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Organizational Integrity and Politics
In addressing the issues of personal ethics in organizational integrity, it is particularly interesting to turn to examples from politics. Politics is different in many ways from corporate governance and organizational management, but there are also important similarities. One of the key factors that allow considering political figures in the organizational integrity discussion is leadership. Politicians are leaders, and they are involved in important decision-making. They have not only direct power like creating policies or distributing resources but also a kind of indirect power to affect attitudes and perceptions of their audiences by speaking publicly with authority, creating the agenda, and expressing certain opinions. Moreover, politicians act as representatives of particular political forces or groups in a population on whose behalf they speak. From this perspective, politicians in their work are obliged to comply with ethical principles (Rae and Wong 249). However, the question of interest is whether or not they are also obliged to make their personal lives transparent and demonstrate proper ethics in it too.
Character and Performance
It can be argued that the public has the right to know about politicians’ private lives. Principal arguments involve the importance of character in politicians’ work, the issue of meeting requirements, and the consideration of honesty. First of all, personal qualities of a person may affect the way that person performs at his or her job, which is why responsible work requires a high level of personal responsibility demonstrated in everyday life (Stanyer 130). Therefore, someone who executes responsibilities that affect many people should be ready to reveal his or her personal characteristics to the public, so that the public has an opportunity to see that this someone as a personality complies with the requirements of the work he or she is doing.
Eligibility and Suitability
Second, these requirements shape the notions of eligibility and suitability which also contribute to the relevance of personal ethics in politics. Members of public may have various understandings of what it takes to be a politician or occupy a certain executive position, but there is generally the perception that not anyone can do this job. And the opinion of the public should be important to a political figure in democratic societies, which is exactly why politicians should be ready and willing to disclose details about their personal lives. For example, in Bill Clinton’s case, many people in the United States found it unacceptable that the President had had “an inappropriate relationship” (Thompson 156) with a White House intern, which was a remarkable case highlighting the significance of personal ethics for political figures.
Finally, the necessity for politicians to reveal their personal lives is justified by their obligation to be honest. From a certain perspective, honesty in politics, as well as organizations, is different from honesty in interpersonal communications. Politicians speak to large numbers of people, and they speak on important issues which are likely to cause something that will affect the lives of those people. Therefore, lying in politics can be especially harmful. For example, there is a male politician claiming that he has never taken any drugs. However, it becomes known to a group of journalists that this politician has a history of cocaine addiction. Publishing this information is a violation of the politician’s privacy, but it should be published anyway because the politician lied to the public, and the public has the right to know it was deceived.
Privacy is exactly what constitutes the most important counterargument in the addressed discussion. Everyone has a right to lead a private life, and this right should not be infringed. Moreover, the points listed above can be challenged, as some may argue that performance, including performance at a political position, should not be judged from the perspective of personal characteristics (Stanyer 101). For example, there might be a political figure who has always been complying with professional ethics in his or her work. But this person is revealed to have stolen a cantaloupe from a store. This may affect his or her career and possibly even ruin it. So did this information actually have to be published? Moreover, politicians are entitled to have personal lives like anyone else based on their essential human rights. Also, it should not be immediately assumed that personal lives of political figures will inevitably affect their professional performance.
Rebuttal: Public Activities and Representation
However, this counterargument fails to recognize the very core of being a political figure. In democratic societies, a political figure receives power and access to decision-making by representing the interests of citizens. Not all politicians are necessarily directly voted for to occupy their positions, but they all in a way execute the power of people. This is why people’s trust is pivotal to them. From this point of view, again, politics and corporate governance can be compared: politicians need to report to the society like directors of an organization have to report to its shareholders. If one opts for a career in politics, he or she should be ready to be as transparent as possible in order to gain the trust of the public necessary for successful performance as a politician.
Rae, Scott B., and Kenman L. Wong. Beyond Integrity: A Judeo-Christian Approach to Business Ethics. Zondervan, 2012.
Stanyer, James. Intimate Politics: Publicity, Privacy and the Personal Lives of Politicians in Media Saturated Democracies. John Wiley & Sons, 2013.
Thompson, John B. Political Scandal: Power and Visibility in the Media Age. John Wiley & Sons, 2013.