The 10 most common examples of unethical behavior

1600 managers spoke up.

 ©Sigrid Olsson/AltoPress/Maxppp ; Colleagues working together in office
©Sigrid Olsson/AltoPress/Maxppp ; Colleagues working together in office Bilde: Colourbox
22. des. 2014 - 14:29

More than 70 percent of managers think that the most common example of unethical behavior is when employees lie to cover up a mistake they've done, or take shortcuts in work tasks.

Researchers at the Institute of Leadership and Management in the UK asked 1600 managers what they think is unethical behavior in a workplace.

– Our respondents also told us that often these behaviors were hidden away, making them difficult for managers to detect and resolve, according to the survey.

Here’s the complete list:

  1. Taking shortcuts / shoddy work: 72%
  2. Lying to hide mistakes: 72%
  3. Badmouthing colleagues: 68%
  4. Passing the buck (when you don't get your work done): 67%
  5. Slacking off when no one is watching: 64%
  6. Lying to hide your colleagues’ mistakes: 63%
  7. Taking credit for other colleagues’ work: 57%
  8. Pulling a sickie: 56%
  9. Lying about skills and experience: 54%
  10.  Taking low value items: 52%

Clear values

The survey shows that management and employees are more honest with each other in companies that are characterized by tolerance.

– Make sure your staff knows that if they / or a member of their team make a mistake it won’t be the end of the world, if they own up then you can resolve it together before it becomes a bigger problem, concludes the researchers behind the survey.

Respondents that work in organizations with clearly defined values were 11 percent less likely to see unethical behavior at the workplace.

– Make sure your employees know what is expected of them, is the researcher's advice.

Affected by work environment

One of the conclusions of the survey is that employees' behavior is affected by the work environment. Therefore, it is important to look for the real reason for employees to behave unethically.

– For example, if someone is phoning in sick frequently, are they overworked? Maybe work can be reallocated or a ‘duvet day’ system can be put into place.

– If they are cutting corners and making mistakes is it because their workload is too heavy? Could it be redistributed? Are there better ways of doing things to reduce workload? 

Happier than in Harvard

Coach Ann Elin Schüssel says that managers should put more effort in creating a good work environment. This would help to avoid people behaving unethically in their workplace.

– “Research shows that people are clearly more productive when they’re happy. The online store Zappos is a good example. There are more applicants for jobs there than in Harvard because of the great work environment,” says Schüssel.

She is also one of the founders of MyPocket Academy, that help people cope with the working day.

Schüssel explains that to enjoy work people need to feel appreciated and involved in creating a good working environment.

– “A leader that is open and curious will have less trouble with getting people involved. Unfortunately there are too many “half leaders” that easily skip the human part. Almost to the extent that they think of people as machines and not human beings,” says Schüssel.

Become a better manager

Schüssel suggests three measures to become a better manager:

  • Ensure meetings that celebrate small milestones
  • Appreciate peoples efforts, not only results
  • Give people the opportunity of breaks between intense work tasks, and enjoy time together

The latter she says is important because humor and a relaxed atmosphere helps people lower their shoulders, handle each others differences better, be more daring, and more innovative.

– More innovation and consideration of how to work smarter is very important in times of change like these.

Copying managers behavior

Sverre Simen Hov in Lederne, the Norwegian Organization of Managers and Executives, says that they haven’t conducted similar research, but that they get a lot of feedback from their members.

– A clear set of ethical guidelines that provides some boundaries to what is ethically justifiable practice amongst colleagues has to be in place. Probably the most important thing is that these guidelines are prepared in collaboration with the ones it includes, so that the ownership and knowledge is the best possible.

He agrees that bad management could be the reason for employees behaving unethically.

– Employees are likely to copy what they see as unethical management from their managers. Good communication, and awareness of the role model you are as a manager is important.

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