Personal Integrity and Trust

In his Guest Post, The Trust Factor, Sikandar Sardesai had concluded, “If we are to get rid of the “Scam India” image, that’s where we need to start – with personal integrity and trust.”

I am re-posting, with a few changes, Can we eradicate corruption? Yes We Can!, which I had originally posted on Sep 12, 2013. This is a true story of one Indian organisation that successfully introduced a culture of personal integrity and trust.

In many companies, employees who undertake outstation travel for work are reimbursed conveyance and travelling expenses in a manner that enables them to claim more than they actually spend. Thus, the employees get ‘tax-free income’. In fact, this ‘tax-free income’ is taken into account while negotiating salary packages, particularly in case of sales and service personnel.

This system is so widespread that most people do not even consider it unethical. In fact, about 3 years back, there were reports that a prominent anti-corruption crusader had claimed inflated travel expenses from some organisations for attending programmes conducted by them. In some cases, Business Class fare was claimed when actually flying Economy. In some other cases, full fare was claimed even though discounted fare tickets had been booked. This was not denied, but it was explained that the ‘savings’ were used not by the individual, but for the benefit of the crusader’s NGO. I personally believe the explanation given by this person, but can you blame people if they say this is just a ‘story’?

A few years back, I was part of the senior management of a start-up. We had decided that we would conduct all aspects of the business in an ethical manner. Among other things, this meant the company’s employees would not get ‘tax-free income’ from conveyance and travelling expenses. Obviously, we offered compensation packages that were higher than the rest of the industry to make up for the loss of this ‘tax-free income’.

This had a very positive effect on all employees. Since the management was totally transparent in all other matters as well, the transparency was reciprocated by the employees. How transparent, one may ask?

PS, our Service Manager had to undergo 2 weeks’ training at a manufacturer’s factory in Taiwan. We had booked a room for him in the hotel where all visitors to that factory usually stayed. On the first day of his training, PS informed me that the manufacturer’s Sales Manager, a bachelor living alone in a 2-bedroom apartment, had invited PS to stay with him since he had a spare bedroom. PS was keen to accept since this would save our company the hotel expenses for the remaining 12 days, but he wanted to know if I had any objection to such an arrangement. After ascertaining from him that this arrangement had been initiated by his host, and that the spare bedroom was properly furnished, I replied that I had no objection. I also made it very clear to him that, while I fully appreciated his desire to reduce our company’s expenses, I would be extremely upset if he compromised on his food expenses during his visit.

There was no need for PS to do what he had done. He personally did not gain one paisa. Why did he do it? Because of organisation culture!

What is the ‘culture’ of the ‘organisation’ called India? What can be the ‘culture’ of a country where people think that most of their ‘leaders’ are corrupt?

Can we change this ‘culture’? I believe we can. If many, many of us believe we can, and if we work hard and work persistently, we can surely make it happen! What was achieved in one Indian organisation can be achieved in the entire country. Yes We Can!

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3 thoughts on “Personal Integrity and Trust

  1. More than the so-called ‘organization culture’, it is one’s mindset that plays a major role in matters like corruption which have much to do with personal attitudes – in your case of Mr. PS, had he chosen to stay in the new accommodation and yet claim the full hotel charges there was no way the company could come to know. Or booking an air ticket, using it to claim refund and then cancelling it, not having to attach the boarding pass is another form.
    When our dis-honourable law making MPs and once Annaji ardent and award winding ex-IPS could resort to such practices!
    Some weighing the cost-benefit analysis of paying a small on-the-spot bribe to a traffic cop can save numerous court visits to retrieve the seized driving license, it is not considered ‘bribe’ but justifiably ‘facilitation fee’ pure and simple!
    Indira said, “Corruption is a universal phenomenon.” How far from truth was she?
    In China they shoot the corrupt, in Russia they are called ‘fat cat oligarchs’ and in India – Netas and babus and tycoons!

  2. Eradicating the “Scam India” image is indeed a tough call. But we need to begin with ourselves in a modest way by – stopping at red lights and other small violations within our control 🙂

  3. It all starts from the top and then it percolates down at the grass roots. So, ethics and integrity if it practiced and inspired from the top, the message gets down easily down the hierarchy too.

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