Integrity without Knowledge

Working from India, the culture here is that it is almost an insult to a superior if an employee admits that they do not have the ability to perform a task or provide a requested piece of information.  There is also the individual’s pride which gets in the way.  But more often than nought, I find that ti is out of fear and respectt for the manager or customer which drives the empoyee to agree and commit to something without knowing if they can actually succeed.  This leads to all levels of confusion when we try to function as a team.

If my boss asks me to build a car, instead of saying “No, I cannot build it> or even “I’m not sure if I can so don’t hold me to it.”, I say, “Sure, I can build the car.  But it may not run or the engine will explode.”  And unfortunately as managers and customers, we hear only the “Yes”, we don’t read the fineprint that follows.  In fact India has come up with it’s own saying, “I will try my level best.”  Not exactly saying “No”, but instead saying “Yes, but it’s your fault for picking me if I fail.”

One solution was provided in an article I recently read.  The individual made the statement that people in India should “answer No, when the answer is not Yes.”  But in so many cases, the answer is almost always “Yes, But Maybe”.  It is up to the audience to determine whether or not to accept the source.

We think of integrity as telling the truth or the lack of integrity as lying.  However, in cases like these, the problem was not that the individual lied, but that they did not have enough information to provide the truth.  That’s why in court the court must first validate the credential and ability of the witness to accurately testify before we hear the testimony.  This is not a common practice in real life.

If a witness were to testify even though they did not have the qualification to testify, is it an integrity issue on the part of the witness or just poor judgement on the part of the court?

In my own workplace, I have seen individuals condemned for this.  They took the challenge of succeeding even though they were not qualified to do so.  It is the manager’s fault for not ensuring their qualification fit the task ,but we condemn the individual for integrity issues.

In my opinion, it is not an integrity issue on the part of the witness and employee because that would turn into a slippery slope of how much knowledge is enough knowledge to make a claim or state a fact.  If that were the case, no witness would testify, no employee would take ownership of any work, and nothing would ever get done.  It must be the responsibility of the receiver to verify the source.  Whether it is the court, or the manager, or the customer, it is their responsibility to verify the source and the source should not withhold information during that investigation or that alone is an integrity issue.

I don’t blame the Indian culture for a lack of integrity.  It is ultimately our fault for not investigating the source further, just like it is the reader’s fault for not reading the fineprint in any contract.  It’s just frustrating sometimes because the fineprint is so damn small sometimes.

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