Only one in four employees feel their colleagues behave ethically

The study suggests three ways to develop a culture of integrity within your company

Only one in four employees feel their colleagues behave ethically
Following Google’s highly-publicised firing of an anti-diversity engineer, companies all over the world are paying more attention to how cultural failures can lead to not only grave misconduct within firms, but reputational and financial damage as well. And rightly so.

According to a new study from the CEB Compliance and Ethics Council, only one in four employees believe their teammates engage in and model ethical behaviors.

Earlier this year, CEB surveyed 5,000 employees on culture drivers and found that only 25% believe their coworkers behave ethically, in turn damaging perceptions of their firms’ corporate culture.

The study also cited that, upon analysing nearly two million employee responses on corporate culture and misconduct over the last eight years, there has been a less than 1% decrease in the number of employees who observed misconduct at their organizations.

"Employees today do not believe their companies are any more ethical than they were eight years ago," said Brian Lee, compliance practice leader at CEB. "Most companies' top-down approach to improving corporate integrity and culture—focused on senior leaders' messages and tone—is clearly not enough to create change.”

“Seeing and sensing integrity in the everyday actions of their peers is what really makes a difference, and until companies focus efforts there, cultural challenges are likely to remain and fester," he said.
According to CEB, companies can improve trust between colleagues and improve corporate cultures by:
  • Helping employees exhibit good behaviors in their work: While employees often know how to avoid committing a compliance violation, they are less sure of how to demonstrate positive compliance and ethics behaviors in their day-to-day jobs. Companies can help employees exhibit behaviors that strengthen their local climate by linking these behaviors to performance expectations and objectives.  
  • Ensuring managers send consistent messages: Most managers don't actively encourage employees to engage in negative ethical behaviors, but they may deprioritize compliance and ethics messages and requests given other business needs. To ensure teams receive consistent messages, companies should help managers assess and understand what signals they may inadvertently send to employees.  
  • Making colleagues' positive behaviors more visible: Positive compliance and ethics behaviors exist on many teams, but are often not shared broadly. By encouraging teams to publicly share and commit to consistently demonstrating ethical principles, leaders can ensure that positive behaviors are visible to all employees

Related stories:
Google sacks infamous anti-diversity engineer
In order to reduce pay gaps, we need to completely overhaul work culture

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