By Andrew Neitlich

Do you really have integrity?

By Andrew Neitlich

Integrity is on my mind today.

One of my clients is in a dispute with his investor. As a result, his investor has disputed an Amex card charge for work that I did for them, claiming not to know me. And the client is not responding, even though he seemed happy with the work (which happens to be live on his website as I write this). So now I have to go to the trouble of working with American Express to make my case for the charge.

Another client has received full payment from me and is not releasing the code for a project he did. Actually, it was his offshore team that is not releasing the code, but I hold him responsible. He is trying to track them down, but my suspicions are raised.


Integrity means wholeness. In morality/ethics, it means having a point of view about what is right, doing what is right, and — at the highest level — taking a stand to correct what is not right.

Being late shows a lack of integrity. Not keeping your word shows a lack of integrity. Providing faulty work just to get a job done with shows a lack of integrity.

We all break our word sometimes, often more to our own selves than to others.

All around the world, we see examples of lack of integrity in the news: lack of regard for life, people inciting riots over false rumors, failure to examine the facts in order to push one’s own agenda, corruption and bribery, and pushing the limits of the law.

But lack of integrity is lack of integrity, although the scale or consequences have a wide variation. When asked, most people think they have integrity, and don’t want to face the truth that they may not. Accusing someone of lacking integrity is a serious thing to do.

The first step is to look within, before judging others. Where do I lack integrity?

A mentor of mine once said that the way to succeed in business is to bring integrity to an industry that lacks integrity. There seems to be an opportunity to do that in web design and development.

The IT world is unfortunately full of examples of lack of integrity.

  • Yannis

    I liked your mentor’s quote…

    Give us hope :)

  • I find it interesting how hard people work to get new customers, but then make little effort to keep them.

  • I’d like to leave a quote that my high school basketball coach lived by. He died of a heart attack at the age of 51 on Friday and would have been 52 on Saturday.

    His motto was simple: “Just do the right thing”.

  • Andrew, I’m sorry to hear about your troubles. You’re spot on about integrity though…

    In the future, if you take credit card payments have your clients sign a one-page credit card authorization form acknowledging work was complete and the charges are accurate. I have been told by several people that these forms will hold up against a chargeback with credit card companies.

    Mine even has a clause noting that if they *did* issue a chargeback, all bank fees, credit card fees, attorney’s fees and other fees incurred would be charged.

    If you want an example document that I use just let me know. I wish we could just take a handshake, but it seems lack of integrity runs rampant these days. I’d rather be safe than sorry.


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  • Another Designer

    Good article. I’m beginning to wonder if the entire corporate world even knows what the word “integrity” means?

  • Yes, there are examples of poor integrity in the IT industry, but having come from the entertainment industry it doesn’t seem so bad.

  • alles_klar

    I find it amusing that this author deplores the lack of integrity in the business world when many of his posts show a great lack of ethical awareness.

    For example, suing (or threatening of suing, which is not much better) somebody who is being attacked by hackers is described as a stroke of marketing genius not even contemplating how wrong this is on so many levels.

    Also many of the business ideas and marketing methods discussed here are often ethically ambiguous.

  • John Sampson

    A couple of quotes from Baha’i Writings on the subject that I like:

    Commerce is as a heaven, whose sun is trustworthiness and whose moon is truthfulness.

    And, more fundamentally:

    Truthfulness is the foundation of all the virtues of the world of humanity. Without truthfulness, progress and success in all of the worlds of God are impossible for a soul.

    The second one I believe has applications on every level of our existence: in our personal relationships, in our business lives, in our spiritual growth, and anywhere else.

    I can’t claim to have perfect integrity. Really I’m not so sure that anyone on this earth can. But there are some who make a sincere effort, and there are others who don’t.

    Thanks for this article.

  • It’s trust again. You have to trust people that you are doing business with – so maybe we should all be a bit more careful about who we do business with. I know that I find it very difficult to turn down exciting offers of work even if the company seems a bit dodgy. It’s even happened that I’ve sworn not to do business with somebody and they have subsequently offered me a really juicy project and I’ve gone for it.

  • Trust is definitely an issue, but you can’t just work on a handshake.

    It’s trust again. You have to trust people that you are doing business with—so maybe we should all be a bit more careful about who we do business with.

    Wouuld you work without a contract? Hopefully not. In a few short interactions with someone you can’t expect to come to know them well enough to know if they would ever be dishonest. Getting a signed contract is part of good business.

    I also have a special form for credit card payments also, that protects me just in case they try to do a chargeback. It actually is more preventative though, because just knowing they signed the form is probably going to prevent them from trying.

    You should trust your clients, but you shouldn’t be naieve and believe that none of them will do something like this. Protect yourself in business and in life…

  • Local team

    Everything comes with a price. Offshore team seems to be cheaper, but after couple of these experiences, you go back local where you have more possibilities to have some sort of control…

  • aneitlich

    Local team,

    Yes and no. My major integrity issues currently have to do with local providers. I have some off-shore teams who are fabulous and trustworthy.

  • It’s unfortunate, but you’re going to find unethical people everywhere in life. In all lines of business. In all countries. In all societies.

    Whenever money is involved, there are going to be people who will lie, cheat and steal to get it.

    In the end, you have to do three things:

    1. Protect yourself as best as you can by having iron clad contracts, and getting as much payment up front as possible.

    2. Make serious efforts to collect money from anyone who doesn’t pay. Don’t let them off easy.

    3. Know when to quit. Despite my rule #2 above, there comes a point when you’re wasting more time, effort and money trying to collect from a deadbeat than it’s worth. Every business needs to factor in a certain amount of fraud into their pricing. It’s unfortunate, because the upstanding people who do pay on time end up paying more to cover the losses incurred from the deadbeats, but that’s how all businesses do it.

  • xposed

    Hey Andrew,

    Awesome article. I think you will find a lack of integrity acrossed any industry, although there may be more or less integrity in specific industries, it does exist in every field =(

    I have work coming up that will involve some Web Design and I was wondering if anyone could point me in the direction of some generic templates that I should use to bring some organization to the process?

    Contracts, Information Gathering Questions, etc…

    Note: I have downloaded the Web Site Ebook Sample, and do not have the money for that at this time, so any other suggestions would be appreciated!

  • chart3

    Beley is right on point. I’m the webmaster for a company that takes credit card payments by phone for membership to an online trade association/network. Before the accounts are considered officially activated, the member must sign and fax back a document that protects us against chargebacks and offers increased protection against members who want their money back after the fact for whatever reason (this part is a little tricky ethically but works well for the business). Out of 103 sells last month, there were only 3 cancellations or new members who wouldn’t returned the signed document so their accounts were deactivated. This represents a return percentage of 2.9%, much less than the industry standard of 20% or so that was recently quoted to me by our sales manager (the 20% number may or may not be an accurate figure).

    My point is that maximum protection provides the means for you get and keep your money.

  • I don’t see anything ethically wrong with a no-returns policy given you fully explain the membership and benefits, and disclose the no-returns policy before someone orders.

  • 80

    I am doing an essay on integrity, and you have helped me a whole lot.
    Thankyou very much for giving me another perspective.

  • whole being

    went on religious retreat a decade ago. priest stated, “well maybe you’re on of those people who have no integrity.” wnated to choke him.
    He asked what I came seekign. I said, “You know the whole absolution, understanding and strength to do bettter next time thing.”
    He declined. I’d still like to choke him. must be some truth there for him to live rent free in my head this long.

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