Tips for discussing sensitive integrity issues in an integrity workshop

Integrity tools

When working with large water sector organizations (such as utilities), employees from different hierarchy levels may take part in the workshop. When working with small water sector company or contractor (or SMEs), representatives of different – and possibly competing – companies may take part in the same workshop. Some participants may be reluctant to talk about sensitive non-integrity issues in front of their superiors, colleagues or competitors. In order to create an atmosphere where every participant feels free to express his/ her views on integrity issues, it is important that the facilitator addresses this subject at an early stage of the workshop and that the facilitator creates an atmosphere where nobody loses face.

Focus on risks, not corruption cases

Emphasize that the exercise identifies risks, and not necessarily actual corrupt practices, and that it evaluates structural problems and not the integrity of specific individuals (“manager X may be perfectly honest, but her position may still come along with risks – what could happen, if manager X is replaced by a corrupt manager Y in the future?”).

Allow participants to save face

  • Ask questions indirectly, such as “would a corrupt management be a major integrity risk” instead of asking “is your management corrupt?”.
  • Conduct sensitive parts of the workshop anonymously (e.g. selection of integrity risks within an organization).

Form small groups

If some participants are not taking part in a plenary discussion (i.e.: junior staff members shying away from speaking out in front of their superiors), the facilitator might want to divide the group in smaller discussion groups of staff members from the same hierarchy level or non-competing companies rather than having a discussion in the plenary.


Form groups for each organization or the major departments and have each group assess the risks of their own organization or areas of work. This way discussion are kept internal before sharing with the larger group.


In a workshop for several SMEs, the facilitator can try to reduce reservations by enhancing the perception of other SMEs as co-players rather than as competitors. From this perspective, other SMEs are seen as potential partners rather than as a threat.