Quarter of Swiss Consider Business Managers Corrupt 

According to an article published at swissinfo.ch on April 16th, 2017, “a representative survey of 1,000 people by Transparency International in the SonntagsZeitung found that 23% of Swiss considered business managers corrupt. While 13% thought religious leaders and 11% thought politicians were open to bribery, the figure was only 4% for police officers.”

According to the 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International, Switzerland is 5th least corrupt country out of 176 and we can only imagine what the situation is in other countries. On the issue of private sector corruption worldwide, Transparency International publishes that “almost a fifth of executives surveyed by Ernst & Young claimed to have lost business to a competitor who paid bribes. More than a third felt corruption was getting worse.”

Corruption is not the only reason businesses make the headlines. There has been more than one scandal with epic proportions among which Wells Fargo, Volkswagen, Exxon Mobil, Goldman Sachs, Turing Pharmaceuticals, to name just a few, leaving us wonder…


Why? Why so many corporate screw-ups?

Why good companies attracting the best professionals allow that to happen? The easiest is to say that most people (especially top managers) are just bad and greedy and others are not so bad but need to take a refresher course in ethics. The easiest but not the most correct.

Guido Palazzo, professor of corporate ethics at the University of Lausanne, was quoted in the above article telling the SonntagsZeitung: “while many companies had tightened controls and created departments to ensure the law was followed, at the same time pressure to increase profits and reduce costs had increased. This could force staff to turn to illegal methods, he believed.” He added: “in most cases corruption isn’t the result of any character flaws on the part of employees but of aggressive targets set by the companies.”

I couldn’t agree more. Corporate screw-ups in most cases have nothing to do with character flaws. In normal circumstances, most people want to do the right thing. Also, it is very easy to just blame it on specific people or companies but we get a different perspective if we look at the whole, find the patterns and look for the intrinsic reasons behind.

In a recent article I quoted what Otto Scharmer, Senior Lecturer at MIT and Co-founder of the Presencing Institute recently wrote in relation to the VW scandal, “No engineer wakes up in the morning and thinks: OK, today I want to build devices that deceive our customers and destroy our planet. Yet it happened.”

Most of us are overwhelmed with all that goes on in our lives. We are focused on the next thing we need to take care of and the next challenge we need to deal with. While running from one thing to another, we disconnect from our humanity and our inner purpose and values, and as a result we cannot tap into our innate integrity. And the busier we get, the worse it becomes. The Presencing Institute calls this state of mind “absencing” and its alternative “presencing.”  In The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership — a New Paradigm for Sustainable Success, it’s called functioning from beneath or above “the line.” When we are beneath, we are closed and defensive and focused on being right. When we are above the line, we are open and curious and our primary commitment is learning and making a difference. Below the line we act unconsciously, and above the line we act as conscious leaders. Unconscious leaders and people in general do not really see what is happening around them. “They are cut off from an authentic experience of people, themselves, and their lives.”

That is what happens when our sense of security, belonging or self-esteem gets threatened, when we fear for our future, when our ability to provide for our family is endangered, when we are vulnerable, stressed, in a hurry or under pressure to perform (over and over again), when we feel alienated from our roots, when we look at work as just “business and not personal”. Have a second look at that list and you will know that almost each one of us is capable of wrongdoings and corruption given the right intensity of fear-based energy.


Organizational Culture and Full-spectrum Consciousness 

I believe many organizations genuinely care. They genuinely want to create an environment that minimizes risk of unethical behavior. However, they face the problem that important factors, related to the organizational culture, remain invisible and therefore unmanaged.

Every organization that wants to predict whether an organization is of high risk of corruption and other wrongdoings, should not look at the announced values, written procedures, “zero-tolerance” and “whistle-blowing” policies.  Should also not expect that law and law enforcement alone can do the job.

The answers are hidden in the culture of the human system –a team, organization, community, society. To predict the risk of wrongdoing and the chance of success:

  • look at the physical and financial aspects of work and how safe people feel
  • study the quality of relationships, the capacity for effective communication and how safe and mature are people emotionally
  • examine the adequacy of the structure, practices and management style to the organizational and risk strategy
  • check what is being measured and awarded in the organization
  • assess the level of tolerance of diversity and the existence or lack of conditions for innovation
  • examine decision-making and check whether learning is focused on building awareness, reducing blind spots and eradicating obsolete mental models
  • assess the level of authenticity and wholeness, as well as the openness to opportunities
  • evaluate the quality and level of integration of the mission and vision of the organization,
  • study the level of integration of sustainability and social responsibility policies
  • and last but not least- assess whether the organization as a whole and its leadership are full-spectrum.

That is why we developed the Whole-System Culture Navigator©– unique methodology which assesses the capacity of the culture to support the implementation of the organizational and risk strategy. It integrates the model of the Barrett Values Centre, builds upon our extensive international experience with start-ups, grown-ups and large corporations, and capitalizes on other leading works of our times such as Theory U, Systems Thinking, Art of Hosting, and Reinventing Organizations. Read more about the methodology here.