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Managers acting unethically to get ahead, CMI study finds

About one million UK managers are working in a way they feel "unethical" to "get ahead", according to research by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

Thirty percent of managers admit to regularly "ditching ethics" in the workplace, compared to 13% of other staff. The study found managers placed job progression as being more important than ethics.

It also found that non-managers (43%) were the most likely to they feel pressured into unethical behaviour.

CMI chief executive Ann Francke said managers need to re-focus on principles not personal gain.

"We've seen company after company fall foul of ethical scandals and the costs can be huge – not only financially, but in the damage that's done to hard-won reputations.

"It's time for employers to step up and confront unethical behaviour and commit to developing management cultures where strong ethics are rewarded."

The study found 60% of workers said they have witnessed colleagues acting unethically to get ahead at work, with managers (accounting for 61% of cases) more likely to be spotted acting unethically than junior staff (26%).

Francke said: "Trust is key to getting the best from people and creating the right culture for business growth - yet most staff distrust their boss's sense of ethics.

"No wonder their moral compass can end up pointing in the wrong direction. Organisations have to set clear standards for their employees, and managers have a particular responsibility to take the lead."

Other findings


  • White lies are a constant in UK workplaces with almost one in three workers (30%) reporting they tell at least one white lie a day at work.
  • When faced with an ethical dilemma at work, one in five people (19%) tackle it by following rules or guidelines.
  • 10% help themselves to company stock for personal purposes.