An Honest Effect

Integrity and ethics, fundamentals of long-remembered careers

by Teresa Whitacre

When the day of your retirement finally arrives, will you be able to say you made an impact beyond merely filling a role?

Regardless of what type of career you have, make it memorable. Try to leave a legacy, even if it’s a small one. Many people don’t consider leaving a legacy through their work. They tend to only think about being remembered through their families, but everyone leaves behind a piece of themselves at work.

By the nature of their work, quality professionals have the potential to affect many lives. I still remember what I learned from my first mentor, Casmir Welch. A part of his legacy lives through me in the quality practices I apply every day.

Cas, as he preferred to be called, was an engineer at Westinghouse and had a storied career in quality, authoring many books, including Applying Total Quality in Sales.1 He firmly believed that Quality (he always capitalized the Q) mattered in everything. He never compromised on his integrity, and I always admired that.

Cas became my ASQ mentor after I became a member early in my career. I watched him teach ethics in quality many times, and I was honored when he selected me to review his manuscript on ethics in quality. Cas and I were the two longest continually serving volunteers for ASQ’s Pittsburgh Section.

After retiring, Cas had a vision to teach the next generation of quality. He started youth outreach programs at ASQ’s Pittsburgh Section, and he always demonstrated how much more quality you get when you follow instructions. He asked participants to fold a dollar bill so it looked like a shirt, and while giving instructions on how to fold it, he’d say, "See the difference in quality when you follow the rules and instructions?"

Is it worth it?     

Cas valued ethics, and through his teachings, he clearly demonstrated his belief in adhering to a code of conduct. But for every story of a highly regarded, honest individual, there’s a tale of someone without a moral compass who does anything to achieve his or her goals—even at the expense of others.

For example, educators in Atlanta Public Schools were recently convicted of racketeering after manipulating students’ standardized test scores.2 Regardless of the punishments, the situation provides a familiar lesson: Cutting corners and using unethical practices for short-term gains can destroy careers. Even worse, they bring public shame and can leave victims’ lives in turmoil.

When faced with an ethical dilemma, ask yourself, "Is this worth it? Will I get to keep my job, gain career prowess or get that coveted promotion?" Quality professionals are trained to mitigate risk. Do a risk analysis and determine its long-term effects. Is your job, career or promotion worth sacrificing your morals and potentially harming someone or something?

There are countless stories of immoral quests for success, but the story of a person who succeeded through honesty and integrity will stand the test of time and inspire people. Cas is still posthumously honored for his great work with youth outreach programs and the local science fairs. Every quality professional should consider living by a code of ethics.

Making a difference

ASQ members and individuals certified to a body of knowledge are required to adhere to ASQ’s Code of Ethics.3 You often encounter these guidelines in various jobs or professional associations, but when you take time to explore them further, they reveal how ethically achieving success will leave a lasting impression on the people in your professional life.

Be impartial and honest in serving the public, employers, customers and clients. Simply put: Integrity matters. If I purchase your product or use your service, I trust your organization to fairly provide me what I ordered. If I’m charged a higher price than a similar consumer, simply because you like them better, why would I want to use your services again? Remember, negative reviews travel much faster than positive ones.

Strive to increase the competence and prestige of the quality profession, using your knowledge and skill for the enhancement of human welfare. Cas taught me to always help budding professionals by increasing their competence and knowledge of quality. One reason I got into quality—and stayed—was my desire to help people. By understanding risk mitigation, regulations and standards, I’m able to teach others what to look for when obtaining certain products or services, protecting them from harm by assuring processes and products under my responsibility are safe for use.

Hold paramount the health, safety and welfare of the public in performance of your professional duties. Recently, a colleague told me about her car’s many safety issues. She prominently posted her concerns on social media, asking for the manufacturer’s top executives to contact her. It took a month, but she finally heard back from them. Long-term quality professionals see numerous cases where the end user’s safety and welfare were not thoroughly considered before delivering an end product or service. It’s our responsibility to protect our customers from harm.

Build your professional reputation on the merit of your services and do not compete unfairly with others. Ensure that credit for the work of others is given to those whom it is due. Build your brand on integrity and your own diligence. Be remembered for your achievements, not taking credit for other people’s work. It is better to experience a lesser reward for your own merits than rising to the top by standing on the shoulders of your peers.

Use your moral compass: Would you want your children, siblings or parents to act in the way you’re considering? Would you want your friends or your mentor to know what you’re doing? If not, that’s your compass telling you not to go down that path or take that action.

How would you rather be remembered—for your ethics, honesty and trustworthiness, or for your lack thereof? As quality professionals bound by a code of ethics, the choice is clear. Nothing in your career or personal life matters more than your integrity. Leave your mark as an ethical, accountable professional with high integrity.

References and note

  1. Cas Welch and Pete Geissler, Applying Total Quality to Sales, ASQ Quality Press, 1995.
  2. Jason Linkins, "Some Atlanta Educators Just Learned a Cynical Lesson About Accountability in America," The Huffington Post, April 3, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/qf7acow.
  3. ASQ’s Code of Ethics can be found at http://asq.org/about-asq/who-we-are/ethics.html.

Teresa Whitacre is a quality engineer in Pittsburgh and a principal at Marketech Systems. She has an MBA from California University Foreign Credential Evaluation in Los Angeles. She is an ASQ-certified quality auditor, engineer, Six Sigma Green Belt and manager of quality/organizational excellence. An ASQ fellow, Whitacre is an instructor for ASQ Pittsburgh Section’s certified quality inspector refresher course and deputy regional director for ASQ Region 8.

Moral compass and leaving a legacy are the important learnings from this article.

--sneha, 12-02-2016

It hits the target in my organization! I will use this information in one of my training to my subordinates.
--Alexander, 01-02-2016

Thank you Gary Bidwell for the positive comments! I am glad that my thoughts pointed you in a direction! Enjoy the trajectory and retirement once you get tehre
--Teresa Whitacre, 08-10-2015

My praise on a well written article. Simply put: Integrity matters.
Teresa's comments connected with me at this point in my career, mapping my trajectory towards retirement; I am trying to do as she suggests, "...help budding professionals (increase) their competence..."
--Gary Bidwell , 08-07-2015

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