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In business ethics, integrity describes how people live the moral values they say they believe in. For a person to have integrity, they need to know what their moral values are and then strive to model them in their behaviour. In this sense, the antonym of integrity is hypocrisy and to doubt the integrity of another without just cause is cynicism.
The challenge for all of us, especially in business, is that moral values such as fairness, courage and love are easy to claim to have, but difficult to demonstrate. However, integrity is not an absolute and we must be cautious when anyone or any organisation claims to have complete integrity. The reality is that while we may strive to live up to our values and do the right thing, we will sometimes fail. It’s what we do next that then sustains our integrity. Admitting our mistakes, saying sorry and making things right are powerful qualities in people and businesses that strive for integrity.
One final, but crucial quality of integrity is that it is not the same as compliance with rules. In fact psychologists and philosophers argue that "integrity has no need of rules" (Albert Camus). In this sense then, integrity is about understanding and acting within the spirit of the law, not just the letter.