Huge thanks to Joseph Bridgstock for this great story:
Avoid getting in a pickle.
Did you see Eric Pickles, Chairman of the Conservative party, squirming in front of the BBC’s Question Time audience last week? The debate was about MP’s receiving funds to purchase second homes near Westminster, and in the course of the debate it was revealed to much heckling and booing from the audience, that Mr Pickles claimed funds for a second home despite being based only 37 miles from Westminster.
As a man that will be driving 113 miles to work on Monday morning (or taking the tempting 5 train option) I appreciated the audience’s incredulity. Pickles could probably have justified it a little better, but saying “I have to get to work on time” or, “I work long hours”, was not helpful. The debate was sparked by the increased exposure of MPs acting within the letter of the rules, but not within the spirit of them. It’s along the same lines as the “what can we get away with?” mindset that we may encounter in the workplace.
I’m sticking with anecdotes today, so here’s a slightly more inspiring one. I recently heard an American public speaker share a story about passing through Chicago airport with business associates. One of these associates had just sold his company for tens of millions of dollars. As they passed a newspaper vending machine the man placed a single coin in the machine, opened the door and began dispensing newspapers to the group. With the exception of the first news paper he removed, these were of course, stolen. Stolen by the multi-millionaire. As he handed a paper to our speaker, the storyteller placed a coin of his own in the machine and said, “Jim, for 25 cents I can maintain my integrity. A dollar, questionable, but 25 cents—no, not for 25 cents.” The speaker added wryly that a few minutes later he had watched the rich man leave the group to stuff a handful of coins into the machine.
Both these stories make me wonder what price we would put on integrity. I would like to think that most employees (a) believe in the value of integrity both internally and in customer relations, and (b) do not fall into the ‘getting away with it’ mindset. However a colleague once told me they leave their morals at the door when they arrive at work, and put them back on when they leave. Another tried to instruct me in how to fiddle the expenses system to best advantage. Maybe you’ve come across similar, and maybe you’ve seen companies and individuals get themselves into what we must now refer to as “a Pickle”.
I’d like to invite anyone that’s lasted this long (well done by the way) to have a think about your own experiences of integrity in the workplace. Have you seen it benefit the customer experience? Have you seen the harm of a ‘getting away with it’ culture? Have you come across research or studies on integrity and ethics in the workplace? Please share them with us, and help others avoid getting in “a Pickle”.