Bad Employee Behavior Worst Ethical Misconduct Witnessed by HR Execs

June 13, 2008 ( - Abusive or intimidating employee behavior towards others on the job was the worst ethical misconduct human resources professionals witnessed over the last year, according to a new survey.

Responding to a poll sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Ethics Resource Center (ERC), the HR representatives also listed abuse of e-mail or the Internet, misrepresentation of time or hours worked, behavior that placed an employee’s interests over the organization’s interests, and employees who called in sick when they weren’t. The survey excluded sexual harassment.

According to an SHRM news report, the 2007 Business Ethics Survey addressed six themes:

  • organizational ethics
  • standards and practices;
  • roles of human resource professionals in organizational ethics;
  • ethical behavior of top management, supervisors and non-management employees;
  • pressures to compromise an organization’s ethics standards; and
  • observed misconduct on the job; and reporting of ethical misconduct.

“I believe that only true integration of ethical behavior into the overall culture will ultimately take American business where it needs to go,” said Mary C. Miller, human resources director of Acorn Media Group and member of SHRM’s Special Expertise Panel on Ethics, in the news report.

More than eight out of 10 HR professionals surveyed said they reported their observations of misconduct to management or another appropriate person during the past 12 months. When respondents did not report an ethics violation, it was typically because they would have had to report it to the person involved or they did not believe that corrective action would be taken.

The most prevalent types of organizational ethics standards and practices as reported by three-fourths or more of HR professionals were discipline for employees who break their organization’s ethics standards (88%), a formal ethics program that includes written standards or ethical workplace conduct (75%), a means for an employee to report violations of ethics standards confidentially or anonymously (74%), orientation or training on ethics (66%), and a written non-retaliation policy for employees who in good faith report a perceived ethical violation.

On the other hand, many of the organizations do not possess a specific device for seeking ethics-related advice (50%), or do not evaluate ethical conduct as part of the employees’ regular performance appraisal (57%).