One of the definitions of integrity is "unity" – congruence between actions, words, and beliefs. Most would tell you that integrity is a good thing. Unfortunately, many of their actions don't match that sentiment. Many people are willing to put their ethics and integrity aside for some short term gain.
What they fail to understand is that there is a real on-going economic impact to putting aside their integrity even temporarily
Let's consider enterprise, brand, and personal examples.
The impact of compromising your enterprise's integrity
One organization took advantage of bankruptcy protection to reorganize their finances. As part of the deal, they were allowed to stretch payments to suppliers out to 100-days. Turned out they didn't always need that much time so they were often paying suppliers in 60 or 90 days, well within the 100-days.
Unfortunately, their suppliers didn't see it that way. Their suppliers' starting point wasn't the 100-days. It was the 30 or 45 days of their normal terms. So what the company saw as early, the suppliers saw as late. This was one of the reasons suppliers stopped viewing the company as one of their most valued customer and started:
- Raising prices to offset the expected slower payments (and future bankruptcy risk)
- Declining requests for improved production times or expedited lead times
- Declining requests to fast track prototypes
- Refusing new purchase orders until the previous shipments had been paid for
- Choosing not to work with the company at all in some cases – particularly if they were new suppliers
This is a real economic impact of lost trust which can be rebuilt only over time.
The economic impact of compromising your brand's integrity
It's not clear whether Toyota deserved all the scorn heaped on it around its random acceleration issues. I've been a loyal Toyota purchaser for a long time. While we've compared models, years, new vs. used, and dealers, for one set of our cars, we've considered only Toyotas. This time around, we'll at least look at other brands.
The hit to my trust of this brand will cost them perhaps in lost sales, but certainly in having to work harder for future sales.
The economic impact of compromising personal integrity
In today's networked world, we all know people who "pay it forward", reciprocate, and take. Most of us start by assuming good intentions. It's easier to work with people that have good intentions. When we discover that some of those people aren't what they pretend to be, it hurts – and it makes it harder to work with them.
There's a real cost to having to double check what they say and not being able to trust them.
"Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed."
Thus speaks Shakespeare's Iago in Othello. It's bad enough when someone else filches your good name – far worse to give it away yourself.