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Ethical Integrity Project

October 10, 2016 | Katie Eldredge

Integrity has long been a widely-regarded virtue of civilized society. Wheatley Affiliated Scholar Dr. M-C Ingerson’s innovative recent theoretical and empirical research is re-examining what integrity is and how it matters. “We at Wheatley are encouraged both by our significant empirical findings and the positive response from both academics and practitioners to our research. We believe our findings will help workplaces be safer psychologically, socially, and physically.”

Dr. Tony Simons, chaired professor at Cornell University, moved the research on integrity forward when he measured behavioral integrity, where an individual’s words match their actions.  Dr. Ingerson believes there is more to discover. “Think about the corporate psychopath: He can be absolutely honest, consistent, and authentic in speaking his evil intentions and carrying through with them.  But no one would say that was integrity. We need a better definition of integrity, it needs to be ethical.”

In 2015, Dr. Ingerson published three articles on the role of ethical integrity in negotiation. Dr. Ingerson, Dr. Kristen DeTienne, and Dr. Katie Liljenquist’s article “Beyond Instrumentalism: A Relational Approach to Negotiation” was published in Harvard Law School’s Negotiation Journal; Dr. Ingerson, Dr. DeTienne, Dr. Edwin Gantt, and Wheatley Institution Director Dr. Richard Williams’ article, “Practicing the Healer’s Art: An Agentic-Relational Approach to Negotiation,” was published in the Business and Professional Ethics Journal of DePaul University in Chicago; and Dr. Carol Ellertson, Dr. Ingerson, and Dr. Williams’ article “Behavioral Ethics: A Critique and a Proposal” was published in a Financial Times 45 Journal, the Journal of Business Ethics. Negotiation has typically been defined as a transaction between opposing parties driven by self-interest. Dr. Ingerson’s two first author articles presented the concept of negotiating with integrity as an interaction where both parties are interested in understanding and accommodating the other’s outcomes. As emphasized by Dr. Liljenquist, negotiating optimally (or with integrity) will always consider resources, reputations and relationships.

These three publications, while important theoretically, pointed towards further research to understand how attitudes towards ethical integrity can predict behavior. Dr. Ingerson’s doctoral dissertation empirically showed this was possible and has become the most downloaded BYU dissertation of 2015.

The academic publications and empirical findings of the dissertation are only the beginning of a groundbreaking research program to explore how people can develop ethical integrity. Dr. Ingerson explains, “There’s still a lot of good people out there who’re really trying to be positive in their social impact in the workplace.  And then there are scholars like us at the Wheatley Institution who are trying our best to help.” Dr. Ingerson continues, “Now we want to get this out there to the general public.  We want them to know that we can change.  And not only that, but we can change for the better.”

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