, forgetting an appointment, or some other version of "my dog ate my homework."

And if I really get on my soapbox, I can get pretty riled up just watching something as dumb as a sporting event. How many times has a tennis opponent clearly seen that the ball was in while the umpire ruled it out, and simply moved on to play the next point? Or how about the "color commentator" in football or basketball or soccer (or pick your sport), who shows the slow motion replay of someone being held or fouled only to have the commentator add something about "great play if you can get away with it?"

Do you have kids? What do you suppose they are learning while watching "great play if you can get away with it?" What do you suppose they are learning while watching "racist" accusations fly and careers tarnished over something that just didn't happen? What are they supposed to learn while observing the playing field of "democracy" where our politicians can attack with any form of lie and deception as long as they "just win?"

It's a short post this week. I'm just concerned that upright, honest and integral behavior are destined for the same outcome as buggy whips and teletypes.

What do you think?

I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)


If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)