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What Is the Difference Between Ethics and Integrity?

What is the difference between ethics and integrity
Article by: Charissa Bloomberg / Celebrity Psychologist 

At a time when corruption is destroying organisations around the world on an almost daily basis, it’s surely not surprising that this is still a question so often asked during integrity leadership and development training.

There has likely never been a more valuable or opportune moment to increase our sensitivity to, and awareness of, this burning issue, so I’ll try to answer that question within the confines of this article.

In a nutshell, the difference is this:

Integrity is the internal quality of being honest, having strong moral principles, and doing the right thing. It’s our personal code of conduct that governs how we behave and conduct ourselves personally and professionally.

Ethics is more external, and applies to an organisation’s rules, regulations, and organisational code of conduct that have been created to allow employees to work following moral principles.

Ethics can, in theory, be enforced, but ultimately, it is an individual’s own levels of integrity that dictate whether they will uphold the ethics of an organisation.

For example, as psychologists and counsellors, our code of ethics dictates we can’t have personal relationships with our clients, the people we counsel.

However, if we don’t have integrity, we won’t uphold this code.

It’s a hard lesson for organisations to learn.

It only takes ones leader not to act with integrity to cause a damaging ripple effect that can impact employee morale and productivity and, ultimately, the overall reputation of the company.

It can be something as small as someone not keeping their word, or promising one thing and then doing another.

I think a big part of the problem is that integrity is probably one of the most misunderstood words in the English language.

Organisations love to use it in their value statements, and it always looks and sounds good on paper. But when it comes to actually putting it into practice, people are at a loss.

And when you add ethics into the mix, things become even more confusing.

Professions have codes of ethics to which their members are bound, and which outline the type of conduct that is, and is not, acceptable.

Ethics principles are found everywhere, but their shared purpose is to set the standards for what is, and is not, considered moral behaviour.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to trust.

Trust is an integral part of integrity, and we all want to trust the people and the companies we work for and do business with.

It’s important to remember that ethics is not a personal choice, but integrity is.

Ethics can be imposed on employees, but integrity cannot.

This is why it is so important to offer your employees preventative integrity training awareness. Because it is the individual who decides each day whether to act with integrity and do the right thing, or not.

The integrity of a business’ employees affects all customer groups and every area of business operation.

It is therefore essential to incorporate ethics and integrity into the core fabric of your organisation.

Today, more than ever, people need to understand that it doesn’t matter whether they work from home, in the office, or remotely – their integrity impacts on the ethics of the business.

Do you feel you have integrity? Do you use it to contribute to the company’s code of ethics to help it develop and, in turn, develop you?

If you would like to cultivate higher levels of integrity in your organisation, please contact us – we’d love to help.

We offer courses virtually, online, and face-to-face, as well as mentoring to help build an organisational culture where integrity is high. This is the best way we know to help safeguard against an integrity lapse.

Integrity costs nothing, but when you lose it, you lose everything.”

Charissa Bloomberg


C Bloomberg Integrity leadership specialist, Celebrity psychologist.