Poll: Companies Ethical But Hypocritical

January 12, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A new employee poll has some decidedly mixed news for employers: Most workers think they're ethical but still subject to workplace hypocrisy and favoritism.

In the Watson Wyatt Worldwide survey, nearly three quarters (72%) of workers said their closest supervisors had clean ethics while six in 10 made that same judgment about co-workers.

However, when asked to elaborate on why others aren’t honest or lack integrity, workers were far more likely to cite hypocrisy and favoritism (62%) than dishonest financial dealings (8%) and investor-related violations (2%). A small minority of employees (9%) said that work pressure “almost always” or “often” puts pressure on them to do things that conflict with what they think is right. Another 22% said this is “sometimes” the case. But 70% admitted this happens “infrequently” or “never.”

“While most employees do not believe there are concrete ethical breaches in the workplace, some clearly feel compromised by day-to-day hypocrisy and broken promises,” said Ilene Gochman, national practice leader of organization measurement at Watson Wyatt in a statement. “This might explain why job commitment is also down – a problem for companies as the economy picks up and job prospects brighten.”

Overall employee commitment levels have dropped since 2002. Specifically, employee responses have declined at least 5% with regard to pride in company, preference to remain with company, overall rating of company and satisfaction with company. Three out of 10 workers surveyed also indicated they would leave their company if they could.

In other findings, most employees – 77% – say that their company has a clear ethics policy/code of conduct that is clearly communicated to employees. And nearly two thirds (64%) say they are encouraged to pass important information – good or bad – up the line. But nearly two out of 10 worry that someone reporting unethical behavior would be considered a “troublemaker.”

“These results should give employers cause for concern,” said Gochman. “One positive lever companies have at their disposal is the role of immediate bosses in the employment equation. Employees still have very positive feelings about their immediate bosses and this is perhaps the best defense against job hopping as the economy picks up steam.”