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corruption – is there really a choice?

Corruption is a corporate way of life for so many cultures, and can be found in both advanced and developing societies – it is an objective ‘what is’ when measured against an ethical, moral or legal definition.   It may be found when a leader is sent to manage an international assignment in a new culture or simply when a practice is unearthed in our own company.   Either way, corruption stems from a mind-set of separation and presents us with options – should we simply walk away, try to influence or explore opportunity for change within it? (One option not entertained on that list is ‘to join it’).

The following tips may be worth considering when building a proactive action plan that demonstrates responsibility to both corporate and self leadership.

1.    Recognize reality

Declare the future in your part of the world (your business environment) yet remember that one voice against the tide can be a futile disposition.  A country’s culture and behaviours have developed over many years and for many reasons that you may never understand. Whilst you may not understand that, it’s important to remember to keep a real eye of the influence (or not) that one person can realistically have.

2.    Be clear on what you will and will not stand for

 ….and stick to it!  Modelling the way speaks loudly, and we are what we choose to surround ourselves with. So whilst the outer circles allow and encourage us to be corrupt, when there’s a consistent voice on the inner circle, one that is about belief in service to all equally and walking the talk, it will one day some day become the norm.  I have seen this with my own eyes, and when it occurred, it brought tears to my eyes!

3.    Reinforce acceptable practices in expected and unexpected places

Look around you and ask yourself – what presents an opportunity to embed, reinforce, repeat, endorse and send the same new expectation using a different medium?  The traditional methods may include placing the priority as an agenda item on meeting schedules, make an award named after the standard, dedicating a Chairman column in the weekly or monthly newsletter, create a feedback mechanism that will allow great examples be spotlighted etc. However don’t forget we all have imaginations. Is there a staff party coming up soon and if so, could the food stalls be named according to the new standards? Could the staff entrance be decorated with a maze that staff need to navigate (the standards) to enter the workplace?

4.    Carefully consider rewards for ethical practices

Take a loud and clear stance here.  Is it their job to employ ethical standards in your workplace? If so, it is their job and not something that needs to be rewarded. Rewards gain traction when they are over and above the call of duty – why reward what is already expected.

Should an alternative perspective be adopted here, ensure consequences are considered before introducing it in any way.

5.    Surround yourself with a strong support network

This will be your anchor when times get tough.  This team will need to be aligned in every way, and remember values are all we have when times get tough.  Define a criteria to look for when recruiting your support team.  The ability to be self-confident, even in the face of corruption, will need to be strong.  Self-reliance will be another helpful trait, one that will accept that other opinions and dispositions do exist yet one that also will take decisions according to what serves priorities best.  Nothing or no-one can exist in isolation – this support network will become your lifeblood in times of conflict and when things will feel that they are just ‘too much’ to handle.  Aim for a blend – some from your corporate HQ team and some locally – the broader the coverage of your network, the broader the support can be.

6.    Don’t sweat the small stuff

Have real expectations.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor will you change the world that fast either.  Reality however can mean opportunity.  What did the person or manager before you achieve? Do you wish to mirror that or perhaps take it one step further?  To be real, you’ll most likely have a foot in each camp, secured on the left by the central or HQ policies and in the right, with the local practices.


People are creatures of habit, and if they see that change serves them and others, eventually they will change, yet after some time and with some pain.  It is indeed honourable to take a business choice that will serve all equally – whether that can and will happen every time will be a matter of circumstance.   What can happen however, when the intention is pure?  Are you up for the challenge?


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