Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2009

Integrity: Without It Nothing Works

by Michael C. Jensen

Abstract

There is confusion between integrity, morality and ethics. In our much longer paper on the topic (see "Integrity: A Positive Model that Incorporates the Normative Phenomena of Morality, Ethics and Legality" (available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=920625)) my co-authors, Werner Erhard and Steve Zaffron and I, distinguish integrity, from morality and ethics in the following way. Integrity in our model is honoring your word. As such integrity is a purely positive phenomenon. It has nothing to do with good vs. bad, right vs. wrong behavior. Like the law of gravity the law of integrity just is, and if you violate the law of integrity as we define it you get hurt just as if you try to violate the law of gravity with no safety device. The personal and organizational benefits of honoring one's word are huge--both for individuals and for organizations--and generally unappreciated.

Keywords: Trust; Moral Sensibility; Legal Liability; Behavior;

Citation:

Jensen, Michael C. "Integrity: Without It Nothing Works." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 10-042, November 2009.