Topics: Ethics, Morality, Cost-benefit analysis Pages: 11 (3731 words) Published: December 8, 2012
Preliminary and incomplete, comments welcome © Copyright 2009. Michael C. Jensen. All rights reserved.

November 12, 2009

Negotiation, Organizations and Markets Research Papers

Integrity: Without It Nothing Works

Interview: by Karen Christensen, from Rotman: The Magazine of the Rotman School of Management, Fall 2009, pp. 16-20

Jesse Isidor Straus Professor Emeritus, Harvard Business School Chairman, Managing Director and Integrity Czar, Social Science Research Network

Abstract There is confusion between integrity, morality and ethics. My co-authors, Werner Erhard and Steve Zaffron, and I, in our paper “Integrity: A Positive Model that Incorporates the Normative Phenomena of Morality, Ethics and Legality” (available at, distinguish integrity, from morality and ethics in the following way. Integrity in our model 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.

Some of the material presented in this paper is based on or derived from the consulting and program material of the Vanto Group, and from material presented in the Landmark Forum and other programs offered by Landmark Education LLC. The ideas and the methodology created by Werner Erhard underlie much of the material.

FAIR USE: You may redistribute this document freely, but please do not post the electronic file on the web. We welcome web links to this document at: I revise my papers regularly, and providing a link to the original ensures that readers will receive the most recent version. Thank you, Michael C. Jensen

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Integrity is a matter of a person’s word – nothing more and nothing less. Michael Jensen explains. Interview by Karen Christensen

There is some confusion between the terms integrity, morality and ethics. How do you differentiate them?

a group or organization. Thus, both morality and ethics relate to desirable vs. undesirable behaviour. You define integrity as “what it takes for a person to be whole and complete.” What does this look like in daily life?

These three phenomena are widely understood to provide standards of ‘correct’ behaviour, but people generally get them mixed up. The primary differentiation I make between them is to distinguish integrity from morality and ethics. Integrity is a purely positive proposition. It has nothing to do with good vs. bad. Think for a moment about the Law of Gravity: there is no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ gravity; like integrity, it just ‘is’. Morality and ethics, on the other hand, are normative concepts in that they deal with matters of good or bad, right vs. wrong. Morality refers to a society’s standards of right and wrong behaviour for individuals and groups within that society, while ethics refers to the normative set of values that apply to all members of 16 / Rotman Magazine Fall 2009

An individual is whole and complete when their word is whole and complete, and their word is whole and complete when they honour their word. We can honour our word in one of two ways: first, by keeping our word, and on time as promised; or second, as soon as we know that we won’t keep our word, we inform all parties involved and clean up any mess that we’ve caused in their lives. When we do this, we are honouring our word despite having not kept it, and we have maintained our integrity. If you are serious about being a person of integrity, you will think very carefully before giving your word to anyone or any-


thing, and you will never give your word to two or more...
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