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Half of employees not willing to raise concerns about misconduct


A third said their line manager rewarded good results even if ethically questionable practices were used

Nearly half (45%) of employees are not willing to raise concerns about misconduct, according to research from the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE).

The Ethics at Work Survey found that 8% of workers felt pressured to compromise their current organisation’s standards of ethical conduct, with time pressures cited as the most common reason.

Around three-quarters (71%) of employees said their line manager sets a good example. Despite this, 36% reported that their line manager rewarded good results even if ethically questionable practices were used.

However, 81% of respondents think that honesty is practised either ‘always’ or ‘frequently’ in their organisation.

IBE director Philippa Foster Back told HR magazine it is concerning that employees were citing time pressure as an explanation of ethical violations.

Individuals at pinch points, middle managers especially, feel so pressured by time,” she said. “HR directors need to find out where those pinch points are. They need to be more involved in their business and not just focus on what it is that their business does.”

Foster Back also commented on the report’s finding that the most common form of misconduct was people being treated inappropriately, unethically, or unfairly. “Discrimination was listed separately, so this is distinct from that,” she said. “In many cases it could be banter that has gone too far. One person’s banter is another person’s bullying."

She added: “The key thing is for the company to set an example from the top, not just set a tone. They need to show they walk the walk, and not just talk the talk."

Four continental European countries were also surveyed by the IBE. The findings included:

  • Only 13% of respondents in France said they did not raise their concerns of misconduct because of feeling that it might jeopardise their job. This is lower than all the other continental European countries surveyed.
  • Awareness levels of how to report misconduct confidentially (35%) and training on ethical standards (39%) are higher in Italy than in the other three countries.
  • German employees reported a higher level of awareness of codes of ethics than in 2012. In the three other countries awareness generally fell.
  • Spain is the only country surveyed in which employees reported an increase in honesty in the workplace. In all three other countries surveyed it decreased.